Golden temples, charming villages, lush green jungle and the vastness of the breathtaking Himalaya – due to its incomparable landscapes and colourful culture Nepal is one of the most spectacular travel destinations in the world. In the following you can receive further background information about the small landlocked country in South Asia.
The landlocked country Nepal is situated along the southern ridges of the Himalayan mountain range and is located in between China and Tibet in the north and India in the south. The country was formed as a kingdom in year 1768 after the conquest by the founder of the Shah-Dynasty. Nepal was never part of a colony and is less than half the size of Germany with its area of approx. 147,181 km². Besides the capital city Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lalitpur that are situated in the mountain region are the next bigger cities in the country. Nepal is divided in 7 provinces, 77 districts and 753 communities. From west to east the country extends to up to 885 km and from north to south to 241 km at maximum. Nepal’s geography is mainly influenced by the high mountains of the Himalaya in the north and east. Further south the landscape changes to a moderate lower Himalayan range and develops to an inner valley called Terai.
Mainly the Himalayan mountain range that extends over 3,000m from Pakistan to Myanmar with a maximum width of up to 350 km influences Nepal's geomorphology majorly. The Himalaya is part of the central Asian alpine mountain range and is between 30 and 50 million years old so that the weathering has only slightly influenced the landscape. The mountain range was folded in the collision between the Indian and the Eurasian continents. This collision drift still continues today so that the Himalayan mountain range is still pushed up a few millimeters every year. In Nepal the highest mountains are situated in the north and the east with the Mount Everest (8.848 m high) as the world’s highest mountain on the northern border to Tibet. South of the mountain range alluvial cones, so called Siwaliks, were formed by erosion as a consequence of heavy monsoon rainfall in a high relief. In contrast to that, northern mountain regions are situated in the rainshadow so that there is only very little precipitation. Due to the rough living conditions, the mountain areas are only scarcely populated but on the other hand very popular for trekking tours. In the high mountain area villages are mostly located in valley regions and summer pasture grounds reach up to a maximum height of about 5,000 m. Rivers that enter the Ganges formed several gouges in the mountain range. Besides Tibet, Nepal is one of the highest regions worldwide with over 40% of the land surface above 3,000m. To the south the altitude descends in the lower mountain range and the fertile inner Terai valley. While the lower mountain range in the central area of Nepal takes up 30% of the land surface and is home to less than half of the population, the Terai region represents only 14% of the land surface. Nevertheless, nearly half of the population is living in this region as the living conditions are better here, the ground is fertile and less endangered by erosion or frost, irrigation is easier and agriculture is mainly done in this area.
Especially in the subtropical inner Terai valley the biodiversity is quite manifold. Besides the Indian rhino that is listed as an endangered species, various deer species belong to the bigger mammals in the southern region of Nepal. Moreover, several Asian antelopes populate Nepal's nature and also wild bovid like water buffaloes, yaks and gaurs are living in the lower regions and on occasion also in the dryer foothill areas. Bovid are often domesticated and used as working and pack animals. In the thick mountain forests also the endangered musk deer is living that is chased due to the high demand for the male deer’s secretion. Moreover, different relatives of the goat can be seen in higher mountain ranges. Quite often these animals end up as pray of the strongly endangered snow leopard that is living in the central Asian high mountain region. In remote areas in the lower valleys of Nepal also other big cats like black panthers, the endangered Bengal tigers as well as smaller cats like the leopard cat and the fishing cat are common animals.
Other endangered mammals that belong to the family of bears and live in the foothill forests of the Himalayan region are the red panda as well as the Himalayan brown bear. Sloth bears are more common in the subtropical forests as well as grasslands in the valleys. In tropical areas in Nepal also crocodiles, numerous insect species as well as several snakes (some of them venomous) are at home. Moreover, the biodiversity of birds is manifold especially in the inner Terai valley with animals like the prominent peacocks as well as several predatory birds like eagles, falcons, vultures and owls living in this region. In the lower areas also cormorants, herons and cranes are quite common. During a trip to Nepal many visitors run into monkeys like rhesus macaques that can get quite intrusive in touristic places, as well as gray langurs that are more reserved in comparison.
Also the biodiversity of flora depends on the altitude and becomes more barren in higher mountain regions. In the lower evergreen and lush Terai valley region several fruit trees and banana plants are common as well as trees that find use in construction and crop plants like rice or lentils. Besides the monsoon forests with bamboos and palms also numerous grasses, bushes and flowers grow in this subtropical valley region. These include elephant grass that can grow up to 3m, jasmine, hibiscus as well as various orchids. In higher altitudes crop plants and tropical vegetation are getting rarer and take turns with mountain- and clouds forests before flora changes to lichens, grasses and mosses above the tree line in an altitude of over 4,000m.
