About Festivals in Nepal


Nepal is probably home to more yearly festivals and holidays than any other nation on earth. Coupled with political strikes one often wonders how anything get's done in Nepal.

Nevertheless for the tourist visiting Nepal do take a read of the major festivals and the months they occur in for a couple of reasons. 1) Nepali festivals can be fantastic and fun. 2) Things might close down for a day or two.

Either way plan ahead and take notes of the following dates!

Did you know?

Because of Nepals diverse ethnic groups some popular festivals are only celebrated in certain regions of Nepal or at slightly different dates. These festivals have been noted in the list below.

It's also important to note that Nepali festival dates change every year as many are lunar based or follow the Nepali calender - so check back here before going to Nepal!

Festivals during January in Nepal

Event: Losar (Tibetan New Year) Date: 18th January 2018/ 5th February 2019

Location: Boudhanath / Nationwide

Losar is celebrated over three days with the first day being the day before the Tibetan New Year's Eve. It is here many monasteries in Nepal will have colorful celebrations and rituals. Traditional Tibetan New Year (Losar) DancersThe best place to experience Losar in Nepal is to seek out a Tibetan monastery in Kathmandu and ask what they will be doing for Losar. Some will be well organized, some will not. But usually it's free to attend.

 

Check out these Tibetan dancers in Nepal


Festivals during February in Nepal

Event: Shivaratri Date: Shivaratri in 2018 is on Tuesday 17th of February, Shivaratri in 2019 is on Monday 4th of March

Location: Pashupatinath

Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. Shadhu's at the Shivaratri Festival in NepalExpect very large crowds at Pashupatinath on the day. Sadhus often make long pilgrimages to Nepal at this time as well and are well worth locating in Pashupatinath a few days before or after Shivaratri. It should also be noted that Hashish is legal in Nepal on this day only. While usually everything is well natured do be aware that not everyone will be thinking straight.

Read more about Shivaratri in Nepal & about Sadhu's in Nepal.


Festivals during March in Nepal

Event: Holi Date: 2nd March 2018

Location: Nationwide

Holi is an ancient Hindu spring festival also known as "Festival of Colors". Nepali girls celebrating holiIt is one of the best festivals to enjoy in Nepal. On the day of holi colored water and/or powder is thrown at people in celebration. It's best to wear old clothes and waterproofs and even goggles during this festival!

In the Terai region (Chitwan), Holi usually takes place two days later than the above date. Meanwhile, Kathmandu Durbar square, or Bhaktapur Durbar Square at the best locations for celebrating from early morning onwards. Pokhara's Lakeside area usually doesn't start until 1pm. Do read more about how you can enjoy the Holi festival in Nepal & what it's like during Holi in Nepal.


Festivals during April in Nepal

Event: Bisket Jatra / Navavarsha (Nepali New Year) Date: 14th April 2018/ 14th April 2019

Location: Nationwide / Bhaktapur

The Nepali calendar is a lunisolar Hindu calendar which is about 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian (western) Calendar. Celebrations in Nepal2013 = 2070, 2014 = 2071, 2015 = 2072. 2016 = 2073, 2017 = 2074, 2018 = 2075. The Nepali year of course changes half way through the Gregorian calendar so there is a cross over in years. Nepali New Years day is celebrated in a low key way throughout the country. However in Bhaktapur there's a grand celebration - hint - go to Bhaktapur!



Festivals during April/May in Nepal

Event: Buddha Jayanti (Buddha's Birthday) Date: April 30th 2018!/ 18th May 2019

Location: Nationwide

The birthday of Buddha is celebrated all over Nepal. Lumbini temple where the Buddha was born in NepalHowever stick with Bhaktapur or Patan for the best of the celebrations. Expect crowds taking to the streets for several processions.

If you venture south to Lumbini then there's a strong likelihood that accommodation will be booked out or that the price of accommodation will have doubled with ease. Read more with my guide to Lumbini.



Festivals during June/July in Nepal

Event: Ropain (Rice planting festival) Date: Late June, early July

Location: Nationwide

The annual rice planting festival in Nepal takes place at the start of monsoon season or at the start of the Nepali month known as Asar. Women planting rice in Nepal

It's the low or off-peak season for tourists but this is an opportunity to both watch and take part in planting rice in a padi.

