Ilam

Talk of Nepali tea and you hear the name Ilam. Ilam has always been synonymous with tea, but it also produces excellent cheese and has great views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Ilam is a district in the far eastern part of Nepal and also has a town known as Ilam Bazaar. Close to the famous Indian hill station of Darjeeling, it shares a common topography of rolling hills and misty weather with its neighbor.

Most of Ilam is covered in lush green tea bushes which are generally not allowed to grow over three feet for convenience of plucking. Ilam is served by a good road which sees little traffic making for a pleasant journey. Some tea estates have arrangements to give tourists a tour of their garden (as they are known) and the factory where the entire process of fermenting, roasting, rolling, cutting and sorting can be most interesting to watch. Ilam tea is gaining popularity around the world.

Principal Sights:

Antu Danda:
Situated at an altitude of 1,677m, Antu Danda in Ilam District, is famous for its unique views of Everest and Kanchenjunga. You can catch superb sunrise and sunset views from the hilltop (danda means hilltop). A motor road goes all the way from Ilam to Chhipitar at which point you have to set off on foot to Antu Danda. This is an exhilarating 3 hour trek along a stretch of road surrounded by greenery.

Mai Pokhari:
A popular pilgrimage site, Mai Pokhari at 2438 m, also lies in Ilam district. 13 km north of Ilam Bazaar, this beautiful lake with a circumference slightly more than a kilometer is only one out of nine ponds in the area. Some of them are large enough for boating. Each year during ‘Harisayani Ekadashi’ Mai Pokhari comes alive with a fair that lasts only one night. You can reach Mai Pokhari, a popular picnic spot, in four hours from Ilam Bazaar by jeep.

Getting there:
The road to Ilam leaves the Mahendra Highway at Charali and local buses to the border town, Pashupatinagar, leave from the Gongabu Bus Park in Kathmandu. Transport is also available from Biratnagar or Birtamod. The closest airport (45 minute flight from Kathmandu) is at Bhadrapur (actually Chandragiri Airport) from where cars or vans can be hired to go up to Ilam.

Accommodation:
There are a number of hotels and lodges in Ilam.

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