Nepal (147,181 square kilometers) is rich and has unique cultural and natural diversity. A landlocked country located in South Asia with China in the north and India in the south, east and west. Geographically, Nepal is divided into three East-West ecological zones: The Northern Range – the Mountain, the Mid-Range – Hill and the Southern Range – Terai (flat land). The geographic boundary of Nepal starts from the flat southern plains in Terai Mukhiya Patti Musharniya of Dhanusha District at 59 M to the sky-piercing peaks of the Himalayas within a breadth of 200 km in the north at 8848 m Mt. Sagarmatha. Sagarmatha is the highest point on Earth.
From Tarai (59M to 305M) Further north, the Siwalik zone (700 – 1,500 M ) and the Mahabharat range (1,500 M - 2,700 M) give way to the Duns (valleys) known as Inner Terai, such as Trijuga, Sindhuli, Chitwan, Dang and Surkhet. The Midlands (600 – 3,500 m), north of the Mahabharat Range are beautiful valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara. The mountainous region starts at 3000 M leading up to the alpine pastures and temperate forests limited by the tree line at 4,000 M and the snow line beginning at 5000 M. The inner Himalayan valley (above 3,600 M) such as Mustang and Dolpo are cold deserts sharing topographical characteristics with the Tibetan plateau.
This range in geography created Nepal rich in biodiversity and a unique landscape. From ancient times Indigenous communities lived in particular geographic harmony with nature with their indigenous language and different cultural practices with close attachment to the ancestral territories and natural resources.
Nepal at Glance
- Nepal is bestowed with abundant water resources. It is said there are over 6000 rivers and rivulets fed by snow or rain and thus the country is also referred to as the 'water towers' of South Asia.
- Eight of the world’s highest peaks (out of fourteen) that are above 8000m lie in Nepal: Mount Everest (8,848.86 m), Kanchenjunga (8,586 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Makalu (8,463 m), Cho Oyu (8,201m), Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Manaslu (8,163 m) and Annapurna (8,091 m).
- Lumbini is the Birthplace of Lord Buddha
- Mt. Sagarmatha Forehead of Sky’ at Khumbu region in Nepal is the highest point on Earth
- Dho Tarap 4,080 M at Dolpa Nepal is one of the highest human settlement in the world.
- Within population of around 30 million. 125 castes and more than 101 ethnic groups speaking 123 languages and dialects lives in Nepal, making Nepal one of the most highly culturally diverse country in the world.
- Known for Bravely around the world
- Extraordinary landscape, diversity in language, Altitude variation, consist highest lake, highest peak, deepest lake, highest valley, deepest gorge
- Nepali flag is the only triangular flag in the world
- Living Goddess Kumari lives in Nepal.
- 365 days of Festivals and adventure.
The history of Nepal begins with the Gopalas and Mahishapalas, who were believed to be the earliest rulers with their capital at Matatirtha in the southwest corner of the Kathmandu Valley. According to records, the Kirantis ruled the valley from the 7th or 8th century BC, and their famous King Yalammber is mentioned in the epic 'Mahabharat'. In around 300 AD, the Lichhavis migrated from northern India and overthrew the Kirantis. The Changu Narayan Temple near Bhaktapur, which dates back to the 5th century, is one of the legacies of the Lichhavis and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the early 7th century, Amshuvarma, the first Thakuri king, succeeded his father-in-law from the Lichhavi dynasty and established good relations with Tibet by marrying his daughter Bhrikuti to the Tibetan King Tsong Tsen Gampo. While the Lichhavis contributed to the development of art and architecture in the valley, the golden age of creativity arrived in the 12th century with the Mallas.
During the 550-year rule of the Mallas, numerous temples and magnificent palaces were built, creating picturesque squares. They also organized society and cities, introduced religious festivals, and promoted literature, music, and art. After the death of Yaksha Malla, the valley was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu (Kantipur), Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon), and Patan (Lalitpur). At that time, Nepal was divided into approximately 46 independent principalities, one of which was the kingdom of Gorkha ruled by a Shah ruler. Capuchin friars who traveled to and from Tibet during that period recorded much of the history of the Kathmandu Valley.
