10 Things to Know About Nepal

Nepal may be known for the world's tallest peak and a funky looking flag, but there's much more to discover about this South Asian country.

By Jason Woods

March 9, 2020

Boudhanath, one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, is located in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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.

A view on the path to Everest Base Camp in Sagarmatha National Park. Photo by Daniel Prudek via Big Stock.

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.

Monkeys on the side of the road in Banke National Park. Photo by Joe Tobiason.

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.

Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. Photo by Jason Woods.

It's home to Buddha's birthplace

Siddhartha Gautama, more famously known as Buddha, was born in Lumbini, Nepal, between 623 and 480 B.C.

More than 80 percent of people who live in Nepal are Hindu. Photo by Joe Tobiason

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.

Pashupatinath is the largest temple in Nepal. Photo by Jason Woods.

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.

A cow roams the street in Pokhara, Nepal. Photo by sassyphotos on Big Stock.

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.

Trilottama Gyawali and members of her women's group outside her home in Bhairavsthan.

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.

Heifer Nepal staff members receive a tika in Fattepur.

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.

Many men in Nepal sport the topi hat. Photo by Joe Tobiason.

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.

Linge ping swings are not as common as they used to be in Nepal, but they're still a good time. Photo by Jason Woods.

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.