Find a guide who can steer you through the long lines
The temple grounds open at 3:15 am, but if you have a savvy guide, you can arrive at the saner hour of 8 am. Guides are great, not just for the wealth of information, but to navigate through the enormous crowds and for obtaining the proper paperwork allowing access through a maze of guarded checkpoints.
Be prepared for thick air
Yes, you are a mile high so the air will be thin, but it will also be thick with oily smoke from the ghee butter votive lamps, flowery incense and accented with the pungent scent of bhang (marijuana and hash)—whose consumption for holy purposes is legal only for the duration of this festival in Nepal.
Know that you won’t likely be able to enter the temple
Only believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the actual stone temple so position yourselves out of the flow of worshipers but close enough to watch as they present marigold lei, coconut and other offerings to Shiva and refresh the many sacred lingam-yoni carved-stone sculptures (symbolizing the male/female creative energies) scattered around the temple with baths of honey, milk and water. There’s a terrace above the temple that can give you a great view.
Watch the subtle mating rituals
This festival is a time when young women wish to find a husband so you’ll see some flirting as women bear elaborate offerings to the temple while young men, smoking bhang in a chillum ogle the beauties.
Start by making the trek
To the awesome mountainous community of Kathmandu that is accessible by plane or bus, but it’s important to reconfirm your reservations as transportation can be unreliable. The temple complex of Pashupatinath is located between the Kathmandu airport and the city center, about 4 kilometers east of the city. Book your accommodations early given the throngs that make this pilgrimage. Two hotels to consider include are Dwarika’s Hotel and Yak and Yeti.