In 1769, an ambitious Gorkha King named Prithvi Narayan Shah launched a conquest that resulted in the defeat of all the kingdoms in the valley, including Kirtipur, an independent state. Rather than annexing the conquered states to his kingdom of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan decided to move his capital to Kathmandu, establishing the Shah dynasty, which ruled unified Nepal from 1769 to 2008.
The history of the Gorkha state traces back to 1559 when Dravya Shah established a kingdom in an area mainly inhabited by Magars. Gorkha slowly expanded during the 17th and early 18th centuries, conquering various states and forming alliances with others. Prithvi Narayan devoted himself to the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley, recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India. He expelled European missionaries from the country, leading to Nepal's isolation for over a century.
In the mid-19th century, Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal's first prime minister with absolute power, reducing the Shah Kings to figureheads. The Rana Prime Ministers held hereditary reign for 104 years. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement in the early 1950s, supported by King Tribhuvan of Nepal. King Tribhuvan was reinstated as the Head of the State, and in 1959, his son King Mahendra issued a new constitution, leading to the first democratic elections and the formation of a government under the Nepali Congress Party.
However, in 1960, King Mahendra dissolved Parliament and dismissed the democratic government. After years of struggle and the banning of political parties, a People's Movement began in 1990, leading to the acceptance of constitutional reforms by King Birendra. Nepal transitioned into a multiparty parliamentary system with a constitutional monarchy. In 2001, a tragic event resulted in the loss of the entire royal family, and King Gyanendra, the brother of King Birendra, assumed the throne. Initially abiding by the elected government, King Gyanendra later dismissed Parliament and seized absolute power.
In 2006, another People's Movement took place, leading to the reinstatement of Parliament and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The agreement committed to democracy and peace, and a Constituent Assembly election was held in 2008. On May 28, 2008, Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic, ending the 240-year-old monarchy. The country now has a President as the Head of State and a Prime Minister leading the Government.
On September 20, 2015 the new constitution was promulgated fulfilling the long-held dream of the Nepali people to have a constitution made through an elected representative body.
Source: Ministry of foreign affairs Nepal
The cultural heritage of Nepal has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional heritage encompasses the diversities of Nepal’s ethnic, tribal, and social groups, and it manifests in music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebration; foods and drinks. The 2011 Census listed a population of around 28 million belonging to 125 castes and more than 101 ethnic groups speaking 123 languages and dialects making Nepal one of the most highly culturally diversified countries.
Being the center point of the ancient trade route connection between the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan autonomous region of China, the combination of Buddhism philosophy and Eastern philosophy developed in the local context, a land of peace and nature, the variation in elevation, being in between two highly populated nation China and India Nepal is an ethnical melting pot and ecological hotspot in the region. This natural and ethnic diversity had over the year helped developed Nepal as a unique cultural heritage with ancient temples dating back to the first century, built over the year through local knowledge and resource that had stood firm with time and different natural disasters. These tangible and intangible heritages, knowledge craft, art, and architecture are now sources of inspiration, knowledge centers, and wonder that attract tourists, researchers, and wonders from around the world to come to witness and learn.
Nepal is home to diverse floral and faunal species, and natural ecosystems, ranging from the lowland Terai region to the high Himalayas. The diverse climatic and topographic conditions have favored a maximum diversity of flora and fauna in Nepal.
Nepal is divided into three East-West ecological zones: The Northern Range – the Mountain, the Mid-Range – Hill and the Southern Range – Terai (flat land). The geographic boundary of Nepal starts from the flat southern plains in Terai Mukhiya Patti Musharniya of Dhanusha District at 59 M to the sky-piercing peaks of the Himalayas within a breadth of 200 km in the north at 8848 m Mt. Sagarmatha ‘the highest point on Earth’. This ecological variation have created Nepal as ecologically diverse country.
Nepal occupies about 0.1 per cent of the global area but harbors 3.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent of the world’s known flora and fauna, respectively. Nepal is considered the 11th richest in Asia and the 25th in the world in terms of biodiversity.
