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Nepal

Home to Mount Everest, is dominated by the world's most imposing mountains. Although the country is relatively small (147,181 square kilometers), 80 percent of it's territory is occupied by the dramatic peaks of the Himalayas. Nepal can be divided into three geographical regions, each stretching from east to west across the country. The southernmost strip of land, the Terai, is bordered to the north by Himalayan foothills and to the south by the Ganges River. The area was originally covered with tropical vegetation, but has been almost completely converted to agricultural production.

The Himalayas stretch across the northern section of Nepal. Eight of the ten highest peaks in the world are located here, and most are covered with permanent snowfields. The area is sparsely populated, with little vegetation above the tree-line (4,200meters).

The capital city, Kathmandu, lies at 133m. The climate is mild even in winter due to its relatively low altitude. The people of Nepal have developed through thousands of years of migration primarily from India to the South and Tibet in the North.

The resulting ethnic groups comprising this complex society can roughly be divided into the Indo-Aryans who inhabit the south, the Mongolian people including the Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Gurung and Magar clans who cultivated the steep slopes of the middle hills, and the Tibetan groups of which the Sherpas are the best known. No less then 36 languages and dialects are spoken in Nepal, the universal language being Nepali, similar to the Northern Indian languages of Hindi and Bengali, all derived from the ancient Sanscrit.

The two main religions of Nepal are Hinduism and Buddhism, but this is somewhat deceiving, because many people of the middle hills celebrate a mixture of both religions. This unique mixture has resulted in a tolerance between religious and ethnic groups that, along with Nepal's incredible scenery, have made it such a popular destination.

Nepal is a paradise for geologists, anthropologists, birdwatchers, geographers and anyone with an adventurous streak. Whether venturing into the lowland jungle for a safari, the high mountain passes of the Himalayas, or a tour of the thriving Kathmandu valley, Nepal is an experience that will never be forgotten.