North-East India Travel Guide– North-East India is one of the remotest areas of the country, and it was only in recent years that the region has come into the limelight. Earlier, the term North-East India was either confirmed to the state of Assam or as summarized as the seven sisters in the Geography Text Books.
Although travel enthusiasts visited the region from time to time, it was mostly confined to the areas close to the city of Guwahati. In the last 10-15 years, tourism boomed in the region and now many tourists from India and abroad visit northeastern India.
Yet it is still a mammoth task for travelers and State Tourism Authorities to attract tourists to these untouched areas of India. There are many reasons for this part of India to be isolated from the rest of the country. Thanks to the Internet that the myths and doubts related to north-east India have been busted. Today North-East India is one of the most visited places in India, and tourism is still growing in the region.
In my life as a traveler, I have traveled to the majority of sites in India, yet it was north-east India, which was in my bucket list for a long time.
I was planning to visit the region for a long time yet failed due to work constraints or insufficient leaves. It was the last year when I changed my job and managed to squeeze a substantial amount of time to fulfill my dream of visiting north-east India. My tip to north-east India spanned for sixty days, and so far, it is the most memorable journey of my life.
From my experience, I can say that north-east India offers everything a traveler is looking for. Therefore in this blog post, I will be sharing some vital information related to north-east India and why one should visit this far eastern region of the country. I will be listing some essential details about north-east India, hoping it would help future travelers in preparing their itinerary.
Last but not least, I will share some of my travel experiences, which I encountered while I was traveling solo for sixty days in the region.
Why One Should Visit North-East India?
North-East India has a lot to offer, and it is a perfect place for anyone seeking natural beauty amalgamated with History and Culture. For example, Assam is famous for the historical Ahom Kingdom, whereas Mizoram is renowned for its hills and forest covering the majority of the state.
While Arunachal Pradesh is famous for the Himalayan Mountain Range, Assam is known for its plain land flooded by the mighty Brahmaputra River. The contrast is not only apparent in geography but also in the culture and faith followed by the locals.
The Bengali speaking Tribes of Tripura differs from the Meitei Tribes of Manipur. Even the diversity is visible among the faith followed by the people. For example, Assam and Tripura are Hindu dominated states, while the people from Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland practice Christianity. Similarly, the majority of people in Arunachal Pradesh practice Buddhism.
The different faith favors the growth of diversifying culture and therefore leads to distinct architectural masterpieces. If Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh is an epitome of Buddhist culture, then Solomon’s Temple in Mizoram is another excellent example of architecture influenced by Christianity.
Northeastern India is not only famous for its architecture but also for some of the best gifts of nature bestowed on the region. From the exquisite Waterfalls of Meghalaya to the mighty Loktak Lake in Manipur and the only floating National Park in the world, northeast India has everything to offer.
The Naga Tribes of Nagaland showcases their rich cultural heritage, and at the same time, Arunachal Pradesh attracts for its high mountainous roads. In a nutshell, North-East India has numerous options for visitors of a different taste to quench their traveling thirst.
Why I visited North-East India
While there is no proper explanation for visiting a place, yet in the case of northeastern India, I had a few. Being a geography lover, I was always inclined to the topography and landscapes. It was during my school days when I learned that Cherrapujee is the wettest place in India.
As I grew, Mawsynram replaced Cherrapunjee as the wettest place, but one thing never changed, which was my inclination towards Geography of India.
Therefore the majority of my travel expeditions were influenced due to geography. During my travel days, I explored states lying close to the national capital Delhi, yet over a period of time, my inclination towards northeastern India grew stronger.
Another reason for my visit to north-east India can be attributed to the family background. My father served for the Indian Army, and being a defense brat, I had visited the area in my childhood.
My father was posted in Assam when I was three or four years old. We have a family photo with the famous Shivadol of Sivasagar in the background.
Therefore I was curious to know how things would have changed over 20 years and if I could recognize the places today. These two reasons were sufficient, forcing me to plan a trip to north-east India, and eventually, I was able to execute successfully.
Issues with Planning a Trip to North-East India
The recent travel boom has one definitive advantage; it has opened a portal of limitless information. Today we have much more information about a place compared with 20 years back.
Today we can make the majority of our bookings while sitting in some big cities in India. Yet the same does not hold for northeastern India. For example, when I was in Mizoram, the Mizoram State Tourism Website was under construction, and I had to rely on notes and phone calls to make a reservation. Similarly, when I visited Tripura, the state was engulfed in the CAA Protest forcing the government to suspend the internet services, and I had to rely on friends to make the booking from Delhi.
