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Boudhanath

Bodnath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Boudhanath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal. The stupa is located in Boudha (near Chabahil), on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. As of 1979, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Boudhanath was probably built in the 14th century after the Mughal invasions; various interesting legends are told regarding the reasons for its construction. After the arrival of thousands of Tibetans following the 1959 Chinese invasion, the temple has become one of the most important centers of Tibetan Buddhism. Today it remains an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis, as well as a popular tourist site.

From above, Boudhanath Stupa looks like a giant mandala, or diagram of the Buddhist cosmos. And as in all Tibetan mandalas, four of the Dhyani Buddhas mark the cardinal points, with the fifth, Vairocana, enshrined in the center (in the white hemisphere of the stupa). The five Buddhas also personify the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), which are represented in the stupa’s architecture.

There are other symbolic numbers here as well: the nine levels of Boudhanath Stupa represent the mythical Mt. Meru, center of the cosmos; and the 13 rings from the base to the pinnacle symbolize the path to enlightenment, or “Bodhi” — hence the stupa’s name.

At the bottom, the stupa is surrounded by an irregular 16-sided wall, with frescoes in the niches. In addition to the Five Dhyani Buddhas, Boudhanath Stupa is closely associated with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Padmapani), whose 108 forms are depicted in sculptures around the base. The mantra of Avalokiteshvara – Om Mani Padme Hum – is carved on the prayer wheels beside the images of Avalokiteshvara around the base of the stupa.

The base of the stupa consists of three large platforms, decreasing in size. These platforms symbolize Earth, and here you can look out at the mountains while listening to the chants of the devout doing kora, walking around the stupa praying.

Next come two circular plinths supporting the hemisphere of the stupa, symbolizing water. As at Swayabunath, Boudhanath is topped with a square tower bearing the omnipresent Buddha eyes on all four sides.

Instead of a nose is a question-mark-type symbol that is actually the Nepali character for the number 1, symbolizing unity and the one way to reach enlightenment—through the Buddha’s teachings. Above this is the third eye, symbolizing the wisdom of the Buddha.

The square tower is topped by a pyramid with 13 steps, representing the ladder to enlightenment. The triangular shape is the abstract form for the element of fire. At the top of the tower is a gilded canopy, the embodiment of air, with above it a gilded spire, symbolic of ether and the Buddha Vairocana. Prayer flags tied to the stupa flutter in the wind, carrying mantras and prayers heavenward.

The main entrance to the upper platform of Boudhanath Stupa is on the north side. Here Amoghasiddhi, progenitor of the future Buddha, presides. Below Amoghasiddhi is the Buddha Maitreya, the future Buddha.

Surrounding Boudhanath Stupa are streets and narrow alleys lined with colorful homes, Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and street vendors.

During the festival of Lhosar in February or March, Boudhanath hosts the largest celebration in Nepal.

Sagarmatha National Park

Mount Everest (topgold)

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Sagarmatha National Park was created on July 19, 1976 and was inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site in 1979. Sagarmatha is a Sanskrit word, from sagar = “sky” and matha = “forehead” or “head”, and is the modern Nepali name for Mount Everest. The Sagarmatha National Park includes the highest point of the Earth’s surface, south side of Mount Everest or Sagarmatha. Several other well known peaks such as Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Pumori, Ama Dablam, Thamerku, Kwangde, Kangtaiga and Gyachyung Kang are also in this region. The park is also of major religious and cultural significance in Nepal as it abounds in holy places such as the Thyangboche and also is the homeland of the Sherpas whose way of life is unique, compared with other high-altitude dwellers.

The park encompasses the upper catchments of the Dudh Kosi River system, which is fan-shaped and forms a distinct geographical unit enclosed on all sides by high mountain ranges. The northern boundary is defined by the main divide of the Great Himalayan Range, which follows the international border with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. In the south, the boundary extends almost as far as Monjo.

The park covers an area of 1148 square kilometers in the Khumbu region of Nepal and ranges in elevation from 2,845 metres (9,334 ft) at Jorsalle to 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) at the summit of Mount Everest. Barren land above 5,000 m (16,400 ft) comprises 69% of the park while 28% is grazing land and the remaining 3% is forested. Most of the park area is very rugged and steep, with its terrain cut by deep rivers and glaciers. Unlike other parks, this park can be divided into four climate zones because of the rising altitude. The climatic zones include a forested lower zone, a zone of alpine scrub, the upper alpine zone which includes upper limit of vegetation growth, and the Arctic zone where no plants can grow. The types of plants and animals that are found in the park depend on the altitude. Several rare species, such as the snow leopard and the lesser panda, are found in the park.

