When visiting a country for the first time, we typically experience a variety of feelings. Nepal was so different from any other place I had been to, that I felt like a pop-eyed toddler exploring the world around me. In Nepal, everything left an impression on me. I was surprised, disgusted, amazed and intrigued. So, today I wanted to share a few facts about Nepal that stuck in my mind and will probably grab your attention you too.

Are you travelling to Nepal soon? Then you should read all of these amazing facts about Nepal. Some of these facts will shock you, some others you will find bizarre and some facts will make you happy. Let me know which fact you found the most interesting!

Religious facts about Nepal:

Coexistence

Nepal is a secular state in which 80% of the population is Hindu, 10% are Buddhist and the last 10% are believers of different faiths. What attracted my attention was the fact that both Buddism and Hinduism coexist and even overlap in certain aspects. Therefore, it is quite normal to see a Buddhist person participating in a Hindu ritual and the other way round. There is even a religious complex in Khatmandu called Swayambhu which holds praying areas for both religions. I could not imagine a holy place where different religions peacefully mingle in my own country.

This photo of a Hindu statue and a Buddhist stupa represents one of the facts about Nepal regarding religious coexistence.
Hindu symbolism in the foreground and a Buddhist stupa in the background at Swayambhu in Kathmandu

Animal sacrifice

A fact about Nepal that personally horrified me is that religious animal sacrifices are still a tradition. In Hinduism, it is common to slaughter goats inside a temple as an offering to a god. At least, the meat of the animal is used to feed people rather than go to waste.

However, there is another type of sacrifice in which a living goat is tied up close to the deity for whom the offering is being done. It is totally forbidden to kill the animal, and it will remain there, tied near a statue, until it dies of starvation. Some people will bring food to the animal, though, a kind gesture for an animal condemned to live within a 2-meter radius for the rest of its remaining life.

Two black goats tied up near a hindu deity in Durbar Square in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are offerings or sacrifices.
Living goats as an offering o a Hindu deity in Kathmandu

A living goddess

This is probably the most bizarre religious tradition I have ever heard about. The Kumari is believed to be the reincarnation of the Buddhist female deity Vajradevi. Some Hindus also venerate the Kumari as the reincarnation of the Hindu goddess Taleju.

The process of selection occurs when the most recent Kumari has reached puberty, which is perceived as the Goddess leaving her body. Candidates are put forward by their parents and they must be girls from a specific chaste of the Newar Buddhist community. The process of selection is very strict and girls must be healthy, meet specific distinct physical features and have God-like temperament. Kumaris are taken away from their mundane life to be venerated and have exclusive treatment. When their time is due, however, they must leave behind their holy positions and return to their humble lives.

This photo shows part of the palace of the Kumari of Kathmandu. There is a sign that says you may not take photos of her.
Kumari headquarters in Kathmandu

Historical and political facts about Nepal:

Country with second most Tibetan refugees

From 1959, the year in which Dalai Lama was exiled, more than 80000 Tibetans have emigrated out of their homeland. Most of them went to India, Nepal and Bhutan. These countries have been generous with the Tibetan community within their own possibilities. In Nepal, there are a few Tibetan communities and a little museum that you can visit near Pokhara. If you want to support these communities you can purchase one of their famous Tibetan rugs or make a donation. 

A fact about Nepal is that it hosts more than 80000 Tibetan refugees. This photo depicts a portrait of a Tibetan old woman.
Woman from Tibet. Photo credit Smokefish from Pixabay

A young constitution

Nepal had a ruling a monarchy from 1768 until it was abolished in 2008 by an elected Constituent Assembly. The Kingdom of Nepal then became the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that a new constitution was approved. Nepal’s constitution is among the current youngest ones in the world, just behind Cuba, Thailand, Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic.

A political fact about Nepal is that it has one of the youngest constitutions in the world, only dating from 2015
Photo credit: Pixabay

Language facts about Nepal

Multilingual country

According to Nepal’s constitution there are 129 native languages, all of them considered national languages. The most common language is Nepali, which comes from the ancient Sanskrit language. Nepali is used as the official language for government work but provinces can also choose a second language for this purpose. Most of the native languages are only used in spoken form and many of them are endangered. Most of the languages which have a written form, including Nepali, use the Devanagari script, also used by many other languages native to India.