Ignore the tour companies trying to sell tours to rice planting! It's a nationwide free event and they are just trying to cash in.

The best place to do this independently is in Pokhara where it's easy to visit local farms. There's also a local festival for tourists set up by the tourism board which has a free bus to take you to a planting ceremony. Bring old clothes or swimwear (conservative) as you'll likely get very muddy (that's the idea)!

 


Festivals during August in Nepal

Event: Janai Purnima Date: 7th August 2017

Location: Kathmandu

Also known as the "Sacred Thread Festival". Young man getting a blessing in NepalJanai Purnima is a Hindu festival welcoming young men into manhood. Expect some crowds in Kathmandu but there's not much to see otherwise. If you've been in Nepal for a while, you may be invited to a local celebration where the odd goat will be slaughtered. However it is often close to Gai Jatra festival which is more colorful (see below)

Event: Gai Jatra Date: 8th August 2017

Location: Kathmandu

Also known as the "Festival of Cows" Gai Jatra is a very colorful festival. Man with a cow during Gai Jatra in NepalCostumes and colorful precessions mark the event in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan along with people telling jokes. The festival in Kathmandu and Patan are similar but the Kathmandu celebrations in Durbar Square are larger. In Bhaktapur the festival is quite different with large processions holding bamboo masts with depictions of those who died during the year go through the old city - again it's done as a humours celebration and not at all tragic.

This tradition comes from an eighteenth-century king who gathered his people together to cheer the queen up after the death of their son. Read more about Gai Jatra and Gai Jatra in Bhaktapur


Festivals during August / September in Nepal

Event: Teej Date: 2nd September 2018 /

Location: Kathmandu

Also known as the "Festival of Women". Teej is a colorful fasting festival.Nepali women in red celebrating Teej in Nepal Married women fast to honor Shiva and for a long happy life for their husbands. Fasting unmarried women dress in bright red costumes and bridal dresses while participating in traditional rituals and dances while hoping for a good husband."

The best location to enjoy Teej is Kathmandu Durbar Square. Women usually gather there in there around mid-morning.

Event: Yenya (Indra Jatra & Kumari Jatra) Date: September 5th 2017

Location: Kathmandu

Yenya means "Kathmandu Festival" which is the celebration of both Indra Jatra and Kumari Jatra. Indra Jatra celebration in KathmanduIndra Jatra is in honor of the Hindu god Indra. Masked dances representing gods and demons fill the streets. Kumari Jatra involves the Kathmandu Kumari and a chariot procession. As Yenya is the largest festival in Nepal expect huge crowds in Kathmandu especially in Kathmandu Durbar square. Be cautious as sometimes these crowds can be very overwhelming with the results being claustrophobic. Read more about Indra Jatra

Event: Ganesh Chaturthi Date: 5th September 2016 / 25th August 2017

Location: Kathmandu

Ganesh Chaturthi is the celebration of the Hindu God Ganesh. Ganesh Shrine in KathmanduPeople give blessings at Ganesh shrines and temples throughout Nepal. Most of these take place early in the morning. In Kathmandu there is often a small parade with a Ganesh shrine that comes through the city. It's not a festival that your would go out of your way to see, but if you know it's happen it can up an hour in the morning.


Festivals during October in Nepal

Event: Dashain Date: 21st September 2017 / October 10th 2018 / September 29th 2019

Location: Nationwide

An important Hindu festival marking the goddess Durga's victory over evil. Busy buses during Dashain in KathmanduThe festival takes place over a week or more with families traveling back to the original homes during this period. Children fly kites and tika blessings are given out.

There's not much to see here for tourists as many people simply go home for the festival. Do be aware that at in the days just before the holiday transport gets booked up quickly. The Taleju temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square opens up very early in the morning on the main day. Normal tourism services continue on as normal. Read more about how to cope with Dashain as a tourist

Event: Tihar/Newai New Year Date: 30th October 2016 / 19th October 2017

Location: Nationwide

This Hindu festival is also known as the "Festival of Light" or Deepawali. Lighting Candles during Tihar in KathmanduCandles, lanterns and colored tinsel are used to decorate homes over a three to five day period. The first day is the main festival of light where people welcome the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, into their homes for good fortune in the coming year. It's also a day to celebrate the crow. The following day is for self blessing wishing towards a healthy and happy for year along with the dog festival. On day three it's the famous cow festival. On day four it's Newari new year. On the final day Sisters make offerings to their brothers. There's usually a lot more going on so here's a day by day account.

