Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia with China in the north and India in the south, east and west. The country occupies 147,516 sq. km of land and lies between coordinates approximately 28°N and 84°E. The entire distance from east to west is about 800 km/500 mile while from north to south is about 200 km/120 mile. Nepal has vast water systems which drain south into India. The country can be divided into three main geographical regions: Himalayan (Mountain) region, Pahad (hill) region and the Tarai region. The highest point in the country is Mt. Everest (8,848 m) while the lowest point is in the Tarai plains of Kechana Kalan in Jhapa (60 m). Nepal lies almost completely within this collision zone, occupying the central sector of the Himalayan arc, nearly one-third of the 2,400 km (1,500 mi)-long Himalayas, with a small strip of southernmost Nepal stretching into the Indo-Gangetic plain and two districts in the northwest stretching up to the Tibetan plateau.
Himalayan (Mountain) region
The Himalayan region containing snow and situated in the Great Himalayan Range; it makes up the northern part of Nepal. Eight of the world’s highest peaks (out of fourteen) that are above 8000m lie in Nepal: Mount Everest (8,848 m), Kanchenjunga (8,586 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Makalu (8,463 m), Cho Oyu (8,201m), Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Manaslu (8,163 m) and Annapurna (8,091 m). The inner Himalayan valley (above 3,600 m) such as Mustang and Dolpo are cold deserts sharing topographical characteristics with the Tibetan plateau. Nepal holds the so-called “waters towers of South Asia” with its 6,000 rivers which are either snow-fed or dependent on rain. The perennial rivers include Mahakali, Karnali, Narayani, and Koshi rivers originating in the Himalayas. Medium-sized rivers like Babai, West Rapti, Bagmati, Kamla, Kankai, and Mechi originate in the Midlands and Mahabharat range.
Pahad (hill) region
Pahad is the hill region that does not generally contain snow. The hills vary from 800 to 4,000 metres (2,600 to 13,100 ft) in altitude, with progression from subtropical climates below 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) to alpine climates above 3,600 metres (11,800 ft). The Lower Himalayan Range, reaching 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,900 to 9,800 ft), is the southern limit of this region, with subtropical river valleys and “hills” alternating to the north of this range. Population density is high in valleys but notably less above 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) and very low above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft), where snow occasionally falls in winter. Of the163 wetlands documented, the nine globally recognized Ramsar Sites are: Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Beeshazarital (Chitwan), Jagdishpur Reservoir (Kapilvastu) Ghodaghodi Tal (Kailali) in the Tarai, and Gokyo (Solukhumbu), Phoksundo (Dolpa), Rara (Mugu) and Mai Pokhari (Ilam) in the mountainous region. There are more than 30 natural caves in the country out of which only a few are accessible by road. Maratika Cave (also known as Haleshi) is a pilgrimage site associated with both Buddhism and Hinduism. Siddha Cave is below BNDIPUR near Bimal Nagar along the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. Pokhara is also known for caves namely Bats’ shed (Mahendra Gufa), Batulechar, Gupteswar, Patale Chhango. The numerous caves around Lo Manthang in Mustang include Luri and Tashi Kabum which house ancient murals and chortens dating back to the 13th century.
The southern lowland plains or Terai bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Terai is the lowland region containing some hill ranges. The plains were formed and are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Koshi, the Narayani, and the Karnali as well as smaller rivers rising below the permanent snowline. This region has a subtropical to tropical climate. The outermost range of the foothills called Sivalik Hills or Churia Range, cresting at 700 to 1,000 metres (2,300 to 3,280 ft), marks the limits of the Gangetic Plain. Broad, low valleys called Inner Terai Valleys (Bhitri Tarai Upatyaka) lie north of these foothills in several places.