Nepal Information Nepal is Land of patronizing Himalayas and bottomless valleys, fertile Terai and green hills, tentative rivers and lakes, tropical heat and stabbing chill thick forest and huge grasslands, stunning sunshine and dark caves, heavy rain and bristly sun, multi-coloured merry festivals and calm severe meditation, Nepal is the country of boundaries. Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world, in terms of natural beauty, due to its exclusive geographical position and latitudinal variation. It is situated between India in the south and China in the north with approximately 30 million people. The elevation of Nepal ranges from 60m above sea level to the highest point on earth Mt. Everest 8,848m above the sea level all inside a distance of 150km with climatic conditions ranging from sub-tropical to arctic.
Nepal is a landlocked country and lies between 800 4′ and 800 12′ east longitude and 260 22′ and 300 4′ north latitude. The total area comprises of 147,181 sq km, where its border touches the Tibetan autonomous region of China in the north and India in the east, south and west. The country is almost rectangular like, with an average length 885km east-west and an average width of 193km north-south. The country can be tentatively divided into three banded geographical regions running east to west. They are:-
• The Himalayan Region
• The Mountain Region
• The Terai Region
The Himalayan Region
This region covers the mountain range whose altitude is 3,000m to 8,848m above sea level. With sparse human habitation, most of the areas have a wild landscape, undisturbed tranquillity of nature ruling over the land. Along with Mt. Everest, the region includes eight of the 14 peaks of the world which exceed the altitude of 8,000m with many more mountains. The Himalayan region is divided into 3 regions:-
• Greater Himalaya
• Boarder Himalaya / Trans Himalaya
• Inner Himalaya / High Mountain Valley / Bhot
The Mountain Region
The Mountain region accounts for nearly 64 percent of total land area for the country. The altitude is between 600m and 3,000m above sea-level and along with the Mahabharat and Churia Mountain ranges, this region has many longitudinal fertile valleys of the principal rivers. Kathmandu valley is situated in this very region. Like the Himalayan region, the Mountain region is divided into 3 regions:-
• The Midland Range (Valley/Tars/Beshi)
• Mahabharat Range
• Churia Range
The Terai Region
The Terai region forms a low flat land belt and includes the most fertile land and dense forest areas of the country. It accounts for 17 percent of the country. It has the width of 26 to 32kms and its altitude does not exceed 305m above sea level. This region is divided into 3 regions:-
• Southern Terai Region
• Bhabar Pradesh Region
• Inner Terai Region
Nepal is a country of ancient civilization which can be traced thousands of years before the birth of Christ (B.C). However, scientifically reliable documents that are available only date back to 5th Century AD, when the Lichhavis ruled over the Kingdom We have to be content with various legends about the earlier periods, until more authentic documents are found. Legend says that the very first dynasty to rule the Kathmandu valley was the Gopala dynasty. It was then ruled by Kiratas. After the Kiratas, the rulers of the Lichhavis dynasty improved the economy and made great contributions for the development of arts in buildings, temples, images and places. After the Lichhavis period, another important era of Nepalese history is the Malla dynasty ruling around 13th century AD. Innumerable temples, palaces, idols and carvings that are preserved in the valley, speak of the excellence in art and architecture during that period. In this sense, Nepal has a long and a glorious history. By 1767 AD, the Great King Prithivi Narayan Shah of the Shah Dynasty, conquered various warring principalities and laid the foundation of modern Nepal. After Prithivi Narayan Shah, the campaign of the unification was given continuity, by his younger son Bahadur Shah and was launched once again by the First Prime Minister of Nepal Bhimsen Thapa. However the expansion came to a halt when Nepal came into conflict with the British India Company and signed the treaty of Sugauli, which lost the most important territories of Nepal. Another crucial chapter of history was the fall of the Rana Regime in February 1951, after a popular revolution, Nepal saw the dawn of democracy. A democratic revolt in April 1990 reinstated the multi-party democratic system A people movement in 2005 removed the Shah Dynasty of constitutional monarchy. Nepal has been declared as a Federal Democratic Republic by the First Constitutional Assembly on 28th May 2008.
