If you are considering a trip to the northeastern part of India, here is a guide to North East packages
North East India is a region least explored, most mysterious and arguably the most beautiful parts of the Indian subcontinent. It opens its doors to pristine natural beauty, rare and endangered wildlife and plant species, rich ethnic diversity and unique tribal cultural heritage. The geography of the area is as varied as its people. While the famous one-horned Asian rhinos graze peacefully in Kaziranga’s grasslands beside the mighty Brahmaputra River in Assam, waterfalls thunder down the forested hills and valleys of Meghalaya, and snowy peaks of the Himalayas dominate the northern landscape of Arunachal Pradesh as well as of Sikkim. Winding mountain roads and bamboo forested hills characterise Mizoram’s landscape while the rolling hills and valleys run throughout Nagaland.
Indulging in outdoor activities such as trekking or river rafting in your North East trip
will prove to be a rare encounter with the wilderness. Every step is a whole new world bursting with life.
A trekking trip in North East is one of the most sought-after outdoor activities traversing the unknown terrains of dense forests of Arunachal Pradesh or the higher ranges of Nagaland and Meghalaya. Walking around open fields and valleys carpeted with beautiful wildflowers for serious trekkers and nature lovers in the Dzukou Valley of Nagaland. The living root bridge trek in Meghalaya is a moderate trekking trail that takes you to these strong root bridges formed naturally, and also offers an opportunity to see the cleanest village in Asia known as Mawlynnong. The trekking trails of Namdapha National Park in Arunachal will take you to the wild frontiers and through dense rainforest, and a glimpse into the rich biodiversity as well as the life of the tribespeople. Getting spectacular views of Kanchenjunga and Everest peaks as you walk through fir trees is possible at Sandakphu trek at an elevation of 11,929 feet, in Sikkim.
The mighty Brahmaputra River passing through the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (where it is known as Siang) is a great venue for this water sport. The adventure starts in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tuting town and ends in Pasighat. In Assam, you can choose Manas National Park and Jia Bhoroli River in Nameri National Park. When in Sikkim do not miss water rafting on the icy cold waters of Teesta and Rangit rivers. For top-level rapids, go for Subansiri River in Arunachal Pradesh, which originates in Tibet.
What is so mesmerising about North East India is the presence of age-old ancient caves hidden under the undulating hills of Meghalaya. It is home to the longest natural cave in India known as Krem Liat Prah with a length of 1,01,565 feet, nearly three times that of Mt. Everest. You can find mysterious caves in Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills. These complex and mysterious caves hold many secrets of millions of years of history. While some caves contain a teeming flora and fauna, some have fossils of dinosaurs and ancient marine animals. Take a local guide and head to the tourist-popular Mawsmai cave, a rugged limestone cave in Cherrapunjee; it is one of the oldest and easily accessible caves in the region.
When in the North East, don't miss camping in the wild, under the trees or beside a river. Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh are the most popular camping destinations in this part of India. Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland is a buzzing camping destination with the arrival of the various music events and cultural festivals like Ziro music festival, NH7 Weekender, Hornbill festival, etc. With waterfalls aplenty, streams, plateaus and lakes, Meghalaya is ideal for camping too.
The endless mountain peaks dotting the majority of landscape in the North East provide an excellent and endless scope for mountain climbing. The mountain terrain of the region is comprised of snow-covered peaks, lush green mountains and rocky patches. And as easy as easy as it may seem to reach them, but they are quite challenging. There are numerous institutes in places like Arunachal Pradesh and that offers courses in mountaineering. Some of the best places for scaling the mountains are Sikkim’s Kanchendzonga or Kanchenjunga at a staggering height of 28,169 feet, the Dibang Valley and Gorichen Peak (22,500 feet) in Arunachal Pradesh, and Sandakphu (5000 feet) in Darjeeling.
