Nepal (NP)


Nepal travel guide (Asia)

The kingdom of Nepal is a country in South Asia and borders on the two most populated countries in the world: China and India.

Geography and climate
: Nepal can be divided up into three main geographical zones; in the south are the humid lowlands (Terai), the hilly interior and the high mountains. The Terai on the border to India is very fertile and has a tropical, or subtropical climate. This region is the warmest and has the most precipitation in the whole of the country and is part of the lowlands of the Ganges. About 50% of the population lives here on an area measuring 17% of the whole country. In the central hilly region, the population density varies according to the soil conditions and the microclimate. The climate here is to a large extent sub-tropical and about 45% of the population live here on 30% of the entire area of the country. The high mountain region is the most inhospitable part of the country and boasts eight of the highest mountains in the world. Extremely heavy monsoon rains mean agriculture is almost impossible and the main source of income for the local population comes from tourism. The climate is alpine, almost arctic and there are no tarmaced roads. Four domestic airports link this part of the country with the outside world.

Mountains and rivers
: the highest mountain in Nepal and in the world is Mount Everest with an altitude of 8,850 metres (29,035 ft). It is located in the Himalayas near the border to the autonomous area of Tibet. In Nepalese, the mountain is called Sagamatha, meaning „mother of the universe“. The longest river is the Kali-Gandaki in the Gandaki river system and the biggest lake is Lake Rara.

Language and communication:
the official language is Nepalese. About 14 different languages with more than 30 dialects are also spoken in Nepal. In the Kathmandu valley and in the tourist centres those involved in trade and business speak very good English and also understand many other languages, such as French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Han-Chinese and Russian.

Health and vaccinations:
vaccination against hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria, polio and tetanus is recommended. Long clothing should be worn to provide protection against mosquitoes and other insects, and a locally purchased insect repellent should also be used. Malaria is mainly prevalent in the rural areas of the Terais. Please refer to your local GP for advice on malaria prevention medication. There is also a risk of altitude sickness. At altitudes of more than 3500 metres (11,482 ft), all signs of sickness, breathlessness and headaches should be taken seriously and a descent considered, as help will otherwise almost always come too late. Medical care is only sufficient in the Kathmandu valley. Visitors are advised to take out a comprehensive medical and travel insurance that covers repatriation costs; mountaineers, hikers and white water rafters should also take out extra insurance that covers the costs of a rescue helicopter. A first aid kit should be packed and fruit and vegetables peeled or boiled before eating.

Entry requirements:
British nationals require a visa to enter Nepal.  Travellers may obtain single entry tourist visas from the main entry points into Nepal or from the Royal Nepalese Embassy in London.  For stays of longer than 60 days, visas may be extended by up to 30 days at the Nepalese Department of Immigration at Bhrikuti Mandap. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months otherwise entry may be refused. Overstaying visas can result in serious penalties.

Arrival and onward journey:
there are currently no non-stop flights from Europe to Kathmandu. All flights from Europe entail at least one stop en route, either at one of the Arabic airports such as Dubai (DXB) or an Asian airport, e.g. Bangkok (BKK). In Nepal, the national Royal Nepal Airlines (RA) fly to several destinations such as Bhairawa (BWA), Biratnagar (BIR) or Pokhara (PKR) and travellers have the opportunity to marvel at the unique and fascinating mountain scenery.  

