Geography of Nepal

Geography of Nepal has characterized  due to its stunning diversity, ranging from the towering peaks of the Himalayas in the north to the lush plains of the Terai in the south. Here’s a description of Nepal’s geography:


Nepal also measures about 880 kilometers (547 mi) along its Himalayan axis by 150 to 250 kilometers (93 to 155 mi) across. It has an area of 147,516 km2 (56,956 sq mi).

Nepal also landlocked by China‘s Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and India on other three sides. West Bengal‘s narrow Siliguri Corridor separate Nepal and Bangladesh. To the east are Bhutan and India.

Seasons has divided into a wet season from June to September and a dry season from October to June. The summer monsoon can cause flooding and landslides, while the winter monsoon is marked by occasional rainfall and snowfall. The diverse elevation results in various biomes, including tropical savannas, subtropical and temperate forests, montane grasslands, and shrublands.

Nepal has also three categories of rivers: the largest systems (Koshi, Gandaki/Narayani, Karnali/Goghra, and Mahakali), second category rivers (rising in the Middle Hills and Lower Himalayan Range), and third category rivers (rising in the outermost Siwalik foothills and mostly seasonal). These rivers can cause serious floods and pose challenges to transportation and communication networks. River management involves addressing flooding, sedimentation, and sustainable water sources for irrigation. Building dams in Nepal is controversial due to seismic activity, glacial lake formation, sedimentation rates, and cross-border equity issues between India and Nepal.

Nepal has also consistently ranked as one of the most polluted countries in the world.

Landform regions

For a country of its size, Nepal has tremendous geographic diversity. It also rises from as low as 59 metres (194 ft) elevation in the tropical Terai—the northern rim of the Gangetic Plain, through beyond the perpetual snow line to 90 peaks over 7,000 metres (22,966 ft) including Earth’s highest (8,848-metre (29,029 ft) Mount Everest or Sagarmatha). In addition to the continuum from tropical warmth to cold comparable to polar regions, average annual precipitation varies from as little as 160 millimetres (6.3 in) in its narrow proportion of the rainshadow north of the Himalayas to as much as 5,500 millimetres (216.5 in) on windward slopes, the maximum mainly resting on the magnitude of the South Asian monsoon.

Forming south-to-north transects, Nepal got three belts: Terai, Pahad and Himal. In the other direction, it also got three major river systems, east to west: KoshiGandaki/Narayani and Karnali (including the Mahakali along the western border), all tributaries of the Ganges river. The Ganges-Yarlung Zangbo/Brahmaputra watershed largely coincides with the Nepal-Tibet border, save for certain tributaries rising beyond it.


Geography of Himalayan Region
Perspective view of the Himalayas and Mount Everest as seen from space looking south-south-east from over the Tibetan Plateau. (annotated version)

Himal Region is a mountainous region containing snow. The Mountain Region begins where high ridges (Nepali: लेक; lekh) begin substantially rising above 3,000 metres (10,000 ft) into the subalpine and alpine zone mainly used for seasonal pasturage. By geographical view, it covers 15% of the total area of Nepal. A few tens kilometers further north the high Himalaya also abruptly rise along the Main Central Thrust fault zone above the snow line at 5,000 to 5,500 metres (16,400 to 18,000 ft). Some 90 of Nepal’s peaks exceed 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) and eight exceed 8,000 metres (26,247 ft) including Mount Everest at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) and Kanchenjunga at 8,598 metres (28,209 ft).

There are some 20 subranges including the Kanchenjunga massif along with the Mahalangur Himal around Mount Everest. Langtang north of Kathmandu, Annapurna and Manaslu north of Pokhara, then Dhaulagiri further west with Kanjiroba north of Jumla and finally Gurans Himal in the far west.

Nepal’s Highest Mountains

Nepal’s highest mountains[9]
Mountain Height Section Location
Mount Everest
(Highest in the world)
  8,848 m   29,029 ft Khumbu Mahalangur Khumbu PasanglhamuSolukhumbu District,
Province No. 1 (Nepal-China Border)
(3rd highest in the world)
8,586 m 28,169 ft   Northern Kanchenjunga     Phaktanglung / SirijanghaTaplejung District,
Province No. 1 (Nepal-India Border)
(4th highest in the world)
8,516 m 27,940 ft Everest Group Khumbu PasanglhamuSolukhumbu District,
Province No. 1 (Nepal-China Border)
(5th highest in the world)
8,462 m 27,762 ft Makalu Mahalangur     MakaluSankhuwasabha District,
Province No. 1 (Nepal-China Border)
Cho Oyu
(6th highest in the world)
8,201 m 26,906 ft Khumbu Mahalangur     Khumbu PasanglhamuSolukhumbu District,
Province No. 1 (Nepal-China Border)
(7th highest in the world)
8,167 m 26,795 ft Dhaulagiri Dhaulagiri, Myagdi District,Gandaki Province
(8th highest in the world)
8,163 m 26,759 ft Mansiri Himal     Tsum Nubri, Gorkha District / Nashong, Manang District,Gandaki Province
(10th highest in the world)
8,091 m 26,545 ft Annapurna Massif     Annapurna, Kaski District / Annapurna, Myagdi District,Gandaki Province


Geography of Hilly Region
Middle Hills

Hilly Region is also a mountain region which does not generally contain snow. It is situated to the south of the Himal Region (the snowy mountain region). This region begins at the Lower Himalayan Range, where a fault system called the Main Boundary Thrust creates an escarpment 1,000 to 1,500 metres (3,000 to 5,000 ft) high, to a crest between 1,500 and 2,700 metres (5,000 and 9,000 ft). It covers 68% of the total area of Nepal.