The climate in Nepal depends majorly on the geography and the season that are quite similar to German seasons regarding the time periods. In higher altitudes especially along the northern border and in the eastern part of the country, temperatures are generally lower and there is also a relatively low amount of precipitation that is coming down as snow most of the time. Above 4,000m, the region is mainly influenced by an alpine climate with temperatures generally being below 0°C so that the mountain area is covered by perpetual ice and snow. In the foothill area climate is more moderate and average temperatures lie between 10 and 24°C, depending on the season. During winter the night can be quite cold, nevertheless temperatures only rarely drop below 0°C. The lower Terai valley is mainly influenced by the subtropical monsoon climate. In the time between April and September the south-west monsoon dominates the country and about 80 to 90% of the annual rain falls during these months. In general, the other months are relatively dry. During this time it is quite hot and humid in the subtropical Terai with temperatures between 25 and 32°C. Winters are relatively mild and dry in this lower region. With the beginning of the dry season in October/November the view is clearing up, nature appears in a lush green and especially at the end of the dry season (February-April) wild flowers are in full bloom. Travelling to Nepal midsummer or midwinter cannot be recommended as heavy precipitation as well as sultry climate complicate journeys during the rainy season. Moreover the sky is often covered by clouds during this time so that the view over the stunning landscape can be troubled. In winter temperatures can drop below 0°C in higher altitudes which can also be troublesome during a journey.
Nepal is located in the time zone UTC/GMT + 5:45 and is therefore nearly four or five hours ahead of German time (depending on the season in Germany). There is no daylight saving
The currency in Nepal is called Nepalese Rupee (NPR) and can be separated in 100 Paisa. You can get information about the current exchange rate on websites like www.währungsrechner.de.
In Nepal the metric system is used.
Line voltage in Nepal is 230 Volt and the frequency is 50 Hertz. Plugs equal German ones, so there might be a need for an adapter if you are coming from other countries.
In Nepal you are driving on the left side. The infrastructure in the country is not well developed as the extreme relief of the landscape is a natural limit. Moreover, landslides in the monsoon time as well as the major earthquake in 2015 have not contributed to an improvement of the situation. The Tribhuvan International Airport is located in Kathmandu as the only international airport in the country. Besides this there are also up to 40 regional airports for smaller machines across the country. The railway line in Nepal is 59 km long and only the segment from Janakpur to the Indian Jaynagar is active as the part between Janakpur and Bigjalpura is currently blocked (2018).
Depending on the time of year:
If you plan to go to Nepal you definitely should consider going on a trekking tour in the Himalayan mountain region. Even if you are not that into outdoors and hikes it is worth the effort as you will see unbelievably stunning mountain sceneries, beautiful landscapes in nationalparks and get to know small mountain villages. There are a lot of offers, also for beginners, with local guides and in many cases also staff members that will support you with your luggage and equipment.
At first you might need a time to adapt to the high traffic, the polluted air and the general crowdedness, but still – there is so much to see in Nepal's capital city Kathmandu!
In the center of the town you can go to the Durbar Square – a place of historic importance. When Nepal was still a monarchy, coronation ceremonies were held here and the palace of the king is still located on this square. Moreover, a visit to the Swayambhunath temple is worth its time. The complex which combines Buddhist with Hindu elements is one of the oldest temples worldwide and one of its symbols is the white stupa on the hill of Kathmandu that you need to climb more than 300 steps for. Also the suburb Boudhnath with its impressive white stupa that is the highlight for many pilgrims is a great destination for everyone who is interested in local culture and religion. If you are interested in craft work, also a trip to Bhaktapur that is situated in the greater Kathmandu area might be an option. This small town is almost like an open-air exhibition with historic buildings and a traffic free zone. Nevertheless, you should be aware that after the earthquake 2015, some districts are quite damaged and not ready for visitors. If you want to have a spectacular view over the Himalyan mountain range without doing a whole trekking tour, you can consider going to Nagarkot that is located in the vicinity of Kathmandu.
These are only a few ideas for your journey to Kathmandu and the greater Kathmandu region; the city offers a wide variety in culture and gives you a bunch of options for your free time.
If you are going to Nepal in spring you might want to consider participating in one of the most colourful and lively festivities in the country: the Holi festival. This Hindu festival that lasts one day and one night, celebrates the beginning of spring and also the triumph of good over evil. Its origin lies in India and Nepal but meanwhile it is also celebrated around the world. During this exciting festiveness people paint their faces and bodies, throw coloured powder as well as water and have a good time together. On this day different cultures come together to celebrate and have fun without religious requirements and prayers. Make sure to wear clothes that you like to get colourful!
