Understanding the Monsoon season
Starting around mid-June, peaking in July and August, and winding down in early September, the monsoon brings rain, humidity and an increase in temperatures to most of Nepal. True - mountain views are often obscured by cloud, temperatures get uncomfortable, and it rains daily. And yes, there are leeches. But thanks to the sheer height of the Himalaya, many of the best treks lie in the Himalayan rain shadow that stretches across northern Nepal. Even in the upper reaches of the Everest region, you'll see far less precipitation than the lower regions of Nepal.
The advantage of trekking in the monsoon is that you have the trails to yourself, the full attention of the local teahouses, and a more intimate overall experience with the local people and culture. Also, the rivers are surging, the fields are green and spring is in bloom.
Below, we've listed treks that are great options if you're heading to Nepal in the monsoon.
Annapurna Circuit Trek — 6-8 days
The upper section of the Annapurna Circuit trek lies in the rain shadow, making this a great time of year to avoid the crowds. Consider doing a 'shortened' Annapurna Circuit, from Bhulbhule to Jomsom. You could drive into Bhulbhule and then fly out of Jomsom (or take a bus or jeep to Pokhara). It's also a great time to include the Tilicho Lake side trip.
Expert tips from local Nepal expert, Mads Mathiasen
- When starting your trek (counter clockwise), drive in as far as possible to get behind the mountains
- Ideal trekking areas include Nar Phu, Manang, and Tilicho Lake; all in the rain shadow
- Ending your trek, it's best to have a two-day buffer before any departure flight
- If your flight is delayed out of Jomsom, you can catch ground transport to Beni easily enough, although you'll have to switch vehicles a couple times
- There are two places (between Tatopani and Galeswhor) where road gets blocked at times but they are quick on fixing this given it's high tourist season for Indians heading to Muktinath
- There is also a large waterfall, Rupse Falls, which can stop traffic but there is a walking bridge where people coming up swap cars with people going down and everyone is on the move again
- For lower elevations, often an umbrella works great because it's quite warm (even the best shells will be too hot)
- At higher elevations, proper rain gear is important, such as a breathable waterproof shell
- You need a shell higher up in the rain shadow, as it will rain there also!
Upper Mustang Trek — 10-12 days
A more expensive alternative to the Annapurna Circuit, the region of Upper Mustang lies entirely in the rain shadow, completely sheltered from the rain. You can fly in and out of Jomsom (avoiding the roads), and practically avoid the rain completely. This is a great time of year to visit Upper Mustang, when the valleys are in bloom.
Nar Phu Valley Trek — 9-12 days
A beautiful trekking destinatoin in themselves, the Nar & Phu valleys lie in the northeast section of the Annapurna region and are accessed by branching off the Annapurna Circuit. Roads permitting, you can drive as far north as Koto Uppar, and begin your trek from there. You have the option of returning the same way, or - better yet - following the Annapurna Circuit over the Thorung La to Jomsom, and flyig back to Pokhara from there.
Everest Base Camp Trek — 12-14 days
Expect rain during the first few days of the Everest Base Camp trek, then the weather will continue to improve as you reach higher elevations. One of the busiest treks in Nepal, you'll have almost the entire place to yourself.
What to expect during the monsoon
Expect around 3-4 hours of rain each day, generally around the same time of day. When trekking in the forests and lower altitudes, there's often a build-up of dense fog and clouds which clears occassionaly to reveal the views.
Trekking tips for the monsoon
Start your day early. Often, it only rains in the afternoon. Especially if it's rained the night before, the morning will lkely be clear for fantastic views. Get to know the general weather pattern each day and adapt your plans accordingly.
Recommended gear for the monsoon
For lower elevations, an umbrella is best, as even the highest quality waterproof shells can be too hot. Clothes that are light and quick-drying are ideal, given that humidity is often high. At higher elevations, humidity drops off and temperatures are much more pleasant, but it still can rain and you'll want to have a waterproof shell.
Transport during the monsoon
The main challenge of trekking during the monsoon is getting to the trailhead, as poor visibility can delay your flights and roads can get too muddy (or worse, blocked by landslide). Still, there's a good chance your flight will get out and you just need to inquire in advance to make sure the roads are open.
Still, it's best to factor in transport delays to your plans and give yourself a safe buffer to avoid any complications. Flights are often delayed, and road transport can be halted by landslades along Nepal's major highways.