With its ancient culture and the Himalayas as a backdrop, landlocked Nepal has a romantic image.
It is nonetheless one of the world's poorest countries, and is struggling to overcome the legacy of a 10-year Maoist insurrection, the BBC reports.
Until Nepal became a republic in May 2008, it had been ruled by monarchs or a ruling family for most of its modern history in relative isolation. Civil strife wrecked the economy and Nepal is dependent on aid; tourism is a key foreign exchange earner.
Nepal has a flourishing tourism industry, but faces problems of deforestation and encroachment on animal habitats. Most of the population depend on agriculture, and the UN estimates that about 40% of Nepalis live in poverty.
Foreign aid is vital to the economy, and Nepal is also heavily dependent on trade with neighbouring India.
The untouchables Dalits experience heavy discrimination.