‘The abode of snow’ and ‘the land of the ever-smiling faces’. These popular nicknames refer to two of Nepal’s better known characteristics: regardless of being a small country in geographic terms, it has eight of the highest mountains in the world in its territory. And contrasting the cold of its mountain peaks, the warmth of its cultures’ colours and welcoming people never ceases to amaze visitors.
Nepal is a small landlocked country that borders North with the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, and is surrounded by India on its borders of the South, East and West. With an area of just 147,181 square kilometres, Nepal has an average population of 27,000,000. Nepal was a kingdom until 2008, when it became a Federal Republic. Kathmandu is its capital city, lovingly known throughout history as ‘the city of temples and chiming bells’.
Steeped in a culture that may seem to the visiting eye as if it was frozen in time, it is a place where religion is central to the ways of conducting everyday life. There are as many temples as houses, and more religious festivals than days in a year. It is, furthermore, a melting pot of Hinduism and Buddhism, visible through the many Hindu temples and Buddhist shrines scattered -often side-by-side- all across the land. It is an extremely important country for both religions because Nepal is both the home of the Kumari living goddess and the birthplace of Buddha, the Light of Asia.
The topography of Nepal’s relatively small geographic area is surprisingly varied, which creates a rich bio-diversity variety of flora and fauna. At the icy peaks of the Himalayas in the North, Nepal hosts eight mountains that reach over 8000 metres, representing almost half of the 14 highest mountain peaks in the World. One of those is particularly famous: ‘Sagarmatha the goddess of the sky’, as known by the locals -or Mount Everest, as known in the West. Nepal’s central region of the valleys displays lush green tea gardens, lakes, paddy and golden mustard fields. Travelling even further South, one finds the thick sub-tropical jungles of the Terai with an abundance of outstanding National Parks that host many rare animals such as the Bengal tiger, the one-horned rhinoceros, elephants, sloth bears and mugger crocs.
Clearly, Nepal has much to offer to any kind of traveller. To those who seek richness of history, religious rituals, and vivid cultures, to those seeking experiences in the wilderness of jungles or mountains, Nepal is an outstanding destination.