Northeast India: Best places to visit for the Discerning Tourist

Author: G Vijay Iyer
Date: 2020-09-29

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When you ask anybody about the best places to visit in India, they will unanimously talk about the Golden Triangle and places like Rajasthan and Kerala. However, a small and growing percentage of the population will surely direct you to look to the Northeast of India as one of the trending places to visit in our country.

The Northeast region of India shares most of its boundary internationally with neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet and enjoys a sub-tropical to an Alpine geography. A narrow stretch of land from West Bengal connects the rest of India to this unique conundrum of tribes and languages and cultural ethnicity, which has been somewhat rightfully coined by the Ministry of Tourism as the ‘Paradise Unexplored.’ The 7 states that make up this region are also best known as the 7-sister states, each having tantalizing places to visit and explore. Most of Northeast India today is connected well by roads and air and limited rail connectivity. It is easy to travel to and once you reach there, a different pace of life takes over.

MANIPUR

Start with the best of this region by a visit to the pristine state of Manipur. The name Manipur literally means the ‘Land of hidden Jewels’ and rightfully so. It is the best place to explore untouched natural beauty as well as visit the birthplace of modern game of Polo and Ras Leela. Manipur is also equally esteemed for its unique ecological system of Loktak lake, the only floating National Park in the world.  If all of this does not seem the reason to beckon a traveler, then Manipur is also a gastronome’s delight. Its unique cuisine drawn from influences of Sino-Tibetan, South East Asia and Central Asia is as refreshing as the Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.

The best way to start is by a visit to the Kangla area, which was the seat of royalty up until the British invasion. Today, this 238 acre area houses, relics, burial places, temples like the Hijagang and Govindjee, the royal palace, and many other places which one can visit to best know the historical imprints of Manipuris. Other places of historical significance to India and to the world are the War cemetery at Imphal (Indo-British-Japanese war), The Indo-Japanese Peace Memorial at Maibam (3 memorials for the fallen heroes of India, Britain and Japan), and the INA War Museum at Moirang (The place where the tricolor was first hoisted in India). Talking about history and culture of India, there is one Indian game that was birthed in Manipur, the game of Polo which was very famous with the Maharajas of India and equally with the British when they invaded India. You can still witness a game of Polo with a visit to the Imphal Polo ground.

The most visited or as some say, the best place to visit for a peaceful and tranquil experience is definitely the Loktak lake. Spread over an area of 280 sq.kms, Loktak, is home to over 700 species of birds, animals and aquatic life. The place and its surrounding is also known to be part of the Keibul Lamjao National Park (the only floating National park in India, and hence a must visit). The ‘floating’ title comes from phumdis (floating island like vegetation) that are interspersed throughout the lake on which the elusive Indian Sangai (dancing deer) can be seen prancing about on. Locals make interesting handicrafts from the water hyacinths growing here which one can purchase as keepsakes. Another interesting place to visit is Willong Khullen, a small village on the border of Nagaland, which is visited for the more than hundred numinous monoliths that cover a field at the mouth of the village. Nobody knows about the origin of this or why they stand but can be best described as having its own eerie charm. Other must visit places include the Ema Keithel or Khwairamband Bazaar (Mother’s market), which is the only market in India run solely by women. You even visit an international place for a few hours by visiting Moreh, a town located on this international border which allows Indians to go into Tamu, the commercial centre of Myanmar and get the best bargains. Tourists are allowed to make this visit for a few hours only and then come back. The best time to visit Manipur is between October and March each year.

