Ilam is a small hilly town with pristine landscapes of sloped tea gardens, thick natural forests, holy sites and unique culture. Ilam offers an excellent getaway from city life for romantic sunrise and sunset, a brisk walk in the tea garden, tranquil picnic and sightseeing stops, short treks along gentle slopes or a trudge into the nearby woods. If spiritual instinct calls there are several holy sites one can visit in and around the area. Thus, Ilam is a much sought after tourist destination for travelers of all kinds. It is also famous all over the world for its special brand Ilam tea.
Ilam Bazaar is in Ilam district Mechi zone. It is approximately 700km and 18 hrs drive east of station, Gongabu, in Kathmandu to biratnagar and Bhadrapur from where Ilam can be driven to via Birtamod.
The famous Darjeeling city of India is just 2 hrs drive from Pashupatinagar on the Nepal-India border of Ilam district. Nepali nationals and Indians can commute by land to India from Pashupatinagar in Ilam. However, this entry/exit point is for local use and Indian tourists only. Entry and exit from Eastern point for other travelers is allowed from Kakkarbhitta in Jhapa.
Food and accommodation
Good to moderate facilities are available for food and accommodation in Ilam Bazaar. Besides home-stay facilities are also available in selected areas; telephone, medical and other tourist facilities are also available in Ilam Bazaar.
When to visit:
The Subtropical climate of Ilam ensures good weather throughout the year. The best time to visit Ilam is between October-December, or from April-February. People from different parts of Nepal visit Maipokhari in Ilam for an annual festival on Kartik Ekadasi which falls in October or November. Thousand visit Mai Beni in Ilam during Maghe Sankranti which falls in January.
The main groups residing in Ilam are Brahmins, Chhettris and Lepchas. A Lepcha museum is at initial stage at Antu and is in the process of being extended.
Place to visit
Antu Danda offers spectacular sunrise, sunset and views of Himalayas. From 2328 meters, Antu overlooks Terai flatlands, terraced hills of cash crops, tea gardens and thick forests of pine trees. On a clear day one can even see views as far as Mirik, Kurseong & Darjeeling in the adjoining India part. Antu Danda is an hour drive from Pashupatinagar and about 3 hrs drive from Ilam Bazaar. Home-stay facilities are available at Antu Danda area.
Mai Pokhari is a pristine lake amid natural forest. The pond surrounded by thick forest of fir, juniper, birch and pine is home to a variety of flora and fauna. Various species of orchids, Rhododendron, herbs; rare animals like musk deer, leopard are found in the region. The lake is also considered holy as the abode of Goddess Bhagabati. An annual fair is held here every autumn around the month of October or November. Mai Pokhari is about 18 km from Ilam Bazaar, which is about 30 minute drive.
Sandakpur at 3636 meters on the international Nepal-India borderline provides majestic view of the Himalayas, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Mt. Kumbhakarna, Mt. Makalu, and even Mt. Everest. Rare wildlife like red Panda, Musk deer, and wild bird Danphe can be seen in the forests of this area. From Ilam Bazaar one can go upto Maimajhua Khorsanitar via Mai Pokhari in a vehicle. From here one has to trek for about 5 hrs to reach Sandakpur.
Kanyam and Fikkal have Large tea estates for which Ilam has been famous for the last 140 years. These tea plantation areas are popular among tourists for picnicking, sightseeing, and taking photographs. Fikkal is a business center in the area. It falls on the Mechi Highway on the way to Ilam.
Siddhi Thumka Offers good views of sunrise and sunset from its elevation of 1800 meters. One can also see the Terai flatlands, the Mahabharat range and the Churia mountain range from this area. Siddhi Thumka is 3 hrs trek away from Ilam Bazaar.
Chhintapur at 3400 meters is the second highest peak in Ilam district. The area has natural rich forests of Rhododendron, herbal plants and various species of birds. About 11 varieties of rhododendron are found in the area. In addition are rare herb Yarcha Gumba, and wild animals like musk deer and the rare red panda. Good views of the mountains can be seen from different points of the trek. The peak can be reached by trekking for three hours from Ilam Bazaar.
Pilgrimage sites are numerous in and around Ilam. The popular ones are:
Gajur Mukhi a stone tunnel with carved images of Hindu deities. It is on the banks of Deumai Khola, west of Ilam Bazaar. Gajur Mukhi is 4 hrs drive from Ilam Bazaar.
Pathibhara is in Ilam is believed to be as the younger sister of Pathibhara Devi in Taplejung. The Temple is in Hanspokhari, southeast of Kolbung VDC and is on the way to Ilam on Mechi Highway.
Mai Beni houses the temple of Lord shiva at the confluence of rivers Mai Khola and Jogmai Khola. It is located about 3 km away from Ilam Bazaar. Thousands of devotees gather here on the day of Maghe Sankranti in January.
Besides these are: Narayansthan in Ilam Bazaar, where a special festival takes place on Krishna Asthami; Bhimsensthan near Ilam Chowk; Singha Bahini in south Ilam, with a beautiful garden in the temple complex; Sati Devi Temple, on Puwa Khola west of Ilam Bazaar, which is a cultural, religious and magnificent site for domestic as well as other tourists.