Best of Ilam, Nepal
Ilam is the Churia Hills, some 90 km by road from Kakarbhitta, and is both central to, and synonymous with, Nepal's Tea industry. Summer temperature rises to around 30 c in May with it dipping to about 5 c in January. The rainfall is about 1,600 mm though. It is an attractive, uncongested hill town concentrated along its main cobbled street in an almost Dickensian fashion. Long brick terraces with balconies overhanging a succession of small shops and eateries line the street as it climbs from west to east. The town square, a casual meeting place with a central statue of King Birendra atop a lotus, lies at the northeast end of town.
It is surrounded by the tea gardens, which extend like a broad belt of green carpet through the Churias of East Nepal and into India. The Ilam district is essentially an extension of the Darjeeling tea growing area and is virtually identical in climate, soil, and topography. There are also pockets of cardamom cultivation.
Ilam sees few western visitors, but there is a genuine feeling of warmth for those that do make the trip. Although there are no Himalayan views, there are numerous opportunities for walks, especially through the quietly picturesque tea gardens. Sandakpur, a small town on the Indian border near Darjeeling, from where there are magnificent views of both Kanchenjunga and Everest. A trekking permit is not required, but it involves camping and is not recommended without a guide.
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