Know more about Places of interest in Manipur, India:

Best places to visit in Imphal, Manipur India

Best places to visit around Imphal, Manipur India

Best places to visit in West Imphal, Manipur India

Best places to visit in East Imphal, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Ukhrul, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Andro, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Thoubal, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Longpi, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Senapati, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Bishnupur, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Loktak, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Churachandpur, Manipur India

Best places to visit in Tamenglong, Manipur India

ASSAM

The state of Assam is the most popular being a commercially important trading centre since ancient times and equally famous for one of the best teas produced in India. It also sees the most tourist footfalls among all other places in this region.  Among the best places to visit here is the Kaziranga National Park, a well-recognized UNESCO world heritage site. This is the best place to view the endangered one-horned rhino. What you may not know is that Assam is also home to the smallest and largest inhabited river islands in the world which you can visit by a ferry ride.

Majuli is also home to a unique art-centre called Natun Samaguri Satra which is a collective of Vaishnavites and tribal fishing communities who pride themselves in handcrafted masks, theater performances, and pottery. One can also choose to visit the village of Salkuchi which is best known for traditional weaves and keepsakes that you can buy. The best time to visit Assam is between October and April each year. If visiting around 14th of April, you can witness the celebration of Rongali Bihu.

MEGHALAYA

Meghalaya, which translates into Abode of the clouds is dotted with innumerous waterfalls and its rolling highlands are the reason its capital Shillong is also known as the Scotland of the East. Of the many interesting places to visit in the Northeastern state of Meghalaya, Cherapunjee is a must visit. At one time the wettest place on earth, this region houses the famous Living –root bridges and its best attraction Mawylong village, dubbed as the cleanest village in Asia. One can also chose to visit the Mawsmai caves or even Nartiang village in Jowai district, which is the place where you will see a series of monoliths scattered around with a folktale attached to it’s origin. 

Krem Liat Prah is the longest natural cave in South Asia and this place is located in the Shnongrim Ridge of the East Jaintia Hills. Its current length is estimated at about 34 kilometers but is likely to be more, as more places inside it are explored. It is the best place to visit if you love caving. Its dominant feature is an enormous trunk passage which is called the Aircraft Hangar. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is also a place visited by musicians around the globe and is acclaimed for its local artists. The best time to visit Maghalaya is between March and June each year.

TRIPURA

The erstwhile kingdom of Tripura, the third smallest state in India is made immortal in the literary works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The origin of the name Tripura has many theories but the closest is ‘Land near water’ or ‘Land of the Lunar people’.  It is one of the oldest princely states of India and its rulers claim to have descended from King Yayati of Lunar dynasty, who finds mention in the epic Mahabharata too. It shares its border with Mizoram and Assam and internationally with Bangladesh. The state is steeped in rich cultural heritage in the form of palaces and temples, and offers stunning vistas of verdant expanses and rock features steeped in mystery. The best place to start off with your travel here is at Agartala, the capital of Tripura and also the second largest city of Northeast India. 

Popular places to visit are the Neer Mahal (or Water palace) situated on Lake Rudrasagar, at about 53 kms from the city centre. The best way to get to the palace is to take a boat ride and reach the magnificent palace modeled using Hindu and Mughal architecture. Another marvel is the once royal residence of the Manikya dynasty, the Ujjayanta Palace, which is now a museum consisting of 22 galleries showcasing art, culyture, and heritage of this region. The palace also houses the Jagannath Bari, a 19th century temple which is also frequented by devotees and tourists alike. Another place drawing tourists is the Heritage Park that sprawls across 4 hectares of land and houses miniature replicas of popular tourist destinations across Tripura. Among other places Unakoti (meaning one less than a Crore), situated about 290 kms from Agartala, is one not to miss.

It involves a bit of trekking but you are greeted by the sight of innumerable rock-cut carvings depicting Hindu gods and goddesses which date back to 7 to 9 AD etched into the vivid green hillsides. Want to experience a festival? Then head to the Jampui hills during Sep-Dec each year when the best oranges of this district are ready for harvest and be a part of the Orange festival that takes place in the Sabual village. This region also offers many trekking and boating activities that you can choose from. The best time to visit Tripura is between October and May each year.

