Nepal sees enormous variation in climate between the plains of the Terai, the mid-hills of Kathmandu and Pokhara, and the high Himalaya. No matter where you go in the country, January is the coldest month of the year.
In Kathmandu, daytime highs can reach 64°F, though it can feel much colder. Pokhara, as always, stays a few degrees warmer and has clearer skies than Kathmandu. Daily temperatures in Chitwan can still be as high as 76°F. In the Terai, fog is common. Snowfall in the Himalaya can make trekking trails in the mountains much colder and more difficult—but there is practically no rain throughout the rest of the country in January.
Crowds & Costs
Crowds are at a low throughout Nepal in January. Kathmandu and Pokhara are quiet, and many hotels offer low-season discounts. This is a great time for travelers looking for deals and interested in lower-elevation activities.
January is certainly quieter than other times of year on the trekking front, but there are still fun, accessible trails at lower altitudes. If you prepare for the cold with the proper clothes and sleeping bags, crystal-clear mountain days can make January a great month for hiking. Note that areas in the rainshadow of the Himalaya—such as Upper Dolpo or Upper Mustang—can be inaccessible, with extremely limited (or no) accommodation options throughout the winter.
Read more about the best winter treks in Nepal in this article.
Where to Go
Opt for lower-altitude treks unless you're a highly experienced trekker with training in snow at high altitudes. For a taste of the Everest region in January, fly from Kathmandu to Lukla and trek to the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar. From there, you can hike to the beautiful village of Thame to see its picturesque monastery perched high up on the cliffs. Or keep going onwards to Tengboche, where climbers and trekkers visit another famous monastery and ask the Head Lama for blessings. Other good treks for January include the Khopra Danda trek and trails near the Kathmandu Valley.
Late January (through March) is an ideal time to go on a jungle safari in the Chitwan National Park. During these months, the tall elephant grass that grows thick in the jungle is cut back, making it easier to see wildlife. Animals roam throughout the protected area year-round, but may be harder to spot through thicker vegetation.
What to Do
Jungle safaris, low-altitude trekking, cultural activities in Kathmandu and Pokhara, and even paragliding are all possible in January, as long as preparations are made for chilly temperatures. Some experts say that January is also the best month to go mountain biking, as the trails are the driest they'll be all year and clear skies make views even better—you can read about the best bike trails in Nepal here.
Traditional Nepali festivals (whether Hindu or Buddhist) usually follow a lunar calendar. This means that a festival that falls in January one year may fall in December or February the next.
Two festivals that are often, but not always, held in January are Lhosar and Basanta Panchami. Lhosar is a Buddhist festival, held on the first day of the new year for Nepali ethnic groups that trace their history to Tibet, especially the Gurung, Tamang, and Sherpa people. On Basanta Panchami, devotees worship Hindu goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and creator of arts, education, and music. It also marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Traveling to Nepal in January? Check out these great itineraries.
Khopra Danda. Also known as the Khopra Ridge Trek, this is a great alternative to the more popular (and more crowded) Ghorepani trek, taking you higher still to another great view of the Annapurna range. At up to 8 days long and reaching a maximum elevation of nearly 12,000 feet, it's a great moderate trek to do in colder weather.
Ghandruk Trek & Chitwan Visit. Combine two classic Nepal experiences: the Ghandruk trek in the Annapurna foothills and Chitwan National Park in the lowlands of Nepal.