NEPAL IN JANUARY: What to expect, tips for travelling, and many more
As a new year hits the calendar mark, people all over the globe have something to expect from this January. The month has a special significance as it allows millions of people to start their new-year resolutions finally. It is the first of seven months to have a length of 31 days, according to the Gregorian and Julian calendars. As for Nepal, the months bring the coldest season of the year. The average temperature generally stays at 15 degrees Celsius, and this dry weather remains until April.
Our country has a unique calendar, and January lies in the month of “Magh” here. This month generally extends between the 15th of January and the 12th of February. The month has a total of twenty-nine days and a public holiday on the first day. The whole month invites chilly mountain winds, a little rainfall here and there, and some sunny days.
I know, people generally associate winter seasons with staying warm in their blankets rather than travelling, but Nepal has some tasty experiences to offer this January. Along with moderate climatic conditions, clear-blue skies, and cultural diversity, one can hope to get the best out of their involvement in this country. This January, prepare yourselves for a chilly ride among the Himalayas and warm sunny afternoons as you descend the geographical terrains. Nepal in January packs the best package for travellers who have a preference for cold rides and off-season travel.
Climatic Conditions or Weather Of Nepal in January
Nepal has unusual geography considering the small area coverage in the world map. This tiny country packs a punch of weather extremities ranging from the cold in the mountain region to the scorching heat in the Terai belt. But as discussed earlier, January is a cold month here, and the fact remains the same wherever you travel in this country.
Starting from the capital city Kathmandu, the day-time temperature can reach up to 64 degrees Fahrenheit but follows with chilly nights and mornings. Another tourist attraction is the city Pokhara, which has relatively warmer days and clearer skies. Chitwan, however, has a stable day-time temperature of 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
Talking about the Terai belts, the climate conditions are a bit foggy, and you might miss the sunlight for a few days in a row if the conditions are a bit harsh. The Himalayan region accumulates thick snow at this time. The temperature drops down to freezing conditions at night and gets a little bit warm in the day-time. That being said, there are very slim chances of rainfall during this time.
Festivals and Holidays of Nepal in January
Nepal in January invites a lot of festivals and national holidays. The Hindus and Buddhists usually follow the lunar calendar and participate in the celebrations accordingly. This means a particular festival that occurred in January might come back in December or February the next year. There are a few important dates to consider in this month of the year, according to the Nepali calendar.
1. Makkar Sakranti:
The first day of the “Magh” month falls in January. According to the 2020 Calendar, the day falls on the 15th of January. This particular festival is common among the Hindu devotees in Nepal and India. On this day, the sun moves from Tropic of Capricorn to Tropic of Cancer and carries an immense religious significance. The day pays more importance to the greatness and worship of the sun god. They present several offerings to the divine and thank for their success and prosperity.
With so many people involved in the celebration, the Government has allocated a public holiday on the day. The festival is a symbol of power and wisdom and, of course, tasty cuisines. Local foods like “Chaku,” “Til ko laddu,” and “Tarul” can be found dominating the market. People enjoy sweet potatoes and sesame seeds on higher quantities. These foods hold not only religious meaning but also scales high on nutritional values.
As it happens, you will find some of the rivers crowded on this day. Thousands of devotees gather on rivers like Devghat, Dolalghat, Baraha Kshetra, Kaligandaki, and The Sachi Tirtha for a spiritual purpose. It is believed that taking a dip in these holy water can cleanse the sins of this life and bring the dawn of a new life. You will likely find many Indian tourists during this time as they share the same religion. Also, Terai residents dominate the numbers.
Also, in a sub-community called “Tharu” this day symbolizes the start of a new year. They generally call it Maghi and celebrate it with loved ones. The whole family divides responsibility among themselves to make the day brighter. At the end of the day, the entire family sits in one place and discusses the happenings of the day. If a family member is found dozing off or neglecting his duties, he or she will have to carry their responsibilities for the whole year.
Another interesting thing about this festival is the Bullfight organized at the Taruka village of Nuwakot every year. Sure, the thing is way different than the one done in Spain, but it has a unique characteristic of its own. Some people also believe that the person who dies on this day will directly ascend to heaven and get a rebirth without any kind of suffering.
Nepal in January also offers two other festivals to look forward to- “Lhosar” and “Basanta Panchami.”
1. Sonam Lhosar
It is one of the most prominent festivals of the Buddhist community. The celebration gets held on the first day of the new-year for Nepali culture groups that trace back their ancestry to Tibet. The major ethnic groups that fall under this cultural boundary are Gurung, Tamang, and Sherpa people. In January of 2020, these people will have completed their 2848th year according to their calendar. The day of celebration is different for different Tibeto-Burman communities.
