Nepal is a country of breathtaking beauty and diversity of cultures like no other place on earth. Truly “the roof of the world”, here are 71 interesting facts about Nepal covering its history, culture, people, economy, the Himalayas, earthquakes, poverty, Kathmandu, flora and fauna and more…
Facts about Nepal’s History
Fact 1. Nepal’s ancient history began in the Kathmandu Valley and over the centuries its boundaries grew to include tracts of what today are neighboring countries such as India and China. It prospered as a crossroad resting place for two trade routes. As such, it became a cultural mixing pot.
Fact 2. The Sakya royal family’s Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in the 6th century BC near Lumbini, today considered a sacred sight. He grew to embark on a path of contemplative thought and meditation that led him to enlightenment as the Buddha.
Fact 3. The Hindu Kiratis, a Mongoloid people, are recorded by history as the first known rulers of the Kathmandu Valley in the 7th or 8th century BC. People from northern India overthrew the Kiratis in AD 300 and the country became predominantly Hindu. They ushered in an age of more prosperous trade and cultural brilliance.
Fact 4. Nepal experienced a ‘dark age’ of which little is known from the late 600s until 1200. Both Tibet and Kashmir invaded the country in the 700s but its strategic location ensured the kingdom’s survival and growth. The credit for founding Kantipur (what is today’s Kathmandu) goes to King Gunakamadeva in approximately the 10th century.
Fact 5. During the 9th century a new lunar calendar, the Bikram Sambhat, was introduced that is still used today. It is approximately 67 years, eight and a half months ahead of the Gregorian calendar Americans use. On it Nepal’s New Year is in mid-April.
Fact 6. The age of the Malla kings was a golden one architecturally. The 15th century architect Arniko traveled to Lhasa and Beijing with the design for the pagoda, and forever changed the look of Asia’s religious temples. A 1255 earthquake killed a third of Nepal’s population during the reign of the Mallas as well.
Fact 7. Through all its history of border expansion and contraction, Nepal has never been colonized and ruled by foreigners. Therefore, Nepal celebrates no Independence Day.
Fact 8. Nepal’s renowned Gurkha soldiers always successfully protected their country. Their motto is, “Better to die than be a coward.” The British wereso impressed with their fighting ability during the Indian wars; they have been an integral salaried part of the British Army since 1815.
Fact 9. Nepal’s ignominious defeat by the Chinese during an expansion attempt ended with the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, which established Nepal’s current boundaries. In humiliation Nepal cut itself off from all foreign contact for more than one hundred years. They reopened their borders in 1951.
Facts about Geography, the Himalayas, Flora and Fauna
Fact 10. After struggling from a constitutional monarchy with a multiparty democracy to Maoist extremists to Royal assassinations to the present day, Nepal presently is led by an elected president and parliament.
Fact 11. The approximately 70 million year old Himalaya mountain range in Asia separates the Tibetan Plateau from the Indian subcontinent and is spread across five countries: Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Pakistan. It is the youngest mountain range in the world. The word “Himalaya” means “abode of snow” in Sanskrit. They are the home of the god Shiva, according to Hindu mythology.
Fact 12. The three major river systems of the Asian continent (the Ganga- Brahmaputra, the Yangtze, and the Indus) all have the Himalayas as their beginning source. That’s because the Himalayas are the world’s third largest depository of snow and ice (after the two polar regions), with around 15,000 glaciers containing about 3,000 cubic miles of water.
Fact 13. The most mountainous part of Nepal in the north contains eight of the earth’s ten tallest mountains, including its most famous, Mount Everest. Mount Everest stands above all others at 8,848 meters (5.5 miles) above sea level. It is called Sagarmatha (“Forehead of the Sky”) by the Sherpas.
Fact 14. Many explorers and climbers were killed during their attempts to climb to the top of the peak before someone was successful. On May 29, 1953, British explorer Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay were the first to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest and thus permanently entered the history books.
Fact 15. Twenty five years later, Reinhold Messner of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria became the first to reach the summit without using supplemental oxygen, quite a feat in that thin atmosphere. Messner climbed Everest again in 1980.
Fact 16. The Himalayas are home to the highest lake on earth (Tilicho at 4,800 meters/3 miles) and the deepest lake on earth (Shey Phoksundo). They are also home to eight of the top ten tallest mountains on earth in addition to Mount Everest. The zone around it is the Sagarmantha National Park, established in 1976 as a protected area.
Fact 17. The Himalayan peak furthest east is Nameha Barwa and the one furthest west is Nanga Parbat.
Fact 18. Nepal is geologically alive. The Indo Australian plate under Nepal is still moving and will travel 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) into Asia in the next 10 million years.
Fact 19. Nepal’s variation in altitudes is extreme. It boasts the highest valley in the world (Arun) as well as the deepest gorge (Kaligandaki), with altitudes ranging from a scant 59 meters to Everest’s world topping 8,848 meters. Chitwan is the world’s tallest grassland.
Fact 20. With the variation in altitudes comes a variation in climates. Traveling from the south to the north, in a span of only 100 kilometers you will go from a hot tropical conditions to bone chilling arctic-level cold. The good news is that Nepal is definitely a four seasons destination.
Fact 21. Nepal’s Kaligandaki River is older than the Himalayas and is the major ecological dividing line between the western and eastern Himalayas.
Fact 22. In Nepal grow 5,980 flowering plant species including two percent of the world’s orchids (more than 360 species), six percent of the world’s rhododendron species (and it’s Nepal’s national flower), and 250 species endemic to Nepal (and not found growing anywhere else on earth).This is one of the reasons Nepal is known as the Amazon of Asia.
Fact 23. With almost 870 different species of birds, Nepal has more than the continents of North Africa and Europe combined. They are home to eight percent of the bird species of the world.
Fact 24. Nepal is also home to over 650 different species of butterflies as well as the world’s largest moth (the Atlas moth) and some of its largest wild honeybees.
Fact 25. Nepal’s endangered species include the beautiful snow leopard, the red panda, and the one horned rhino.