Nepal a country of amazing extremes, full of diversity and fascination; is the home of the World’s highest mountains, historic cities and the forested plains where the lordly tigers and the great one-horned Rhinoceros trundle at ease. In fact enchantment is everywhere for anyone in search of Shangri-La!
Nepal has a population of more than 18 million people made of different races living in different regions with diverse culture, languages and dialects. The Newars constitute an important ethnic group of the capital valley Kathmandu. The Gurungs and Magars live mainly in the west. The Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars inhabit the slopes and valleys of the eastern mid hills. The Sherpas live in the Himalayan region. There are Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals in the Terai region. The Brahmans, Chhetris and Thakuris are spread generally over all parts of the kingdom.
Religion and Culture of Nepal:
Hinduism and Buddhism constitute two major religions of Nepal. A remarkable feature of Nepal is the religious homogeneity what exists, particularly between the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Apart from the Hindus and Buddhists, Muslim form the third largest religious group.
The exquisite medieval art & architecture of the Kathmandu valley vividly reflect the artistic ingenuity and the religious tradition of the people.
Nepal, a sovereign independent Kingdom, is bounded on the North by the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, the East-south and West by India. Nepal covers an area of 147,181 square kilometers, and stretches 145-241 kilometers north to south and 850 kilometers west to east. At latitudes 26 and 30 degrees north and longitudes 80 and 88 degrees east, Nepal is topographically divided into three regions: the Himalayas to the north, the hills consisting of the Mahabharat range and the Churia Hills in the middle, and the Terai to the south. Elevations are varied in the kingdom. The highest point is Mt. Everest (8848 m) in the north and the lowest point (70 meters above sea level) is located at Kechana Kalan of Jhapa District. Altitude increases as you travel south to north. To the north temperatures are below -40 degrees Celsius and in the Terai, temperatures rise to 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. During June, July and August, monsoon clouds influence the kingdom. The country can be divided into three main geographical regions:
The Himalayan Region:
The Himalayan range makes up the northern border of the country and represents 16% of the total land area of Nepal. The altitude of this region ranges between 4877-m.- 8848 m. it includes 8 of the highest 14 summits in the world, which exceed altitude of 8,000m including Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and others. Peaks like Mt. Everest (8848 m), Kanchenjunga (8598 m), and Dhaulagiri (8137 m) are found here and sparse vegetation is found up to 4,500 m. Some of Nepal's most beautiful animal and plant life are also found here. Although rare, the snow leopard and Danphe bird are much talked-about sights among visitors. The people in this region produce and sell cheese besides working as porters and guides. Many also trade with Tibet and travel across the border to sell their goods.
The Mountain Region:
This region covers 65% of the total land area of the country. The Mahabharat range that soars up to 4,877m and the lower Churia range form it. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal is located here. Elevations range from 500 to 3,000 m above sea level. During summer the temperature reaches an average of 32 degrees Celsius. Winters are cold, temperature sometimes reaches -1 degree Celsius. Areas in the eastern hills receive more rainfall because of the monsoon clouds, which come from the southeast. The rivers in the west, which do not receive much rainfall, are dependent upon the melted snow that flows down the Himalayas. Wild animals to be found here are the spotted leopard, barking deer, and Himalayan black bear. The hilly region is also popular for different kinds of birds. Over four hundred species of birds are found here. The people in this region have gained from the growth in the tourism industry. The people here work as trekking guides and porters and also sell garments and carpets to add to their income.
The Terai Region:
The lowland Terai covers 17% of the total land area of Nepal. It provides excellent farming land and the average elevation of flatlands is 100 to 300 m above sea level. In the Sub-tropical forest areas of Terai are found, marshes and wildlife that include the Royal Bengal tiger, one horned rhino, and the gharial crocodile etc. After the eradication of malaria in the 1960s, many people migrated to the Terai in search of farming land. Today, about 48% of the country's population occupies this region. Flat farmlands and the region's flexible topography have given rise to many industries. The main industrial towns are Biratnagar, Butwal, Bhairahawa, Birgunj, and Janakpur. Calcutta, a metropolitan city in India is the closest seaport. It lies 1,000 kilometers away from Birgunj.
Climate of Nepal:
Nepal has a typical monsoonal two-season year. There's the dry season from October to May and there's the wet season, the monsoon, from June to September. September-November, the start of the dry season, is in many ways the best time of year in Nepal. With the monsoon only recently finished, the countryside is green and lush. Nepal is at its most beautiful and there are some colorful festivals to enjoy.
Nepal experiences 4 seasons Spring (March-May), Summer (June-August), Autumn (September-November) and Winter (December-February).