National park visits
The North East India is blessed with a large number of national parks and sanctuaries offering travellers many wildlife and bird-spotting opportunities. You can see some rare and endangered species, which are not found elsewhere like the one-horned rhinos of Assam or the Sangai deer of Manipur.
Kaziranga National Park:
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga National Park in Assam is the proud habitat of the world’s two-third population of one-horned rhinos. An encounter with a one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park is highlight of any North East trip
. It is located in the Golaghat, Nagaon and Karbi Anglong districts of the state along the plain valleys of the River Brahmaputra. Take a guided jeep safari tour and chance upon the elusive tigers and leopards. Escorted nature walks can also be organised inside the park. The park opens for visitors from November to April every year.
Manas National Park:
Another World Heritage-listed park in the North East is Manas National Park, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas in Assam sharing borders with Bhutan in the north. The park is home to some of the largest population of wild water buffalo. Endangered and endemic wildlife species such as Assam roofed turtle, Assam rabbit, golden langur and pygmy hog also inhabit this park.
Namdapha National Park:
Being one of the largest national parks in India, Arunachal’s Namdapha National Park houses a rich variety of flora and fauna. It is located in the far east corner of the state near the border of Myanmar. The native wildlife include population of big cats such as leopards, snow leopards, tigers, and bird species including Jungle fowls, Indian hornbills, White bellied herons, Blue-naped pitta and Snowy-throated babblers.
Keibul Lamjao National Park:
Located 52 km from the capital city Imphal, the Keibul Lamjao National Park in Manipur is a unique floating marshland called ‘phumdis’. It is the only floating national park in the world. The park is also home to the rare and endangered brow-antlered deer called ‘sangai’, which is also the state animal. Also known as the dancing deer, this deer species has been an inspiration for Manipur dance traditions.
Travellers seeking a rendezvous with the unique northeastern culture, festivals undoubtedly makes for a great retreat offering an unmatched spectacle of traditional folk dances, religious rituals and ceremonies, modern musical events for that matter and of course a lifetime opportunity to taste some delicious cuisine of the region. The rich cultural heritage comes alive through song, dance and celebration during these festivals, which are associated with the harvest, religious as well as music and culture. Consider adding some of these festivals to your North East packages
for a memorable North East trip.
Named after the Indian Hornbill bird enshrined in the Naga folk culture, the colourful Hornbill Festival spans for ten days and is held in Nagaland at the Naga Heritage Village in Kisama, 12 km from the capital city of Kohima. The ten-day festival is organised in the first week of December. Witness lively dance, music, food, games and tribal cultural heritage. Browse the stalls with sale and display of local tribal handicrafts.
The major festival of Assam, Bihu also called ‘Rongali Bihu’ mark the arrival of spring, which is also the Assamese New Year. There is an air of festivity throughout the state, and the youth, old and young alike have dance competitions. People celebrate with songs, dance and feasts. Watch the colourful orchids called ‘kopou’ in full bloom during this time, which are also used as hair accessories by the women during the Bihu dance.
Ziro Music Festival:
Held in the lush green natural setting of the Ziro Valley in central Arunachal Pradesh, Ziro Music Festival is a four-day outdoor music festival. Camp under the stars as you attend the lively concerts performed by musical talents of North East as well as overseas. Take this opportunity to visit the Apatani tribal people who inhabit the valley and are known for their warm hospitality and their efforts to conserve nature. Visiting tribal homes is one of the highlights of North East tour packages
An annual urban music festival, considered to be one of the largest music festivals in South Asia, NH7 Weekender Shillong edition features Indian indie, and global artists of rock, funk, electro and more genres assemble to perform on various stages. It is a three-day festival held in October.
The spring festival of Manipur, Yaoshang is Manipur’s version of Holi where locals, whether young or old, apply colours on each other. Observed for five days in March, the main attraction of this festival is the Thabal Chongba folk dance. Boys and girls form a circle and dance to the rhythmic beating of drums and other musical instruments.
