sits uneasily on the shoulder of the southern Himalaya,
wedged between China to the north and India to the south.
In length and breadth it is just another small country but
in height, it's a world-beater. Not only does it have the
world's tallest mountains, including the cloud-hugging Everest
and Annapurna, they're also the youngest - and still growing.
Apart from its four mountain ranges - Chure Hills, Mahabharat
Range, Himalaya and the Tibetan Marginals - Nepal also has
vast plains in the south, fertile valleys in the midlands
and high-altitude deserts in the north. The heavily cultivated
belt between the Mahabharat Range and the Himalaya supports
the bulk of the country's population.
are over 6500 species of trees, shrubs and wildflowers in Nepal.
The height of floral glory is in March and April when rhododendrons,
the national flower, burst into colour. Nepal also boasts an astounding
diversity of animal life, with 800 bird species and exotic mammals
such as the royal Bengal tiger and snow leopard, as well as rhinoceros,
elephant, bear, deer, monkey and jackal. Unfortunately, due to
habitat degeneration and poaching, opportunities for seeing wildlife
are usually restricted to national parks, reserves and western
Nepal, where the human population is sparse.
has a typically monsoonal two-season year: the dry season
(October to May) and the wet season (June to September). The
monsoon affects the whole country, often flooding the southern
plains, before tailing off as it moves away to the north and
west. Temperatures vary but are generally hottest in the summer
months of May and June and coldest during December and January.
factors are very important in deciding when to visit Nepal. October-November,
the start of the dry season, is in many ways the best time of year:
the weather is balmy, the air is clean, visibility is perfect, and
the country is lush following the monsoon.
the tail end of the dry season is the second-best period:
visibility is not so good because of dust, but the weather
is warm and many of Nepal's wonderful wild flowers are in
bloom. In December and January the climate and visibility
are good but it can be chilly: trekkers need to be well prepared
for snow, and cheaper hotels in Kathmandu - where heating
is nonexistent - can be gloomy in the evening. The rest of
the year is fairly unpleasant for travelling: May and early
June are generally too hot and dusty for comfort, and the
monsoon from mid-June to September obscures the mountains
in cloud and turns trails and roads to mud.