India, my birth country is a fascinating country with a varied and diverse geography which spans from the cold mountains of Kashmir to the tropical south India, from the hilly and beautiful terrains of the northeast to the arid desert of the west. This country has something for everyone, irrespective of what your travel plans are. I have barely scratched the surface visiting places, and so this series will allow me to plan a trip across my country, with the intention to show GG & BB where their roots lie.
I’ve always been fascinated by the north eastern part of India and have badgered my parents to take me on a holiday there since I was a school girl. But political instability and insurgency in the region, it has remained a dream all these years. I am hoping that I will be able to visit this part of the country very soon.
The easternmost region of India comprises eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal, connects this region with the eastern part of the country. The eight states share about 99% of their borders with other countries including China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
Residents in this region look slightly different compared to the average Indian, as the earliest settlers may have been speakers from the Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman languages of Southeast Asia.
Beautiful and serene, the best time to visit this region is between November and May due to the very pleasant weather during these months.
So where would I go and see during my trip to northeast India? Read on…
I will break this post into two parts, because due to the sheer beauty of the region, one long post will not make it. In part one, we will explore the contentious state of Arunachal Pradesh, the largest of the northeastern state of Assam and the state of Meghalaya. In Part 2, we will look at the other states, viz Sikkim, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, the National Park is home to the one horned rhinos which attract tourists from all over the world. Spotting a one-horned rhinoceros in its stomping yard is an experience that you can live to tell your grandchildren. It will be unlike any lore ever told. This undisturbed acres long stretch of forests and marshlands is located in the heart of Assam and is visited by hordes of tourists every year. The notable one-horned Rhino is a major attraction in Kaziranga which is an endangered species in the world. Other than that Elephants, wild water buffaloes and Swamp Deers can also be seen on a safari. You can either book an Elephant Safari or Jeep safari to explore the park. The best time to visit the park is between November to April. Note that the park is closed during the monsoon months.
Talatal Ghar, Assam
Literally translated to the “royal palace,” the Talatal Ghar was built by Swargadeo Singha in the 18th century. The 7 storied palace is not your usual palace, which serves up a heavy dose of grandeur. Its modesty and unusual architecture are a delight to witness as it offers a truly enriching experience. So, if you’re a history buff, make sure you visit this place on your next trip.
Majuli Islands, Assam
The river island is situated in the mighty Brahmaputra, and is one amazing place to see in the North East. It is a cultural hub of the region, with a number of tribes calling it their home. The size of the island was originally 1200 sq. km, but it has now come down to just 420 sq. km. due to the erosion from the Brahmaputra. It is now a strong contender as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Majuli calls the cultural capital of Assam and is inhibited by tribal people whose occupation is mostly fishing. Majuli heavily relies on waterways so do not forget to take motorboat or ferry ride. Nevertheless, it’s an astonishing place to witness on your trip. The islands of Majuli are being eroded by the Brahmaputra every year. They might last only a couple of years more so do visit them while they are still on the map!
Kamakhya Temple, Assam
Set atop Nilachal hills, this unique and ancient temple has recognized and celebrated the biological process of menstruation in women since forever. The temple is dedicated to Kamakhya Devi who is also called as the “bleeding goddess.” The story of its origin revolves around a story that involves Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati.
Dibrugarh is the largest tea producing district located on the upper Assam area, right on the banks of river Brahmaputra. The lush green tea gardens and the vastness of Brahmaputra attract hordes of tourists to Dibrugarh every year. It is considered to be one of the perfect lands for tea plantation in the entire Northeastern region.
Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh
Situated at a height of 10,000 feet in the picturesque and scenic mountain town of Tawang, the 400 year old Tawang Monastery, which is recognised as the second largest in the world, after Lhasa gives a breathtaking view of the valley. Home to 450 monks, this is the perfect place to visit for a surreal experience. This place is popular as the birth place of the Dalai Lama and is the largest Buddhist monastery in the entire country. You can also sit and just admire the captivating view of the Tawand River in the evening.
Nagula Lake, Arunachal Pradesh
One of the prettiest sights of Tawang, this lake is a must visit in Arunachal Pradesh. The high-altitude lake, which is situated at nearly 4300 feet, is a picturesque natural body with a fascinating ambience. Natural life flourishes all around the shores of the lake, making it a very good place to enjoy the serenity and calm reflection. The lake is frozen through most part of the year except in the summer months from April to May. You can easily trek up to the lake and have a fun-filled picnic by its shores.
Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
The Ziro Valley is one of the best places to see in North East as it presents you with some memorable views that are going to be etched in your memory forever. The valley is most famous for its three day and night rock concert, which is held annually towards the end of September. A flat land amidst the sky jutted mountains with around five villages, the verdant rice field, in-line tribal huts, vibrant and colourful attires and accessories of the Apatani people make the Ziro valley the perfect holiday destination.
