A brisk walk in a tea garden, tranquil picnic and sightseeing stops, holy sites, short treks along gentle slopes, a trudge into the nearby woods and a unique culture – all this and much more is offered by Ilam. Ilam has always been synonymous with tea, but it also produces excellent cheese and has great views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, 8,586 m, the third highest mountain in the world. Ilam district is bordered by Panchthar to the north, Jhapa to the south, West Bengal (India) to the east and Morang and Dhankuta districts to the west. It lies to the south of the Mahabharat range and west of the Shinghalila range. Elevations in Ilam district range between 140 m to 3,636 m above sea level and is sometimes called Charkhol (area of four rivers) because of the four main rivers – the Jogmai, Puwamai, Mai and Deumai – that flow through the district. Ilam is one of the richest districts in Nepal in terms of its cultural diversity, natural landscape and flourishing cash crops. Potato, cardamom, ginger, red round chilly (akbare khursani), milk and broom grass are the major cash crops. Many visitors also go to Ilam for botanical and anthropological research. Ilam is served by a good road which sees little traffic, making for a pleasant journey.
People:The main ethnic groups living in Ilam are the Brahmins and Chhetris. The Lepchas are also a predominant ethnic group in this region. Ilam reflects the rich social and cultural heritages of the people living in harmony. Other major ethnic groups living in Ilam include the Magars, Gurungs, Rais, Limbus and Sherpas. Most parts of Ilam are hilly with farming as the main occupation.
Situated at an altitude of 2,328 m, Antu Danda is famous for its spectacular views of the sunrise and sunset over the eastern Himalaya. From here, magnificent views of the 8,586-m Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, as well as Kumbhakarna and other snowy summits can be had. Antu Danda is surrounded by scenic terraces, slopes and plains covered by different types of vegetation. On a clear day you can see the middle hills and plains of neighboring Darjeeling district in West Bengal, India. There are homestay facilities at Antu Danda, which is about 35 km southeast of Ilam Bazaar, the district headquarters.
MAI POKHARI (2,121 m):
A popular pilgrimage site, Mai Pokhari is a 9-cornered pristine lake considered the sacred abode of Goddess Bhagawati. It lies 13 km north of Ilam Bazaar and is surrounded by dense forests of fir, juniper, birch, pine and medicinal plants. Rare animals like the musk deer, leopard, porcupine, jackal as well as numerous migratory birds and rare insects are found in the area. People from different parts of Nepal visit Mai Pokhari in Ilam for an annual festival on Kartik Ekadasi which falls in October-November. Mai Pokhari is about 1 ½ hours’ drive from Ilam Bazaar.
KANYAM AND FIKKAL:
On the way to Ilam Bazaar, Kanyam and Fikkal have large tea estates that have made Ilam famous for more than a hundred years. These tea gardens are popular among tourists for picnicking, sightseeing and photography. Fikkal is a business center in eastern Ilam and lies on the Mechi Highway leading to Ilam. It is also the junction from where one can go to the eastern border city of Pashupatinagar adjacent to Darjeeling. Indian and Nepali nationals can cross over to the other side of the border with valid documents.
|Suggested Itinerary to Ilam (5-6 days)|
SIDHI THUMKA (1,800 m)
offers good views of the sunrise and sunset. You can also see the Terai flatlands and the Mahabharat range from the area. Siddhi Thumka is about a 3-hour trek from Ilam Bazaar.
Gajurmukhi is an important religious site, about 4 hours’ drive west of Ilam Bazaar. It is a stone tunnel with carved images of Hindu deities. It lies on the banks of the Deumai Khola – one of the four rivers of Ilam.
