Nepal is most widely known for its massive mountains and breathtaking landscapes, with 8 of the top 10 highest mountains in the world this makes total sense. But it is less commonly known that Nepal has some of the most beautiful festivals in the world that span the entire country and the entire year. If you can plan your trip just right you will not only get to be among the high peaks and trek through the massive landscapes, but you could also take part in one of these local festivals and gain a deeper understanding of Nepal’s culture and people. We have witnessed and been part of many of the festivals of Nepal and have compiled a short list of some of our favorites. This is by no means a comprehensive list so if these don’t appeal or fit your itinerary there are many other options to choose from. The important thing is to not miss out on these amazing displays of culture and tradition on your next trip to Nepal.
This is probably the biggest and most widely celebrated festival of the year in Nepal. This celebration spans 15 days usually sometime in late September to early October. Dashain commemorates a great victory of good versus evil. For this festival Nepali people will celebrate all over the world, some even traveling back to Nepal to celebrate with their families. Around Kathmandu you will see kids flying kites, swings made out of bamboo, and people gathering to play cards in a general feeling of joy and goodwill. It is truly magical to be here during this time and there are endless opportunities to connect with the culture. If you have a local guide or are participating in a homestay during this time it will be particularly immersive as you will be part of the family celebrations.
2. Thiar (Diwali)
If we had to pick one, Tihar might be in a tie with Losar for our favorite Nepali celebrations. Thiar is known as The Festival of Lights and runs for 5 days in October/November. Each day of the festival highlights a particular subject for honoring and celebrating: the Goddess Laxmi, the crow, the cow, the dog, the brother and sister. Around Kathmandu you will see animals adorned with the Tikka, or forehead dot, and with flowers around their necks. Beautiful mandalas or geometric designs are made in the streets and in the home with special chalk and powder. At night the landscape lights up with strings of candles and lights all throughout Nepal. It is a truly magical time to be in such a beautiful place.
Losar is Tibetan New Year and a very special day to all Buddhist the world over and especially in Nepal. In particular the Sherpa people, being predominantly Buddhist, really let loose and join in fun and revelry to celebrate the New Year. Monasteries in Kathmandu like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath put on a show, with prayer flags and decorations, street parades and traditional dancing being the order of the day. In some regions festivities can last for over two weeks. This is a really magical time, especially to be in mountain villages with local people. You really get a sense of the deep spiritual connection to the seasons, the stars, and the rhythm of life that exists for Sherpa people.
4. Indra Jutra
Indra Jatra (also known as Yenya) is Kathmandu’s biggest street festival. This festival is put on each year to celebrate Indra and Kumari, two Hindu deities. Over eight days Kathamdnu is bustling with masked demons and gods dancing in the street. It really is spectacular.
This festival happens during monsoon season and is a celebration to the goddess Parvati. Henna-covered women and girls take to the streets to dance, sing and chant prayers to welcome in the rains. Because the livelihood of most Nepalese depends on a good harvest this is a pretty important festival!