Considered to be one of the most important festivals of Sikkim, Losoong is the Sikkimese New Year. Wearing colourful masks, Buddhist monks perform the acrobatic Cham dance. Cultural events take place in monasteries like Phodong, Rumtek and the palatial Tsuglagkhang Royal Chapel and Monastery. Best observed in rural Sikkim, the event also sees archery competitions.
Northeastern cuisine represents an exotic blend of appetising dishes with regional differences and various cultural influence. The cuisine is more inclined towards rice, fish, meat and lots of vegetables; use of a variety of chilli pepper (one of them being the very hot ‘bhoot jolokia’) and a wide variety of local herbs and shrubs is common across all states. Each state also loves their locally made beers. Cooked with minimal ingredients and using the simplest methods, the food stimulates your taste buds. For the people of Assam, rice with tangy fish gravy prepared using local exotic vegetables is comfort food. Majority of dishes in Meghalaya is made using meat. ‘Jadoh’ a rice and pork meat dish is one of their much-loved meals. The people of Nagaland prefer their food, mostly including fish or meat that is smoked, dried or fermented. Tripura is essentially non-vegetarian too, and dishes prepared with fish top their menu. The Sikkimese traditional food consists of momos, thukpa or gya thuk, churpi, gundruk, sela roti, etc., most of them are influenced by Tibetan, Chinese, Bhutanese and Nepalese cuisine. Rice, fish, meat and bamboo shoots are the staples of Mizoram, and Manipuri’s love their fermented dry fish dish called Iromba; fish constitutes a major part of cuisine in the state.
Places to visit in the North East India :
Imagine spending a few days at a sprawling tea garden of Assam. Tea tourism in Assam is popular among foreign tourists and expats. Stay at a heritage British-era bungalow, take a stroll of the tea estate, meet the garden workers and pluck your own tea leaves. Village walks and tea factory visits will give you insight into the lives of the people there as well as about the tea processing in the factory where some of the world’s best teas are produced. The Wild Mahsheer Tea bungalow in Sonitpur district, Thengal Manor Bungalow and Kaziranga Golf Resort in Jorhat region, and Chowkidinghee Chang Bungalow and Mancotta Chang Bungalow in Dibrugarh town have been extensively adding to the growth of tea legacy in North East India and the world over. Another popular tea destination is Darjeeling, which welcomes visitors with a refreshing sea of green high on the rolling hills with cool breeze and misty weather. You will love staying at the Glenburn Tea Estate, an hour and a half from Darjeeling town, with spectacular views of the mountains and the green tea gardens.
Far away from the chaotic life, Majuli island is a beautiful nature’s retreat in the middle of the mighty Brahmaputra River. The only worry is that this island is slowly losing shrinking landmass during flood every year. Majuli is accessible only by ferry ride from the town of Neamati Ghat about 12 km from the nearest main city of Jorhat. Assam’s former cultural capital, Majuli’s main attraction are the Satras (monasteries) where you will see unique Neo-Vaishnavite culture founded some 600 years ago. These satras are not just monasteries, but centres of traditional performing arts. Also, watch the traditional mask-making at Samaguri Satra and the handmade pottery making, where no wheel is used to make one. Bird watching is another popular thing to do on this island.
Steeped in closely-guarded secrets the ancient and mythical Kamakhya temple on the Nilachal hills of Guwahati in Assam celebrates the power of fertility in women. There is no idol of Goddess Kamakhya in the temple complex, but she is worshiped in the form of female genitalia of stone. A natural spring flows over it, and every year in June the temple closes down for three days (these days darshan is not allowed) when the water turns red marking the yearly menstruation course of the goddess. The famous Hindu Ambubachi Mela is also celebrated at this time and devotees from all over India come to seek blessings of the goddess.
Second only to Potala Palace in Tibet, the Tawang monastery is India’s largest Buddhist monastery. The three-storey gompa (monastery) is situated at an elevation of 10,000 feet looking out onto snow-capped mountains and coniferous forest. Tawang Monastery is a must-see place in your Arunachal Pradesh trip. Just five km south from the town of Tawang, Urgelling monastery is the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama.