Sanu Pathibhara is a shrine at the top of Kutidanda and Hanspokhari on the Mechi Highway. Sanu (smaller) Pathibhara is regarded as the younger sister of the bigger Pathibhara Temple in Taplejung. The hill is covered with forests and offers views of the Terai plains, the Mahabharat range and Mt. Kanchenjunga.
houses the temple of Lord Shiva at the confluence of the Mai Khola and Jogmai Khola. It is located about 3 km from Ilam Bazaar. Thousands of devotees gather here on the day of Maghe Sankranti, the first day of the 10th Nepali month in January, for a holy dip.
|MANGMALUNG is an important religious site of the Kiratis in the middle of a forest at the upper part of Ibhang. The place is the origin of the Kirat religion. It has a number of images of snakes, lions and eagles. There is also a cave which houses the deity, Matrika Kirateswar, where a festival is marked with great pomp every year. SANDAKPUR (3,636 m), on the Nepal-India border to the north of Ilam, is a big attraction for tourists because of the beautiful sunrise and sunset views over Mt. Kanchenjunga, and the adjoining peaks of Makalu and Mt. Everest. You can virtually see all parts of Ilam district, most parts of the Terai plains, and parts of Siliguri and Darjeeling in India. Animals such as the musk deer and red panda and birds such as the pheasant can be seen here.|
|While 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|
|There are daily buses from Kathmandu for the 18-hour drive to Ilam Bazaar. Buses are also available from other major cities such as Pokhara, Biratnagar and Nepalgunj. Ilam can also be reached by taking one of the scheduled flights from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur or Biratnagar and then transferring to a regular bus service or hiring a private vehicle.Good to moderate facilities are available for food and accommodation in Ilam Bazaar. Besides, homestay facilities managed by community members are available in Shree Antu (Antu Danda).|
|BASANTAPUR (2,200 m) is a town set amidst enchanting scenery of mountains, lakes and greenery in eastern Nepal. Pastures, hills covered with rhododendron and jasmine flowers, stunning sunrise and sunset views, friendly people and a rich Limbu culture make Basantapur appealing. Basantapur hosts trekkers on the way to Taplejung and Mt. Kanchenjunga.People: Limbu culture is predominant in Basantapur and surrounding areas. Other ethnic groups that reside in the area are the Gurung, Rai, Tamang, Brahmin and Chhettri. Tharu, Newar and Marwadi people also live in the area. Most of the people are farmers by occupation|
|ExperienceTINJURE ,a ridge at 3,066 m offers, magnificent views of the sunrise and sunset, and the mountains. Tinjure Danda is about half-hour walk from Basantapur Bazaar and is famous for its rhododendrons – a stunning 34 varieties.The TINJURE MILKE JALJALE TRAIL, also known as the RHODODENDRON TRAIL, leads you through Taplejung, Tehrathum and Sankhuwasabha districts.Heading northeast out of Hile – to the north of Dharan – the trail climbs gradually through settle-ments of recent migrants from the northern Olangchung region – trans-Himalayan yak drivers. On the way lies Gupha Pokhari, a serene lake set on a ridge that looks east at the Kanchenjunga massif and west at Makalu and Khumbu Himal. From here, a shorter trek follows the Milke Danda ridge (2,905 m) – a rhododendron forest – due north, climbing to 4,700 m into the Jaljale Himal, a remote area spotted with lakes and inhabited by mountain people from Tibet. You can then descend east to the Mewa Khola (stream) and continue to Taplejung’s airfield and further to the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area.Alternately, you can start from Phidim at the end of a newly com¬pleted dry season dirt road that trav¬erses Ilam’s young tea estates. PATTEK DANDA (2,500 m) is famous for the sunrise, sunset views over the Himalayas including Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjunga. Pattek Danda is ideal for short treks and is also a good area for picnics. It lies about 3 km from Basantapur. Pattek Danda can also be reached via Chitre that is a 15-minute drive away. From here, Pattek Danda is a 30-minute trek.|
