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Nepal Fact Sheet
Officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. With an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi) and a population of approximately 30 million, Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and the country's largest metropolitan city.
Nepal is a country of highly diversed and rich geography, culture, and religions. The mountainous north has eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Sagarmatha, known in English as Mount Everest. It contains over 240 peaks more than 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level. The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized.
By some measures, Hinduism is practised by a larger majority of people in Nepal than in any other nation. Buddhism, though a minority faith in the country is linked historically with Nepal as the birthplace of Buddha. About half of the population live below the international poverty line of US$ 01.25 a day.
A monarchy throughout most of its history, Nepal was ruled by the Shah dynasty of kings from 1768, when Prithvi Narayan Shah unified its many small kingdoms. In 2006, however, a decade-long People's Revolution by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) along with several weeks of mass protests by all major political parties of Nepal culminated in a peace accord, and the ensuing elections for the constituent assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the abdication of the last Nepali monarch Gyanendra Shah and the establishment of a federal democratic republic in May 28, 2008. The first President of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav, was sworn in on 23 July 2008.
Do’s and donts while in Nepal:
With its diverse ethnic groups and traditional beliefs, Nepal has numerous cultural practices that may appear unusual to a person on his/her first, and at times, even the second, visit to the country. Some of these practices may even offend Westerners. However, to enjoy your visit, we recommend that rather than shunning Nepalese traditions, you get absorbed within them to actually get a taste of this majestic Himalayan nation. Here are some "do's and dont's" that might be helpful for the traveller.
The form of greeting in Nepal is "Namaste" and is performed by joining the palms together. A person places his or her palms together—with the fingers up—in front of his or her chest or chin and says “Namaste,” or "Namaskar" to superiors.
TOPOGRAPHIC MAP OF NEPAL:
Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (497 miles) long and 200 kilometres (124 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 km2 (56,827 sq mi). Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: the Mountain, Hill, Siwalik region and Terai Regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems. The southern lowland plains or Terai bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali as well as smaller rivers rising below the permanent snowline. This region has a subtropical to tropical climate. The outermost range of foothills called Shiwalik or Churia Range cresting at 700 to 1,000 metres (2,297 to 3,281 ft) marks the limit of the Gangetic Plain, however broad, low valleys called Inner Tarai lie north of these foothills in several places.
The Hill Region abuts the mountains and varies from 800 to 4,000 metres (2,625 to 13,123 ft) in altitude with progression from subtropical climates below 1,200 metres (3,937 ft) to alpine climates above 3,600 metres (11,811 ft). The Mahabharat Lekh reaching 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,921 to 9,843 ft) is the southern limit of this region, with subtropical river valleys and "hills" alternating to the north of this range. Population density is high in valleys but notably less above 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) and very low above 2,500 metres (8,202 ft) where snow occasionally falls in winter.
The Mountain Region, situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the highest elevations in the world including 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) height Mount Everest on the border with China. Seven other of the world's eight thousand metre peaks are in Nepal or on its border with China: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.
THE ARID AND BARREN HIMALAYAN LANDSCAPE:
Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,937 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,937 to 7,874 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,874 to 11,811 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,811 to 14,436 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,436 ft).
Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. In a land once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems. Nepal is popular for mountaineering, containing some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb; so, most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal. Morever, Nepal has 8 of the top 10 highest mountains of the world with postcard beauty.
The collision between the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian continent, which started in Paleogene time and continues today, produced the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau, a spectacular modern example of the effects of plate tectonics. Nepal lies completely within this collision zone, occupying the central sector of the Himalayan arc, nearly one third of the 2,400 km (1,500 mi)-long Himalayas. The Indian plate continues to move north relative to Asia at the rate of approximately 50 mm (2.0 in) per year. Given the great magnitudes of the blocks of the Earth's crust involved, this is remarkably fast, about twice the speed at which human fingernails grow. As the strong Indian continental crust subducts beneath the relatively weak Tibetan crust, it pushes up the Himalayan mountains. This collision zone has accommodated huge amounts of crustal shortening as the rock sequences slide one over another.
The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and Yunnan via Assam. Among the earliest inhabitants were the Kirat of east mid-region, Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Brahmin and Chetri caste groups came from India's present Kumaon, Garhwal and Kashmir regions, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to North Burma and Yunnan and Tibet, e.g. the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east (from Yunnan and north Burma via Assam), and Sherpa and Bhutia in the north (from Tibet).
In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryans of northern India. Indo-Aryan and East Asian looking mixed people live in the hill region. Indo-Aryan ancestry has been a source of prestige in Nepal for centuries, and the ruling families have been of Indo-Aryan and Hindu background. The mountainous highlands are sparsely populated. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5% of the population. Nepal is a multilingual society.
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Despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the southern plains or Terai in recent years, the majority of the population still lives in the central highlands. The northern mountains are sparsely populated. Kathmandu, with a population of around 800,000 (metropolitan area: 1.5 million), is the largest city in the country.
Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous language isolates. The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as mother tongue) are Nepali (48.61%), Maithili (12.30%), Bhojpuri (7.53%), Tharu (5.86%), Tamang (5.19%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (3.63%), Magar (3.39%), Awadhi (2.47%), Rai (2.79%), Limbu (1.47%), and Bajjika (1.05%).
Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali has roots in Sanskrit and is written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Regional dialects Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili and rarely hindi are spoken in the southern Terai Region. Many Nepalis in government and business speak English as well. Dialects of Tibetan are spoken in and north of the higher Himalaya where standard literary Tibetan is widely understood by those with religious education. Local dialects in the Terai and hills are mostly unwritten with efforts underway to develop systems for writing many in Devanagari or the Roman alphabet.
The overwhelming majority in Nepal follow Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country.Nepal is home to the largest Shiva temple in the world, the famous Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to mythology, Sita Devi of the epic Ramayana was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja.
Near the Indian border, Lumbini, is a Buddhist pilgrimage site and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Kapilavastu district. It is held to be the birthplace in about 563 B.C. of Siddhartha Gautama, a Kshatriya caste prince of the Sakya clan, who, as the Buddha Gautama gave birth to the Buddhist tradition. The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built. All three main branches of Buddhism exist in Nepal and the Newar people have their own branch of the faith. Buddhism is the dominant religion of the thinly populated northern areas, which are inhabited by Tibetan-related peoples, such as the Sherpa.
The Buddha, born as a Hindu, is also said to be a descendant of Vedic Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts. The Buddha's family surname is associated with Gautama Maharishi. Differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been minimal in Nepal due to the cultural and historical intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Morever traditionally Buddhism and Hinduism were never two distinct religions in the western sense of the word. In Nepal, the faiths share common temples and worship common deities. Among other natives of Nepal, those more influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai and the Gurkhas. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies.Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu. The Machendrajatra festival dedicated to Hindu Shaiva Siddha, is celebrated by many Buddhists in Nepal as a main festival. As it is believed that Ne Muni established Nepal, some important priests in Nepal are called "Tirthaguru Nemuni".
A typical Nepalese meal is dal-bhat-tarkari. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients). The Newar community, however, has its own unique cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as cumin, coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, mustard seeds, etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best.
The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, Martyr's Day (February 18), and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and Tihar in late autumn. During Tihar, the Newar community also celebrates its New Year as per their local calendar Nepal Sambat.
Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral in shape, and one of only two non-rectangular flags in use (the other being the flag of the U.S. state of Ohio). According to its official description, the red in the flag stands for victory in war or courage, and is also color of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. Red also stands for aggression. The flag's blue border signifies peace. The curved moon on the flag is a symbol of the peaceful and calm nature of Nepalese, while the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese warriors.
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