In the foreground there is a monolith with Devanagari script engraved on it.  In the blurry background you can see the mountains of Nepal full of snow.
Image by lanur from Pixabay 

Namaste means hello

 If you have ever been to a yoga class your instructor will dismiss the session after a little meditation, a couple of oms and a final namaste. If you are like me, you may have thought the expression to be a mystic word, probably similar to “ I am grateful”, “thank you” or “go in peace”. It literally means I salute the God in you in Sanskrit, which sounds very mystic indeed but in reality, Namaste is a very common term used to say “hello”.

Group of yoguis in the foreground having a class near a river on a cementer area somewhere in Nepal. On the other side of the river there is a mountain full of trees and on the foothill there is  orange coloured temple.
Image by AYMYogaSchool from Pixabay 

Socioeconomic facts about Nepal

Many social enterprises are sprouting

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been the beneficiary of international aid that accounts for around $350 million per year. Experts have noticed that this money has not upskilled Nepal’s workforce or improved Nepal’s economy and so SMEs have decided to shift towards social enterprising.

One example is Sam’s One Tree Cafe, a restaurant in Kathmandu that only hires deaf waiting staff. There are many more social enterprises that you can support when you visit Nepal, so make sure you do a little bit of research to find restaurants, cafes, gift shops and hostels who will benefit many communities with your business.

Nepali woman smiling at the camera while harvesting some greens from a terraced agricultural zone.
Image by JudaM from Pixabay 

Stray dogs in Nepal

On my first day in Kathmandu, I was surprised to see a large number of dogs on the streets. There are many stray dogs in Mongolia (where I live), but what I saw in Nepal was another level.  They were mostly lying near private houses and temples. They looked pretty chubby and relaxed, probably because they get fed by locals. Unfortunately, not all stray dogs in Nepal are well-taken care of and not all of them are as chilled as the ones I saw. Even though I didn’t have any violent encounter with stray dogs, I have heard they can be pretty dangerous, depending on the area.

The crude reality about stray dogs is that most of them will eventually meet a cruel end. When developing countries cannot cover the basic needs of its people, animal welfare barely maters. Sadly, in Nepal, the government deals with overpopulation of dogs by poisoning them. Thankfully, the NGO Animal Nepal is actively involved in programs to prevent human cruelty towards animals.

Light brown stray dog napping in the outdoor premises of a temple, underneath some prayer wheels. Photo taken in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Natural facts about Nepal

Biodiversity

I found it surprising, that despite being such a small country, Nepal is among the top 50 most biodiverse countries in the whole world. Apparently, areas with tropical weather tend to have more animal and plant diversity due to constant temperatures. I honestly always thought of Nepal as the country of the Himalayas and didn’t know that actually there is more subtropical land in the south, called Terai (17%) than mountainous land (11%). Some facts about Nepal’s biodiversity are that it is home to 8% of the world’s bird species and 2% of the orchid species.

Close up of blue and yellow spiky spider on the edge of a leaf. Photo taken at Chitwan National Park in Nepal.
Interesting-looking spider found in the tropical forest of Nepal

Unicorns exist, but they are endangered

Let’s start by saying that this is a bittersweet fact about Nepal. The greater one-horned rhino is the one Asian rhinoceros endemic to Nepal and India. They inhabit the grasslands and swamps of the valleys but years of hunting and deforestation made rhinos numbers plummet. In Nepal, this happened especially when the Chitwan valley opened up after the Rana regime had fallen (they held this land as private property) and malaria was eradicated. The population of rhinos rapidly dropped to less than 100 rhinos during the late 1960s. The two major reasons for that were deforestation of their natural habitat and poaching.

The government of Nepal created Chitwan National Park in 1973 and since then they successfully have managed to increase the numbers of the rhino population. Even though the conservation program has been very effective in the management and control of poaching, this is not free of controversy.

