An Ultimate Travel Guide to Northeast India

Travel Guide to Northeast India

Tucked away in the easternmost corner of India, Northeast India is one region in the country that would hardly seem anything like India. From the pristine forest to the rippling Himalayan peaks and the open plains, the region has so much to offer. Choosing the best places to visit can be tricky as geography is as varies as its culture. Here we have put together an ultimate travel guide to Northeast India for anyone wanting to get a taste of the region.

The geographical location of Northeast India

The contiguous states of Northeast India – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura were originally known as the seven sisters and with the inclusion of Sikkim, it now consists of eight states. All these states share international boundaries with neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, China, and Nepal. The region is connected to the rest of India by a narrow stretch of land called the Siliguri Corridor, also known as the Chicken’s Neck.

Home to a rich bio-diversity, distinct cultural and ethnic heritage and a wide array of wildlife, the eight Northeastern states are blessed with wildlife sanctuaries, magnificent mountains and hills, spectacular rivers, stunning waterfalls, and ample natural attractions that are yet to be explored.

More than 200 tribes and subtribes call this home, from the unique matrilineal societies of Meghalaya to the tattooed one-time head-hunters of Nagaland. Northeast is indeed an unexplored heaven that has great scope for mountaineering, trekking and adventure tourism.

Best Time to Visit North East India

Generally, the best time to visit Northeast India is during the summer, but it mostly depends upon the places you wish to cover during your trip. The temperatures vary high according to the region and elevation of the place. The high-altitude region of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Nagaland, and Meghalaya have pleasant and cool weather.

The lower altitudes of the plains in Assam can be scorching as temperatures reach about 35°C. It is this time of the year that is considered ideal to visit places such as Kaziranga National Park, Ziro Valley, Nathu La, Dawki River and other hill stations. It is advisable to carry light woolen clothes while traveling to the hills and carry cotton clothes and sunscreen while traveling to the plains.

Northeast India receives moderate to heavy rainfall during the monsoon. Although the monsoon brings lush greenery and fills the lakes, rivers and waterfalls with enchanting beauty, it is generally considered not to be a very good time to visit the northeast as landslides and road blockades may occur in many places. However, with being mild you can still find tourists exploring the low-lying areas of the plains and enjoying its lush natural beauty.

Nonetheless, Meghalaya is a decent spot to visit during this period with Mawsynram and Cherrapunji getting the most precipitation than anywhere on the planet. It is advisable to carry an umbrella as you may not be aware of the sudden downpour of rain at any time of the day.
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During the winter the region can become chilly to biting cold with high-altitude places such as Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh receiving heavy snowfalls. Much of the plains in places like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram experience cool and pleasant weather during this time. some of the famous festivals such as the Hornbill Festival, Ziro Festival, and Majuli Raas Mahotsavam happen during this season. It is advisable to carry winter jackets and warm winter clothes.

 Travel Guide to Northeast India

Travel Permits to North East India

Visiting the three states in Northeast India- Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Mizoram would require Inner Line Permits (ILPs) while foreigners including Overseas Citizens of India require Protected Area Permits (PAPs) for Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Obtaining an Inner Line Permits (ILPs) is not required for visiting Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura for Indians or foreigners.

As of late, the public authority of India has lowered the standards of ILP and PAP to advance the Northeast Indian travel industry making the process to acquire these permits fairly easy and straightforward. Check the details below to obtain Inner Line Permits (ILPs) for Indians and Protected Area Permits (PAPs for Foreigners.

Inner Line Permits (ILPs) for Indians
StateILP Before Travel (Recommended)ILP on Arrival (At Specific Entry Points)
Arunachal Pradesh
  • Naharlagun Railway Station
  • Gumto Railway Station
Mizoram
  • Lengpui Airport, Aizawl
Nagaland
  • Visit Office to Apply: Find Details* on Website
  • Online ILP: Not Available
  • Dimapur Airport
  • Deputy Commissioners’ Office, Dimapur

*Details include required official identity documents, processing fee, and a list of issuing offices

Protected Area Permits (PAPs) for Foreigners
StatePAP / RAP DetailsAgencies for Permits
Arunachal PradeshArunachal TourismApproved Travel Agencies
SikkimSikkim TourismApproved Travel Agencies

For details and current status, consult the respective StateTourism website.

