Introduction to Nepal

Would you like to find out about Nepalese cuisine, cultural etiquette or most popular sayings in Nepal?
Did you know that Nepal has eight of the world’s highest peaks? Mount Everest (8,848m), the world’s highest mountain, is called Sagarmatha in Nepali, which means “Forehead of the Sky”.
You can find that kind of information below!

Country local name: Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Government type: federal democratic republic
Capital: Kathmandu
Time difference: UTC+5.75 (10.75 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 1768 (unified by Prithvi Narayan SHAH)
National holiday: Republic Day, 29th May
Population: 30,986,975 (July 2014 est.)
Etnic groups: Chhettri 16.6%, Brahman-Hill 12.2%, Magar 7.1%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.8%, Newar 5%, Kami 4.8%, Muslim 4.4%, Yadav 4%, Rai 2.3%, Gurung 2%, Damai/Dholii 1.8%, Thakuri 1.6%, Limbu 1.5%, Sarki 1.4%, Teli 1.4%, Chamar/Harijan/Ram 1.3%, Koiri/Kushwaha 1.2%, other 19%
Languages: Nepali (official) 44.6%, Maithali 11.7%, Bhojpuri 6%, Tharu 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Newar 3.2%, Magar 3%, Bajjika 3%, Urdu 2.6%, Avadhi 1.9%, Limbu 1.3%, Gurung 1.2%, other 10.4%, unspecified 0.2%
Religions: Hindu 81.3%, Buddhist 9%, Muslim 4.4%, Kirant 3.1%, Christian 1.4%, other 0.5%, unspecifed 0.2% (2011 est.)
Terrain: Tarai or flat river plain of the Ganges in the south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in the north
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Kanchan Kalan 70 m
Highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m (highest point in Asia)
Natural resources: quartz, water, timber, hydropower, scenic beauty, small deposits of lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore
Agriculture – products: pulses, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, jute, root crops; milk, water buffalo meat
Industries: tourism, carpets, textiles; small rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; cigarettes, cement and brick production
Exports: clothing, pulses, carpets, textiles, juice, pashima, jute goods
Shopping hours: Monday-Friday, after 10am to 8pm
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: Japanese encephalitis, malaria, and dengue fever (2013)
Climate: varies from cool summers and severe winters in the north to subtropical summers and mild winters in the south
Natural hazards: severe thunderstorms; flooding; landslides; drought and famine depending on the timing, intensity, and duration of the summer monsoons



Nepal’s climate is determined by topography and altitude; it has four climatic seasons

The most popular season for tourists is autumn, which falls between late September and November. The weather is clear and days are highly pleasant. It gives an excellent opportunity for trekking and enjoying the mountains in their greatest glory. This is the season of festivals, mainly Dasain and Tihaar.

In winter, which takes place from December to January, the temperature drops to freezing with snowfalls, especially in the mountains. The average minimum and maximum temperatures range from 7ºC (45ºF) to 23ºC (74ºF). It never snows in Kathmandu. Days are chilly, but it’s a good time for trekking.

Spring is between February and May. As the second-best time to go, it brings warmer weather and longer days. The temperature ranges between 16-23ºC (61-73ºF), with the possibility of achieving 28ºC (83ºF) in late spring. In this season the rhododendrons are in bloom and everything comes alive. 

What is important? The end of April, whole of May and early June – these are months full of illnesses and stomach upset. Increasing heat encourages to drink water, which is often consumed contaminated. That’s why you should always make sure that the water has been purified and it is better to avoid eating unpeeled fruit.

Summer runs from June to the middle of September. It is the wettest period of the year. During the monsoon season, the temperature ranges between 23-25ºC (73-77ºF) and evenings are usually rainy with thunderstorms. The rain causes landslides, mud and encourages leeches but the lush beauty that it gives nature compensates for any inconveniences.

In April and May 2015 Nepal has been hit by a massive earthquake, measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and the second quake measured 7.3. More than 8 000 people died and thousands more were injured and homeless. The earthquakes destroyed the country’s most famous landmarks, houses and income sources for many Nepalese.

You can read on our blog the letter from one of our Partner – Alliance Nepal – Journey With a Purpose:

Nepalese cuisine is similar to cuisine’s neighbouring countries what reflects various tastes of different cultures. This adds to its attractiveness. But nepalese food is mainly famous for its simplicity, tempting flavours, high-quality and quick preparation. The basis of almost every meal is rice and lentils. 

Dal bhat, the national dish, consists of rice, lentils and other ingredients such as meat, fish, yoghurt, pickles, chutney or curried vegetables.
Thukpha (meaning “noodle” in Tibetan) is a special seasonal soup. Its main ingredients are noodles with vegetables and some kind of meat. It often goes with another dish – momo – which is a delicious handmade dumpling. Momo is made from dough that is filled with minced meat, chicken, pork or vegetables, and then served steamed or fried.
Chatamari, reminscent of pizza, is a rice-flour pancake cooked with meat, eggs and vegetables.

Additional specialities include: Choyla (roasted or griller spicy meat with rice and spices), Sel roti (fried round rice bread), Sag (rice with green vegetables), Aloo Tama (bamboo shoots served in spicy curry with potatoes), Masu (curried meat served with rice and gravy) and Pulao/Pilaf/Pilau (fried rice with vegetables, turmeric and cumin).

In every dish you can’t miss the taste of strong flavours such as garlic, pepper, coriander, ginger, mustard oil, chilies, cilantro or yak butter.

Regional drinks, which you can try:
Chai – tea with milk, sugar and spices
Butter tea – hot water with butter and salt
Rakshi – a strong liquor made from rice or wheat
Tongba – a special homemade wine drunk through a bamboo straw

As a curiosity, you have to know that Nepal produces the sweetest varieties of banana.

