The north-eastern part of India is a paradise almost unexplored. Comprising the seven states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, this region is a treasure trove of rare and rich ecological systems, an abode of enchanting natural beauty, and a melting pot of diverse ancient cultures and eclectic traditions practised by ancient tribes. You will need to visit each of the seven states in this region to view all these diverse facets. The following discussion of the top 10 things to do on a trip to North-East India would be your ideal travel guide.
10. Go on a Nature Tour in Mizoram
The pristine natural beauty of the north-eastern part of India is largely the result of its remoteness. Many gems of this region are yet to be unearthed and some like the hilly state of Mizoram are yet to be overrun by tourists. And this is precisely the reason why you should head off on a nature tour to this state on a trip to North-East India. Mizoram is a state blessed with spectacular natural vistas—the steep and craggy hills of Champhai, cascading waterfalls like the Vantawang, deep gorges cut open by thunderous rivers, dense bamboo forests, emerald lakes like the Tamdil Lake, and an astonishing and eclectic collection of flora and fauna at the Phawngpui National Park. The beauty apart, a nature tour in Mizoram is an opportunity to soak in the serenity of the place and rejuvenate yourself. The silence here is deafening and the air of peace that surrounds the place is a balm for the senses.
9. Visit Shillong, “Scotland of the East,” in Meghalaya
Mother Nature manifests her myriad facets in the north-eastern part of India. The region is a haven for nature lovers and solitude-seekers and Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya, is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in search of beauty and bliss. Aptly called “Scotland of the East,” Shillong presents yet another mesmerizing face of Mother Nature and one that is a striking contrast to the landscapes in other parts of the region. Shillong dazzles you with stunning waterfalls, gentle hills dotted with dense greenery, verdant rolling valleys, emerald lakes, colorful blooms, and an exotic collection of rare birds. Shillong is a place to experience through your senses and the experience of a visit here is sure to remain etched in your soul.
8. Visit the Royal Monuments of Tripura
Yes, royalty and all that is grand and splendid about it, also reside in this part of the country! It may not be known to many that the state of Tripura is home to a royal culture that is unique to the north-eastern part of India. And this princely culture can best be witnessed in the many royal monuments of Tripura. The Neermahal Palace near Agartala, the capital of the state, is a sterling example in marble and sandstone of the architectural splender that prevailed when kings ruled Tripura. The palace is completely surrounded by the Rudrasagar Lake and is unanimously regarded by experts as one of the finest specimens of the fusion of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles. The spectacular Ujjayanta Palace in Agartala, which now houses the State Assembly, is another must-visit if you want to experience the grandeur of the days of yore.
7. Go on a Tea Tour in Assam
If your idea of bliss is a hot cuppa in the morning with the delicate aroma of fine tea filling up your senses, then you must go on a tea tour in Assam. Visit Dibrugarh, a pilgrimage of sorts for tea lovers all over the world and stay in one of the many tea plantations here. You might just be put up in a bungalow that dates back to a hundred years that is, to those times when a handful of British entrepreneurs commercialized tea cultivation in Assam. These bungalows are surrounded by lush green plantations and a stay here gives you the opportunity to witness life in a tea garden from close quarters. You will have the unique opportunity to visit a tea factory to see what goes into the making of your morning cuppa, pluck tea leaves yourself, and go off on tea-tasting tours to savor the fine tastes and blends that are characteristic of this region. A tea tour in Assam is an absolute must when you are in North-East India simply because nowhere else in this part of the country, is tea a way of life.
6. Visit Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
The remoteness of Arunachal Pradesh has contributed to the development of an eclectic culture that is akin to a kaleidoscope of myriad rich hues. On the one hand, there are the tribes that inhabit the remote reaches of the Himalayas and practice esoteric forms of religion while on the other hand, stands tall the Tawang Monastery, the largest monastery in India, the second-largest in Asia, and the seat of the Lamaistic arm of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.
The monastery presents an imposing sight. Nestled amidst the towering peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, the high walls of the monastery house an extensive collection of scriptures and thangkas, some of which date back to more than 500 years. The walls of the monastery are adorned with exquisite paintings that depict the various stages in the life of the Buddha but clearly, the most fascinating sight is the 8-meter-tall statue of the Buddha in gold. A visit to the Tawang Monastery features in every North-East India travel itinerary simply because nowhere else in this part of the country, can you be enlightened on how Buddhism has shaped the way of life of the people.
5. Take a Boat Ride on Loktak Lake, Manipur
A boat ride on Loktak Lake in Manipur, the largest freshwater lake in the northeastern part of India, is widely considered to be amongst the top five must-dos when touring this part of the country because of the unique and surreally beautiful experience it guarantees. The Loktak Lake is the only lake in the world with floating islands, the latter being made up of decaying vegetables and other organic matter. A boat ride will take you past these islands, some of which are inhabited by local fishermen, and you may even catch them fishing using age-old methods.
