If you’re a mountain trekker, you should most definitely go to Nepal to see Mt. Everest. But did you know that there are a lot of things to do and places to visit in Nepal besides Mt. Everest? Nepal is filled with diverse landscapes, multi-ethnic people, and huge, sacred temples.
With a small territory of 147,182 square kilometers, Nepal is unique because it shares borders between two giant countries – China and India. The country also includes numerous and diverse landscapes including the famous Himalayas. Read on and discover some interesting facts about Nepal that every traveler must know.
The Nepalese Practice Hinduism-Buddhism
Locals often joke around by saying that the people of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, are “60% Hindu and 60% Buddhist.” The Newari of the Kathmandu valley actually practice a hybrid religion of Hinduism-Buddhism.
Throughout Nepal, you will see a lot of magnificent temples which are either Hindu or Buddhist. In Kathmandu alone, you will be able to see religious sites such as the Swayambhunath Stupa or the Monkey Temple, which is a Buddhist temple atop a hill overlooking the city. The temple is home to many monkeys, hence the name.
The Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most renowned Hindu temples in the world, built in the 15th century, can also be found in Kathmandu. The Boudhanath Stupa, one of the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temples outside Tibet and also considered one of the largest in the world, is also located in Kathmandu.
Nepal Was Badly Hit By An Earthquake
Nepal suffered a devastating tragedy when twin earthquakes hit the country in 2015, causing nearly 10,000 deaths and fatalities. Moreover, dozens of Kathmandu’s iconic heritage sites and places were damaged or completely destroyed.
As a result, most of the city is being rebuilt, so you’ll still be seeing a lot of construction sites as you stroll throughout the area. However, one of the most unique things about the city, which are its courtyards, are still intact with very little damage.
Walk along the streets of the city and you’ll find a trio of Buddhist temples in a side alley. These temples are usually built by the local neighborhood. You’ll learn a lot about the people’s culture and beliefs even as you are just walking by the streets of the country’s capital.
Nepal Is Home To Spectacular Sights
Aside from the towering and mighty mountains that Nepal is best known for, there are also a lot of sights that Nepal offers. Hidden under the radar and outshone by the mountains which the country is known for, these sights are as majestic and breathtaking as the country’s mountains.
Nepal’s strong glacial rivers are great for white water rafting, while central Nepal is home to rustic villages, spectacular rice terraces, and steep valleys. Be sure not to miss Pokhara, a picturesque city known for the Phewa Lake, the Annapurna Trekking Circuit, and many adventure activities that any adventurous soul will enjoy.
Other must-go-to sceneries are the Chitwan, the country’s first national park which contains 932 square kilometers of grassland, marshland, and forest that is home to Bengal tigers, horned rhinos, leopards, and elephants; and the Lumbini, where Siddharta Gautama was born.
Nepal Holds A Festival For Dogs
If you adore dogs, you must definitely visit Nepal! They hold the Kukur Puja or Day of Dogs on the second day of the Tihar, a five-day Nepalese Hindu festival. Locals believe that dogs are messengers of their god Yamaraj, and that holding a festival to honor their dogs will please Yamaraj.
During the Day of Dogs, all dogs– whether stray or pet dogs– are adorned with wreaths and marigold petals. Their foreheads are marked with a red-colored powder to signify the sacredness of these special creatures. Police dogs attend a liturgical ceremony as a recognition of their large contribution to security and peace.
Dogs get to feast on eggs, meat, milk, and handmade desserts during this day. These loyal companions are the stars of the festivities which award them for being helpers and guardians of the human race.
Nepal Has Eight Of The Tallest Mountains In The World
Nepal possesses eight of nature’s tallest peaks, called the “eight-thousanders” because their land elevation is higher than 8,000 meters above sea level. Standing at 8,848 meters above sea level is Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, located in Nepal.
Locals in Tibet and Nepal actually have their own names for Everest. It is ‘Qomolangma’ in Tibetan which means “the Mother’s Universe” and ‘Sagarmatha’ in Nepali which means “the heaven’s forehead”. The name “Everest” is a Western English name given to the mountain by the Royal Geographical Society in 1865.
Completing the list are Kanchenjunga at 8,568 meters, Lhotse at 8,516 meters, Makalu at 8,481 meters, Cho Oyu at 8,201 meters, Dhaulagiri I at 8,167 meters, Manaslu at 8,156 meters, and Annapurna I at 8,091 meters.
Nepal Has Its Own Calendar
The Bikram Sambat, the Nepalese calendar, is the official calendar in Nepal and is the most used calendar throughout the country. The Bikram Sambat includes elements of both the lunar and solar calendar.
This means that the first date of the year may vary but begins in the first days of April in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. This calendar has an intercalary month every three years, and so the year 2018 in the Gregorian calendar is the year 2074 in the Bikram Sambat.
Although the Bikram Sambat is the official calendar, the country also uses other calendars because of its widespread diversity and practices of different ethnic and religious customs.
Kathmandu Was Once A Lake
Among the many interesting facts about the country’s capital is the fact that Kathmandu was once a lake. This is supported by both mythology and geology.
Nepalese mythology tells the story of Manjushri flying to Kathmandu and cutting the Chobham’s crets in half to drain the waters for people to develop and grow in the sacred valley. For scientific proof, there is sufficient geological evidence that demonstrates that the Kathmandu valley was once a lake.
Although evidence suggests that the lake was gradually drained over a period of 15,000 years and not drained at once contrary to the myth, both support the fact that the capital was once a huge lake.
Nepal Practices Open-Air Cremation
Pashupatinath in Kathmandu is a place where Hindus worship their god Shiva. Just outside this temple are several stone-built cremation pedestals, where the Hindus in Nepal are cremated in accordance with their after-death traditions.
Because death is considered the restarting of the door of life for the Hindus, this ritual of cremation is a sacred and well-decorated ceremony. Before the body is burned, the head must be pointed towards the Himalayas, the home of the Hindu gods, while the feet must turn toward the Bagmati River.
The body must also be washed with river water while wrapped in a white or yellow cloth before being placed on the cremation pedestal. Then, the deceased’s relatives will sprinkle the ashes into the holy river, believing that their souls will be eternal. Tourists are allowed to view the ritual and take photos as well.
Kathmandu Is A Unique City
Tourists might not fall in love with the city capital at first glance. First impressions of the city often say that the city is chaotic, crowded, and dusty. However, once you get to immerse yourself and spend more time in the place, you will soon realize that Kathmandu has much to explore.
You’ll see cows resting in the middle of the roads, smell the marigolds being woven into garlands, and taste the spicy peppers being sold on the foot of the temples in the city.
The city can be quite overwhelming and too much to take in, but be sure to explore every inch of it and immerse yourself as much as you can. Kathmandu has so much to offer and provides a unique heritage of the Nepalese!
Nepal is truly a unique country that should be on every person’s travel bucket list! There is a lot to explore and experience in this country where the earth touches the sky. It is amazing to know that such a small country can hold the world’s highest peak.
Besides the incredible vistas of the surrounding mountain ranges, be sure to take in the local scenery and sights as you visit the country of Nepal and find a way to connect to their customs and sacred way of life. Travel safe and responsibly to make your trip one of the best trips you’ve ever had!