Flora and Fauna at Glance
• Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus) - The stunning national bird of
Nepal, found in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas.
• Danphe (Lophophorus impejanus) - Also known as the Himalayan Monal, it
is the national bird of Nepal and can be found in high-altitude regions.
• Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) - The tallest flying bird, found in the Terai and wetland areas of Nepal.
• Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris) - Nepal is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger,
primarily found in the Terai region in national parks like Chitwan and Bardia.
• One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) - Found in the Terai grasslands,
particularly in Chitwan National Park.
• Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) - An endangered big cat inhabiting the high
Himalayas of Nepal.
• Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) - A cute and endangered mammal found in the
forests of eastern and central Nepal.
• Assam Macaque (Macaca assamensis) - A species of monkey found in
various forested regions of Nepal.
• Wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee), commonly referred to as "Arna," is a
formidable creature primarily located in the Koshi tapu wildlife reserve. This
majestic animal possesses an intimidating appearance that might be considered fearsome.
• Himalayan Musk Deer (Moschus chrysogaster) - A unique deer species found
in the Himalayan region, known for its musk glands.
•Gharial Crocodile (Gavialis gangeticus) belongs to the Crocodylia Order and Crocodylidae Family.In Nepal, it has been recorded from rivers of Chitwan and Bardia districts as well as Koshi river.
•King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah (Cantor, 1836) This species owns the pride of being the longest venomous snake in the world.
In Nepal established Chitwan National park as first national park of Nepal 1973 to protect the diverse Flora and Fauna and to protect depleting wildlife population of one horned Rhino and royal Bengal Tigers. Whereas in 1976 Langtang National Park was established to protect unique Himalayan landscape.
Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) which is the responsible body for safeguarding the ecosystem of Nepal in cooperation and coordination with the local population. Currently under DNPWC There 20 protected areas. 12 National Parks, 6 Conservation Areas, 1 Wildlife Reserve, and 1 Hunting Reserve.
These 20 protected areas cover landscapes and ecosystems from the Himalayas and high mountain watersheds to the flood plains of Tarai with low representation in the mid-mountain area. These protected areas not only safeguard the natural ecosystem but also provide resources to the local population through effective management of the buffer zone, Not only that these protected areas are major destinations for tourism in Nepal.
Specific objectives of DNPWC are
- To conserve rare and endangered wildlife, including floral and faunal diversity, by maintaining representative ecosystems
- To conserve and manage outstanding landscapes of ecological importance
- To support the livelihood of the local people through buffer zone and conservation area management programs
- To promote ecotourism consistent with biodiversity conservation
These protected areas are some of the major touristic destination of Nepal. Places such as Annapurna Conservation area, Sagarmatha National Park, Langtang National Park are the most travelled destination in Nepal.
- Chitwan national park 750 km2
- Bardia national park 507 km2
- Langtang national park 420 km2
- Shey-Phoksundo national park 1349 km2
- Banke National Park 343 km2
- Parsa National Park 298.17 km2
- Shuklaphanta National Park 243 km2
- Makalu Barun national park 830 km2
- Sagarmatha national park 275 km2
- Rara National park 198 km2
- Khaptad National Park 216 km2
- Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park 118 km2
- Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve 243 km2
- DhorPatan Hunting Reserve (1325 km2)
- Annapurna Conservation Area (7629 km2)
- Api Nampa Conservation Area (1903 km2)
- Gaurishankar Conservation Area 2178 km2
- Kanchenjunga Conservation Area 7629 km2
- Krishnasar Conservation area16.95 km2
- Manaslu Conservation Area 1663 km2
Anyone who has the opportunity to walk amidst these beautiful architectural antiquities will appreciate their importance, not only for Nepal but for all of human civilization. — President Jimmy Carter
Culture is a system of behaviors, nature of the interpersonal relationships, customs, manners, mores, and values developed over the millennia of history shared by people speaking different languages, following different faiths, observing a host of fairs, festivals, and rituals, and preserving specific cultural clues and cues. Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and Heritage is knowledge passed down from one generation to future generations. We are known to the world through our culture, tradition, and cultural heritage sites. Cultural heritage shows our identity, what we are, how we live, and what we do. These sites need protection and preservation from a cultural or natural perspective for contributing to humanity for which they are identified as World Heritage Sites. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 'World Heritage Site is a place (forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex or even a city) that is listed by UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance.'