The problem is not only with accommodation but with a wide range of topics. For example, very less information is available on the Internet related to North-East India.
For states likes Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, the information does exist but mostly confined to a commercial tourist location. In Arunachal Pradesh, the information is often about Western Arunachal (Tawang Circuit), and there is hardly any info for the eastern Arunachal Pradesh.
Similarly, in Meghalaya, the majority of websites cover the Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, thereby missing the Garo Hills. Moreover, when I was preparing my itinerary, I visited some of the big blogs in the travel domain, and I was shocked to see that they had hardly any information barring Assam and other tourist circuits.
Another problem is the over-exaggeration of the places. The sites mentioned places that were nonexistent or were too difficult to access. For example, a website stated Dampa Tiger Reserve to be only 30 kilometers from Aizwal, but in reality, it is 100 kilometers from Aizwal.
Another website mentioned Palak Dil as a must-visit place in Mizoram. Yet, the lake lies 300+ kilometers from Aizwal, and the condition of the road will either force you to change your plan of it will consume some crucial days of your itinerary.
Understanding the North – East India Permits
Any visitor planning to visit North-East India has to undergo some documentation process. It is also known as a permit for visiting a particular state in the region. The permit system in North-East India falls into two categories. They are:
Inner Line Permit or ILP: The Inner Line Permit or ILP is an official travel document issued by the respective state government allowing travelers from India to visit a protected area.
Protected Area Permit (PAP): It is another document issued by the respective state government allowing foreign nationals to visit their state.
These permit systems enable the state government to measure the influx of tourists in their region and keep a measure of activities performed by a person who is not native to the state.
The reason for the implementation of ILP in northeastern India is its remoteness and a massive population of tribal. For example, the state of Mizoram has the highest percentage of Tribal Population in entire India, followed by the other northeastern states.
During my journey, ILP was mandatory for three states, i.e., Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland. When I visited Manipur, ILP was not compulsory for the state. Recently during ongoing CAA protests, Manipur has also implemented the ILP system, thereby increasing the number of states to four.
Yet a tourist need not worry about the ILP and its complexities as it is a straightforward process with a sole objective of documentation. The city of Guwahati is the best place to obtain ILP before visiting the state.
Moreover, one can obtain ILP form the Airport and the state border check-post where ILP is in action. For me, obtaining ILP was a hassle-free task, and I got the ILP at respective border check-posts. For example, while visiting Mizoram, I requested for ILP at Vairengte and got it in 30 minutes. Similarly, for Nagaland, it was Dimapur from where I obtained the ILP.
Number of Days Require To Make a Trip to North-East India
It is a tough question to answer as not everyone is lucky to get 60 days to explore a region. Yet the thumb rule is not to treat northeastern India like other hill states of India. The other hill states of India are mostly developed, and they host some of the biggest cities in India.
But the northeastern region is yet in the developing phase. So there is a possibility you won’t get the same modernization in the northeast region. If you are planning to cover a single state, it will require a minimum of 10 days (including the time from Guwahati).
Moreover, these ten days will allow only to cover only a few famous places in the state. A thought of traveling a state in 4-5 days is a foolish idea and better not to conceive. A few prominent areas of either Assam, Meghalaya, or Arunachal might be explored in 9-10 days.
Still, if you aim to cover an entire state, it is better to allocate at least 15 to 20 days. Although 15 days won’t do the justification, it is sufficient time to get an idea of a particular state. Moreover, beauty will force you to revisit the place.
Depending on my travel experience, I will recommend the following number of days for each state:
- Arunachal Pradesh: One week for Tawang Circuit and 20 days more for the Eastern Arunachal, including Mechuka, Tutting, and Nampong.
- Assam: Minimum of One week for sites like Kaziranga National Park, Haflong, Manas National Park, Jorhat, and Majuli.
- Meghalaya: 9 to 10 days for Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills and one more week for the Garo Hills.
- Tripura: 10 days are sufficient to explore Tripura as there are fewer hills in the state, and flat plains provide a better and faster means of transport.
- Mizoram: Minimum of 10 days to visit the famous tourist attractions of the state and 25 days to explore thoroughly. In Mizoram, the Mizo hills, the drive is a daunting task, and the bad roads further worsen the condition.
