The North East of India is made up of seven separate states, and is the most tribal region of India. Although the mountainous scenery is arresting, the northeast region remains the least visited part of India. This has been due to its remoteness, and also the permit requirements placed on tourists. Ethnic violence, as well as the north east's sensitive location bordering Bhutan, China, and Myanmar, remain issues. Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura are regarded as relatively peaceful though. Tourist numbers to the region have been dramatically increasing in recent years. Find out about what to see there in this guide to northeast India states.
Want to take a tour of the northeast region? Kipepeo and The Greener Pastures are both involved in sustainable and responsible tourism, and capacity building in local communities. They offer a wide range of custom and flexible departure trips. Activities include wildlife, trekking, caving, learning about tribal culture, and tea.
If you're planning a trip to the northeast, also have a read of this important information to know before you go.
Until recently, travel to Arunachal Pradesh was highly restricted to foreigners due to its proximity to China. However, the Indian government relaxed permit requirements in 2008 and added five new tourist circuits, bringing the total number to 11. Perhaps the most superb tourist attraction in Arunachal Pradesh is Tawang Monastery. Perched at 10,000 feet above sea level, it overlooks the Tawang Valley near the border of Bhutan. The monastery is the largest Buddhist monasteries in India. It also has a fascinating collection of thangkas (Tibetan paintings). If you can, visit it during the Torgya Festival. Those who like white water rafting should try the stretch along the Kameng which passes through the Kameng Gorge. Himalayan River Runners has a November trip.
Assam is the largest and most accessible of the north east India states. It's best known for its tea, and around 60% of India's tea is grown there. The capital and gateway of Assam is the sprawling and rather unattractive Guwahati. Most people spend a few days there though, despite its ugliness, as it's the best place to organize tours around Assam and the other north east India states. There are also a number of temples of interest in Guwahati. However, the most famous attraction in Assam is Kaziranga National Park, home to the rare Great Indian One-Horned Rhinocerous. You won't find this rhino in many other places, so a visit to this park is something special. Majuli, the world’s largest inhabited river island, is worth visiting off-the-beaten-track.
There are 16 major tribes in untamed Nagaland, which shares a border with Myanmar. Relatively new to tourism, the people are curious, warm, informal -- and open to attracting visitors. You'll never feel alone when visiting villages in Nagaland. And there are there are tourist lodges, with cultural programs, in almost every location in the state to accommodate you. However, what's really placed Nagaland on the tourist map is the fascinating tribal Hornbill Festival (first week of December), and Moatsu Festival (first week of May).
Manipur, located on the far north east border below Nagaland, has been described as the Jewel of the East due to its picturesque hills and valleys. Its capital, Imphal, is surrounded by wooded hills and lakes. Manipur is also home Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water lake in the north-east region. Much of it falls within Keibuk Lamjao National Park. Manipur has recently begun taking steps to develop its tourist potential, which is essential as the state struggles to overcome poverty in rural areas and rebellions between ethnic groups. A Lemon Festival is held every January in Kachai and the Kang Chingba Festival is also a huge event.
Meghalaya used to be part of Assam. Known as the Abode of the Clouds, it's one of the wettest places on earth. So, do choose the time when you visit wisely! Capital Shillong was a popular hill station during colonial times, with leftover features being a championship golf course and polo ground, Victorian bungalows, and churches. Concrete buildings have sprouted since then, but the charm hasn't been completely lost. The abundant natural attractions in Meghalaya include peaks, caves, waterfalls, lakes, and ancient living root bridges. In fact, Meghalaya has the largest number of known caves in India.
Mizoram juts out at the bottom of the north east region, finger-like in its form. Its landscape is stunning and varied, with dense bamboo jungles, plunging gorges, rivers, and lush paddy fields. Mizoram will hold a great deal of appeal for nature lovers. The state's festivals provide a good dose of culture as well, with the Chapchar Kut being one of the most popular.
Tiny Tripura, almost surrounded by Bangladesh, is the second smallest state in India. Heavily forested, it's renowned for its vast array of bamboo products. Handloom weaving is also a significant industry there. The mixed European-Mughal style Ujjayanta Palace provides interest at Tripura's capital, Agartala. However, as it's occupied by the State Legislative Assembly, only the grounds can be explored. Tripura's star attraction, however, is the lake place of Neermahal. It was constructed as a summer resort in 1930 by late Maharaja Birbikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. There's a boating facility on the lake. Tripura also has a number of Buddhist temples, giving it appeal as a Buddhist pilgrimage place.