BIRATNAGAR (pop. 130,000) is an industrial center in the Terai. Nepal’s first large-scale industry, Biratnagar Jute Mills, was set up here in 1936. Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (90-minute drive) is a bird watching spot. The Koshi Barrage on the Koshi river (two-hour drive) is an impressive sight. Biratnagar is the hub of air routes in eastern Nepal. (Temperature 8-39 degrees Celsius.)
DHANKUTA (pop. 17,000) is 52 km north of Dharan. It is a charming hill town of cobbled streets and white-washed houses populated by Rais, Limbus and Newars. The villages to the north are starting points for treks to Makalu and Kanchenjunga. An excursion to Hile, 13 km north, is an opportunity to view the eastern Himalaya. Basantapur (elev. 2,200 m) is a large bazaar 35 km north of Dhankuta. It is situated on a ridge above Tanmaya Khola, and offers a view of the entire Kanchenjunga range. The road continues north up to Terhathum. (Temperature 5-30 degrees Celsius.)
ILAM (pop. 13,200) is a hill town 83 km north of the intersection at Birtamod on the East-West Highway. Ilam is known for its tea gardens. Sacred sites include Mai Pokhari, where pilgrims take holy dips on Haribodhini Ekadasi (Oct.-Nov.), Maibeni which attracts ritual bathers on Makar Sankranti (Jan.) and Gajurmukhi where a fair is held on the Kartik full moon day (Oct.-Nov.). A number of hilltops around Ilam offer views of the Himalaya. The road winds north to Phidim (68 km) and on to Taplejung where there is an airport. Taplejung is the trailhead to Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. Limbus and Lepchas are the main ethnic groups here. (Temperature 6-31 degrees Celsius.)
Kakarbhitta, Nepal Kakarbhitta lies on the Nepal-India border at the eastern end of the 922-km long East-West Highway. From Kathmandu, it is a 610-km drive (13 hours). The boundary is marked by the grand Mechi river bridge. On the Indian side, Sikkim’s capital Gangtok is 146 km (a four-hour drive) and Darjeeling is 113 km (three hours).