- Manipur: A minimum of 10 days to cover the prominent places like Imphal, Loktak Lake, Moreh, and Ukhrul. Add ten more days if you want to explore the areas like Tamenglong, Senapati, and Churachandpur.
- Nagaland: Minimum 15 days to cover the famous places of the state like Kohima, Dzukou valley, Longwa, Dimapur, Pfutsero, and Kiphire. Add 10 to 15 days more if you want to explore the remote areas of the state. Nagaland mostly has hilly roads after Mizoram, thereby exploring the region a challenging task.
How Was I Able to Cover the Area in Sixty Days?
If you sum up the number of days above, it will be more than four months, yet I was able to cover the area in 60 days. I was able to explore the region due to two main reasons. One, I was riding my own private two-wheeler scooter, which gave me the flexibility to ride as per my plan.
Public transport in this part of India is minimal, and mostly they ply early in the morning. Therefore exploring the region via public transport will consume some vital time. For me, if arriving at a place took two days via public transport, I was able to cover it in a single day.
The second and most important reason was that my trip was a single sixty days trip and not divided into segments. So if I planned to visit Imphal, I continued the journey from Mizoram and not from Guwahati. A continuous journey gave an upper hand in covering the places in one stretch rather than in a to and fro fashion.
Road Condition Of North -East India
It is probably the most crucial question to be asked while planning a trip to North-East India. For knowing the condition of roads, it is mandatory to understand the geography of the region. The majority of North-East India lies under cover of hills and dense forests. In fact, northeastern India constitutes more than 50% of the forest cover of India.
In Assam, the plains of the Brahmaputra River allows the construction of roads an easy task. Yet the same does not hold in the hills of Mizoram, Manipur or Nagaland. Similarly, the building road is a mammoth task in Arunachal Pradesh due to the Himalayan Mountain Range.
The thumb rule is that the condition of roads will be reliable in the areas nearby to the capital city. As soon as one goes away from cities, the state deteriorates. During my ride in the region, I rode on some of the worst stretches in my entire life.
Assam has mostly good roads, barring the hills of Assam, where the situation is pathetic (Haflong-Silcahr Road is the best example.) The condition is mainly manageable; it is just that specific stretch that will test the endurance of both the driver and the vehicle. Some of the best and worse roads encounter by me were:
- Some of the Good Roads in North-East India
Guwahati-Kaziranga-Jorhat-Sivasagar-Digboi: A Fantastic four-laned highway for most of the stretch.
- Kaziranga-Lumding-Maibang-Haflong: Probably the best highway in north-east India and in entire India.
- Silchar-Aizwal: The road is good except a few stretches in Mizoram.
- Silchar-Agartala: Another good highway connecting Silchar to the capital of Tripura
- Kohima-Dimpapur-Golaghat: The highway is in good shape from Dimapur to Golaghat, and 50% of road from Dimapur to Kohima is also in good share. It is just the last 30 kilometers towards Kohima, which possess challenges due to ongoing construction.
- Imphal-Moreh: Another fantastic stretch of road connecting the capital city with the border town of Moreh on India-Myanmar Border.
- Guwahati-Shillong-Cherrapunjee-Dawki: Roads in Meghalaya are excellent barring some regions of the Garo Hills. Thanks to tourism, most of the roads in Khasi and Jaintia Hills are in good shape.
The roads in Arunachal are excellent in the region bordering Assam. As one goes away from the Assam-Arunachal State Border, the situation worsens.
Worst Stretches of Road in North-East India
- Haflong – Silchar: Probably one of the worst roads in the entire north-east and even in India. A hundred kilometers journey took more than 6 hours to complete. For me, it was a similar experience as my bike ride to Sach Pass in Himachal Pradesh.
- Imphal- Kohima: While this highway (National Highway 2) connects two capital cities, a ride on this highway is a nightmare. The ongoing construction further worsens the situation.
- Keifang to Kawlkulh and then from Khawzawl to Champhai and Zokhawthar: Another miserable stretch of the road in Mizoram. The single-lane highway connects the capital city Aizwal to the far-eastern district of Champhai. The road in this stretch forced me to rethink about my ride in Mizoram.
- Khawzawl to Ngopa: The road passes through the remote areas of the state connecting the town of Rabung and Murlen National Park.
- Ngopa to Singngat and Churachandpur: It was one of the most challenging rides of my trip in northeast India. Although the map showed the distance as more than 200 kilometers, yet while riding, it felt like I rode more than 300 kilometers. For the entire day, I hardly witnessed a good stretch of road and mostly rode on sand, dust, rocks, and pebbles. Construction is going on a few patches; still it took me more than 12 hours to complete the trip.