This festival is celebrated by visiting Monasteries, Chaityas, and Stupas. On this day, these religious places perform a special ritual, which helps to discard the negative forces. People dress up and decorate their houses. Popular food items include pigs, chicken, ducks, and sweet desserts. They also organize musical festivals and dance together, which is popularly known as Tamang Selo.
These songs have exciting lyrics arrangement and include humor, wit, philosophical thoughts, and the eternal cycle of joys and sorrows of life. This genre of music has transcended the social, cultural, and linguistic boundaries.
2. Basanta Panchami
Basanta Panchami is a Hindu fiesta that revolves around the devotion of Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, arts, music, and education. This day also marks the end of winter and the initiation of the spring season. It generally falls near the end of January.
This festival roots back to the Aryan period when the people belonging to this race came and settled in India. The primitive civilization slowly developed over the years on the banks of Saraswati River. Thus, the river got associated with fertility and knowledge as times passed by. Hence, the celebration for the goddess on that particular day.
Where to Visit Nepal in January month?
Travelling is the primary recreation tourists look forward to having in Nepal. The climatic conditions in January undoubtedly limit the travelling options to upper Himalaya belts due to heavy snowfall. This creates several obstacles on the roads and often sucks out the enjoyment of the trip. But there are several other options to maximize your Nepal trip.
We have picked out the best destinations for you. This includes every type of recreational activity you can enjoy in Nepal in January. Let’s see these possibilities in brief:
Best 7 Places of Nepal for visiting in January
1. Kalinchowk of Dolakha:
With trekking craze engulfing both national and international tourists, various destinations have risen in popularity over the last decade. Kalinchowk is one of such places popular for its easy accessibility and unique sightseeing facilities. The area also holds religious importance for the Kalinchowk temple.
The place is just 132 kilometres from the capital city, and transportation services are readily available. The public bus services reach up to Charikot, and trekkers need to use private vehicles to reach Kuri Village. From that point onwards, the destination is just an hour of hiking.
Pokhara is probably the best location for adventure and natural beauty. The goal is filled with lakes, a backdrop of mountains, adventure sports, and many other things that provides you with the perfect balance of physical and mental tranquillity. For trekkers, this place is the gateway for the Annapurna trekking circuit.
Pokhara also holds a special place in the religious and cultural display of Nepali people. You can find several temples, stupas, and townships. This valley is around 200 kilometres from Kathmandu. You can take local or private buses to the place or travel by air. If you are looking for economical options, try the night tourist buses. Tickets are readily available on the internet or counters.
Nagarkot is a small but beautiful village located in the central region of Nepal. The thing that attracts most adventure lovers to this venue is the clear view of snow-clad mountains. Clear weather is a must to see mountains, and January fulfills all these essential requirements for a breathtaking mountain viewing. Surprisingly, eight out of thirteen ranges of Himalayas can be viewed from this single location. Isn’t that amazing?
Another thing that sparks the interest of travellers is the hundreds of species of butterflies found in the jungles of Nagarkot. Enjoy the beautiful view of mother-nature with the local and traditional cuisines at your table. Nagarkot is a short but effective ride from Kathmandu. The 32 kilometres distance will seem like a few hundred meters because of the adventurous road leading to the place.
Bandipur is a small town that is famous for its rich Newari culture, traditionally styled houses, and much more. Locals, too, have identified the importance of their place and make an additional effort to preserve its integrity. The site is a home to several temples and structures that dates back to early civilization.
The thing that differentiates the place from other hilly destinations is its altitude. The land is located at a considerable elevation point that enhances its climatic conditions. Even January will not be that harsh, and you can watch mountain ranges without mufflers or caps to block your vision. Since the place inhibits generations of Newari people, numerous festivals are celebrated as a way to enjoy and preserve the culture. Bandipur is not so far away from Kathmandu. The 148 kilometres distance is just 4. 5 hours along the Prithvi Highway.
Kakani is another location that boasts upon its natural beauty far from civilization untainted from civilization. It is located at the height of 2073 meters and allows visitors to travel the rim of this valley along with scenarios that are otherwise found in wallpapers.
As they say, “Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations.” Such is the view of Mustang located at the lap of Himalayas. Often considered as an isolated kingdom, the place offers a complete package of cultural and traditional experience. For January, you might want to limit your visit up to the lower Mustang. You can visit the upper Mustang with a special permit, but it is best not to go at higher altitudes in winter.