The lake presents a beautiful sight with a wide array of colourful aquatic plants dotting the surface of the blue-green water and a languorous boat ride through the channels is a great way to soak in the serene surrounds of one of the most beautiful and unique lakes in India. The Loktak Lake can be easily reached by road from Imphal, the capital of Manipur.
4. Attend the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland
Nagaland is one of the very few states in India that still preserves an eclectic tribal culture where the people practice an age-old way of living and live perfectly in sync with nature. The ancient warrior tribes of Nagaland live in the remote reaches of the Himalayas and their lives have not yet been touched by external influences. The Hornbill Festival, organized by the state government and held every year in the first week of December, is your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the unique cultural traditions of these indigenous tribes.
Witness traditional Naga dances by men and women in colorful costumes and exotic headgear, cheer Naga archers as they showcase their skills, pick up exotic specimens of handicrafts from stalls, sample authentic tribal food and wash it down with a few sips of heady rice beer, and feel yourself being transported into the high hills and dense forests crisscrossed by sparkling emerald streams as you listen to the sonorous beats of the Naga drums at the end of each festival day. A visit to the Hornbill Festival makes it to the list of top five things to do on a trip to North-East India by dint of the rich, exotic, and unique experience that it offers. The festival takes place in the Kisama Heritage Village and you can take a taxi from Kohima, the state capital, to reach the site.
3. Take a Tribal Tour in Central Arunachal Pradesh
The rich cultural diversity of the north-eastern part of India is nowhere more evident than in the traditions, practices, and rituals of the varied indigenous tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Central Arunachal Pradesh is the tribal heartland of the north-eastern part of India, being home to the elusive Apatani, Mishmi, Adi, and Tagin tribes. A tour of their settlements and a peek into their daily lives is an intriguing lesson in how man can live in perfect harmony with nature and be happy. These tribal people follow a lifestyle that is in sync with nature’s rhythms and does not disturb the fragile ecosystem of the region.
Watch the Apatani people practice sustainable agriculture, be fascinated by the strange tales of magic, mystery, and sorcery that have been passed down generations of Mishmi and Adi people through word of mouth, and soak in the spectacular Himalayan scenes of towering peaks, mighty rivers, and expansive valleys while on a tribal tour of Central Arunachal Pradesh.
2. Visit Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh
The ecological diversity of the north-eastern part of India is a prime draw for tourists and wildlife lovers alike and a slice of it is preserved in the remote wilderness of Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh. Scientists and conservationists from all over the world unanimously consider this region in the Himalayan foothills as one of the most ecologically diverse regions in India. The park spans a humongous 1,985 square kilometers and the gradient covers a wide range, from a low-lying 200 meters to a dizzying 4,500 meters. The forested grasslands of this park house a number of rare and critically endangered animals like snow leopard, cat leopard, clouded leopard, tiger, Himalayan black bear, musk deer, red panda, flying squirrel, slow loris, and hoolock gibbon. The park is also home to the very rare white-winged wood duck and a host of other colorful species of birds.
The Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the last few places in India where Mother Nature is at her pristine best. The wilderness here is a balm for the soul while the opportunity to watch an amazing variety of flora and fauna is one that no ardent nature lover should miss. The sanctuary can be easily reached by road from Dibrugarh or Tinsukia in Assam and the best time to visit is from October to April.
1. Visit Kaziranga National Park, Assam
The remoteness of the northeastern part of India has contributed to the growth and preservation of rare ecological systems where exotic species of flora and fauna thrive. The Kaziranga National Park in Assam is one such cradle of Mother Nature that is famous for being home to the largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses and rare Indian elephants in the world. The vast wilderness of the park is also home to 10-odd endangered mammalian species like a panther, tiger, hoolock gibbon, and bear; over 300 species of birds that include some that migrate to the park from Siberia; and a large number of reptiles like the Indian python and king cobra.
A visit to the Kaziranga National Park tops any list of the 10 must-dos in northeast India simply because it not only gives you the chance to watch some of the rarest mammals on earth in their natural habitats but also appreciate the delicate ecological balance in the region that sustains varied life forms. The Kaziranga National Park is easily accessible by road from Guwahati, the state capital, and Jorhat, the nearest airport. The best time to visit the park is between the months of November and April.
While it is true that the vast expanse of North-East India with its many remote regions cannot be taken in its entirety, the above-mentioned 10 activities will surely give you a taste of the many flavors of this enchanting and exotic corner of India.