Again the roads in Arunachal Pradesh are manageable, and the issue arises when driving to the extreme ends of the state bordering China. For example, while driving for Nampong, I drove on a good road till Jairampur, and later the width of the road decreased as the hills arrived.
Availability of Basic Facilities, Petrol and Internet Connection
In recent years, homestays have emerged in India, and the same is valid for north-east India. Accommodation is readily available in most of the region, especially in the areas surrounding the capital cities and tourist hub. Yet one can face issues while exploring an area too far from the capital city.
I encountered these issues when I was riding for the Tam Dil Lake in Mizoram, as I wasn’t able to get a room in the town of Seling. Eventually, I visited the forest department rest house in Seling and managed to get a place for a night stay. Similarly, I faced issues in Churachandpur in Manipur and Amarpur in Tripura.
When I was in Ngopa in Mizoram, I was the only person in the entire guest house. The caretaker also left in the night, and for me, it was a ghost town experience.
It is advisable to rely on government tourist houses whenever planning to visit the remote areas of the state. Another essential thing to keep in mind it the day of Sunday. The four states, i.e., Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland, are Christian dominant, so almost all the shops and hotels are closed on Sunday.
There is a high probability that a tourist won’t find accommodation on Sunday (Meghalaya here is an exception). I still recall that I reached Aizwal from Silchar on Sunday. Upon arriving there, I was shocked to see the condition of a capital city.
The roads were deserted, and it felt that the entire town has come to a standstill. Even necessary amenities like restaurants and petrol pumps were non-operational, and I had to purchase petrol on black market rates. While Sunday is a concern for the above four states, it does not apply to the other three states.
Therefore if your visit coincides with Sunday for any of the four states mentioned above, it is more beneficial to make a reservation in advance.
Regarding the availability of petrol pumps, I didn’t face issues with petrol and found petrol pumps at almost every 100 or 150 kilometers. To avoid any unpleasant experience, I was carrying an extra 2 liters of petrol, yet I never used it.
Even if in some areas you don’t find a petrol pump, the locals sell petrol in bottles at a slighter higher rate. Therefore one need not worry about the availability of petrol. Similarly, mechanic shops and servicing shops are frequently found in the region, and I was able to get Engine Oil for my scooter on Tengnoupal-Moreh Highway in the night.
Internet facility is readily available in all the northeastern states, and it is only in the remote areas or the border town where you will notice a disruption in the services.
I was carrying Airtel and Vodafone sim and got a signal from one of the other service providers. If the Internet is not working, you would still be able to make calls, which I think is a win-win situation in such remote areas of India.
A Few Must To Do Things While On a Trip to North-East India
Entire north-east India is full of surprises, and listing a few places in one article won’t justify the beauty of the region. Yet, for the information purpose, I will try to list some sites which I liked most and had a profound impact on my journey. I will also try to explain why one should visit this part of the country.
- Kaziranga National Park: It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for one-horned rhinos in India and in the world.
- Majuli: Largest island district in India and in the world.
Noh-Ka-Likai Waterfall & Rainbow Waterfall: The Noh-Ka-Likai Waterfall is the highest plunge waterfall in India and famous for its serene fall. Rainbow waterfall in Meghalaya is not renowned for its height rather than for its isolated location and turbulent flow of water, forming a rainbow with water droplets. Visiting them is a must to do a thing in Meghalaya.
- A Ride on Lumding-Maibang-Halfong Highway: The highway is one of the best in northeast India as well as in entire India. It passes through the hills of Assam and gives a glimpse of the density of forest of the region. A train journey through this stretch is also recommended during Monsoon season as it was part of Barail Mountain Railways in the Britisher’s era.
- A Bird’s Eye View of Aizwal City from nearby Hills: The capital city of Mizo Hills, Aizwal, is one of the liveliest towns I have ever visited in my life. Clicking photos of the city from Durtlang Hills or visiting the Solomons Temple is a must to do while visiting Aizwal. Mizo hospitality is the best in entire India, and they were very helpful during my 11 days ride in the state.
- Vantawang Falls: The highest waterfall in Mizoram situated in the Thenzawl town.
- Rih-Dil Lake in Champhai District: What could be a better experience than crossing the India-Myanmar border and visiting the lake sacred to Mizo people?
