Exploring Eastern Nepal is always on one’s bucket list when it comes to traveling. The culture, religion, places, food, and people have their own authenticity there. The Terai of Nepal are the plain lowlands on the southern area of Nepal. Most of these connect Nepal with India and cover a total of 17% area of Nepal. In Nepal, Terai is divided into “outer” and “inner” Terai. The Outer Terai starts from the southern edge of the Siwalik Hills whereas Inner Terai refers to extended valleys lying between the Siwalik Range and the Mahabharat range. These valleys are known as “Duns” and cover most areas of Eastern Terai of Nepal.
Talking about the eastern part of Nepal visiting Illam and tea gardens is a mandatory thing to do. It has lush green hills as far as the eye can see, and is known for its diverse agricultural economy, with tea being a major contributor. The tea gardens in Ilam, which sit at an elevation of about 6000 ft. have truly magical views, which makes Ilaam a place where people want to possibly spend their retired life. There are several things to do in Ilam, wear native clothes of different ethnic groups like Tamang, Magar, Gurung, Brahmin, etc., go on a pony ride, enjoy a picnic with family and friends, go camping, stay at a local homestays, try local delicacies and drinks, etc. Destinations like Kanyam and Shree Antu are quite popular in Ilam for a picnic, sunrise view, homestay, camping, and pony riding.
Shree Antu Danda
Shree Antu, a beautiful homestay destination in Eastern Nepal, famous for the first sunrise hitting Nepal, lies 50 km away from the beautiful Ilam district. The region lets you witness the mind-blowing landscape of Darjeeling, Siliguri, Mirik, and other parts of India and Nepal. Connected to Fikkal via Mechi Highway, Shree Antu boasts of diverse ethnic groups with a significant community of Lapcha. The homestays of Shree Antu allow visitors to delve into a local style, and learn about their food and cultures. While on Shree Antu one can also learn about the Lepcha community of 38 Lepcha families. They use traditional tools and weapons which were once used in the war between Nepal and Tibet, and have their language and lifestyle. Another beauty of Shree Antu is the variety of species of flowers. Locals sell flowers and earn money as well. Different species of Orchid, Godawari, Cactus, Begonia, Cycle-man, Rose, Angelia, Carnation, etc. are available in the gardens of Shree Antu.
Dharan is a popular tourist attraction in and of itself. Dharan boasts several places of worship with such a varied population, including temples, churches, and a mosque. Bijaypur Hill is significant because it has numerous vital temples, including Dantakali temple, Budha Subba Temple, Pindeshwar temple, and Panch Kanya. As well as being religious, these temples are historically and archaeologically significant. Rituals, festivals, and festivities are held at these temples.
Dharan is a Nepali name that translates to “wood sawing location.” A typical Dharan is dug out of a rectangular area that is roughly 5 to 6 feet deep. This hole is vast and deep enough for an adult to move about without difficulty. To cover part of the hole, a platform is built. A piece of lumber is placed on the platform, and a two-person team, one standing on the platform and the other working in the dugout, begins sawing the wood with a massive saw blade. This is a time-consuming and risky technique.
Dharan is a cultural melting pot that represents a blend of Nepal’s different cultures. Many people from the surrounding districts have migrated to Dharan, including Sankhuwasabha, Ilam, Tehrathum, Panchthar, Dhankuta, Taplegung, Bhojpur, Khotang, and others. Throughout the year, many ethnic groups celebrate their unique cultures and celebrations. The Naach (dances) of Limbus’ are Dhan Naach, Chyabrung Naach, and Chasok Tangnam Naach, the Newars’ is Lakhe Naach and Gai Jatra, the Rai’s is Sakela, the Gurungs’ is Rodighar, the Tamangs’ is Selo, the Brahmin and Chhetris’ are Baalan and Sangini, and San.
In Dharan, they conduct a Sakela dance tournament every year. It begins on Baisakh Sukla Purnima (the full moon of the first day of Baisakh month) and goes on for 15 days. A Hindu deity Hanuman’s temple named Panchmuki Balaji Dharan Dham is Dharan’s most important temple dedicated to the monkey god. Its magnificent existence is connected to many myths and stories therefore people visit this temple from all over Nepal and across India (Nepal’s immediate neighbor), including West Bengal, Sikkim, Rajasthan to seek Lord Hanumana’s blessings. Every six months on the day of Purnima (full moon day), mela, a fair is conducted at this temple for Lord Hanuman’s birthday.
16kms away from Dharan, there is a place named “Bhedetar” also spelled “Vedetar” located on the southeastern side of the Dhankuta district that also touches the border of Sunsari district. According to the locals, the name “Bhedetar” was given by the people in the olden days who walked the trails passing this place to go Dharan and Terai region along the hillside before the Koshi Highway was built in this part. Many years ago it was a big expanse (taar), a grazing ground for Sheep (Bheda) that earn its name Bhedetar, Bheda ko tar, (literally Sheep’s butte).
After driving up to the hill of Bhedetar for 23 KM we now have to drive down for 10 KM to reach this naturally gifted place called Namaste Jharna (Jharan means a Fall). This is the perfect place to beat a very sunny day. You can play with nature here. The water is icy cold and the falls are super torrential that you can’t bear the force of it for longer than a couple of seconds. The Tamur River, which runs from Mulghat in Dhankuta district to Chataradham, has been a popular white water rafting destination due to its close vicinity.
Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
And lastly the “Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve”, is the most fascinating place in Nepal’s eastern Terai. It is the wetland area, located in the floodplain of the Sapta Koshi River. The name “Sapta Koshi” is a Sanskrit word that represents seven upper tributaries. These include the Tamur Koshi originating from the Kanchenjunga area in the east, Arun River from Tibet, and Sun Koshi from the Gosainthan area farther west. The Sun Koshi’s tributaries from east to west are Dudh Koshi, Bhote Koshi, Tamba Koshi, and Indravati Koshi. The Saptakoshi crosses into northern Bihar where it branches into distributaries before joining the Ganges near Kursela in the Katihar district of India.
The Koshi Tappu Reserve is about a 90-minute drive from the domestic Airport of the Biratnagar City. Whereas buses from Kathmandu take a minimum of 12 hours to reach there. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is the home to more than 500 species of birds including storks, ducks, geese, eagles, terns, lapwings, and kingfishers. Asian elephant, spotted deer, wild boar, jackal, blue bull, otters, crocodile, alligators, Gangetic dolphins, water buffalo (Arna), snakes, etc. are among the species of mammals that can be seen during the visit. To make the trip further adventurous, a jungle safari either in a jeep or a walk along the forest trail while enjoying bird watching can be done at the wildlife reserve. Other than that boating as well as fishing is also popular. Now a day’s numerous homestays have been established around the villages of the reserve. The local dances and foods are what make you want to stay there for more days.
The Eastern Part of Nepal has many other places to visit and see but the above-mentioned are the most loved places by everyone. The general or best time to visit these places is the Autumn i.e during September, and October or the beginning of the spring i.e the end of February and starting of March. But some of the people also travel during the pre-monsoon season to have a rather different experience at the wildlife reserve.