Most buses to Dhankuta continue as far as HILE, 15km beyond Dhankuta and 750m higher up along the same ridge. This spirited little settlement is one of the most important staging areas in eastern Nepal. Poised over the vast Arun Valley, Hile’s bazaar strip straggles up the often fog-bound ridge, drawing in to trade Tamangs and Sherpas from the west, Newari and Indian traders from the south, and Rais from their heartland of the roadless hillsides all around. The most visible minority group, however, are Bhotiyas from the northern highlands, who run a number of simple lodges. One of the most exotic things you can do in Nepal is sit in a flickering Bhotiya kitchen sipping hot millet beer from an authentic tongba (miniature wooden steins with brass hoops and fitted tops unique to the eastern hills).

The only thing to do in town is browse the bazaar: Hile’s haat bazaar, on Thursday, is lively, but smaller than Dhankuta’s. Most visitors are here to trek, and magnificent views can be had just a half-hour’s walk from Hile – as long as you’re up early enough to beat the clouds. Walk to the north end of the bazaar and bear right at the fork up a dirt lane; after 100m a set of steps leads up to join the Hattikharka trail, which contours around the hill. The panorama spreads out before you like a map: to the northwest, the Makalu Himal floats above the awesome canyon of the Arun; the ridges of the Milke Daada zigzag to the north; and part of the Kanchenjunga massif pokes up in the northeast. Some landowners in this area also cultivate tea: take a look at the Guranse tea estate (w, whose main entrance is just down the road from the bazaar.

For a day-trip, catch a bus to Basantapur, a dank, almost Elizabethan bazaar 21km northeast. En route you get tremendous views of the Makalu massif, while in town you can sample Nepal’s only wine, Hinwa, which is made from berries.

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