Nepal is 5 hrs 45 minutes ahead of GMT and 15 minutes ahead of Indian standard time and other time differences are presented separately.
Electricity is found in major towns with 220 volts/ 50 cycles. Hydro electricity schemes can also be found running in several popular trekking areas.
The currency in Nepal is the Rupee, which is subdivided into 100 Paisa. The denominations of currency notes are available in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 500, and 1000. Similarly, coins are available in 1, 2 and 5 Rupees, which are in circulation.
Foreign visitors other than the Indian nationals are required to pay in foreign currency. However, other payment must be paid in Nepalese currency. Foreign Exchange counters are available at the airport and local banks, as well as at other places in Kathmandu and major towns. Visitors are advised to obtain and retain the Foreign Exchange receipts, to be able to reconvert the unused Nepalese currency into foreign currency. Visitors are required to fill the currency declaration form at the entry point. Major national daily newspapers, publish foreign exchange rates every day.
Foreign visitors entering into Nepal can obtain a visa from the Nepalese Embassy, or Consulate office in your country, or at the point of entry from the Immigration Office at the Tribhuvan International Airport. For the visitor arriving by air or by road, a visa can be obtained at the immigration office at the border with India and China. (See the ‘Visa Information’ link under ‘Trekking Info’ for current fees)
Official Weekly Holiday
Most government offices work six days a week. Saturday is the official weekly holiday in Nepal. Most of the shops remain open from Sunday through to Friday, while Museums throughout the valley remain closed on Tuesdays and other Government holidays. Other holidays are listed in the Nepalese calendar.
Government offices open from 10.00 A.m to 17:00 P.m during the summer and until 16:00 P.m in winter. On Friday, these offices are open until 15:00 P.m
Banks are open between 9:00 A.m to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday.
Nepal’s climate is best described as Sub-Tropical Monsoon, generally predictable and pleasant. The monsoon is approximately from the end of June to the middle of September. Eighty percent of rainfall occurs at this time and the remainder of the year is dry. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for the trekking, peak climbing, expeditions and others. It has been classified into four seasons, as follows:
1. Winter Season (December to February)
2. Autumn Season (September to November)
3. Summer Season (June to August)
4. Spring Season (March to May)
Nepal has a diverse climate because of the topography, which ranges from 60m above sea-level to 8,848m Mt. Everest, the highest peak of the World. The southern belt of Nepal, the Terai, remains hot most of the year and temperature decreases gradually towards the North as the altitude increases.
International certificate of vaccination regarding current inoculation against cholera, typhoid and yellow fever is not required.
In Kathmandu, boiled and filtered water as well as mineral water are available in most of the hotels and restaurants. Elsewhere, it is advisable to use water sterilization tablets or to drink tea and soft drinks.
Foreign visitors other than the Indian nationals are required to pay their hotel bills and air tickets in foreign currency.
Nepal’s population is about 30 million. According to the census taken by the Central Bureau of Statistics, states that there are 61 (presently 59) ethnic groups of people speaking different languages. However most of the ethnic groups can be broadly divided into two groups: Indo-Aryans/Indo-Nepalese and Tibeto Mongolians/Tibeto Nepalese. Historically the people of the former group entered the territory of Nepal during the period of Muslim’s conquest of the Indian sub-continent and the latter came to Nepal across the Himalayan passes from the north and they inhabited the Himalayan valley and slopes. The latter group is the aboriginals of the country. In addition, there are many nomadic tribes in the hills and Terai who have now submitted to the agrarian system
Brahmans are the members of the highest social caste. There are two different categories of Brahmans namely “Kumai Brahmans” and “Purbiya Brahmans”. They only differ in their derived homeland. The “Kumai Brahmans” are supposed to have come from mountainous regions of Kumaon in the north west of Nepal. The “Purbiya Brahmans” came from the eastern part of Nepal and are found scattered across the country. The Brahmans are the priestly caste. The Brahmans priests are exclusively in all Hindu temples. Nepali is the official language and was originally spoken by Brahman. They are better educated than other ethnic groups. They have occupied important government and educational posts in Nepal.
