The capital and largest city of Nepal, Kathmandu, occupies much of the valley located near the center of the country. Nepal is home to much of the Himalaya mountain range between Tibet (China) to the north and India to the south. Geological and fossil evidence indicates that the Kathmandu Valley was covered by a large lake between approximately 2.8 million and 10,000 years ago. Paleo-Kathmandu Lake is thought to have drained in phases due to the drying of the regional climate; continuing mountain building—tectonic uplift and faulting—in the region; and the formation of an integrated drainage system, as river channels cut through previous rock ridge dams.
The green, vegetated slopes that ring the Kathmandu metro area (light gray, image center) include both forest reserves and national parks. The metropolitan area is relatively flat compared to the surrounding mountains. Tribhuvan International Airport, near the eastern margin of the city, is the only international airport in Nepal.
Archeological evidence suggests that the human development of Kathmandu, together with the nearby “sister cities” of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, began almost 2,000 years ago. Today, Kathmandu and its sister cities form the governmental, cultural, and—as a main access point to the Himalayas for tourism—economic center of the country.
Astronaut photograph ISS025-E-13115 was acquired on November 9, 2010, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 400 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 25 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.