·    Nepal is the oldest country in South Asia. (it was formed in 1768)
·    The Nepalese flag is unique is not quadrilateral in shape. The two triangles represent the two major religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) and symbolize the Himalaya Mountains.
·    The Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is now is a sacred place for Buddhists.
·    Kathmandu was conquered without bloodshed by Gorkha king Prithvi Narayan in the 1700s. At one time the name meant “City of Glory” (from Kantipur).



K Garne – What shall we do?
Namaste – Hello!
Tapaiiko naam ke ho? – What’s your name?
Maaph garnuhos – Excuse me.
Kati bhajyo? – What time is it?
Bistaari bhannus – Speak slowly, please.
Ke tapain masanga nachna chahanuhunchha? – Would you like to dance with me?
Prahari bolaunuhos – Call the police!
Teme Gaff Garee RakhaKo – You must be joking!
Bsstabma – Actually
KaTee Jaana – How many?
Bayi Halchha Ni – for sure
Yo Ramrow Cha or Ho – It’s good.
Yo Ramrow Chaina – It’s not good.
RoKaa – Stop it.

·    To greet someone, say “Namaste” (which literally means “I salute the god in you”) and hold your hands together as if you are praying. It is a gesture of respect. “Namaskar” is more formal variant.
·    The gesture for “yes” is to shake your head from side to side. To show disagreement, nod your head up and down.
·    Always take off your shoes before entering a temple or someone’s house to show respect. 
·    In Nepali culture, people address each other with names like dad (Buba or Buwa), mother (Amaa), older sister (didi), younger sister (bahini), older brother (daai), younger brother (bhaai).
·    Public displays of affection may be considered inappropriate. But friends of the same sex holding hands is considered perfectly normal.
·    Don’t take photos inside a temple without asking permission first.
·    Hindus are very concerned about purity of food. Any physical contact, however small, will be considered to be polluting. This also goes for drinking from a bottle, so always ask for a glass.
·    Your left hand is considered impure, so give and receive everything with your right hand.
·    Don’t put your feet on chairs or tables and avoid pointing the soles of your feet at people when you want to sit down.

Kathmandu (known as Kantipur) is the capital city of the kingdom of Nepal. It is famous for populated narrow alleys, noise, fabulous architecture and temples. The buzz around Kathmandu can be electrifying and hectic. Endless attractions may be stunning and tiring at the same time. Trekking, hiking, fun-loving locals, yoga classes, meditation sessions or a night at one of the mountain view-points on the valley rim guarantee an unforgettable experience.

Kathmandu’s most beautiful architecture was destroyed since the earthquake. Unfortunately, most affected are the Kathmandu Valley, including some at the Patan Durbar Squar, the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square and the Swayambhunath Stupa.

Patan (or Lalitpur) is located 5 km away from Kathmandu, separated by the murky Bagmati River. Great temples, ancient brick lanes and cafés on rooftops offer you amazing impressions. You can also see the traditional weaving of Tibetan carpets or molding of metal statues at first hand.

The second largest city of Nepal is Pokhara. It is known for a whole array of activities such as paragliding, cycling or pedalos. It is also a starting point for trekking the Annapurna circuit. At Lake Phewa you can laze in the sun. Pokhara has spectacular scenery and a laid-back charm. Chill out with yoga classes or meditation sessions. The village of Sarangkot is the classic viewpoint for the Himalayas, the world’s most inspiring mountain range!

Gorkha is a town in the Western Hills with an impressive fortress. It is located about 24 km north of Abu Khaireni. The main point is Gorkha Durbar – the twin buildings with a lofty ridge, buttressed by serried ranks of stone walls. In the city you can also admire historic temples such as Manakamana Temple, which is the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati and it is belived that the temple is the wish-fulfilling place.

Bhaktapur, also known as Bhadgaon (which means the city of devotees) is one of the medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. The major attractions are temples and popular wood carvings. Strolling through the charming alleys will lead you through a world of culture. Here and in Kathmandu, the biggest festival is “Dasain”.

Lumbini, a world-class pilgrimage site, has a huge religious significance for both Buddhists and Hindus as it is considered to be the birth place of Lord Buddha. Additionally it is a world-class pilgrimage site. The most popular site is the Secret Garden, which is around 8 sq km in size and consists of the most beautiful treasures of this historical area like the Mayadevi Temple or Puskarni Pond. It is worth staying here longer to soak up the peaceful atmosphere.

Bandipur is a nice place, where you can find a museum of Newari culture. The town offers an old-world bazaar and has a rich history and wonderful scenery.

Chitwan National Park is Nepal’s first national park and is located in Southern Central Terai. The word “Chitwan” means “Heart of the jungle”. With over 932 sq km of forests, grassland and marshland, it is home to a diverse selection of wildlife and extraordinary animals such as monkeys, elephants, one-horned rhinos, deer, leopards, sloth-bears and over 540 species of birds.

Nagarkot is a village situated about 32 kilometers east of Kathmandu. It is filled with hotels, which guarantee the best views of the Himalayas from your balcony. The place is perfect for trekking and mountain biking. The thrillingly beautiful and culturally rich Annapurna and Everest regions will steal your heart at first visit.

Dhulikhel is the other popular place from which you can observe the high Himalayas. It is a great place for viewing the sunrise and sunset too.

Gokyo Lake region offers an excellent opportunity to admire Mount Everest from closer to. It can be an emotional experience!

Check our volunteering programmes in NEPAL here!

Read our story from our trip to NEPAL combined with volunteering experience, which we made in 2016 >>