Ilam is a small hilly town with pristine landscape of sloped tea gardens, thick natural forests, holy sites and unique culture. Ilam offers an excellent gateway from city life for romantic sunrise and sunset, a brisk walk in the tea garden, tranquil picnic and sightseeing spots, 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 700 kilometers and 18 hours drive east of Kathmandu. Daily bus services are available for Ilam from Central bus Station, Gongabu, in Kathmandu. Buses are also available from other major cities. There are flights from Kathmandu to Biratnagar and Bhadrapur from where Ilam can be driven to via Birtamod.
The famous Darjeeling city of India is just 2- hour drive from Pashupatinagar on the Nepal-India border of Ilam district. Nepalese nationalities and Indian can in/out from Pashupatinagar in Ilam. For other travelers are allowed entry and exit from the eastern point from Kakkarbhitta in Jhapa.
Food and accommodation
Good to moderate facilities are available for food and accommodation in Ilam bazaar. Besides, also home stay facilities are available.
When to visit
The subtropical climate of Ilam ensures good weather throughout the year. The best time to visit Ilam is October to April. People from different parts of Nepal visit Mai Pokhari in Ilam for an annual festival on Kaartik Ekadasi which falls in October or November. Thousands visit Mai Beni Ilam during Maghe Sakrati which falls in January.
The main groups residing in Ilam are Rai, Limbu, Chhetri, Bahun and Lepcha. A Lepcha museum is in Antu.
Places to visit
Antu Danda offers spectacular sunrise, sunset and views of Himalayas. From 2,328 meters, Antu overlooks Terai flatland, 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 and Darjeeling in the adjoining Indian part. Antu is an hour drive from Pashupatinagar and about 3 hours drive from Ilam Bazaar. Home stay facilities are available at Antu 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, and rare animals like musk deer, leopard, porcupine, jackal, numerous migratory birds and rare insects are found in the region. The lake is also considered holy as the abode of Goddess Bhagawati. An annual fair is held here every autumn around the month of October or November. Mai Pokhari is about 18 kilometers from Ilam Bazaar, which is about 30 minutes drive.
Sandakpur at 3,636 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 forest of this area. From Ilam Bazaar one can go up to Maimajhua Khorsanitar via Mai Pokhari in a vehicle. From here one has to trek for about 5 hours to reach Sandakpur.
Kanyam and Fikkal have large tea estates for which Ilam has been famous for over 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 lies on the Mechi Highway on the way to Ilam.
Siddhi Thumka offers good views of sunrise and sunset from elevation of 1,800 meters. One can also see the Terai flatlands, the Mahabharat range and the Churia mountain range from this area. Siddhi Thumki is 3 hour trek away 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 hour 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 Jogmani Khola. It is located about 3 kilometers away from Ilam Bazaar. Thousands of Devotees gather here on the day of Maghe Sakrati in January.