Nuranang Falls, Arunachal Pradesh
Also known as the Bong Bong falls, the serenity of these 100 meter tall falls are to be seen to be believed. Plummeting from an elevation of about 100 meters, Nuranang falls is a pristine waterfall hidden in the thick forest stretches on your journey from Tawang to Bomdila. This virgin waterfall is famous as BTK, Bap Teng Kang waterfalls and can be located on the way through Tawang towards Zemithang. It is one of the places in Northeast India that defines the hidden beauty of the region with its crystal clear pools and green surroundings.
Madhuri Lake, Arunachal Pradesh
Named after the famous Indian actress, Madhuri Dixit, the lake is one of the best places to see in the North East. Previously it was known as Shungaster Lake. A little army cafeteria near the lake serves up some delicious momos, which you can enjoy while soaking the peace around.
Gorichen Peak, Arunachal Pradesh
On the way from Bomdila to Tawang, enjoy the magnificent vistas of the Gorichen Peak. It is one of the toughest treks in the northeastern part of India as the peak is located at a height of 22,500 feet between Tawang and West Kameng districts. Gorichen peak is roughly 164 kilometre from Tawang Town, and it shares its border with China in the North. Another name for Gorichen Peak is Sa-Nga Phu, which according to the native tribe Monpa is a sacred peak that protects them from all the evils.
Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh
The third largest national park in the country area wise, the Namdapha National Park serves as an abode to the rarest of floras and faunas and the many endangered species. You can trek, hike or set out on a jungle safari to spot Indian Elephants, Tigers, Leopards, Black Bear, and Bison etc.
Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, Meghalaya
The wettest places in the world finds its home in Meghalaya. While Cherrapunji is famous for its living root bridges, formed due to incessant rain, it is also popular for being one of the wettest places in the world. Mawsynram is the wettest between the two, with a recorded annual rainfall of 11,872 millimetres, making Cherrapunji the second wettest place in India that receives an average annual rainfall of 11,777 millimetres. Both places are located on the Southern side of East Khasi hills and is beautiful during and post-monsoon with innumerable waterfalls and mist-laden valleys.
Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya
Located in the heart of Meghalaya, the Jaintia hills are stuffed with limestone deposits and the hills have a number of caves for the explorer in you to enjoy and soothe your mind. Spelunking in these caves can lead you to a number of shallow and some long caves, making it an adventurous attraction in the region.
Dawki Lake, Meghalaya
A town nestled in the West Jaintia hills, the town of Dawki is known for its beautiful lake. The crystal clear Umngot River in Dawki is one of the cleanest rivers in the world that you can clearly see the bottom. Every year, people visit Dawaki to see the crystal clear waters and take boat rides in an almost transperant water. The place is nestled in the West Jantai hill that has an active tourism and every year people visit Dawki to boat around this iconic river where the river bed is unbelievably clear. The suspension bridge and the diveable river hotbeds can lure you into entering the water to take a dip.
Nohkalikai Falls, Meghalaya
If you haven’t been to the fourth highest waterfall in the world which plunges from a height of 1100 feet, then now is the time to do so! With a mere 5 km drive from the stunning land of Cherrapunji, a short trek would lead you up to this gorgeous ultramarine pool where you can see the pristine waterfall flowing from up above. Since it can only be viewed when there is no mist, avoid going here in monsoon and savour the beautiful views from the viewing gallery.
Umiam Lake, Meghalaya
Just 17 km distance from Shillong, this mesmerizing lake will sweep you off your feet. Surrounded by dense coniferous forests, this man-made reservoir is spread over 222 square km a and is one of the main sites for watersports! The beauty of the lake is enhanced by the encircling Khasi hills which bestow the travellers with unparalleled landscapes
Mawlynnong Village, Meghalaya
Acclaimed to be Asia’s cleanest village in 2003, this village is an excellent example of sustainable and eco-friendly living. Even the dustbins are made of Bamboo just like the sky tower which is around 85 ft. The trek to the Living Root Bridge starts from Mawlynnong Village and it is one of those tourist places which is in everyone’s itinerary. This pretty village is spotless clean outlined with thatched Khasi huts. The village is very close to Bangladesh and around 100 KM from Shillong and is really the cleanest village in India.
Laitlum Canyon, Meghalaya
The name Laitlum literally stands for “The end of hills,” or “the end of the world.” The Laitlum Canyon is situated in the East Khasi hills enabling a vast and panoramic view of the entire valley of canyons. These picturesque rocky formations are a delight to trekkers, nature lovers, photographer, and adventurers. The place is quite secluded and is not accessed easily, but if you do manage to get there, the beauty of the place is unique, unparalleled and incomparable. The best time to visit is either in the early morning hours or during sunset.
Mawsmai Cave, Meghalaya
This cave is one of the many caves in Northeast India which has enough light passing for the travellers to see the limestone structures and uneven walls. This natural marvel has undergone years of abrasion and underground water exposures that the stalactites and stalagmites are carved out in a various structure that leaves you spellbound. Being the only lit cave in Meghalaya, Mawsmai cave is a crowd puller.