- Neer Mahal in Tripura: The Neer Mahal is the biggest palace in India situated amidst a lake. It is way bigger than the Jal Mahal in Rajasthan and gives a glimpse of the excellent architecture masterpiece of the northeastern people.
- Damboor Lake: A Lake in the shape of Daboor (Damru of Lord Shiva). Damboor Lake is the biggest in Tripura, and for me, it was more of a sea as its boundaries were limitless.
- Loktak Lake in Manipur: Visiting Loktak Lake in Manipur is a must to do a thing while visiting the state. The lake is deeply rooted in the life of Manipuri people and hosts some of the rarest wild and marine life in its boundaries.
- Keibul Lamjao National Park: The only floating national park in the world and home to endangered species of Sangai Deer.
- Moreh: The town is the commercial hub of Manipur and known as the Gateway to South-East Asia. Moreh is a border town on the India-Myanmar border famous for import and export. Crossing the border and visiting the nearby village of Myanmar is all a traveler seeks. Don’t forget to taste the Mayanmar Beer and enjoy the local snacks.
- Dzukou Valley: The Dzukou Valley is the most sought trekking route in north-east India. The valley is a paradise for travelers and trek enthusiasts.
- The Kohima and Imphal War Cemetary: We all have read History, but we are unaware of the fact that the world’s best war was fought on Indian Soil. The Battle of Kohima and Imphal is regarded as the “Stalingrad of the East,” and the British Army Museum voted the war as the most challenging war it ever fought in its 500 years of empire.
- Rice Fields of Senapati and Pfutsero: The hills of Manipur and Nagaland are famous or their height and step farming cultivation. Rice is the primary food consumed in north-east India, and the rice fields of Senapati and Pfutsero are renowned for rice cultivation.
- Stronghold of Konyak Nagas: The Konyak Nagas are one of the sixteen tribes of the Nagaland state. They were known for their bravery and headhunting techniques. Although headhunting is now discontinued and is a criminal offense, visiting a Konyak Naga House in Mon district and Longwa Village is a must to the thing while exploring Nagaland.
- Tuting & Bishing: What could be the best place in the eastern Arunachal Pradesh apart from the village of Tuting and Bishing. The town of Tuting and Bishing lies on the border of India. The Brahmaputra River enters in India from Bishing Village. Spending a night at circuit house and conversation with locals over a cup of tea is a lifetime experience.
- Mechuka: The town of Mechuka is famous for its serene beauty and the Himalayan range. The site is renowned for its scenic beauty, exotic tribes, gentle hills, and snow-capped mountains. Mechuka can beat any hill station of India when it comes to the natural beauty and simplicity of the local tribe.
- Tawang Monastery: It is the second-largest monastery in the world after Lhasa Monastery in Tibbet. The Tawang Monastery is a gateway to understanding the Buddhist culture in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Spending time with kids and monks and understanding how they survive and carry out the religious tradition will enhance your knowledge of Buddhism.
All the above places in North-East India, I have mentioned a few prominent places famous in the seven sisters region. Still, I believe I haven’t done justification to the sites as listing one or two locations from a state is not appropriate.
In reality, each state of northeastern India is a different world in itself, differentiating itself from the neighboring state. My experience of north-east India says that no article or blog-post can explain the beauty, simplicity, and cultural amalgamation of the region. Check out our most comprehensive travel guide on places to visit in North-East India.
Conclusion & Takeaway
It can only be experienced by those who visit these states in person. In my short span of travel, I have been to some of the dangerous, remotest, and crowded places of India.
Yet, from my experience of north-east India, I can say that no place in India can offer what north-east India offers to its visitors. The region has something for every kind of traveler. Moreover, a trip to north-east India will showcase how much less we know about our beautiful country.
About Me: Hello I am Sushant Pandey, A History & Geography Lover and part-time travel enthusiast.
An IT professional by job and in free time love to explore India on a motorcycle or watch documentaries. I manage my blog Knowledge of India, where I blog whenever I get free time.
Before you go, I would like to know your comment & feedback on my travel guide to NorthEast India purely written on my personal experience. Please feel free to leave ratings by clicking 5 stars.
Like!! I blog quite often and I genuinely thank you for your information. The article has truly peaked my interest.
Thanks for ur info about N-E. I am in Guwahati and planning for same will share details soon.
A very practical travel blog useful for somebody like me planning a road trip to the NE this year. I assume you made the trip in 2020, based on the edited date. Thanks Sushant Pandey.