MIZORAM

The next destination in the Northeast of India is the beautiful state of Mizoram which simply translates to 'the land of the hill people'. This picturesque state dotted with highlands, valleys and uncharted forests makes it one of the best places to visit and explore in this region. It shares its international border with the countries Bangladesh and Myanmar giving it a ethnic diversity influenced by both the places. Aizawl is the largest city of Mizoram and is also the capital of this place. It is the best place to begin your visit to Mizoram. A few of the popular places to visit here is the Solomon’s Temple (a large church constructed in 1996 in indigenous style of the Mizos), The Mizoram State Museum  with exhibits on the rich heritage, tribal customs, clothes, utensils, and a glimpse into the culture of the Mizos. A visit here is the best way to learn more about Mizoram’s colorful past. If you wish to connect to nature, head towards Hmuifang hill for a mesmerizing view of virgin forests or visit the Phawngpui, or the Blue Mountain, which is the highest peak in Mizoram. Dubbed as the ‘House of Gods’, this charming hill station  filled with an array of orchids, rhododendron flowers, and other exotic flora and fauna; is one of the best must-visit places in Mizoram.

Vantawang Falls is the most spectacular waterfall here. The best time to visit here, however, is during the monsoons, to see it in all its glory. Another interesting place to visit is the Dampa Tiger Reserve which was so declared in 1994 and is home to the Indian tiger and other wild animals such as the Indian Python, leopards, barking deer, slow loris, and many more. Khuangchera Puk is  cave is the longest cave in Mizoram with a length of around 162m and is located in a place called Ailawng near Reiek. It is the best place to explore caving in Mizoram. An interesting modern day attraction here for the culture enthusiast is the Mizo Hlakungpui Mual, a monumental square built in 1986 to honor Mizo poets. It is said to have been modelled after the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey of England. The best time to visit Mizoram is from November to March each year. In fact, if you visit here during spring time, then you can also witness the Chapchar Kut, a spring festival celebrated with much pomp and show.

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Arunachal Pradesh is the northeastern-most state of the country which literally translates to the ‘land of dawn-lit mountains’.There are so many places to visit in Arunachal Pradesh and many things to do here. This beautiful state is bordered by Assam and Nagaland nationally internationally by Bhutan, Myanmar and China. The lush green hills, dense forests, rich culture, fresh water bodies and the least traveled and reached places attract tourists from all around the world.

Two of the many popular places in this state are the capital city Itanagar and the beautiful Tawang. Tawang locally pronounced as ‘Dawang’ is a town of monastic settlement in Arunachal Pradesh that is situated at an elevation of approximately 3,048 meters (10,000 ft) to the east of Bhutan. It is beautiful town and is not very populated. There are many beautiful monasteries in Tawang and many places that you can visit with bewitching sceneries which adds on to the beauty of the state and helps in making your trip to Arunachal Pradesh wonderful. Sela Pass in Arunachal Pradesh is the lifeline of the state since it is the only way that connects Tawang to rest of the country. This place will take your breath away. Pangin is a small peaceful town in Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh which is about 60 kilometers from Pasighat This place stands at a point where the blue river Siyom meets green river Siang. This is one of the most visited places in Arunachal Pradesh. The best time to visit Arunachal Pradesh is between April and June each year, though the place is pleasant to visit round the year.