Chhetries & Thakuris
In the caste hierarchy of Nepal, the Chhetris and Thakuris come in the second position after Brahmans. They are the rulers, leaders and warriors. The Brahmans are their teacher and family priests. They are orthodox Hindu. Thakuris originally come from the northern part of Nepal in the 12th to 13th century. In Nepal, Chhetris and Thakuris are amongst the most influential and well to do social class. They are mostly in the government services in the high ranked positions in the army and police. Some of them remained farmers and are relatively poor and live like other ethnic groups. Those living in the higher hills in the far western region, lead hard lives because of the lack of rain and farming, which is practiced in the river valleys and on the hill flanks.
In the mid western hills and valleys along the southern slopes of the Annapurna Himalaya, the Gurung live together with other ethnic group like Magars, Brahmans and Chhetis. They are sturdy and hardworking. They are mongoloid physiognomically. They extend their living territories from Gorkha in the east through Lamjung, Manang and Kaski to Syangja district. According to the legend, the Gurung were a wandering tribe that traversed west across Tibet, prior to their entry into Mustang. They pre-date the introduction of Buddhism (7th Century). Their religious traditions are basically animistic. They celebrate Lhosar (New Year) at the end of December according to the ancient calendar of western Tibet. A caste hierarchy divides the Gurung Community as “Char Jat and Sora Jat” meaning groups of four and sixteen class. Traditionally they prefer cross cousins marriage. They also have a tradition of “Rodi”, a club of boys and girls of similar age group where dancing and singing is performed. They also perform other traditional dances Sorathi, Ghado, Ghatu and others for marriages and occasions. Most Gurung are engaged in British and Indian Gurkha regiments.
The Magars live in the western and central hills of Nepal. They had their own kingdoms until the 18th century and were closely associated with the Hindu Indo-Aryans in the west. Much of their cultural practices have been influenced by Chhetris. Today it is difficult to make any difference in the housing, dressing and farming practices of the two. The Magar have been sought after by the British and Indian armies and a great number serve in the Gurkha regiments. They speak a dialogue derived from Tibeto-Burman group of languages. Their religion is Buddhism However they are also Hindu Magar. The Magar Community celebrates the festival dedicated to the goddess Kalingreatpomp (Hindu festival) where they sacrifice a lot goat. Magar villages are typical with round and oval houses.
Sherpa is a combination of Tibetan words Shar (East) and Pa (People) “people of the east”. They migrated from eastern Tibet and now live in the eastern part of Nepal. Sherpa are the most famous among the Himalayan peoples because of their impeccable mountaineering skills, which has made them as an indispensable part of mountain expeditions as leaders, guides and porters. As an individual or in groups, they have set many records in the mountaineering world. Most of the Sherpa live in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal in the vicinity of Mt. Everest. They also live along the Arun valley, Dudh Koshi River and its tributary areas. Traditionally in Sherpa community, fraternal polyandry is found i.e. two brothers may marry one common wife. However, if there are three brothers, the middle one has to serve the Monastery as a Monk. For four brothers, two groups of two may marry two common wives; however this system is abolished from Sherpa society these days. Sherpa observe many festivals during the year. The important festivals are Lhosar and Dumje.
The Tharus are one of the oldest and original indigenous ethnic groups to inhabit the Terai. They are spread across the length of Nepal’s plain and extend westward into the Kumaon foothill. The Tharu language has been greatly influenced by various Indo-Aryan such as Maithili in the eastern, Bhojpuri in the central and Awadhi in the western Terai. Tharus have their own unique religion and practice animism Their culture is especially suited for the hot plains and they are actually immune to malaria. They have Mongoloid features and are dark-brown skinned. The Rana Tharu of the western Terai, claim them self as Rajput ancestry and speak their own language. There is much migration going on in the country now and the cultural definition of the people by area is difficult. Urban population is increasing by 7% each year and most cultures have intermingled. Tharu marriages are usually within the same tribe. Traditionally Tharu religion is to worship the spirits particularly of the forest.
