Published: 02 Nov, 2019 Abhishek Gurung
Nature’s blessing in abundance – the eight Northeastern states of India. All these states possess a compelling charm that attracts travellers towards it. Come here, and you’ll find yourself inspired by the local customs, savour sugar-less red tea with sweet potato or jaggery, wake up to the sounds of nature, and instead of unlocking your phone, watch the sun rise in the distant horizon. Northeast has always been on our special radar amongst many enthusiastic travellers, but often, doubts arise in our minds with regard to questions like, what are the best places to visit, or is it easy to reach the Northeast part of India? So, to clear your doubts, I have listed down 20 top reasons to visit Northeast India.
And NO! Visas are not required for travelling to any states of the Northeast, although an Inner Line Permit (ILP) is needed for visiting certain parts of it. Check our travel blog on Northeast India to find out the necessary requirements on how to get there.
1. Marvel at the Beautiful Landscape
For it being a less explored destination in India, Northeast has the most stunning landscape that still preserves its original form. Sure, roads cut through the mountains, but the trees, wild ferns and several heaps of mountains are a visual treat to the eye. Most of the Northeastern states have mountainous offbeat destinations and travelling through the hairpin turns and almost cave like mountain edges makes the travel experience worthwhile. Northeast region has some of the best and varied landscape, from the dramatic mountains around Indo-Burma border area to the Meghalaya hills, not to forget the staggering glacial mountains of the northern most Sikkim. Northeast truly is divine.
2. Drive on some of the Adventurous Roads
Roads are the main means of transport in Northeast and the only option for export and import transfers. However, Guwahati in Assam has an international airport. If you want to get to the highest parts of Northeast, the roads can get pretty delirious, especially at the higher altitude. Sikkim is one of the best places to visit in Northeast India if you are looking for adventure. Tsomgo Lake, situated at 1,2310 meters, is located a few kilometres from Gangtok in Sikkim, and the scenic view of the snow-capped mountains makes the journey even better. Also, this state has the best places for nature lovers. Also, if you love a little adventure while on the highway, then you can take a scenic road trip to Zuluk Hamlet in Sikkim, Tezpur to Tawang and Shillong to Cherrapunji.
3. Walk amidst the quiet and lush forest
The Northeastern mountains and the untouched forests are perfect places to rekindle with nature. Exploring Northeast is incomplete without taking a walking tour amid the lush forests. You can find various mountain ranges across the Northeastern states, from Naga Hills to Patkai mountain range, which consists of Patkai-Bum, Lushai and the Garo-Khasi-Jaintia hills. If you are visiting Meghalaya for instance, you can take a sightseeing tour to some of the famous attractions like the Living Root Bridges. The hills of Nagaland also boast scenic valleys where you can head out for picnics and enjoy the company of nature.
4. Experience the Rustic Charm
When I talk about rustic charm, I mean northeast’s charming natural beauty. Probably due to its distance from other parts of India, much of the states in the northeast have not transformed into mega cities. Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh’s glacial mountains and high-altitude lakes have a dramatic appeal amongst thrill seekers who are into adventure. However, visiting Northeast states like Nagaland and Manipur, you’ll find a balanced geography consisting of plains and mountains with both hot and cold climate. The simple towns and villages across these states exude an inviting vibe which is just perfect for a refreshing vacation and detoxification.
5. Be a part of its Unique Culture
Northeast is always in the bucket list of every traveller and it is often considered an amicable destination because of its rare and unique culture. This region traditionally had strong cultural relations with Thailand and Burma. From bizarre eating habits to interesting customary, Northeast intrigues the people from the rest of India. States like Manipur and Meghalaya follow a tradition which is quite opposite to the rest of India. After marriage, instead of a bride leaving her home, grooms leave their home and start living with the bride’s family instead. If you are up for a holiday experience unlike any other, you can witness interesting culture of the Northeasters through various festivals.
6. Meet the Wonderful Tribal People
It is difficult to describe all the tribes across the Northeastern states. Nagaland alone has 16 tribes, Manipur has 29 and Assam has 18 tribes, each with distinct languages. But if you are in Nagaland and excited to meet the tribal people, you can drive to the farthest district and town called Mon. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nagaland, which is home to the last surviving headhunting tribe. This district is ruled by Konyak tribal people, who were known to be experts in headhunting during their ancestral years. Today, they are well-educated and very hospitable people. The best way to witness the cultures, traditions and customs of the different tribes of Northeast is during the famous festival of Nagaland, Hornbill Festival.