|MARG POKHARI (2,600 m) is a natural pond on the lap of the hills on the way to Basantapur from Sindhuwa, which is 5 km from Basantapur Bazaar. The pond holds religious significance as well as scenic beauty surrounded as it is by a dense rhododendron forest. PANCHAKANYA POKHARI, also known as Chhathar Pokhari, is the largest pond in the area. It is approximately 2 hours’ walk further down from Sukrabare Bazaar, an ideal place to experience the rich Limbu culture. The village can be reached via Sindhuwa Bazaar.HILE is a hill station to the north of Dharan, formerly a recruiting center for British Gurkha soldiers, that provides stunning views of the eastern Himalaya. Hile lies 13 km north of Dhankuta, a charming hill town of cobbled streets and white-washed houses. Bhedetar, the gateway to the Arun Valley, is another popular hill station in the area.|
|The weather here is cool and temperate most times of the year, making Basantapur ideal to visit anytime. But the best times to visit are autumn and spring, from October to December or from February to April. Summers are pleasant with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius, while winters are mild.|
|ACCESS / ACCOMMODATION|
|Basantapur can be reached via Hile to the north of Dhankuta, which is 50 km north of Dharan. Buses leave for Dhankuta from the Central Bus Station at Gongabu, Kathmandu. Another option is to fly to Biratnagar and drive to Hile Bazaar, from where buses are available to Basantapur.Budget hotels and moderate accommodation facilities are available in Basantapur Bazaar. Camping sites are also available for trekkers.|
|One of the few “off-the-beaten-track” destinations in Nepal is the ancient hill town of Tansen with its old artistic Newari houses and cobbled streets. Midway between the Indian border and Pokhara, it is a picturesque hill town lying on the lap of the Srinagar Hills. Tansen is the headquarters of Palpa district and the hub of the mid-west culture of Nepal. The district varies from 250 to 2,000 m in elevation.Palpa was the seat of the Sen kingdom that ruled over this region from the 16th century for almost 300 years. The name “Tansen” has its origin in the Magar language, meaning “northern settlement.” The Magars are assumed to be the first settlers in this area. However, the town’s houses are strongly influenced by traditional Newari architecture as the Newars, originally from the Kathmandu Valley, had migrated to Palpa in search of opportunities of trade and craft.People: The percentage of Magars and Newars in the district is high. Other inhabitants of Palpa are the Brahmin, Chhetri, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang and Limbu.|
|ExperienceTANSEN BAZAAR: The main bazaar of Tansen, also known as Makhan Tole, is the focus of the town’s commercial activities notably for the sale of brass utensils and Dhaka cloth used to make topis, the Nepali cap. Baggi Dhoka, the main gate to Tansen Durbar, a former palace and the district’s administration headquarters, is tall and majestic and is said to be the largest of its kind in Nepal.|
The hilltop of Srinagar provides the most extensive mountain views from Dhaulagiri in the west to Gauri Shanker in the northeast. There is a statue of Lord Buddha at the eastern end of Srinagar.RANIGHAT, on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, is famous for the palace built by Khadga Shumshere Rana in memory of his wife Tej Kumari. The palace, often called the Taj Mahal of Nepal, was designed by British engineers from Calcutta. It is reached from Tansen by walking along a steady downhill slope passing through a narrow gorge.
Ramdi is a half-day walk through terraced rice fields, and is famous for its cave temples where farmers from nearby villages offer milk for the protection of their cattle from leopards.
To the west of Tansen lies the oldest temple here, called Bhairavsthan, and is marked by a huge trident. The statue of Bhairav, the God of Terror, in the temple is hidden, because the sight is said to be frightening. The Amar Narayan Temple is a three-storey pagoda-style temple. Surrounding the premises is a remarkable huge dry stone masonry wall called the Great Wall of Palpa.
Ridi is situated at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Ridi Khola rivers, and the Rikheswar Narayan Temple at Ridi is considered as holy as the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. During the Makar Sankranti in February, devotees throng here for a ritual dip in the water. A 50-km road leads you to Ridi from Tansen.
