If you ask the average American to tell you about Nepal, you're likely to get answers limited to the Himalayas and the yeti. If you're really lucky, someone might mention that the country's flag is the only one in the world that's not a rectangle.
But there's certainly more to Nepal than mountains and mythical monsters, including 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites and 10 national parks. While we're at it, here are 10 more things to know about Nepal.
It's more than Mt. Everest
Eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks — yes, including the very tallest, Mt. Everest — are located in Nepal. Although about 75 percent of the country is mountainous, you can also find temperate forests and flatland plains ecosystems.
The animals are wild
Notable fauna in Nepal include Bengal tigers, one-horned rhinos, clouded leopards, red pandas, wild yaks, several species of monkeys and Himalayan wolves.
It's the most Hindu country
More than 80 percent of Nepalese identify with Hinduism, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus.
Its largest temple is devoted to Shiva, Lord of the Animals
The largest temple in Nepal is Pashupatinath, which is dedicated to Hindu god Shiva. Located in Kathmandu and abundant with monkeys, Pashupatinath comprises 518 buildings and structures. The age of the temple is undetermined, but some say it goes back to 400 B.C. Open-air cremation ceremonies occur at Pashupatinath regularly, and the remains of the bodies are sent along the holy Bagmati River that runs through the compound.
Cows are sacred
Since cows are holy for Hindus, it is a crime to kill a cow in Nepal. Eating beef is not illegal, however.
You might have a head start on the language
Nepali, a derivative of Sanskrit, is the official language of Nepal. The traditional greeting is “namaste,” a word familiar to yoga practitioners the world over.
Visitors might get a blessing
In Nepal, people bestow blessings to guests and loved ones by putting a tika on their forehead. A mixture of vermillion powder, yogurt and rice — or sometimes just the powder and water, a tika gives health and good fortune to the wearer. Tikas are common during festivals like Dashain and Tihar.
There's a national hat
Men in Nepal sometimes wear Dhaki topis, or brimless, fabric hats. A symbol of Nepalese nationality, the hat got its name from fabric that used to be imported from the capital of Bangladesh. They gained popularity in the 1950s, when King Mahendra insisted that men wear a Dhaki topi in photographs for official government documents like passports.
You can find the coolest swings there
A linge ping is a giant swing constructed from bamboo and rope that is traditionally built during the festival Dashain. Although less common now, they can still be found during the festival in rural areas, where there’s more space to build and enjoy them.