7. To Learn New Languages
One of the best things to do while visiting a new place is learning their language. It is amazing to know that all the eight states are different from each other in terms of culture and language, yet they form a massive and interesting destination to visit over all. Due to the presence of many tribes, each with a different language, communication becomes quite difficult at times. Different states have their own way of communicating but to make things fun, it is always good to learn a few phrases. Khasi is the main language used in Meghalaya, Nagamese in Nagaland and Assamese in Assam. The latter two are similar and can be learned easily. The people of Arunachal Pradesh mostly speak Hindi, but it has its own Tani languages. But if you are not good at learning a new language, or are unable to grasp any of the languages, there is nothing to worry, as English is used across the states. Even village kids can somehow manage to speak and guide you to your whereabouts.
8. Witness the mesmerising wildlife
All the Northeastern states boast a rich biodiversity. Assam is the only state that houses the one-horned Indian Rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park. The upper regions of other Himalayan states also have Red Pandas due to their mixed climate, which is suitable for such animals. One of the best ways of making your Northeast India tour exciting is by including wildlife in your itinerary. Make sure to visit some of the best national parks in Northeast like Kanchendzonga National Park in Sikkim, Balphakram National Park in Meghalaya, and Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
9. Dance and Frolic in the Entertaining Festivals
Northeast is considered as a festival tourism destination because it has so many interesting festivals. One of them is Moatsu Mong, which is celebrated for a good harvest. Saga Dawa Festival in Sikkim is also a unique festival which celebrates the three achievements of Gautama Buddha. Lively events like Ziro Festival and Hornbill Festival are much awaited events that occur once a year. These annual events are considered top tourism places for enthusiastic travellers. They involve dance, music and lots of traditional food. Much of these festivals are celebrated either during spring or during the fall season. So if you are planning a trip to the Northeast, make sure you book your tickets keeping in mind the dates of these lively festivals.
10. Savour Gastronomic Mouthwatering Delights
Food is something that we all can relate to and Northeast has a mixture of food accessible almost everywhere. You will find a variety of Northeastern dishes to die for, from Assamese meal Khar to popular Mizo snack Sanpiau and Nagaland’s speciality, smoked pork. Different cities and towns have many cafes and high end restaurant with suitable budget meals. If eating is in your top things to do list, then you can splurge your money savouring Northeastern food at many events and festivals. You can try out different types of meat, snacks, and sweets, and clean your palette with red tea. Even the local people will greet you with a table full of snacks as a welcome customary.
11. Attend some of the hottest Music Events
Let’s face it, no one can organize music festivals like the Northeasterns. Take the the Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh for instance, where you groove to the rhythm on a lush meadow surrounded by nature, and enjoy the delights of camping. This annual event is one of the hottest and liveliest music festivals, apart from Bacardi NH7 Weekender which is held by the Thadlaskein Lake, Meghalaya. With a vivid mix of music from rock to soul, you will have a swell time here. Apart from locals, even international artists like Megadeth, Steve Vai and Steven Wilson have taken the stage by storm in the past.
12. Get touched by the Warm Hospitality
You may have noticed that the Northeasterners are a very hospitable people, right from the time you interact with them. Tourists who visit the cities to attend the festivals are won over by their hospitality. Villages and other interior areas receive very less tourists by comparison. People in Northeast India are very simple and innocent, they may seem reserved at first, but once you talk to them and they open up to you, you’ll be amazed by their hospitality. Their friendliness will shake off any nervousness or reservations you may have. Every local will present you with at least a cup of red tea. If it’s the festive season, instead of tea, you may be presented with local rice beer.
13. Explore some of the iconic Historic Sites
Northeast has come a long way ever since the 19th and early 20th century when the states were established during the British Raj. Although, Northeast is mostly looked upon as a nature destination, it has its own share of history to offer. Today, you can still find many hidden gems of Northeast located around the cities, towns and villages. The state of Assam is home to religious temples and caves dedicated to Gods and Goddess like Rang Ghar in Sivasagar, and Ambari Archaeological Site in Guwahati. Other states like Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are also dotted with several ancient monasteries, amongst them, Ita Fort in Arunachal and Pemayangtse Monastery in Sikkim are some of the oldest. Even Manipur has its own Kangla Fort, which is also an archaeological site.
14. Walk alongside some of the International Borders
Being closer to some of the modern, natural and influential states gives an added benefit to the states of the Northeast. There is a similarity of culture, including food, clothing and even lifestyle of these states, to those of the Southeast Asian countries. Here’s an interesting fact: while it is impossible to cross the borders by foot between Arunachal and China, it is relatively easy to walk pass the borders between Manipur and Myanmar. So much so, that you can literally step one foot in Myanmar and the other in India. There are two exceptionally popular sightseeing places found in Nagaland, one is Longwa Village and the other is the highest peak, Mt. Saramati.