Newars are the original inhabitants and indigenous ethnic group of the Kathmandu Valley. They are natives of Kathmandu with greater concentration in the Kathmandu valley, Banepa, Dhulikhel, Bhojpur, Bandipur, Tansen and other parts of Nepal. Newars are mainly traders. Despite the small percentage numerically, they contribute significantly and the creators of the splendid civilization of its three cities – Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur in the history, art, architecture and business activities in the country. They skilfully – built temples and palaces, delicately-engraved stone and metal images, carved wooden columns and pillars, and the history laden shrines and Chaityas of these three historical cities stand testimony to the Newar’s artistic achievements. The Newar’s speak the language “Newari”, known as Nepal Bhasa, which belongs to Tibeto-Burman family language.
The religious structure of Nepal has a unique place in the world. All the sects co-exist with universal brotherhood. Hindu and Buddhist visit the same places of pilgrimages. This serves as fine examples of fellow feeling. Tolerance in religions is one of the most remarkable features of Nepalese culture. Nepal has never witnessed religious riots. The overwhelming majority of the population are Hindu and Buddhist and are followed by different ethnic groups. Most of these sects are in the form of animism They believe in host of spirits or supernatural beings as they worshipped by their generations.
Thousands of gods and goddesses make up the Hindu pantheon. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are the three major Hindu gods who have their own characteristics and incarnations. Each god has his own steed which is often seen kneeling faithfully outside the god and goddess temples. Symbolic objects carries multiple hands of each deity, which empowers them to perform great feats. The followers of Hinduism are roughly divided into three groups i.e. Nepali speaking Hindu of the hilly regions, the Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi speaking groups of the Terai and the Newars of Kathmandu valley. They differ in customary practices; however they have indisputable arrangement as regard to broader philosophical aspects of the religion.
Sakyamuni Buddha is the founder of Buddhism who lived and taught in this part of the world during the sixth century BC. The great stupas of Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are among the oldest and most beautiful worship sites in the Kathmandu Valley.
The spinning of prayer wheels, prostrating pilgrims, collective chants and burning butter lamps are some Buddhist practices often encountered by visitors. A slip of paper bearing a mantra is kept inside the wheels so that prayers are sent to the gods when the wheel is spun. Scenes from the Buddha’s life and Buddhist realms are depicted on Thangka scroll paintings, which are used during meditation and prayer ceremonies. Many Buddhist followers are seen performing these practices in Swayambhunath, Boudhanath, and at other Buddhist sites around the Valley.
Passengers arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) without any dutiable goods can pass through the Green Channel for quick clearance without a baggage check. If you are carrying dutiable goods and articles, you have to be declared at the Red Channel. It is illegal to export goods over 100 years old. The Department of Archaeology has to certify for export of any metal statues, sacred paintings and similar objects before being taken out of the country. All bags must be declared and cleared through customs inspection at the airport of entry. Visitors are allowed to import the following articles for their personal use, subject to the following limits:-
• 200 Cigarettes
• 50 Cigars
• Liquor, one bottle not exceeding 1.15 litres
• 12 Beer cans
• One movie camera with 12 rolls of film or one video camera
• One ordinary camera with 15 rolls of film
• One tape recorder with 15 tape reels or cassettes
• One perambulator
• One tricycle
• One sleeping bag
Major Tourist Activities
Nepal is considered one of the best adventure destinations in the world. Nepal geographically packs an extremely varied landscape into a small area. The immense contrast in altitude and climate found here support a spectacular mix of lifestyles, vegetation and wildlife. Nepal is probably the only country in the world where you can climb the highest mountains of the world, trek to scenic countryside with icy pinnacles always in the background, as well as enjoy a jungle safari in forests considered to be the densest in the entire South Asian region.
