Nepal: Geography

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The geography of Nepal is really interesting. Compared to the world, Nepal is a tiny, brick shaped nation along the southern lap of the Himalayan range, but it is quite a world in itself in spite of its size. The area of Nepal is 147,181 sq km, which comes to 0.3% of the total landmass covered by Asia and 0.03% of the world’s whole.

Yet it contains plains, it contains valleys, it contains mountains, lakes, glaciers, rivers, fountains, floodplains, and almost every geographical entity except the sea and sea beach. Starting as low as 60 meters from sea level to the world’s highest point at the tip of Mt Everest at 8848 meters, Nepal is predominantly a mountainous country. Mountains occupy nearly 77% area of the nation; the remaining 23% is covered by a narrow belt of plain-land in the south that runs the length of the country. Starting here from the southern plains and moving north, the first range of mountains to be encountered are the Churia hills, mostly covered by the dense evergreen forest. Again running lengthwise and separating the plains from the hilly terrain, these Churia hills are the youngest mountain range in the Himalayas. To the north of the Churia hills are many fertile valleys and sections of plain-land, sometimes known as inner terai. Then comes the greater mountain range of Mahabharat Himalayas, with some peaks in this range as high as 3000 meters.

The Mahabharat Himalayas (geologists call it the lesser Himalaya) are also mostly covered by the trees, with the alpine and coniferous trees covering the slopes in higher altitude and subtropical, evergreen trees covering lower altitudes. To the north from this range are only hills and mountains, with the exception of some valleys, patches of plain-land in the riverside and high mountain plateaus. At the northern border of the nation stand the majestic Himalayas, which contain eight of the world’s fourteen 8,000-plus peaks. But in the west of the country, the Himalayas do not make the border with China. Instead, there is a large swathe of trans-Himalayan land in Mustang, Manang, Dolpa and other areas that is strikingly similar to Tibet both geographically and culturally. Hence starting from the narrow belt of flatland in the south, Nepal rises higher and higher like a wall, culminating at the world’s tallest point.

With the world’s highest peaks concentrated in the Himalayas, Nepal is a Mecca for mountaineering and high altitude trekking, a nation that offers any kind of variety for the lovers of these activities, from those with the most adventurous spirits to those who just want to have an easy taste. And originating from the permanently snow-covered mountains of Nepal are numerous rivers, which again provide classic routes and formidable challenges for rafting and kayaking. The snaking rivers, thundering waterfalls, mysterious gorges, and the floral and faunal diversity in the areas fed by them make magnificent sceneries for the travelers. There are also numerous glacial lakes in the Himalayan region. As all the rivers of Nepal run south, they carry unusual speeds, exciting rapids, and cut wild, mysterious gorges through the numerous mountain ranges running east to west. The terai plain has dense population because of fertile land and easy terrain, but there are also some national parks with rare animals like the Bengal tiger and one-horned rhinoceros.