About Ilam tour with Sandakpur
Our tour starts in the east of Nepal, with a flight to Bhadrapur along the eastern Nepal mountain range, which offers views of the high Himalayas in the north, including the Everest range. From Bhadrapur in the southern flatlands (Terai) we drive north, soon climbing up and starting to pass the first tea gardens with their lush green colour covering the unique round and gentle hills. We will drive through the scenic landscapes of Ilam until reaching the area of Shree Antu Danda where we will stay in one of the community homestays.
Ilam is the main tea-growing area in Nepal, on the eastern border with Darjeeling in India – where the famous Darjeeling tea is from. With Nepal having few export options set up and the domestic market for high-quality tea being relatively small, it is said that substantial amounts of tea grown in Ilam end up in India, mixed with Darjeeling tea. So you might have tasted some of Nepal’s tea already when having Darjeeling tea. The east of Nepal is also home to several of Nepal’s ethnic groups with rich history, cultures, and traditions – like the Limbu, Rai, or the Lepcha community with only a handful of people left in Nepal.
From the Shree Antu Danda view tower, we can catch the sunset or sunrise views across the hills covered in jungle or tea gardens and a view east into Darjeeling and across the plains of West Bengal. You can learn about the tea making from the harvest to the drying and fermentation processes, to sorting and packing in one of the area's tea factories that offer visitor tours – and of course, get a taste of the local tea varieties.
We continue our journey further through the Ilam tea gardens to Maipokhari where we can also find homestay options. Apart from being a pilgrimage place for both, Hindus and Buddhists, Maipokhari is a wetland that has been recognized as an area of international importance as part of the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. An abundant variety of flora and fauna can be found in Maipokhari, about 300 species of birds alone have been recorded, making it a place of interest for bird watchers.
Leaving the tea garden landscapes, we can further travel northeast to Sandakpur (also written Sandakphu in Hindi), which lies right on the India-Nepal border – in fact, it is already part of India, but no visa is required just to visit Sandakpur. The way to Sandakpur takes us through lush and misty jungles with wild orchids growing on many of the trees and lichen hanging from branches giving the forest a fairy-tale-like mysterious atmosphere. Here we have the option of travelling via a possibly rough road all the way to Sandakpur or leaving our transport at one point and taking a 2 ½ to hours hike up through rhododendron forests. Sandakpur is a hilltop station at 3636 meters that offers incredible 360-degree views across the hills of Darjeeling and Sikkim in the east, with Bhutan in a far distance, the impressive Kanchenjunga mountain range in the north (Kanchenjunga is with 8586 meters the third highest mountain in the world), and the Makalu and Everest mountain range in the west with its three eight thousand meter peaks Lhotse, Everest, and Makalu. If we are lucky with the weather, we can see the white peaks spectacularly starting to light up with sunrise or see the sun set behind the Everest range.
The tour can be accustomed to your specific interests, to the places you would like to see more or less off, and last between four and seven days. If you are interested, please get in touch with us at Himalayan Ecological Trekking so that we can provide you with more information and an itinerary best suited to your interests.