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal
Natural World Heritage Sites in Nepal
- The Sagarmatha National Park (1979)
- The Chitwan National Park (1984)
Cultural World Heritage Sites in Nepal
- Kathmandu Valley (1979)
- Lumbini (1997)
Beside these 4 world heritage sites which are one of the most travel destinations in Nepal. There are numerous heritage sites in Nepal which are in process to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Besides these 15 cultural and natural sites are intended to be considered for nominations as world heritage sites of Natural and cultural importance.
- The early medieval architectural complex of Panauti (1996)
- Tilaurakot, the archaeological remains of ancient Shakya Kingdom (1996)
- Cave architecture of Muktinath Valley of Mustang (1996)
- The medieval palace complex of Gorkha (1996)
- Ramagrama, the relic stupa of Lord Buddha (1996)
- Khokana, the vernacular village and its mustard-oil seed industrial heritage (1996)
- Medieval Earthen Walled City of Lo Manthang (2008)
- Vajrayogini and early settlement of sankhu (2008)
- Medieval Settlement of Kirtipur (2008)
- Rishikesh Complex of Ruru Kshetra (2008)
- Nuwakot Palace Complex (2008)
- Ram Janaki Temple (2008)
- The Medieval Town of Tansen (2008)
- Sinja valley (2008)
- Bhurti Temple Complex of Dailekh (2008)
The Himalayan landscape of Nepal has tremendous topographic diversities followed by diversities of Lakes and wetlands way down from the Himalayan high altitude to lowland Terai. Lakes/wetlands provide water for irrigation, maintain biodiversity, and enhance the livelihoods of people through eco-tourism, cultural and spiritual connection. There are more than 6000 rivers, 3,252 glaciers, 2,323 glacial lakes, and several tectonic and ox-bow-lakes. Among them, the National Lake Conservation Development Committee (NLCDC) has enlisted 5,358 lakes in Nepal during its map-based inventory conducted the program in 2009.
Lakes of Nepal are culturally important in higher altitude areas for example Jatapokhari, Pach Pokhari, Gosai Kunda, Maipokhari, and so on. The mid-hill lakes are beautiful. In Terai, lakes, and wetlands are productive for agricultural activities. About 21 percent of the Nepali ethnic groups are directly belonging to water. In Nepal, 22 communities such as Bantar (Sardar), Barhamus, Bote, Danuwar, Darae, Gongi, Jhagat, Kewat, Khanwas (Rhanjhi), Khuna, Kumal, Kusahar (Kusaha), Manjhi, Dusadh, Mallaha, Mukhiya (Bihin), Musahar, Pode, Sahani, Satar, Sunaha and Tharu depend on lakes and wetlands for their survival.
The highest lake in the world: Tilicho 4949M
10 Ramsar site listed wetlands of Nepal
- Bishazari and associated Lakes
- Ghodaghodi Tal
- Jagdishpur Reservoir
- Kosi Tappu
- Lake Cluster of Pokhara Valley
- Mai Pokhari
- Phoksundo Lake
- Rara Lake
- Gokyo and associated Lakes
- Gosaikunda and associated Lakes
Nepal is a country with a unique landscape, diverse culture, and exotic flora and fauna. This section will help you navigate through the destinations of Nepal where you can experience the best time by engaging yourself in different activities. This solely focuses on tourism and aims to provide visitors with a simple way to navigate the destinations of Nepal and the purpose for visiting. Mentioned below are the recommended destinations along with a list of activities you can do there;
- Kathmandu Valley
Consisting of three districts Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur Kathmandu is the capital city and Kathmandu Valley serves as the central ground for tourism in Nepal. Known as the city of temples, the valley offers different unique experiences in regard to culture, heritage, and nature. The valley is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, short hiking hills, and other places.