The Himalayan region in which the Panch Pokhari trekking tour takes place in Nepal is situated in central Asia and extends over an arc of round about 3,000 km from Pakistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. Moreover, the folded mountain range that reaches a maximum width of roughly 350 km is also situated in Afghanistan, India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. The Himalayan region is characterized by a high altitude and a stunning mountain scenery with several summits.
Caused by the continental collision between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate along a convergent plate boundary the Himalayan mountain range was formed 30 to 50 million years ago. This relatively young mountain range consists mainly of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and was only exposed to a small amount of erosion in comparison to older mountain ranges. As the Indian Plate is still moving towards the north, the Himalaya is still growing a few millimeters every year. As the orogenic process is still active, sometimes seismic events can occur.
In the extensive Himalayan region the climate can be quite changeable and is in general very diverse due to the complex topography. While the lower foothill regions are mostly influenced by a subtropical climate with seasonal monsoon and warm temperatures, regions in higher altitudes are mainly dominated by cold and dry climate. During the monsoon season, extensive precipitation influences the southern mountain range and in some cases it even leads to complications with travelling or transportation and may also cause landslides and floodings. The northern side of the mountain range lies within the rain shadow and therefore the region is like a cold desert that is generally covered in perpetual ice and snow. The Himalayan mountain range is also influencing the climate in southern Asia as well as in the Tibetan plateau as it is a natural border that prevents cold and dry winds to go all the way down to the south and also prevents monsoon winds to go north.
Flora and fauna vary majorly with altitude and climate. Especially higher mountain regions with the high snow line are a perfect setting for several extremophile organisms.
In general, it can be said that the higher you get, the sparser the vegetation will be, especially along the dry and cold northern side of the mountain range. While in lower foothill regions thick forests and also shrub species like rhododendron are common, vegetation changes to more extreme coniferous plants and above the tree line, with extreme juniper species that may grow in an altitude of almost 5,000m, the landscape changes once more to alpine tundra. The tundra is covered by meadows with herbaceous grasses and shrubs. In even higher altitudes, the region is not suited as habitat anymore and the landscape is covered by a thick layer of snow and ice. Flora is richer in southern regions with influences of the subtropical monsoon
Concerning the fauna the diversity also depends on the altitude and the climate of the region. In higher areas especially species belonging to the goat family are relatively wide spread with animals like tahrs, Himalayan blue sheeps and also some near endemic species like e.g. the Himalayan serow or the takin. The Himalayan region is also home to the endangered snow leopard which is the main predator in these altitudes. Moreover, vultures are widely known to live in these regions. Further endangered species in the Himalayan region are musk deers, Himalayan brown bears, Asian black bears and also the red panda that is more common in the eastern region of the Himalaya.
As one of the 14 eightthousanders around the world, the Mount Everest is the highest mountain worldwide with a total height of 8,848 m. Due to the enormous altitude and the occasional extreme changes in weather and temperature, the summit of the mountain on the Nepali-Chinese/Tibetan border is mostly admired from lower regions rather than climbed all the way to the top. The first ones to have reached the summit on the southern route for the first time were New Zealand’s Sir Edmond Hillary and the Nepali Tenzing Norgay in year 1953. Formed by erosion and by the influence of glaciers, the summit is shaped like a pyramid with a southwestern side as well as a northern and an eastern wall. The mountain was named after the British surveyor Sir George Everest in 1856.
The Himalayan region contains the third largest deposit of snow and ice worldwide after Antarctica and the Arctic. In round about 15,000 glaciers an estimated amount of about 12,000 km³ fresh water is stored in continental ice sheets. As the Himalayan mountain range is located near the tropic of cancer north of the equator, climate in this region is in general relatively warm. This is also the reason why the permanent snow line that lies in an altitude of around 5,500 m is relatively high compared to other regions with glaciers. The perpetual snow and ice contributes to the fresh water supply of lower mountain regions and is especially during dry season an important water depot.
The Himalayan region is covered with hundreds of mountain lakes in an altitude underneath 5,000 m that get scarcer and smaller the higher the altitude. One of the highest lakes worldwide is the Tilicho Lake in Nepal in the Annapurna massif. In the Himalayan-region the largest lakes both with an area of over 600 km² are lake Pangong Tso which freezes completely in winter despite containing saline water, as well as lake Yamdrok Tso, a fresh water lake in the Tibet region. Furthermore, due to global warming the number of glacier lakes rises continuously.