Mountain view from a rooftop in Kathmandu during October/November

The great variety of weather in Nepal depending on altitude

हावा [haawaa] – air, wind
बादल(हरु) [baadal(haru)] – cloud(s)
गर्मी [garmii] – warmth, heat
कुहिरो [kuhiro] – fog

The weather in Nepal has often been a somewhat confusing experience for me. This is mainly because – depending on the altitude – the weather differs greatly within this small country at any given moment.

The monsoon climate seasons of Nepal


Monsoon Clouds over Kathmandu (Timelapse) Source: Sunny Shrestha

Overall the climate of Nepal can be summarized like this: From June to September the wind blows from the Indian ocean. It still carries a lot of vaporized water (aka clouds) even after already raining over all of India – when it „bumps“ into the mountain ridges of the Himalaya, all the water has to come out of the air in the form of rain. There are only very few places that are not effected by the monsoon (e.g. the Mustang district). This is because some mountain ridges cut off the wind flow, so that the humid air can never reach there.

The foreboding monsoon clouds did not stop men attending this dance performance by the Maoists in Mangalsen, Accham, Far-West Hills, Nepal
The foreboding monsoon बादलहरु [baadalharu] did not stop men attending this dance performance by the Maoists in Mangalsen, Accham, Far-West Hills, Nepal
During those months it rains from half an hour up to several hours each day. But it does not rain 24/7 (which I had naively assumed before I ever traveled there). It is heavy rain also, so a rain can easily flood a street, especially since the sewage systems in Nepal are not the best in the world (to say it kindly). I have ended up driving with my motorbike through newly emerged „puddles“ that reached up to my knees just trying to reach home from work after a sudden monsoon rain fall.

The different weather in Nepal
Weather in Nepal on the 13th of June

P – Pahad / Hills Region
T – Terai (fw – far west; mw – mid west; c – central; e – eastern)

Source: accuweather.com

Then in the end of September the global weather system makes those winds reverse itself, and they start blowing dry हावा [haawaa] from the Northern Tibetan planes. All of a sudden the air will be clear and dry, temperatures go down, the rain is done for for the year.

Since Nepal is on the Northern hemisphere, it is coldest in December / January. From the midth of January the temperatures slowly rise and the earliest rains start already arriving in April sometimes and then build up until the end of May, when the official rainy season starts.

Picture blue sky in November in the hills of Chitwan district
Picture blue sky in November in the hills of Chitwan district

This general description makes sense for the most parts of Nepal, but as I mentioned in the beginning there is a great difference depending on the altitude of your location. In the southern planes, the Terai / Madesh, it can get unbearably hot in summer. I have been in Chitwan (Terai) outside of the rainy season, and even in November working during the day on the fields, gave me one or two sunstrokes.

Unbearable heat in the Terai in summer

I have been, though, in April and June in Nepalgunj, which is in the Terai further to the West. And the heat of this place was truly unbearable. Obviously it is not only just the heat, but the mixture with humidity. In a way the actual rainy season is more bearable, because the half an hour after it has rained is usually more bearable, since for the moment the humidity has been a little decreased.

I remember this one time, where I was supposed to walk for lunch maybe 500 m up along the road to a nice air conditioned (!) cafe from my hotel. But these 500 meters just felt impossible to undertake: I saw other people walking on the road – or even driving bicycle Rikshas – and I was just amazed: >How on earth do they survive this? This गर्मी [garmii] is what hell truly most be like.<

Does it ever snow?

Another thing about the weather in Nepal that you might not expect: I have never seen a single apartment, hotel room or office space, where there was a heating system installed. It is usually warm, if not hot in Nepal. But once the monsoon is over temperatures at night will go below the comfort level of sleeping with a average blanket even.

High Fog in Lumbini: In december and january there is often a high fog in the Terai covering the sun for weeks, which greatly reduces the temperatures
High Fog in Lumbini: In december and january there is often a high कुहिरो [kuhiro] covering the sun for weeks, which greatly reduces the temperatures
Even in the Terai the temperatures around Christmas (which of course is not celebrated in Nepal, except in some tourist bars in Thamel and Pokhara maybe) demand several blankets at night and a sweater during the day. There is very little rain fall outside the rainy season, but sometimes it still snows at higher altitudes. The temperatures in Kathmandu are usually still too high to ever snow there, but sometimes it snows on the hill ridges of the valley.

In the Far-Western district of Doti for example the two little towns of Silgadhi and Dipayal – even thought only a 15 minute drive a away from each other – allow for very different experiences during the year: Silgadhi – up on the hill ridge – easily gets snowed in during winter. The wind usually blows over the ridge and keeps the temperatures bearable even during summer. Dipayal which is down at the bottom of a valley, next to the Seti river is a humid bowl of heat soup in the summer, that has been compared with the climate in Nepalganj – even though Dipayal by definition is part of the hills region. Of course it never snows there in winter.

Daytime and Nighttime

Last, but not least, let us mention the day- and nighttime difference in Winter and Summer. Which is really not that big: The night is more or less 12 hours long and the day as well – dusk and dawn come and go much quicker than in the higher degrees of latitude in Europe and most parts of Northern America (>30°). I appreciated that in the winter, but would have loved longer bright evenings in the summer – since in Nepal, even in Kathmandu, dusk is the time people go home and the stray dogs and cows take over the streets.

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