SATYAWATI LAKE (1,400 m):
Satyawati Lake is a popular pilgrimage site on the top of a mountain ridge. On the way to the lake, beautiful views of the Himalaya can be had. The nearly 2-hour uphill trek to Lake Satyawati starts from the Siddhartha Highway, about 19 km from Tansen. A fair is held each year in honor of Goddess Satyawati during the full moon night in October-November.Deule Archale, believed to be a sacred pond, has several temples. The Siddheshwar Gupha (cave) is a popular pilgrim site at Siddheshwar on the bank of the Ridi Khola (stream).
|OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST: Tanhu, an attractive village with a mixed culture and beautiful scenery of the mountains, forests and terraced fields. Taksar is the neighborhood where for centuries the famous bronze and brass works of Tansen used to be produced. Arghali village, close to the Kali Gandaki and Ridi rivers, is considered the Benares of Nepal, and it is where the Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumshere spent his retired life.Butwal, a bustling city to the south of Tansen, is worth a visit, and this can be combined with a visit to Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha. The short trek, most suitable for wintertime, is to follow the old trade route from Tansen, across the Sisnu Khola to finish at Butwal. The trek will involve one night on the trail, and local teahouse accommodation can be used.|
|CLIMATETansen can be visited at any time of the year. While the climate of Palpa varies from tropical to moderate, Tansen is moderate to warm with temperatures between 28 degree Celsius maximum in summer and 8 degrees Celsius minimum in the winter. The months of June and July have maximum rain.|
|ACCESS / ACCOMMODATIONBuses leave from the New Bus Park in Kathmandu for Tansen the 8-10 hour journey. You can also fly to Bhairahawa and drive to Tansen. You can also reach Tansen from Pokhara (7 hours), Chitwan (5 hours) and Butwal (2 hours). There are budget hotels and lodges in Tansen.|
BANDIPUR Located on a 1,000 m ridge overlooking the Marshyangdi River Valley in Tanahu district, some 140 km from Kathmandu on the way to Pokhara. Once a vibrant commercial center on the Tibet-India trade route, Bandipur offers mountain views, artistic Newar houses, shrines, forts and caves. While the Newars are predominant in Bandipur, the Magar and Gurung ethnic groups, who have traditionally joined Indian and British armies, inhabit the hillsides growing rice, millet, corn and mustard on terrace fields.People: While the Newars are predominant in Bandipur, the Magar and Gurung ethnic groups inhabit the hillsides growing rice, millet, corn and mustard on terrace fields. Brahmin, Chettri, Kami, Sarki, Damai ethnic groups have also made Bandipur their home since the Magars first settled here.
|Suggested Itinerary of Bandipur (3-4 days)|
|ExperienceMOUNTAIN VIEWS: From the hillocks surrounding Bandipur, you are able to take in a 300 km “visual tour” of the central Himalayan chain from the Jugal Himal (mountain) directly north of Bhaktapur in Kathmandu, westwards to Langtang, Ganesh Himal, Gorkha Himal, Manaslu, Himalchuli, Buddha, Annapurnas, Dhaulagiri and Kanjiroba. The different viewpoints around Bandipur include Gurungche hill, 20-minute hike from Bandipur Bazaar, Tundikhel and Mukundeswari.TUNDIKHEL, the large field at the northern end of the town, offers 180-degree panoramic views of the Himalayan ramparts to the north and Marshyangdi Valley down below. Also visible from here are the Gorkha Palace and the famous Manakamana peak.SIDDHA GUPHA, located just above the Bimalnagar cliff, is the largest cave in south Asia. It is rich in stalagmites and stalactites. A two-hour hike from Siddha Gupha leads you to Patalidwar, or Gateway to Hell, another popular cave. A visit to the cave is said to wash away all the sins of one’s ancestors and bring them salvation.GADHI is an ancient fort on a hilltop just above the main bazaar, said to date from the time of Mukunda Sen who ruled Palpa in the 16th century. Because of its location, stunning views of the Himalaya can be had.MUKUNDESWARI is considered an important tribal “power place”. Located on the top of a high summit, Mukundeswari is a 2-hour walk west of Bandipur. The shrine, festooned with many bells and tridents, is especially revered by the Gurungs.RANIBAN is a beautiful and well-preserved community forest belt for nature walks, bird watching and exploring the abundant flora and fauna of this region.KHADGA DEVI TEMPLE is the most revered shrine here which contains no idol but a sacred