Spotting a one horned rhino taking a bath in a big puddle in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
Spotting rhinos on a jeep safari in Nepal is a must activity in Chitwan

Blood sucking creatures

The rainforests in the subtropical area of Nepal house the most awful bugs in the whole world: leeches. Yuck! Once they hook to your body, you are better off if you let them be. They will suck your blood and once they finish they will let go of you without you even noticing. That’s because they numb the area and it doesn’t hurt or itch. Only when you see the blood coming out of a wound you’ll know what has just happened. But they are still gross.

If you are using proper equipment while you explore nature, they won’t trouble you much, but be careful because they can climb!! Don’t forget to cover all the exposed skin when you enter the forest.

Close up of a leech on a green leave from a bush in Chitwan National park in Nepal.  The leech is extended, like trying to reach for its next prey.
Leeches detect the CO2 our body exudes to find their next meal

Final thoughts

We made it to the end of the list of 12 random facts about Nepal. I hope you found them useful or at least interesting. I know there are many more facts, but these are the ones that I learnt during my trip and that stuck with me. If you are travelling to Nepal soon, I think you will benefit from knowing some of these facts in advance. For example, I wish I had known more about social enterprises and had done some homework before travelling to Nepal. Which one of these facts about Nepal surprised you the most?

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29 Comments

  1. Ok, those were some pretty interesting facts! The one about the living goddess seemed a little creepy to me. I’m sad about the dogs, but it’s good to hear someone is attempting to protect them.

  2. Nepal was the first county I started my backcpacking trip at. Thanks for bringing back those incredible memories. Even learned some new facts I didn’t knew

  3. I LOVE this post – I spent 30 days in Nepal, and I have to admit that I never had a culture shock before as I had in Nepal. It s so rich and so complex – I love your list and it helps a lot to understand this intriguing country.

  4. I didn’t know the meaning of “Namaste” before reading your post. That is indeed an interesting fact, how beautiful that people salute each other using this word with such a beautiful intent.

  5. Wow, very interesting facts about Nepal indeed! The Kumari is both bizarre and fascinating. I also didn’t know that Namaste actually means “hello”!

  6. Absolutely loved learning so many interesting things about Nepal. I hope to visit one day, it seems like one of the few ‘untouched” places still on earth… I’ll admit, I’m a little scared of the altitude, but I guess I’d get over it.

  7. The animal sacrifice and leeches made me squirm. Still loved Nepal though. Great article! Love your honesty.

  8. Really interesting facts, particularly about the biodiversity. I love hearing about the wildlife in other countries. I hope the rhino populations survive.

  9. The Kumari culture has always fascinated us! This was a great list of very diverse facts and we really appreciate that you gave the good and the bad some space on the list.

  10. Wow I had no idea Nepal had rhino! I’d like to get to Nepal one day but it makes me soooo sad about the goats being left there to starve to death 🙁 I also didn’t know Namaste meant, “hello”! I wonder if my yoga teachers know this?? Hahaha1

  11. This was such an awesome read! I didn’t know these things about Nepal and now I can’t wait to visit!

  12. This was such an interesting post. I learned a ton about Nepal. Honestly I had no idea they even had Rhinos!

  13. This was so interesting! That is sad about the goats, but I guess each culture has something that is unique or strange to another.

    1. You are right, we aren’t all perfect. Everywhere in the world there is unfair treatment of animals that we sometimes fail to see in our own culture.

  14. I’m with you. The offering of animals is appalling and should be forbidden!!! On the other hand, the rest of the world could maybe learn a thing or two about co-existing. It is awesome that the two religions are sometimes inter-mingled.

  15. What an incredible post about Nepal! It’s so sad that there are so many stray dogs. I saw the same in Sri Lanka. I would to visit here someday. Will be checking this post again!

  16. Nepal seems to be a fascinating country with unique cultures. I think the animal sacrifice is very disturbing. I always thought leeches were waterborne so I was shocked to hear that they climb and you need to cover exposed skin (I would anyway) in the forest.

    1. I know, right! when I learnt about leeches climbing all over your body I became very creeped out and my excursion on foot in the forest was totally ruined.

  17. I love your post! I was hooked from the very beginning until the last fact. Nepal is such an interesting country, I would love to visit someday.

  18. Thanks for a great post! I have never heard of the “unicorn” / rhino and I realized that I don’t know much about Nepal at all actually!

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