The easiest route to Mustang is from Pokhara. From there, you can find flights, buses, or even cabs. People also love the jeep ride through the mountain on their way to Jomsom. The place is a natural alternative for low-altitude trekking and only takes about 20 minutes from Pokhara.
Enough about the Himalayas and trekking, let’s assume the time to appreciate the hilly regions of Illam. The place is famous for its wildlife, cultural elements, and for it’s widely spread tea cultivation. Who doesn’t like to see hills covered in green tea plants? People also recommend visiting AntuDanda, Mai Pokhari, Sadakpur, Siddhi Thumka, and Kanyam during your Illam visit.
Going to Illam is a long and exciting trip from Kathmandu. The distance is 524 kilometres, and you can travel via bus or cab. The journey starts from the hilly region, enters the terai mid-way, and then again ascends to the hills. It usually takes 17 to 22 hours to reach Illam while travelling on a medium pace.
Some Other Activities You Can Enjoy in Nepal in January
If you have already visited the destinations mentioned above and want something extra on your trip, we recommend the following activities. These unusual and adventurous experiences give you just the right amount of adrenaline rush in Nepal in January this year.
Let’s look at some of these options:
What? But we just mentioned the things that could go wrong during the winter season. Rest assured, we do want the safety of our guests but also want you to fully experience the joy of walking through the Rocky Mountains and viewing mountains up-close. And yes, it is possible to go trekking in January.
For this, you need to choose the routes that avoid high altitudes. There are several options to pick from, including Poonhill trek, Everest Panorama Trek, Mardi Himal Trek, Langtang Valley Trek, and many others. We could explain to you these routes in detail, but a little ambiguity makes the experience more lively and unexpected, so we leave the exploration part to you guys.
This experience is for those individuals who like to watch the mountains up-close but unsure of their trekking abilities. Yes, a 50-minute mountain flight can give you the beautiful view of Himalayas without the hassle of walking for days. All you have to do is book a mountain-flight, and the next thing you know, you will be hovering around the majestic view of Mt. Makalu, Mt. Gosaithan and Mt. Everest.
3. Chitwan National Park:
You might be familiar with the term national park. These are natural reserves under the protection of the Nepal Government, which help to preserve the wild animals in their natural habitat. Among these, the Chitwan National Park is the first-ever National Park of our country.
Often considered as a must-see location, the place is home to an astounding 500 species of migratory birds, one-horned rhinos, Asian elephants, and Bengal tigers. The whole area is spread across 332 square miles and gives you the perfect opportunity to watch wild-animals cruising through their daily lives. Some fascinating animals include bears, crocodiles, and tigers.
4. Mountain Biking:
Ahh! Finally, something exciting for those who find walking too dull. The thrilling adventure of mountain biking along with ideal scenarios along the way is a must for nature lovers. You can find several local and designated areas to enjoy this part of travelling. If you want a more extreme location, you can choose the Annapurna circuit for maximum excitement.
5. Bhote Koshi Rafting:
Rafting might be a completely new experience for several tourists. It is a thrilling ride on high current rivers accompanied by a guide and some other friends (not mandatory). If you are looking for a solo ride, Kayaking can be an option too.
Bhote Koshi is famous for its fierce water current and tides that enhance your rafting experience. People can enjoy short river trips within a two-day rafting package. Another thing that attracts people to this place is the Bungee Jumping experience. Thousands of people come to overcome their fear of heights through this sport. You jump off a cliff with ropes tied to your legs. Don’t worry; the game is completely safe unless you are physically unfit for the jump. Your blood pressure and many other factors are taken under consideration before your participation.
Patan is famous for its ancient heritage that dates back to 250 BC. The “durbar square” is one of the major attractions of this town. This place typically lies within the Kathmandu valley but is a separate town with Bagmati River as its division point. There are several temples, religious sites, and experiences waiting for you on the corner of Patan. People also like to call it Lalitpur so, do not get confused. You can hire a tour guide in case you want to know the historical details and the information related to the religious sites.
With all said and done, it is you who is responsible for your experience. This January, take a little time away from your modern lives and invest in something that brings you closer to Mother Nature. The Himalayas and the cultural diversities are a flight away from your home. Nepal is currently celebrating “Visit Nepal 2020” as a way to attract maximum tourists. We welcome you with all our hearts and hope you have the best experience in your lives. The chilly January winds might open up your view on the beauty of your life and take away all the stress that has accumulated over the years. Nepal in January is an experience on its own.