Nepal is popular as one of the best destinations in the world to explore and experience the natural beauty and cultural riches through trekking. One can walk along the beaten trails or virgin tracks. Either way, you are in for an experience of a lifetime along with forests of rhododendron, isolated hamlets, small mountain villages, birds, animals, temples, monasteries and breathtaking landscapes. You will also encounter friendly people of different cultures offering an experience of traditional rural life. The trails follow ancient footpaths meandering along scenic river-ranks, intricately terraced fields and forests, connecting picturesque hamlets and mountain villages. Trekking in Nepal is an all season activity. They are four grades of trekking in Nepal:
• Easy Trekking (Elevation below 3500m)
• Moderate Trekking (Elevation below 4500m)
• Strenuous Trekking (Elevation below 5500m)
• Very Strenuous Trekking (Elevation above 5500m)
Mountaineering & Peak Climbing
Nepal Himalaya has the greatest mountains in the world with eight peaks rising above 8,000m including Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world. Since 1949, the Nepal Himalaya has become a great theatre of mountaineering activities and the drama of success and failures have provided impetus to thousands of climbers to meet the ultimate challenges. To scale any of the mountain peaks in Nepal, expedition permits are needed, which can be obtained from the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mountaineering Section. A climbing permit for trekking peaks can also be obtained from Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Rafting / Kayaking / Canyoning
Rafting is one of the best ways to explore the typical cross section of natural as well as cultural heritage of the country. There are numerous rivers in Nepal offering excellent rafting experience. You can glide on calm jade waters with magnificent scenery all around, or rush through roaring white rapids in the care of expert river-men employed by government authorized agencies. The Government of Nepal has opened sections of 10 rivers for commercial rafting. Adventures are provided with world class services by rafting agents. Agencies provide life jackets, camping gear and standard rafting paraphernalia needed by word-class rafters. An extremely popular sport in Europe, Canyoning is now available in Nepal.
While the high Himalaya makes up Nepal’s northern region, the southern lowland known as the Terai, is covered with dense tropical jungles teeming with diverse wildlife and exotic birds. Here you will find some of the most exciting and popular safari destinations in the world. A visit to these parks involve game-stalking by a variety of means i.e. foot, dugout canoe, jeep, elephant back, etc.
Culture & Heritage Sites
Nepal offers astonishing cultural and religious sightseeing attractions found nowhere else. The three main historic cities of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur are known for numerous historical monuments, old palaces and palace squares. Shrines and temples, ageless traditions and legends make Nepal a veritable living museum
Some hints regarding religious matters:
Religion is an integral part of Nepali life. Temples, images, sacred paintings are to be seen everywhere. The majority of the people in Nepal are Hindu; nevertheless Buddhism has a place of importance in this country. Hinduism and Buddhism are so closely connected in Nepal, that it could take a life time’s study to understand the complexities of religious cultures. Visitors to a Hindu temple or Buddhist shrine are expected to be decently clad as a mark of respect. In fact, a pair of open sandals is more convenient and comfortable while visiting the temples and stupas. In some of the temples, entry may be prohibited for the non-Hindus. Leather articles are prohibited inside the temple precinct. It is better not to touch offerings or persons when they are on the way to the shrines. Beef is strictly prohibited among the Hindus. No female animal is killed for food. Walking around a temple or Stupa is traditionally done clockwise. Generally, temples, Stupas and monuments are permitted to be photographed, but it is better to seek permission first.
The Nepalese people are friendly and hospitable by nature. Visitors in general will have no difficulty in adjustment; since the majority of our people live in rural areas and have a simple and traditional outlook on life. Nepalese people live and share that with them It is the spirit where we can offer some practical guidelines that could help to make the stay delightful, homely and rewarding.
Here are few pointers to help you:
More than 90% of the Nepalese people live in the rural areas and they have their own traditions and customs. Nepalese people look to be very simple and innocent. They take a special delight to make company with any other people. They are more interested to talk with the foreigners, even though they may not be able to talk and understand foreign languages. So, there are certain things that are alien to our people and some points to keep in mind. It is better to be decently clad when visiting any place. Sun and beach wear is not ideal when roaming around the city or village. Brief shorts, bare shoulders and backs may not be appreciated. One need not to be stiff, and overdressed, but just comfortably and decently covered. Do not be offended if a Nepalese lady hesitates to shake hands. In Nepal, people and especially the ladies, do not normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture known as “Namaste”. Public displays of affection between man and women are frowned upon. Do not do something that is totally alien to our environment. We are hard on drug abuse; trafficking and possession of drugs are taken as serious offences. Cheap charity, breeds beggars, but does not solve their basic problem Therefore, do not encourage beggary by being benevolent.