Capital city:
the Nepalese capital is Kathmandu, a wonderful picturesque city in the largest highland valley of Nepal at an altitude of 1,350 meters  (4,429 ft). the city is located in a valley surrounded by mountains with an altitude of 2,000 and 2,700 metres (6,561 ft), in which the city is located. The difficult location of the city ensured that the city was only accessible by foot in the last centuries and the country was able to remain relatively isolated from the outside world. It was only 60 years ago that a road was eventually built to India. The city is the political and cultural centre of the country and by far the largest city in Nepal. All the important national and international institutions are to be found in the city of Kathmandu. The old town is characterised by the countless Hindu temples and Buddhist stupas and is more or less a live open-air museum.  Kathmandu was one of the three rival kingdom towns of the valley and along with Patan and Bhaktapur was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979. The tourist centre is on Basantur Square and on Durbar Square, where there is an incomparable collection of palace and temple buildings. The entire square was declared a UNESCO world heritage site between the years 1972 and 1975 at the time of King Birendas accession to the throne and completely restored by the UNESCO. Other attractions are the King’s Palace; the Trailokya-Mohan Temple dating from the year 1680; the Seto-Machhendranath Temple that is used by Hindus and Buddhists alike for mass; the Shiva Parvati Temple; Basantapur Tower; the Rani Pokhri, with the white Shiva temple in the middle and the house of the living goddess Kumari. Kumari is a peculiarity of Nepal and represents the reincarnation of the goddess of Dhurga. At the young age of 3, a girl is sought in the kingdom from the lower social classes who must fulfil different rituals and must exhibit certain outer characteristics. Once the girl has been found she must receive the blessings of her followers in the Kumari house on a throne several times a day until the age of puberty.   The Nepalese king himself must also seek the blessing of the Kumari and thereby affirm his legitimation by god. The living goddess sits in the back of the temple and looks through the window every now and again to show her face to the curious tourists. Taking photographs is forbidden and only believers from the Hindu faith are allowed to visit the temple. Over the years she only leaves the house in order to take part in the numerous festivals and is then carried on a sedan. On these occasions she wears a magnificent gold cloak and adorns her forehead with a painted third eye. The city of Kathmandu is located in a basin and the bad housing structure is further endangered by the growing industrialisation and ensuing air pollution, despite the UNESCO protection assigned it. Cement buildings all over the country are now replacing the derelict housing and therefore the cultural and wonderful Kathmandu will not exist in its current form in a few years.

Places of interest and beaches:
the Stupa of Bodnath, the most important Buddhist shrine in Nepal is worth seeing. It is about 5 km north of the centre of Kathmandu and with its diameter of 40 metres is one of the biggest Buddhists buildings in the world. Near the stupa there are numerous monastery buildings inhabited by monks along with the third highest spiritual leader of the Tibetans after the Dalai Lama and the Pancha Lama.

The most important Hindu shrine in Nepal is about 5 km east of the centre of Kathmandu on the Bagmati River. The Pashupati Temple is a daily destination for Sadhu pilgrims and as with all Hindu temples only Hindus are permitted access to the most holy of holies.  

Alongside Kathmandu, Pokhara is the most visited tourist destination in Nepal. The city is about 200 km west of Kathmandu at an altitude of 885 metres (2903 ft) amongst a fertile valley and is surrounded by seven lakes. Until 1968, Pokhara was only accessible by foot; now the town is the summer residence of the King of Nepal and a busy tourist city with a small wonderful old town that reflects the culture of the country. The main tourist attraction is not the town centre, but the breathtaking countryside that can be fully enjoyed after climbing the Saranghot Mountain, which has an altitude of1, 600 metres (5, 249ft). The mountain is about 5 miles west of the city and the summit affords magnificent views of the Annapurna Mountains.  

The artistically crafted architecture of the houses with their engraved houses and windows can be seen in the small town of Panauti. Here there are pagodas with several levels and a medieval old town with narrow lanes.

Those interested in watching the wildlife should opt for a visit to the Royal Chitwan National park. The park is in the south of Nepal not far from the border to India, and has a total area of 1,000 km². This area is the last remaining area of jungle in the country. Due to the unique ecosystem, the park has been under the protection of the UNESCO since 1984. Inhabitants of the park include elephants, the rare Bengal tiger, crocodiles, rhinoceroses and 500 species of birds.

Highlight: hill walking is the main reason for visiting Nepal for many tourists. The breathtaking landscape guarantees an intensive experience. The hiking and walking season is from September to May and there is a vast range of tours of different degrees of difficulty to choose from.  Many official tour operators in Kathmandu offer arranged tours and organise all the important aspects of the hiking tour.

Religion:
Nepal is the only country on earth with Hinduism as state religion until 2006. 80% of the population profess to the Hindu faith and 15% are Buddhist, 3% Muslim and 2% Christians.  

Major Cities and accommodation:
the largest city is Kathmandu with about 1.5 million inhabitants; other major cities are Pokhara, Lalitpur, Biratnagar, Birganj, Dharan, Bharatpur and Janakpur.