The park’s visitor centre is located at the top of a hill in Namche Bazaar, also where a company of the Nepal Army is stationed for protecting the park. The park’s southern entrance is a few hundred meters north of Monjo at 2,835 m (9,300 ft), a one day hike from Lukla.

The park is populated by approximately 3000 of the famed Sherpa people, originating from Tibet in the late 15th or early 16th century A.D. Their lives are interwoven with the teaching of Buddhism. The main settlements are Namche Bazaar, Khumjung, Khunde, Thame, Thyangboche, Pangboche and Phortse. There are also temporary settlements in the upper valleys where the Sherpas graze their livestock during the summer season.

How to Get There:
* Fly in and out of Lukla, followed by 15 days walk.
* Bus to Jiri and trek for 21 days, flying back to Kathmandu from Lukla.
* Fly in and out of Phaplu and trek for 16 days.
* Fly in to Tumlingtar from Kathmandu and a 10 day walk to the park.

Chitwan National Park

Elephas maximus indicus, in Chitwan National P...

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Chitwan National Park, the first national park of Nepal, was established in 1973 and granted the status of a World Heritage Site in 1984. It covers an area of 932 km2 and is located in the subtropical Inner Terai lowlands of south-central Nepal in the Chitwan district wedged between two east-west river valleys at the base of the Siwalik range of the outer Himalayas. In altitude it ranges from about 100 metres (330 ft) in the river valleys to 815 metres (2,674 ft) in the Churia Hills. It has a particularly rich flora and fauna. One of the last populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros lives in the park, which is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. In the north and west of the protected area the Narayani-Rapti river system forms a natural boundary to human settlements. Adjacent to the east of Chitwan National Park is Parsa Wildlife Reserve, contiguous in the south is the Indian Tiger Reserve Valmiki National Park.

Chitwan is dominated by almost monotypic stands of sal forest which occupy 60% of the total area and is a remnant of the lowland Terai forest which once stretched across the foothills of the Himalayas through India and Nepal. Riverine forest and grasslands form a mosaic along the river banks are maintained by seasonal flooding. On the hills are pines and scattered palms, and moister slopes support bamboos.

Chitwan is situated in a river valley basin or dun, along the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani rivers. The Narayani is also called the Gandaki and is the third-largest river in Nepal. It originates in the high Himalaya and, drains into the Bay of Bengal. The Siwaliks show a distinctive fault pattern that has produced steep cliffs on the south-facing slopes, where vegetation cover is poorer than the northern slopes. The flood plains comprise a series of ascending alluvial terraces laid down by the rivers and subsequently raised by Himalayan uplift. The terraces are composed of layers of boulders and gravels set in a fine silty matrix.

The climax vegetation of the Inner Terai is sal forest, which covers some 60% of the park. However, floods, fires and riverine erosion combine to make a continually changing mosaic of grasslands and riverine forests in various stages of succession. Purest stands of sal occur on better drained ground such as the lowlands around Kasra in the centre of the park. Elsewhere, sal is intermingled with chir pine along the southern face of the Churia Hills and with tree species. Creepers are common. The under-storey is scant with the exception of grasses.

The park contains the last Nepalese population (estimated at 400) of the endangered great one-horned Asian rhinoceros which is the second largest concentration of this species to occur after Kaziranga National Park in India. Royal Chitwan is also one of the last strongholds of the Royal Bengal tiger. Other threatened mammals occurring in the park include leopard, wild dog, sloth bear and gaur. Other mammals include sambar, chital, hog deer, barking deer, wild pig, monkeys, otter, porcupine, yellow-throated marten, civet, fishing cat, jungle cat, jackal, striped hyena and Indian fox. Aquatic species include the gangetic dolphin, the mugger crocodile and the endangered gharial.

