Illam: the Kingdom of Tea Production

When it comes about a beautifully blessed country by Nature, Nepal probably hits the list somewhere at the top. The geographically diverse country is a perfect example of what nature means. From the lush forests of the Terai, the beautiful hills of the Hill and the sky touching glorious mountains in the Himalayans, Nepal is a country that gives the feeling of being closer to nature.

Every year Nepal is a hot destination for the tourists all around the world for the wonderful beauty it possesses. Among the various beautiful places in Nepal, Illam is the one which should not be missed.

About Illam

Illam lies in the hilly region of the Province No.1 and also is the headquarters of the Illam district. The word Illam is comprised of two words: ‘I’ and ‘Lam’. According to Limbu language, ‘I’ mean ‘winding’ and ‘lam; means the way. While looking at the topography of the place closely, we can find several winding paths that cross each other on the way. Thus, this implies the name Illam meaning the winding path.

Illam is one of the four urban municipalities in Illam District. The municipality covers an area of 173.32 square kilometers (66.92 sq miles) and divided into 12 wards. The population of the municipality during the time of the census of 2011 was 48,536. The Limbu, Rai, Newar, Magar, Tamang, Chhetries, Brahmin, Sunuwar, Gurung and Yakkha are the inhabitant in the place.

Illam is famous place all over Nepal and other parts of the world particularly for the production of tea. It also has beautiful landscapes that attract most of the local tourists.

What is Illam famous for?

Illam is particularly famous for tea and five ‘As’: Aalu (potato), Aalaichi (cardamom), Aduwaa (ginger), Akabare Khursani (red round chili), and Amriso (a grass used to make brooms). These products are exported to Siliguri and Darjeeling in India. Tea of Illam is exported tothe foreign market too.

How can you reach up to Illam?

Illam is approximately 700 km east of Kathmandu. One can easily catch buses from the New Bus Park, Koteshwar, and Kalanki that will drop you up to Illam. 

If you aim to visit Illam by airways then you first need to go to Bhadrapur. Flights are available from the Tribhuvan International Airport to Chandraghadi Airport in Jhapa district. The flight is only 45 minutes from Kathmandu. You can now catch a bus from Bhadrapur to reach your destination, Illam.

Must Visit Places in Illam

The beautiful Illam offers so many enchanting places to visit. When you make your trip to Illam, do not forget to consider these places on your trip:

Shree Antu Danda

Shree Antu Danda is a beautiful hill that rests on the lap of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. The hill is located at an altitude of 2,328 meters above sea level and is about 3 hours driving away from Illam Bazaar. An amazing mixture of the trekking on the hilly landscapes and the mesmerizing views of the sunrise and sunset make the Shree Antu Danda worth visiting. The tea gardens are not to be mentioned, they will give you company during the whole period of your visit. Adding on, the mountains, the lush forests, the unique culture of Illam and holy sites provide extra glamour to the tour.

Shree Antu offers with the majestic views of the sunrise and sunset. Siddhi Thunka and Chhintapu are the popular places for the spectacular view of sunrise and sunset. Besides the views of the sun rising and setting from the middle of the mountains, Shree Antu offers the fascinating panorama of the mountains that includes Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjunga. Also, one can observe the beautiful hills of the Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Mink from here. 


Mai Pokhari

Mai Pokhari is another spot to amaze you with its beauty in Illam. It is a star-shaped pond with nine corners.  Every nine corners pay tribute to different gods. Surrounded by the beautiful green forest around the whole circumference, the pond defines the real beauty of nature. At any corner you stand and stare at the pond, reflecting the forest in the clear water, it looks like it is a piece of heaven landed in the earth. The pond is a pilgrimage site for both the Hindus and the Buddhists. There is a temple of Goddess Bhagwati near the Mai Pokhari.

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The Mai Pokhari is also enlisted in the Ramsar Site: the wetlands of international importance. The pond is a home for numerous species like Orchid, Porcupine, goldfish, leopard cat, water Lilly, white-rumped vulture, and others. Also, there is a Mai Pokhari Botanical Garden which has a rock garden, orchid house, a greenhouse and many species of plants that are collected from various parts of the country.


Pathibhara Temple

The temple of Pathibhara Devi is a very popular religious site in Illam. But don’t be confused with the Pathibhara in Taplejung district. These both temples are believed to be the sisters and the one on Illam is the younger sister of the Pathibhara Devi temple in Taplejung. This temple is often called as ‘Sano Pathibhara Temple’. The devotees visit the temple with prayers. The devotees make resolutions (Bhakkal) in the temple and offer the goddess with different things.



Sandakpur (3,636 m) is the highest peak in the district of Illam, Nepal and West Bengal, India. The peak is also called Sandakfu or Sandakphu. The western part of the peak lies in the Sandakpur municipality wards no 2 and 4 in Illam district of Nepal. Sandakpur is a trekking destination among the visitors of Illam. Starting from Illam Bazaar, the trial continues along Mai Pokhari, Maimajhuwa, Mabu, Kala Pokhari Bikhe, and Bhyanjyang you will reach to Sandakpur.

Once stepped in Sandakpur, the first thing you will see is the massive and yet beautiful Kanchenjunga mountain smiling at you. Taking a deep breath and admiring the Kanchenjunga for a little while is enough to throw away all the tiredness of the trek. Also, the view of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu are also worth watching from the top.


Kanyam and Fikkal

Kanyam and Fikkal are the large tea producing states in Illam. These places are famous because of the production of the tea inthe last hundred and forty years. Today these places are famous nationally and internationally for the beautiful tea gardens that prevail there. The places are also preferred destination for the locals to go for the picnic, sightseeing and taking photographs. These places also offer the visitors the opportunity to ride a horse under some payment. The Fikkal is more like a business center and is connected to roads that depart for the eastern border to Darjeeling.


Gajurmukhi (Devisthan)

The Gajurmukhi is another renowned religious place in Eastern Nepal. The temple lies in the west of Illam Bazaar. Located at the attitude of 500 m, the temple lies on the bank of the Deumai River at an altitude of 500m. There is a stone cave which is inscribed with the images of the Hindu deities. The cave is about four hours hike from Illam Bazaar.

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The locals have a great faith in the temple. There is a special Puja observed in the Full moon day of Kartik. It is because they believe that the one who worships in the temple will be blessed with a child if they have none. Also, they also believe in various miracles by the temple like the one who cannot speak will be blessed with the voice and many others.

Mai Beni

The Mai Beni is the temple of Lord Shiva situated around 3 km away from Illam Bazaar. The temple is at the junction of rivers Mai Khola and Jogma Khola. The temple especially receives a large number of devotees during the Maghe Sankranti in January every year.

Tea Production in Illam

When we think of Illam, the first thing that comes to our mind is the tea that Illam produces. The production of tea in Illam as Nepal tea started when the Chinese government offered the then Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana with the tea saplings in 1863. The tea saplings were then planted in Illam and a tea factory was established in 1868. The factory is not in operation at present. In 2010, the total the production of Nepal was 16.23 million kg, a majority of which is produced in Illam. The economy in Illam is boosted by the tea plantation and export.

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