khadga (sword) – a gift of Lord Shiva to Mukunda Sen, the 16th century king of Palpa. The sword is said to wield immense power and is wrapped in cloth as death is inevitable to anyone who views its naked form. The temple is open once a year during the Hindu festival of Dashain in October or November.BINDHYABASINI TEMPLE is situated in the heart of the Bandipur Bazaar. This pagoda-style temple of Goddess Durga displays Newar craftsmanship at its best with its rich woodcarvings and detailed brass work. During the Bisket Jatra (festival), in mid-April, the idol is placed on a palanquin and taken through the town.MAHALAXMI TEMPLE, also in the style of a pagoda, is dedicated to the Goddess of Wealth. The structure also displays exquisite woodwork in its struts and arches.|
Located 30 km to the east of Kathmandu on the valley rim, Nagarkot is for those on the lookout for Himalayan scenery and rural serenity. Nagarkot, situated at an elevation of 2,175 m, provides a panorama of five of the world’s 10 tallest peaks – Everest (8,848 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Cho Oyu (8,201 m), Makalu (8,463 m) and Manaslu (8,163 m) – and many other lesser summits. Visitors also go to Nagarkot to watch the stunning sunrise and sunset.It is a favorite weekend getaway for Kathmanduites to beat the heat during summers and to enjoy, if there is, the snowfall during winters. The accessibility, only 30 to 45 minutes’ drive from Kathmandu, and tourist facilities, play a part.Surrounded by terraced hillsides and picturesque houses, the hilltop resort is an idyllic escape – far from the noise and din of Kathmandu’s city life. Bird watching is a joy in the forests here. Short hiking options abound. You can take a walk down from Nagarkot along a ridge to the temple of Changu Narayan – with views of Sankhu village to the right and Bhaktapur to the left. Another trail leads south from Nagarkot to Nala and Banepa on the Arniko Highway to the Tibetan border.
Dhulikhel is about an hour’s drive east of Kathmandu along the Arniko Highway leading to Tibet, China. Banepa, passed en route, was once the capital of a 14th-century kingdom that boasted diplomatic relations with China’s Ming emperors. Dhulikhel was an important trade post, and you can see an impressive vista of the snowy central Himalayas making a backdrop to the gentle hills.Dhulikhel is central to a number of day excursions such as an early morning 30-minute hike up to the Bhagawati Temple for an unforgettable sunrise over the Himalayas. Trails lead along the ridge north of the town. A leisurely all-day hike can be undertaken to visit Namo Buddha, a sacred site that has drawn reverent pilgrims for many centuries. Legend tells that the Buddha sacrificed his body here to feed a starving tigress and her cubs. A carved stone slab on the top of the hill depicts the moving story, a lesson in compassion and selfless giving. A dirt road (sometimes suitable for vehicles) leads from Dhulikhel to Namo Buddha via Kavre – a pleasant roundtrip walk of eight hours.
It is another place worth going for a pan-Himalayan view. Located 75 km at 2,400 m, to the southwest of the Kathmandu Valley, on the Tribhuvan Highway, Daman offers a full 400 km of ice-cast peaks – from Dhaulagiri to Everest. The Palung Valley, with its jigsaw patterned terraces stretches to the north and west. There is a small Buddhist monastery tended by monks and nuns about an hour’s walk from the viewpoint.
kakani is a settlement in the Nuwakot District of the Bagmati Zone in central Nepal. At the time of the 1991 Nepal census, the Kakani village development committee administered a population of 7816 living in 1343 individual households.As one of the most accessible settlements from Kathmandu over 2000 meters, this hill station hosts a British Gurkhas welfare bungalow (photo at left) and a couple of simple hotels offering basic accommodation to travelers. The village is also home to a memorial park to the victims of Thai Airways International Flight 311.A notable local industry is strawberry farming. With the assistance of a United Nations Development Programme project, a local farmers’ cooperative now produces close to 250 000 kg of the fruit per year.
Tour Cost of the trip depends of the types of accommodation, transportation and services.
|CLIMATEThe climate is cool in summer with snow in places like Daman and Nagarkot in winter.|
|ACCESS/ACCOMMODATIONYou can take regular passenger vehicles or hire a private car to Nagarkot, Dhulikhel, Daman and Kakani from Kathmandu. Good hotels and resorts are available in all four places.|