The area is located in the central climatic zone of the Himalayas, where monsoon starts in mid June and eases off in late September. During these 14–15 weeks most of the 2,500 mm yearly precipitation falls – it is pouring with rain. After mid-October the monsoon clouds have retreated, humidity drops off, and the top daily temperature gradually subsides from ±36°C / 96.8 °F to ±18°C / 64.4 °F. Nights are cooling down to 5°C / 41.0 °F until late December, when it usually rains softly for a few days. Then temperatures are rising gradually.

Mt. Everest

Mount Everest.
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Mount Everest is the world’s highest mountain above sea level at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft). It is located in the Himalayas on the Nepal (Sagarmatha Zone)-China (Tibet) border.

Lalitpur

credit: Kit_Hartford

Patan Durbar Square

Patan (Sanskrit: Patan, Nepal Bhasa: Yala), officially Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City, is one of the major cities of Nepal. It is one of the sub-metropolitan cities of Nepal located in the south-western part of Kathmandu valley. It is best known for its rich cultural heritage, particularly its tradition of arts and crafts. It is also called as city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metallic and stone carving statue. At the time of the 2001 Nepal census it had a population of 162,991 in 68,922 individual households.
Patan is situated on the elevated tract of land in Kathmandu Valley on the south side of the Bagmati River, which separates it from the City of Kathmandu on the northern side. It was developed on relatively thin layers of deposited clay and gravel in the central part of a dried ancient lake known as Nagdaha.
It is among the largest cities in the country, along with Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Biratnagar.
The city spreads over 16 sq. kilometres and is divided into 22 Municipal wards. The city is bounded by:
East: Imadol VDC and Harisiddhi VDC
West: Kirtipur Municipality and Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC)
North: Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC)
South: Saibu VDC, Sunakothi VDC and Dhapakhel VDC

Kathmandu

Same as the picture to the left but from 2007,...
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Kathmandu is the capital and largest metropolitan city of Nepal. The city is the urban core of the Kathmandu Valley in the Himalayas, which also contains two sister cities namely Patan or Lalitpur, 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) to its southeast (an ancient city of fine arts and crafts) and Bhaktapur, 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) to its east (city of devotees). It is also acronymed as ‘KTM’ and named ‘tri-city’. Kathmandu valley is only slightly smaller than Singapore in terms of area.
The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) in the bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal surrounded by four major mountains, namely: Shivapuri, Phulchowki, Nagarjun and Chandragiri. It is inhabited by 949,486 (2009) people. The Kathmandu valley with its three districts including Kathmandu District accounts for a population density of only 97 per km2 whereas Kathmandu metropolitan city has a density of 13,225 per km2. It is by far the largest urban agglomerate in Nepal, accounting for 20% of the urban population in an area of 5,067 hectares (12,520 acres) (50.67 square kilometres (19.56 sq mi)).
Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal but also the headquarters of the Central Region (Madhyamanchal) among the five development regions constituted by the 14 administrative zones of Nepal located at the central part of the country. The Central region has three zones namely, Bagmati, Narayani and Janakpur. Kathmandu is located in the Bagmati Zone.
Kathmandu, as the gateway to Nepal Tourism, is the nerve centre of the country’s economy. With the most advanced infrastructure among urban areas in Nepal, Kathmandu’s economy is tourism centric accounting for 3.8% of the GDP in 1995–96 (had declined since then due to political unrest but has picked up again).
The city’s rich history is nearly 2000 years old, as inferred from an inscription in the valley. Its religious affiliations are dominantly Hindu followed by Buddhism. People of other religious beliefs also live in Kathmandu giving it a cosmopolitan culture. Nepali is the common language of the city, though many speak the Nepal Bhasa Newari as it is the center of the Newar (meaning: citizens of Nepal) people and culture. English and Hindi are understood by all of the educated population of the city. Besides a significant number of the population speaks any of the foreign languages like : French, German, Chinese, Hebrew, Korean etc. The literacy rate is 98% in the city.
Kathmandu is now the premier cultural and economic hub of Nepal and is considered to have the most advanced infrastructure among urban areas in Nepal. From the point of view of tourism, economy and cultural heritage, the sister cities of Patan(lalitpur) and Bhaktapur are integral to Kathmandu. Even the cultural heritage recognition under the World Heritage list of the UNESCO has recognized all the monuments in the three urban agglomerates as one unit under the title “Kathmandu Valley-UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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