A pleasant half-day trip from Ilam is the attractive lake at Mai Pokhari. The 1½-hour jeep trip along a rocky track leads you to this peaceful spot, which was declared a heritage site in 2008. An important pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists, the lake is a striking emerald colour and is covered in water lilies and teeming with goldfish. Surrounded by cone trees and rhododendrons (which bloom in March), it makes for a beautiful stroll, and is home to 300 species of birds.
Your best bet to get here is to catch a jeep or taxi to Biblate (Rs 50), from where you can arrange onward transport to Mai Pokhari. Otherwise it makes for an excellent eight-hour round-trip walk from Ilam.
Some other trips possible from Ilam include the Kanyam Tea Gardens, located 46km from Ilam (taxi Rs 200), where you can visit the tea factory. If you’re getting the bus here, it’s about a 15-minute walk down the hill to the factory. Here you’ll also find a picnic spot popular with groups of merry Nepali teenagers.
Another excellent option is a visit to Sandakpur, on the border with India, where you can watch an incredible sunrise over four of the world’s five highest peaks; it’s also a habitat for red pandas. However, it’s not the easiest place to get to: it involves getting a taxi from Ilam Bazaar to Biblate (Rs 35, 15 minutes), then another taxi for 2½ hours to Khorsanitar (Rs 250 if you’re lucky enough to find a shared taxi; otherwise a privately hired jeep from Ilam to Khorsanitar will cost around Rs 6000 for a special hire). Once you finally get to Khorsanitar it's a six-hour walk to Sandakpur. There are several basic lodges here, and you’ll need to ensure you bring warm clothing.