Day one of the Tihar Festival (known as the crow festival). Day two of the Tihar Festival (known as the dog festival). Day three of the Tihar Festival (known as the cow festival). Day four of the Tihar Festival (Newari New Year). Day five of the Tihar Festival (younger brothers blessing).


Festivals during October / November in Nepal

Event: Chhath Parva Date: 26th October 2017 / 13th November 2018 / 2nd November 2019

Location: Janakpur/Kathmandu

Every year thousands of pilgrims visit Janakpur to celebrate the sun god (Surya). Chhath in Rani Pokhara, KathmanduIt is primarily a celebration from the Terai region of Nepal though the area surrounding Rani Pokhari in Kathmandu city is another major place to witness the festival. The festival is usually celebrated over four days. It is said the sun god promotes well-being, prosperity and progress. The festival is not often mentioned in Nepal but it's certainly worth attending due to the harmonious chanting, ritual candle lighting that takes place. Read more and see photographs of Chhath in Nepal.


Festivals during December in Nepal

Event: Christmas Date: 25th December 2017 / 25th December 2018

Location: Nationwide

Christmas Day is a very low key affair for the mainly Buddhist and Hindu nation of Nepal. Celebrations in KathmanduIt is becoming more commonplace to place decorations around popular big town restaurants where there are tourists.

Many Nepali visit Pokhara for the holiday so it can get crowded there. Otherwise it's business as usual.


Event: New Years Date: 31st December - 1st January 2017 / 31st December - 1st January 2018

Location: Nationwide

Again a very low key event in Nepal as the Nepali usually only celebrate Tibetan New Year and their own New Year. People celebrating in Kathmandu

However, in recent years the party atmosphere has been picking up. In particular in Pokhara's Lakeside areas. It's mainly young Nepali domestic tourists that arrived en-masse. Restaurants move tables on to the streets and there's a night-market style atmosphere.

In Kathmandu things are more subdued. But Thamel on New Years Eve has several bars and clubs that will be celebrating.


When is Nepali New Year?


The New Year in Nepal is based on the Hindu Calendar which is set about 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. It's known locally as Bisket Jatra / Navavarsha.

In 2017 Nepali New Year was on April 14th when it will be 2074 in Nepal

In 2018 Nepali New Year will be on April 14th when it will be 2075 in Nepal

As noted in the main list of festivals in Nepal above the best place to celebrate Nepali New Year is in Bhaktapur. Throughout the rest of the country it's fairly low key with two days of public holidays (tourist transport is unaffected).


Other Festivals in Nepal


The above are the main festivals that take place in Nepal every year. There are many more festivals in Nepal that are either regional or are much smaller in scale.

It's important to realize that Nepal is multicultural but generally celebrates Hindu, Buddhist and Newari festivals with public holidays. Small local festivals often mean a particular caste or community will have a public holiday at other times. Do see my full Nepal guidebook for more.


Why do the dates of festivals in Nepal keep changing?


The New Year in Nepal is based on the Hindu Calendar which is set about 56.7 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar.

One of the biggest obstacles in Nepal is finding out exact times, dates and locations for festivals. Hopefully this list of festivals will help you. Many are Lunar based so do expect some changes by a day or two (though the above dates are fairly standard).

Those dates marked with a * are generally spread out over several days. Depending on the celebration each date within that range will have a different type of celebration. e.g. Indra Jatra is celebrated over several days though most tourists enjoy the final date when there is a major procession held.

For tourists and travelers to Nepal the above dates are quite important to note when planning your trip. Both in terms of attending a festival and in terms of days to avoid crowds or potential holiday transport issues.

Generally speaking Nepal is open 24/7 356 days a year for tourists. If trekking, the same applies with no real off days during festivals which are not really celebrated in a big way in the mountains.

Do keep in mind that in big cities (e.g. Kathmandu) Nepali festivals can get extremely crowded and if you are in anyway claustrophobic you should take care. Likewise if you have small children do be cautious of them as there's a lot of shoulder to shoulder pushing in the crowds.

The main festivals that travelers to Nepal usually enjoy are Shivaratri, Holi, Tihar and Losar.


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