A glacial lake in the eastern part of Sikkim, Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake 38 km from Gangtok and at an altitude of 12,400 feet is a must on every traveller’s itinerary for their northeast trip. A two-hour journey from the city of Gangtok journeying through the winding road, rugged mountain terrain and cliffs lead you to Tsomgo. You will also enjoy a ride on the colourfully decorated yaks available at the lake site.
The tallest plunge waterfall in India at 1,115 feet, the Nohkalikai Falls is a major tourist attraction in Cherrapunjee, one of the wettest places on earth. Monsoon is the ideal time to watch this beauty plummeting in its full might into the emerald plunge pool. A trip to North East India would probably be incomplete without including these natural wonder in your North East packages
. The falls derives from a heart-rending local legend of how a young mother named Likai jumped off the cliff of the fall devastated when she found out that her new husband, envious of the attention Likai showed on the baby and not him, had served her a meal cooked of her own baby.
Access and permits to visit North East
The regions of North East India may be opening up for tourism; however, regulations can change according to the current state of security. Visitor permits are required for states like Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland. You can get these permits arranged through a tour operator or issued by the authorities of respective State Government office with offices in major cities of the country.
For domestic tourists:
Indian nationals require Inner Line Permit (ILP) for Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur. In the case of Mizoram, tourists travelling by road will need an ILP to pass through Nagaland, while those arriving by air can get a permit on arrival. ILPs for Arunachal can also be obtained online.
For international tourists:
Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are two states that require a foreign visitor to obtain Restricted or Protected Area Permits (PAP) before entry to each state. Foreign tourists visiting Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram must register themselves at the Foreigner Registration Office within 24 hours of arrival.
Best time to visit North East India
It is the winter season that makes for the best time to visit North East
, which starts November and ends in April. Although the higher altitude regions of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland get very cold in December, and winter fog can disrupt journeys. Assam and Tripura has mild winters. The average temperature ranges from 15 to 20 degree Celsius. It rains heavily from May to September, particularly in Arunachal, Assam and Meghalaya and Assam. Certain parts like the flat valleys of the Brahmaputra and other low lying areas of the region are flooded during heavy rains. It is also a low season and can land you off-season discounts in Kaziranga, Manas and the parts of Arunachal, Nagaland and Assam. Summer temperature ranges between 10 degree Celsius in the higher altitude areas to 25 degree Celsius in the lower lying areas.
How to reach North East India
Main airports in the northeast are located in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura having direct flight connectivity from Kolkata as well as Delhi. Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport of Guwahati in Assam is well connected to major cities of India such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Kochi, etc. through airlines including AirAsia India
, Air India, GoAir
, IndiGo and Vistara. You can also reach Manipur’s Imphal Airport from Delhi, Guwahati, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune and other cities via Air India, IndiGo and Air Asia India. Arunachal doesn’t have an airport, and the closest is Assam’s Lilabari Airport is nearest to central Arunachal; Tezpur Airport is the closest to Western Arunachal; and Dibrugarh Airport is closest to the eastern part of the state.
Train is another convenient way to reach several parts of the North East. Assam and Arunachal Pradesh has good train connectivity to Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru. Train like Rajdhani Express, the Brahmaputra Mail and North East Express run from Delhi to North East. Mizoram and Meghalaya do not have any rail links and Guwahati is the nearest railway station to further reach these states in a car. To reach Sikkim, one has to take a train to Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, and then drive further ahead, and while Kumarghat Railway station is the entryway to Tripura by train.
North East India is connected through roadways via National Highways 31, 37, 38 and 40, which connects Assam to the rest of India. There are many buses that ply from Siliguri in West Bengal to Sikkim and Assam, and further you can connect to the other states of the North East from Guwahati by bus, car or self-drive.