How to Reach North East India

There are direct flights from various cities on the mainland to states such as Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, and Tripura. Guwahati, having both direct and indirect flights from different Indian cities serves as the gateway for the other northeastern states. From Guwahati, you can board a flight to all the other airports in the region. Some of the states do not have an operational and therefore traveling by road is the only mean of communication to reach certain destinations. Some remote places have helicopter services.

Various train also connects the Northeastern states to other parts of the country through the Siliguri corridor. The most popular ones are:
-Rajdhani Express-Delhi to Dibrugarh with many stoppages at Kokrajhar, Lumding Dimapur, Mariani, etc
-Northeast Express and Brahmaputra Rail
-Saraighat Express- Guwahati and West Bengal.

Road transport is also one of the most common ways to reach Northeast India. All states are well connected with road transport and there are regular bus services from neighboring West Bengal to other states like Assam and Sikkim. The plain regions of places such as Assam can be smooth while those in the remote and hilly regions can be quite rough and bumpy with narrow and steep slopes. There are also chances of landslides during the rainy seasons.

Banner Sikkim

Getting around Northeast India.

All the states have State-run bus services that connect various towns and cities. However, shared taxis and sumos are the most popular and cheapest means of transport to explore various places in the Northeast. The road conditions in most of the hilly regions can be quite a challenge as they are not only bumpy but it will meet with shared curves and potholes.

Train connectivity is not very well developed but most of the towns and cities adjoining Assam have railway stations. The Indian Railways is pursuing an ambitious plan to connect all the state capitals with the railway line.

Mode of Communication in Northeast India

Although the region has over 200 languages and dialects, most of the people speak decent English to some level. But language can be a barrier to communicating with the locals in remote places but you will surely find someone who speaks English to help you out.

Food Habits in Northeast India

As varied as the region can be, the food habits in the Northeast India is also as diverse as the land. Non-vegetarian foods and boiled vegetables are common among the tribals of the region. Meghalaya is well known for its jadoh (a laboriously-made dish made with rice and meat), Manipur is known for Iromba (a dish is made from fermented fish), Sikkim is known for its momos and thukpas, Nagaland for its dry bamboo and fermented soyabeans (axone) while Assam is known for its fish curries and various pithas.

Some of the well-known must-visit places by state

Menchuka

Arunachal Pradesh

Tawang– Famous for its 400-year-old monastery, which is the second-largest and oldest in Asia. Other places of interest include Sela Pass, Jang Waterfalls, PTSO Lake, etc.

Ziro– Inhibitated by the Apatani tribe, Ziro is famous for its rice-cum-pisciculture cultivation. It also hosts Ziro Music Festival in September every year.

Mechuka (also known as Menchukha) – Situated in a forested valley, it is known for its picturesque beauty, exotic tribes and snow-capped mountains.

Places To Visit In Guwahati

Assam

Kaziranga National Park– A UNESCO world heritage site, Kaziranga National Park is famed for its one-horned rhinoceros and also having the highest density of tigers in the world.

Kamakhya Temple – Located in Nilachal Hill in the western part of Guwahati, Kamakhya Temple is one of the most important Shakta temples.

Brahmaputra River– One of the longest rivers in the world, the Brahmaputra River offers irrigation and transportation, and the lifeline for the people of Assam.

Majuli– World’s largest river island, MAjuli is known for its scenic and lush green beauty sitting in the midst of the mighty Brahmaputra River.