NAGALAND

The northeastern state of Nagaland, also called the land of the Nagas, is yet to be fully explored by travelers.  This state is filled with virgin forests and pristine locales that will leave you wanting more. The most visited and the best place for instagrammable shots here is the emerald green Dzukou Valley. It shares its border with Assam, Arunchal Pradesh, Manipur, and internationally with Myanmar. The best place to start off your tour with me at Dimapur, the commercial centre of Nagaland as well as a place enrobed in deep history as well. One of the places you can visit here is the archeological site of the Kachari ruins, reminiscent of the Dimasas which is spread across the city. Next you can get your adrenaline pumping by a visit to Kohima, the hilly capital of this state which is the base for visits to the Japfu peak (the highest peak in Nagaland) and of course, a visit to the famous Dzukou valley which offers ample choices when it comes to camping, hiking, or trekking. Kohima also has its bit of history attached to it. One can visit the Kohima War Cemetery dedicated to the thousands of Japanese soldiers who were martyred during the second World War. Another interesting place, which is at best a mere 20 km away from the city centre is the Khonoma village, which is touted as the first green village of India. It is home to serene greenery and undulating hills rich in flora and fauna. In fact this is where you can sight the endangered Blyth's Tragopan, which is the state bird. This entire region is an idyllic place for nature lovers and wild photographers. Another region famous for birding is Mon, also home to a few of the ethnic tribes of Nagaland, is a place which is a perfect blend of nature and culture experiences. No trip to Nagaland is complete without witnessing the colorful tribal festivals admist breathtaking backdrops of rolling hills colored with blooming rhododendrons. This is Mokukchung, also home to the oldest tribes in Nagaland.

Your trip to Nagaland is incomplete without a visit to the picturesque hills and the tribal festivals in Mokukchung. The Rhododendrons (in Longkhum) situated on top of the hills know exactly how to enrapture your soul and make you crave for more. However, if you have had enough to do with nature all this while, you can head over to the villages here that house some of the oldest tribes of Nagaland. Another place that allows close observation of the tribal culture is the town of Kiphire, situated about 250 kms from Kohima. Here one can observe, learn and indulge in the culture and traditions of the Sangtam, Yimchunger, and Sema tribes of Nagaland. Not to forget the awesome food and variety of smoked meats that they are famous for. If that does not motivate you, the beauty of Mount Saramati will surely captivate you. Although there is no best time to come here, as Nagaland remains accessible throughout the year with pleasant climate, (apart from the rains), the best time to visit Nagaland for festivals and more is between May and September each year.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and we have tried to cover a few gems in the name of the best places to visit in Northeast India, but there are many more. We believe the best opinion is formed from actually travelling, and we hope this entices you to pack your bags and head for the hills.

Here are the best packages curated for adventure enthusiasts and culture seekers alike. These are designed t explore the best of Manipur and its neighbouring states:

The best culture tour in Manipur

The best Battlefield Tour Package through Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam

The best way to explore Manipur

The best tour of Manipur in 96 hours

The best of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Nagaland

Tour of the Dawn Lit Mountains

 The best Vaishnavite PilgrimageTour

If you have enjoyed reading about this region, here are a few more articles for you to learn more about Northeast India:

States of Northeast India

Straying Off The Regular Tracks: Tourist Places In Northeast India

Unique state animal of Northeast India

Amazing tourist places in Northeast India

India's Eastern Reach: The 8 Spectacular States of Northeast India

The 'incredible India' of the Northeast: ' Mysterious Paradise'

Portraits of Indians from the Northeast Region – Incredible India

9 Pictures of Happy Travellers in Scenic Locations in the NorthEast of India

8 Awesome Spots for Fishing Enthusiast in Northeast India

Explore The Beauty Of Northeast India

 

Travel Tips on Places to visit in Northeast India:

Tips to Remember before taking a tour to Northeast India

List of Top 6 Must Visit Travel Destinations in Northeast India

Northeast India Tourism Guidelines

All NorthEast India Excursion

Read More about the best places to visit in Northeast India:

Best places to visit in Northeast India: Discover Meghalaya

Tourist places in northeast India: Discover Nagaland

Nagaland during festivals: best time to visit northeast India

The Best time to visit northeast India - Nagaland

Imphal - a bustling city in northeast India home to different ancient tribes

Mawlynnong – Asia’s Cleanest Village located in Northeast India

The best of Manipur tourist places

Best time to visit Meghalaya - A comprehensive guide

10 Best Tourist Places In Nagaland

Enchanted Shillong: The Best Time to visit Shillong

Escape to the 8 states of Northeast India

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Must try food from Northeast India

Taste of Northeast India 




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