Activities to do in Kathmandu Valley
- Visit the 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Bauddha Maha Chaitya
- Swayambhu Maha Chaitya
- Pashupatinath Temple
- Changu Narayan Temple
- Basantapur Durbar Square
- Patan Durbar Square
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- Go on a day hike on hills surrounding Kathmandu Valley
- Nagarkot hike
- Phulchwoki hike
- Shivapuri-Nagarjun hike
- Chandragiri hike
- Champadevi hike
- Sundarijal hike
- Jamacho hike and many more
- Adventure activities
- Rock climbing (Hattiban and Jagdol)
- Cannoning (Sundarijal)
- Spiritual Escape
- Spiritual escape in Namo Buddha, Pharping, Nagi Gumba, Vipassana Meditation
Located in northwest Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara is a hub for all tourists. Rich in natural beauty, Pokhara offers a wide range of places and activities that caters to all tourist demographic. From luxurious style vacations to soft adventures to extreme adventures, there is a lot to do. Pokhara also serves as a transit for many popular trekking destinations. Some of the highlighted things to do in Pokhara are:
- Visiting popular tourist destinations
- Phewa Lake
- Peace Stupa
- Mahendra and Bat Cave, Gupteshwor Cave
- Davi’s Fall
- International Mountain Museum
- Bindabasani Temple
- Day or Short hiking spot for weekend
- Sarangkot and Peace Stupa
- Australian Camp
- Adventure Activities
- Bunjee Jumping (Khusma)
- Hot-air Balloon
- Ultra-light Flight
- Rock Climbing
Known as the birthplace of Lord Buddha, Lumbini offers you the holy ground of spirituality. The flat lands have many built monasteries and stupas which is a symbol of Buddhism. But not only does Lumbini offers spiritual escape but also natural elements such as lakes and unique species of birds. Therefore, here is the list of things you can do and experience in Lumbini, which is also one of the World Heritage Sites:
- Visiting the birthplace of Lord Buddha
- Visiting the various monasteries and stupas as a representation of different countries
- Participating in yoga and meditation activities
- Visiting Jagdishpur Reservoir for bird watching
- Visiting Lumbini Crane Sanctuary
Chitwan is renowned for its wildlife as it is home to Royal Bengal Tiger, One-horned rhinos, and Elephants. Chitwan National Park is Nepal’s very first national park and is a very popular destination among tourists. You can get a full experience of wildlife and culture in Chitwan and some of the activities you can do in Chitwan are:
- Jeep jungle safari
- Homestay experience
- Boating through Rapti river
- Trying unique Tharu food
- Tharu cultural dance
- Day hiking through the national park
- Cycling around the city
- Trekking Destinations
Nepal is known worldwide for its highest mountains. Eight out of the 14 highest peaks over 8000m are located in Nepal. Thus, there are many trekking locations you can choose from and some of the most popular trekking destinations are:
- Annapurna Region
offers different routes within its area and they are all beautiful and unique.
- Annapurna Base Camp
- Round Annapurna
- Annapurna Circuit
- Ghandruk-Poonhill Trek
- Tilicho Lake Trek (Manang)
- Mardi Himal Trek
- Sagarmatha Region
Sagarmatha Region is home to the highest peak in the world Mt. Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) and the popular Everest Base Camp trek.
- Everest Base Camp Trek
- Gokyo Lake - Gokyo Ri Trek
- The three passes trek
- Pikey Peak Trek
- Langtang Region
which comes under Langtang National Park is the first Himalayan national park in Nepal and offers diverse landscapes and culture.
- Langtang Valley Trek
- Godaikunda Trek
- Tamang Heritage Trail
- Pach Pokhari Trek
- Gauri Shankar Conservation Area
- Tsho Rolpa Trek
- Rolwalling Valley Trek
- Manaslu Trek
- Tsum Valley Trek
- Badimalika Trek
- Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve Trek
- Kanchanjunga Trek
- Mundum Trail