Ilam’s scenic hills turning into top tourist draws

The number of local and foreign tourists visiting the hill regions of Ilam district has swelled in recent years. The scenic Himalaya and views of the sunrise over the snow peaks are the top visitor attraction here.

There are more than a dozen hilltops in Ilam which have been gaining in popularity as tourist destinations.

Antu Hill, located in the eastern part of the district, is the most popular destination for sightseers for its unmatched views of the sunrise. Other hilltops in the western and northern parts of the district have also been pulling an increasing number of tourists who come to enjoy sunrise and sunset views.

The local people have been making efforts to turn the hilltops into sightseeing destinations. The increase in tourist arrivals to the eastern part of the district is mainly the result of promotional efforts conducted by the Antu Tourism Development Centre.

Meanwhile, visitors are also flocking to scenic spots like Siddhi Thumki Hill in the western part, Sandakpur Hill in the northern part, Thumkey in the northeast and Kanyam to see the sunrise and sunset.

The growth of tourism in the hilly regions has become visible since the end of the Tihar festival. Though arrivals had slumped to some extent during the CA elections, they have bounced back with people coming in droves from Ilam and Jhapa districts. “More than 50 tourists are arriving daily,” said Kamal Ghimire, a local resident.

The area has been developing as a model of rural tourism mainly due to the active participation of locals for the promotion of the sector. Ilam is the land of the rising sun in Nepal.

From the most popular site of Antu, tourists can have a view of the sunrise. Locals have been organising carnivals to attract tourists for the past nine years.

Apart from the sunrise and sunset, Antu Hill gives an opportunity for spectators to have a look at a number of Himalayan peaks and places situated in Nepal and India.

Likewise, the endangered traditional culture of the Lepcha people, improved lifestyle of local communities due to agriculture, commercial flower cultivation and dazzling tea estates are other tourist attractions in Ilam . Tourists can also enjoy boating on Antu Lake, which has added to the attractions here.

“Locals have been encouraged to promote tourism,” said Dhan Kumar Ale, president of the Antu Tourism Development Centre.
“If the concerned stakeholders lend their hand to the initiatives taken by the locals, Antu will be able to strengthen its identity.”

Almost 50 houses in the region have been adapted to provide home stay facilities to attract tourists. The Nageshwori Temple and Gufapatal are other attractions for tourists in the periphery of Antu Hill.

source: ekantipur, 27 NOV 2013

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