The climate is varied ranging from the sub-tropical Terai to the cool dry temperate and alpine climate in the northern Himalayan ranges. In the Terai, the hottest part of the country, summer temperatures may rise as high as 40°c. The climate is hot and humid. In the mid-mountain region, the summer climate is mild with temperatures around 25° to 27°c. The winter temperatures range from 7°c to 23°c in the Terai and subzero to 12°c in the mountain regions and valleys. The northern Himalayan region has an alpine climate. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant equable climate with average summer and winter temperatures of 19°-27°c and 2°-12°c respectively.
There is no seasonal constraint on traveling in and through Nepal. Even in December and January, when the winter is at its severest, there are compensating bright sun and brilliant views.
Flora and Fauna/ Vegetation:
Nepal is a land of geographical extremes, ranging from near sea-level elevations in the southern Terai to the world's highest mountains. The country contains a variety of ecosystems; treeless sub-alpine pastures and dense fir forests of the high valleys, oak and rhododendron woods of the middle hills, and tall sal forests of the south. Along the southern borders of Nepal are preserved much of the lowland jungles and grasslands that once covered this part of the sub-continent. Here one can see birds and mammals found nowhere else. Although animal habitat has been somewhat depleted as a result of agriculture, deforestation and other causes, through Nepal's extensive and effective park and reserve system, the country still has more varied flora and fauna than any other places in Asia.
Tropical Deciduous Monsoon Forest:
This includes the Terai plains and the broad flat valleys or Duns found between hill ranges. The dominant tree species of this area are Sal (Shorea robusta), sometimes associated with Semal (Bombax malabricum), Asna (Terminalia termentosa), Dalbergia spp. and other species, and Pinus roxburghi occuring on the higher ridges of the Churia hills, which in places reach an altitude of 1,800 meters. Tall coarse two- meter-high elephant grass originally covered much of the Dun valleys but has now been largely replaced by agricultural settlement. This tropical zone is Nepal's richest area for wildlife, with gaurs, wild buffalo Four species of deer, tiger, leopard and other animals, Rhinoceros, swamp deer and hog deer are found on the grasslands and two species of crocodile and the Gangetic dolphin inhabit the rivers.
Subtropical Mixed Evergreen Forest:
This includes the Mahabharat Lekh which rises to a height of about 2,400 meters and comprises the outer wall of the Himalayan range. Great rivers such as the Karnali, Narayani, and Sapta Koshi flow through this area into the plains of the Terai. This zone also includes the so called "middle hills", which extend northward in a somewhat confused maze of ridges and valleys to the foot of the great Himalayas. Among the tree species characteristic of this region are Castenopsis indicia in association with Schima wallichi, and other species such as Alnus nepalensis, Acer oblongum and various species of oak and rhododendron, which cover the higher slopes where deforestation has not yet taken place. This zone is generally poor in wildlife. The only mammals, which are at all widely distributed, are wild boar, barking deer, serow, ghoral and bear. Different varieties of birds are also found in this zone.
Temperate Evergreen Forest:
Northward on the lower slopes and spurs of the Great Himalayas, oaks and pines are the dominant species up to an altitude of about 2,400 meters. Above these are found dense conifer forest of Picea, Tsuga, Larix and Betula spp. Abies and Betula are usually confined to higher elevations, with Betula typically marking the upper limit of the tree line. At about 3,600 to 3,900 meters rhododendron, bamboo and maples commonly mingle with the conifers. The composition of the forest varies considerably, with coniferous predominating in the west and eracaceous in the east. The wildlife of this region includes the Himalayan bear, serow, ghoral, barking deer and wild boar, with the Himalayan tahr sometimes being seen on steep rocky faces above 2,400 meters. The red panda is among the more interesting of the smaller mammals found in this zone; it appears to be fairly well distributed in suitable areas of the forest above 1,800 meters. The rich and varied avifauna of this region includes several spectacular and beautiful pheasants, including the Damphe pheasant, Nepal's national bird.
Sub-alpine and Alpine Zone:
Above the tree line, rhododendron, juniper scrub and other procumbent woody vegetation may extend to about 4,200 meters where they are then succeeded by a tundra-like association of short grasses, sedge mosses and alpine plants wherever there is sufficient soil. This continues up to the lower limit of perpetual snow and ice at about 5,100 meters. The mammalian fauna is sparse and unlikely to include any species other than the Himalayan marmot, mouse hare, tahr, musk deer, and snow leopard and occasionally blue sheep. In former times, the wild yak and great Tibetan sheep could also be sighted in this region and it is possible that a few may still be surviving in areas such as Dolpa and Humla. The bird life at these altitudes includes several interesting species such as the lammergeyer, snow cock, snow partridge, chough and bunting, with redstarts and dippers often seen along the streams and rivulet.
How to Reach Nepal?
There are 15 International carriers operating to and out of Kathmandu International airport. There are ten passenger airlines operating to almost 30 destinations in nearly all parts of Nepal - remote airfields to major hub cities. Today it is possible to reach most of the tourist destinations by air. ie Indian Airlines, PIA, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Thai Airlines, Martin Airlines etc.