Home to the highest mountains in the world, an ancient culture, diverse wildlife and some of Asia's friendliest people.
Nepal is a land of magic and mystery, from the medieval alleyways of Kathmandu to the peaks, monasteries and villages of the high Himalaya. Boasting 8 out of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest, Nepal is a land of jaw dropping panoramas, but it is sometimes the details that fascinate. From a (supposed) yeti skull at a Buddhist monastery in the Everest region, to a living goddess resident in Kathmandu, Nepal is full of curiosities.
Emerging from years of political upheaval and unrest, Nepal has experienced many challenges over the last couple of decades. A period of relative stability was recently interrupted by the devastating earthquakes of 2015, with many communities located near to the epicentre virtually wiped out, although much of the country escaped serious harm and the tourist infrastructure was left mostly intact.
In spite of all the Nepalis are unfailingly welcoming and hospitable, and their cheerfulness and resilience in the face of poverty and a challenging natural environment remains a course of inspiration for all those who visit this wonderful country.
Currency: Nepalese Rupee
Highest Point: 8848m
Capital City: Kathmandu
Time Zone: GMT +5hrs 45 mins
Population: Approx. 29 Million
Land Area: 147,181 sq km
Religions: Hinduism & Buddhism
Main Language: Nepali
Weather & Climate
Coolest time: December to February, Hottest time: April to September
Wettest time: June to September, Driest time: October to April
Temperature in Nepal is strongly linked to altitude. The south of the country is warm year-round with a sub-tropical climate, while further north in the foothills of the mountains winters are dry and cool with warm, wet summers. In the mountainous northern areas that border Tibet, the high peaks are perpetually covered with snow and in the valleys winters are very cold, as is to be expected at higher altitudes. Most rain falls between June and September with winter months generally being sunny and clear. Pokhara is around 400m lower than Kathmandu and is noticeably warmer and significantly wetter than the capital.
(Lower Mustang Region)
(Chitwan National Park)
Highlights for Visitors
The Kathmandu Valley
Seen from the air the Kathmandu Valley appears as a green jewel surrounded on all sides by terraced hills, with a towering mountain backdrop in the distance. Home to the three ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, each with its own fascinating Durban (Main) Square, the valley is the cultural heart of the country and location to the majority of Nepal's historical sites. Wandering the narrow alleyways of the old areas of these towns offers a glimpse into a medieval past, as you stumble across candle lit Hindu shrines and hidden courtyards containing white-washed Buddhist stupas. 7 of the 8 UNESCO recognised cultural heritage sites in Nepal are to be found in the Kathmandu Valley including the three Durbar Squares mentioned above, Swayambhunath and Bodhnath stupas, and Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan Hindu Temples. Well practised in catering to foreign tourists, Kathmandu is a haven for travellers with a great range of restaurants, cafes, hotels and other facilities.
The Mighty Himalaya
Nepal is home to 8 of the world's 10 highest peaks (all over 8,000m), along with many lesser peaks over 6,000 and 7,000 meters. Ethereal and majestic at the same time the mountains appear almost impossibly high and there is little to compare with a crisp and clear Himalayan morning. The main mountain range is visible from many lower elevation locations across the country, and even from the southern Terai region on a clear day. While none of the major peaks can be seen from Kathmandu city itself, the town of Pokhara (elevation 1,000m) sits in the shadow of the Annapurna massif (highest point 8,091m) with all 5 summits in the range, along with the pyramid shaped Machapuchare, visible from the lakeside and nearby hilltop town of Sarankot.
Upper Mustang - An Untouched Culture
Due to the challenging geography of Nepal certain areas of the country are extremely remote and as a result have cultures that have remained little changed for centuries. One such region is the Upper Mustang Valley, a little finger of Nepalese land jutting north from a national border which mainly follows the crest of the Himalayas, and onto the Tibetan Plateau. Highly restricted to visitors until the early 1990s Upper Mustang is home to one of the most well-preserved cultures in the world. With its own monarch Upper Mustang only lost its status as a Kingdom in 2008 when its suzerain Kingdom of Nepal became a republic. Rules for tourists are extremely strict with visitors required to obtain a special permit to enter the area, and restrictions in place to minimise the impact of tourism on the region.
The Nepali People
Relaxed, friendly and welcoming, the Nepalese people will certainly be a highlight of any visit to Nepal, whether you stay in the cities or head into the mountains and countryside. Incredibly tough and unfailingly affable, despite often challenging living conditions, people are always quick to offer a smile and a 'Namaste' the traditional greeting of Nepal.
With an elevation range of 59m - 8848m, and spectrum of climates encompassing the tropical to frozen mountains, it's no surprise that Nepal has a huge diversity of wildlife, which the country has endeavoured to protect through the creation of its numerous National Parks. Among the more famous and recognisable mammals are the Bengal tiger, snow leopard, red panda and Indian rhinoceros, although of course many of these are extremely difficult to spot in the wild. The national bird is the danphe, a multi-coloured species of pheasant. The oldest and most famous of the National Parks is Chitwan, located in the subtropical Terai, and home to around 43 species of mammals including the Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, Indian rhinoceros, Indian porcupine and golden jackal. Chitwan has an extensive selection of hotels, lodges and restaurants and is a great place to do a wildlife safari.
Image above of a snow leopard by Bernard Landgraf
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