15. Go on a Hiking and Trekking Expedition
Since Northeast is a mountainous destination, hiking is a regular activity for the locals, with tourists also pursuing it enthusiastically during their visit. But for travellers with a lot of endurance, there are many places fit for trekking. If you are wondering, where should beginners go for trekking, Japfu Mountain bordering Nagaland and Manipur can be a perfect place to start. This mountain has one of the best tourist places for trekking- Dzukou Valley. However, you can also take a long trekking expedition, hopping from one village to another to get to the highest peak in Nagaland, Mt. Saramati. The northern Himalayan range is known for some of the most dangerous trekking routes. Some of the most prominent ones are Goecha La Trek, Dzongri Trek, Sandakphu Trek and Kanchenjunga Base Camp Trek, to name a few.
16. Feel Loved in a Homestay Experience
What’s there not to love about homestays? If there is any reason for city folks travelling to the mountains, that is it for some quiet time. Surrounded by scenic nature and misty meadows, all you’ll wish to do is open the window and take in some fresh air and greenery. While you trek, you may come across many homestays in rural parts that offer a local lifestyle. In this part of the country, locals take good care in terms of hygiene and cleanliness, and the food is simply divine. In short, to get a closer look into the life of the people, opt for a homestay. Some of the top homestays in Northeast located close to stunning landmarks are Maple Pine Farm, located close to Mawphlang Sacred Forest in Meghalaya, Gayboo’s Traditional Lodge, which is close to Menchukha Valley, and Khonoma Village Homestay in Nagaland, for those wanting to experience the Hornbill Festival.
17. Breathe in the fresh air in some of the Scenic Lakes
Lakes in a mountainous region possess their own charm. Imagine a small sunken land filled with water and surrounded by misty mountains, it has a picturesque ambience. In fact, Northeast has many such wonderlands. Nagaland’s Shilloi Lake is the largest natural lake associated with many folktales. It is located in Lutsam Village. Khecheopalri Lake in Sikkim is a sacred pilgrimage site for Hindus and Buddhists. Loktak Lake in Manipur is the largest freshwater lake in the state and it also serves as Keibul Lamjao National Park in its south western wing. Palak Lake in Mizoram is extremely beautiful, and surrounded by lush forests.
18. Casually stroll in some of the Cleanest Villages in Asia
Northeast has some of the best villages in India, and every village makes sure to clean and make their neighbourhood spotless. But amongst the many, Mawlynnong is the top tourist attraction because it was voted the cleanest village in Asia by Discover India in 2003. It is located in Meghalaya a few hours from Shillong. Clean footpaths, manicured roads and colourful plants make a visit memorable. Like Mawlynnong Village, there is another village in Nagaland that is also the cleanest village, if not in India then the state itself. This village called Mopungchuket is located a few hours from Mokokchung. Khonoma village located on the mountain peak, in proximity to Kohima, is also a stunning place to visit. It is known as the greenest village in Nagaland.
19. Visit the only River Island in the World
Northeast has the only largest river island in the world, Majuli Island. The vibe on Majuli is easy, simple and far from the chaos. Today, Majuli is seen as a major attraction for Assam tourism after Kaziranga with many homestays and cultural festivals. You can only access the island on a ferry, this fact alone makes the island feel secluded and worth visiting at least once in a lifetime. You can also check out the art of hand looming, pottery, and making masks used in festivals. Some of Assam’s best craftsmen come from Majuli. Make sure to visit the island soon, because the mighty Brahmaputra River and the harsh Assam monsoon floods are rapidly eroding the land. This secluded island destination is a perfect place to go on a honeymoon tour if you enjoy nature, calm river, lovely homestays, and cycling along the paddy fields.
20. Learn the Art of Simple Living
While the rest of India had modern development, telephones and automobiles, some parts of Northeast were yet to get introduced to modern inventions. But now that I think of it, it was a good thing after all. You see, living with less gives you much more happiness than having many things and not using them. We appreciate nature more and tend to spend more time outdoors. The people of Northeast master the art of simple living even today. Most of them have little access to the internet, so they tend to farm and walk and admire their surroundings when they are bored. Most importantly, the locals makes sure their surroundings are not dirty and plants that grow in unwanted places are trimmed and kept clean.
While in Northeast India, you can explore the diverse cultural, architectural, historical and natural richness of these states.
If you are wondering when to visit Northeast, the most preferred seasons are spring (mid-February to mid-April) and fall (September to November), followed by winter, for the different festivals held during this time.
You can select your preferred package for northeast trip from our website that will teleport you into nature where you may find bliss.
Abhishek Gurung is a writer whose passion for food and travel is an unending affair. He likes going on treks and camping in the woods, loves exploring forts and architecture, he is a cycle enthusiast who likes to contribute something to the environment, travel photography and videography is another interest as he sees life in a cinematic point of view. He likes the idea of living in offbeat destination where the mode of communication is to interact with each other. Coming from Nagaland, he has visited some beautiful valleys and remote villages and appreciates nature as it is and as it should be.