These steep southern slopes are nearly uninhabited, thus an effective buffer between languages and culture in the Terai and Hilly. Paharis mainly populate river and stream bottoms that enable rice cultivation and are warm enough for winter/spring crops of wheat and potato. The increasingly urbanized Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys fall within the Hill region. Newars are an indigenous ethnic group with their own Tibeto-Burman language. The Newar were originally indigenous to the Kathmandu valley but have spread into Pokhara and other towns alongside urbanized Pahari.

Other indigenous Janajati ethnic groups -— natively speaking highly localized Tibeto-Burman languages and dialects -— populate hillsides up to about 2,500 metres (8,000 ft). This group includes Magar and Kham Magar west of Pokhara, Gurung south of the Annapurnas, Tamang around the periphery of Kathmandu Valley and RaiKoinch Sunuwar and Limbu further east. Temperate and subtropical fruits had grown as cash crops. Marijuana had grown and processed into Charas (hashish) until international pressure persuaded the government to outlaw it in 1976. There is increasing reliance on animal husbandry with elevation, using land above 2,000 metres (7,000 ft) for summer grazing and moving herds to lower elevations in winter.

The Hilly ends where ridges begin substantially rising out of the temperate climate zone into subalpine zone above 3,000 metres (10,000 ft).


Terai is also a low land region containing some hill ranges. Looking out for its coverage, it covers 17% of the total area of Nepal. The Terai (also spelt Tarai) region begins at the Indian border and includes the southernmost part of the flat, intensively farmed Gangetic Plain called the Outer Terai. By the 19th century, timber and other resources were being exported to India. Industrialization based on agricultural products such as jute began in the 1930s and infrastructure such as roadways, railways and electricity were extended across the border before it reached Nepal’s Pahad region.

The Outer Terai ends at the base of the first range of foothills called the Siwaliks or Churia. This range has a densely forested skirt of coarse alluvium called the Bhabhar. Below the Bhabhar, finer, less permeable sediments force groundwater to the surface in a zone of springs and marshes. In Persianterai refers to wet or marshy ground. Before the use of DDT this was dangerously malarial. Nepal’s rulers used this for a defensive frontier called the char kose jhadi (four kos forest, one kos equaling about three kilometers or two miles).

Above the Bhabhar belt, the Siwaliks rise to about 700 metres (2,297 ft) with peaks as high as 1,000 metres (3,281 ft), steeper on their southern flanks because of faults are known as the Main Frontal Thrust. This range is composed of poorly consolidated, coarse sediments that do not retain water or support soil development so there is virtually no agricultural potential and sparse population.

River systems

Nepal has three categories of rivers. The largest systems -— from east to west the KoshiGandaki/NarayaniKarnali/Goghra and Mahakali—originate in multiple tributaries rising in or beyond the high Himalaya that maintain substantial flows from snowmelt through the hot, drought-stricken spring before the summer monsoon. These tributaries cross the highest mountains in deep gorges, flow south through the Middle Hills, then join in candelabra-like configuration before crossing the Lower Himalayan Range and emerging onto the plains where they have deposited megafans exceeding 10,000 km2 (4,000 sq mi) in area.

First Category

The Koshi is also called Sapta Koshi for its seven Himalayan tributaries in eastern Nepal: IndrawatiSun Koshi, Tama Koshi, Dudh Koshi, Liku, Arun, and Tamor. The Arun rises in Tibet some 150 kilometers (100 mi) beyond Nepal’s northern border. A tributary of the Sun Koshi, Bhote Koshi also rises in Tibet and is followed by the Arniko Highway connecting Kathmandu and Lhasa.

The Gandaki/Narayani has seven Himalayan tributaries in the center of the country: DaraundiSeti Gandaki, Madi, Kali, Marsyandi, Budhi, and Trisuli also called Sapta Gandaki. The Kali Gandaki rises on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and flows through the semi-independent Kingdom of Mustang, then between the 8,000 meter Dhaulagiri and Annapurna ranges in the world’s deepest valley. The Trisuli rises north of the international border inside Tibet. After the seven upper tributaries join, the river becomes the Narayani inside Nepal and is joined by the East Rapti from Chitwan Valley. Crossing into India, its name changes to Gandak.

The Karnali drains western Nepal, with the Bheri and Seti as major tributaries. The upper Bheri drains Dolpo, a remote valley beyond the Dhaulagiri Himalaya with traditional Tibetan cultural affinities. The upper Karnali rises inside Tibet near-sacred Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash. The area around these features is the hydrographic nexus of South Asia since it holds the sources of the Indus and its major tributary the Sutlej, the Karnali—a Ganges tributary—and the Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra. It is the centre of the universe according to traditional cosmography. The Mahakali or Kali along the Nepal-India border on the west joins the Karnali in India, where the river is known as Goghra or Ghaghara.

Second Category

Second category rivers rise in the Middle Hills and Lower Himalayan Range, from east to west the MechiKankai and Kamala south of the Kosi; the Bagmati that drains Kathmandu Valley between the Kosi and Gandaki systems, then the West Rapti and the Babai between the Gandaki and Karnali systems. Without glacial sources, annual flow regimes in these rivers are more variable although limited flow persists through the dry season.

Third Category

Third category rivers rise in the outermost Siwalik foothills and are mostly seasonal.

None of these river systems supports significant commercial navigation. Instead, deep gorges create obstacles to establishing transport and communication networks and de-fragmenting the economy. Foot-trails are still the primary transportation routes in many hill districts.

River System of Nepal
Nepal’s towns, villages, rivers and peaks