Loktak Lake

Manipur

Imphal– The capital of Manipur and is one of the most ancient cities in India known for scenic landscapes and greenery

Loktak Lake – The largest freshwater lake in Northeast India, is known for its floating weeds (called phumdis).

Moirang – A historical town near Loktak Lake that serves as a cultural center for the Meitei people. The place also has a significant place in the Indian Freedom struggle.

Khwairamband Bazar/ Ima Market- a unique women’s market run by about 3000 mothers with vegetables, fruits, fish and household groceries sold on one side and traditional handlooms and household items on the other side.

Shillong Cherry Festival
Courtesy: Instagram | Creator: @leeno_photography

Meghalaya

Shillong– A fast-emerging education hub in Northeast India, Shillong, also known as the “Scotland of the East” is a popular hill station known for its natural beauty, amazing people and culture.

Cherrapunji– Famous for its living root bridges, Cherrapunji (now more commonly by its historic name Sohra) holds the record for the wettest place on the planet.

Mawlynnong– A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mawlynnong called “God’s own Garden” holds the distinction of being declared the “cleanest village in Asia” by Discover India in 2003

Dawki – A border town famous for the crystal clear see-through Umngot River.

Mawphlang Sacred Grove – a sacred forest guarded by one strict rule ‘NOTHING is allowed to be taken out of this Sacred Grove. Not even a leaf, stone, or a dead log’.

Aizawl 1

Mizoram

Aizawl – Capital of the state of Mizoram, Aizawl is known for its rich tribal cultural roots and abundance of natural beauty surrounding the city.

Thenzawl– Located in the heart of Mizoram, Thenzawl is known to be the handloom centre of Mizoram

Hmuifang – a popular hills station covered with the pristine forest since the time of the Mizo chiefs

Vantawng Falls – Located at a distance of about 137 km from the capital city, is the highest and most spectacular waterfall.

Kohima Cathederal

Nagaland

Kohima- the capital of Nagaland state, Kohima is famous for its Commonwealth War Cemetery dedicated to 10,000 Allied soldiers and Catholic Cathedral on Aradura Hill.

Dimapur- The commercial hub of Nagaland, Dimapur is famous for the ruins of the ancient Kachari kingdom, Dimapur like the Zoological Park, Ao Baptist Church, Diezephe Craft Village. Dimapur is well-connected to the rest of the country by road, rail, and air.

Khonoma – Known for its rice terrace cultivation and is now widely regarded as Asia’s first ‘green village’.

Mokokchung- Home of the Ao tribe, Mokokchung is known as the ‘intellectual and cultural capital’ of Nagaland. Longkhum, Mopungchuket, and Ungma are some of the tourist attractions in and around Mokokchung

Dzukou Valley- This valley is a popular tourist attraction known for its seasonal flowers. This valley is popular among trekkers and adventurous souls.

Tsomo Lake

Sikkim

Gangtok– The capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok is known for its scenic beauty and spectacular views of Mount Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world.

Yumthang Valley- This beautiful valley is a flower sanctuary with rivers, hot springs, yaks and grazing pasture surrounded by the Himalayas

Gurudomar Lake– One of the highest lakes in the world, Gurudomar Lake is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs alike. The snow-capped mountain peaks against the backdrop of the lake add a stunning view of the lake.

Neermahal

Tripura

Ujjayanta Palace- This royal house located in Agartala, the capital of Tripura brings back the past glory of the Tripura Maharajas.

Rudrasagar Lake- Rudrasagar Lake, is a lake located in Melaghar, Tripura. Neermahal, a former palace built by the Tripura Maharaja as a summer residence is situated here. The lake also attracts a large number of migratory birds during the winter.

Unakoti – Unakoti is home to the largest bas sculptures in India. The main attraction of the town is its rock carvings and waterfalls. The Indian government has approached UNESCO to declare it as a world heritage site.

Check out our travel guide to Northeast India section which includes a list of various travel service providers that will save you time, money, and will help improve your travel experience.

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