Retreat to a peaceful corner in your home, recline on a chair and imagine this visual. A hilly region covered in sloping tea plantations, surrounded by breath-taking views. Now slowly move down to a tea estate and watch happy people taking horse rides, enjoying cheerful picnics and taking peaceful walks down the slopes.
Then keep walking and enter a dense forest filled with wonderful trees and other attractive flora. And while you walk through the forest, listen to the sound of rushing river crash against rocks. While you visualize all this, immerse yourself in the aroma some good tea.
Sounds great? Now you are wishing you were there. Why not head to ‘Ilam’ then?
The word Ilam comes from two Limbu (Nepali Language) words I (ee) – winding and lam – way. That what Ilam looks like a cluster of winding paths or ways. Illam is also known as the land of four rivers Charkhol as it has four river Deaumai, Jogmai, Mai and Puwamai.
Ilam, in Nepal, is home to one of the best tea plantations in the country. The hill town is located in the Ilam district and acts as its headquarters. Going by its geographical location, the town is located in the Mahabharata region.
To describe Ilam scenically, it is characterized by sloping tea gardens, mountain streams, dense natural forests, religious sites and a unique culture.
Climatically, Ilam enjoys a subtropical climate and has good weather year-round, except during rainy weather.
Ilam is home to many indigenous Nepal ethnic groups including Brahmins, Chetris, Gurungs, Limbus, Magars, Rais and Sherpas that co-exist peacefully in the quintessential hill town of Ilam.
Tourist Tip: The best time to visit Ilam is between February-April and October-December.
One can travel to Ilam with regular buses available from New Buspark in Koteshwar and Kalanki in Kathamndu. The journey is about 16 hours.
From Ilam you have daily buses or a bolero to nearby destinations including Birtamod, Biratnagar, Chandragadhi, Damak, Dharan, Itahari, Kakarbhitta and Pashupatinagar.
The Antu Danda is a beautiful hill within the town and creates a perfect platform to witness the sunrise, sunset and the Himalayan mountain region. The 2,328 m hill presents the ideal footing for a panoramic view of the Terai flatlands, the tea gardens, thick pine forests and the terraced hills of cash crops.
On a bright and sunny day, the hill also offers views of Indian hill cities Mirirk, Kurseong and Darjeeling town.
Tourist Tip: One can reach Ilam with a one-hour drive from Pashupatinagar and a three hour drive from Ilam Bazar.
Antu Danda has plenty of local homes that offer homes-stay facilities.
The Gajur Mukhi is a stone tunnel located on the bank of Deumai Khola and the west of Ilam bazar. The tunnel has carvings of Hindu deities on the inside
Tourist Tip: One can reach Gajur Mukhi with a four-hour drive from the center of the town
Ilam in itself is an entire garden. The story of tea in Liam dates back to the 18th century when Jung Bahadur Rana was the Prime Minister of Nepal. The Chinese Government gifted the Nepali Prime Minister some tea saplings and that’s how tea made its way to Ilam district. The Ilam Tea factory was started in 1868 and continued till 2010. Currently, Ilam has tea estates that are situated at an altitude of 4,000-5,000 ft above sea level.
Kanyam and Fikkal are treasure houses of tea in Ilam and are some of the largest tea estates in Nepal. These estates are popular even among international tourists as an ideal destination for sightseeing, picnics and photography.
Fikkal is also best known as a business center as many locals come and sell their products here.
Lepcha was once the dominant ethnic group in Ilam. A dedicated Lepcha museum is being constructed in Antu and will be extended in some time.
Well, Ilam is not just about tea plantations and estates. The quiet hill town is home to the pristine Mai Pokhari lake, which is surrounded by a thick forest filled with birch, fir, juniper and pine. The forest is also home to a variety of flora including herbs, orchids and rhododendrons and fauna such as jackals, leopards, porcupine and musk deer, besides other rare birds and insects.
Best Time to Visit: October-November is considered the best time to visit the lake as an annual fair is held every year in honor of Goddess Bhagwati, whose abode is the lake.
Tourist Trip: Mai Pokhari can be reached with a half-an-hour drive from Ilam bazar (18 km)
Mai Beni joins two rivers Mai Khola and Jogma Khola, where a temple of Lord Shiva is situated. The temple receives thousands of devotees on the occasion of Maghe Sangrati in January.
Tourist Tip: Tourists can reach Mai Beni from the Ilam bazaar, which is about 3 km from the destination
This temple of Devi in Hanspokhari, is considered to be the younger sister of Pathibhara Devi temple in Taplejung. It can be found on the Mechi Highway en route to Ilam.
Sadakpur is a village located at a height of 3,636 m on the Nepal-India borderline. It presents a breath-taking view of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchanjunga, Mt. Kumbhakarna and Mt. Makalu. The forest in Sadakpur is home to rare animals such as Danphe, red panda and musk deer.
Tourist Tip: Tourists can reach Sadakpur by going to Maimajhua Khorsanitar through Mai Pokhari and trek for five hours from there.
Besides offering you wonderful views of the sunrise and sunset, Siddhi Thumka also provides you with stunning views of the Terai flatlands, the Mahabharata range and the Churia mountain range. It is situated at an altitude of 1800 m.
Waiting eagerly to get away from the noise and rush of the city? Then why not make your way to Ilam and experience its peace and rich culture.
Tourist Tip: Tourists can reach Siddhi Thumka with a three hour trek from Ilam bazar.