India, the land of cultural and geographical diversity, is a destination everyone adds to their bucket list. While Northern India is blessed with the magnificent Himalayas, Southern India is a beach paradise surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. The Western region of India is the land of deserts like Thar and the salt beach- Rann of Kutch.
The northeastern region also referred to as Northeast India, is the most diverse of all the regions. It is the hub of cultural richness and stunning natural beauty. Northeast India is composed of eight states. They are – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim. Each of these states has unique destinations worth exploring. From pristine lakes, the Eastern Himalayas, numerous languages and dialects, ethnic groups, blue natural pools, and beautiful waterfalls – it has it all.
Regarding tourists in India, I have observed that international and domestic travellers mostly confine their visits to Northern, Southern and Central India. Only a few backpackers choose to explore the northeast region of India. I highly recommend everyone to come and explore Northeast India and share their unique experiences with everyone.
Following are 7 unique places to visit in Northeast India-.
Sohra, the land of waterfalls and caves, is also considered the second wettest place on earth. It is located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. Its former name Cherrapunji was given by the Britishers, however, the local name has always been Sohra.
Sohra is inhabited by the Khasi ethnic group of Meghalaya. A culture that has a deep connection with nature. Each of the waterfalls has its own folktale associated with it. Unlike modern technology that cuts trees to build roads and bridges, the Khasis have been building living root bridges made from the roots of rubber trees for hundreds of years.
During monsoon months, one can see waterfalls all around the valley. It mostly remains foggy during this time. Winters in Sohra is known for its blue natural pools, clearer skies and scenic hikes.
In Sohra, the Double Decker Living Root Bridge, Rainbow Falls, Wei Sawdong falls, Arwah Cave, Mawsynram Cave and Nohkalikai Falls are the must-visit locations.
Sohra has a number of homestays and hotels. For a luxurious stay, one can book their accommodation at Polo Orchid Resort near Nohsngithiang Falls.
The nearest railway station as well as the International airport is in Guwahati, Assam.
Mawlyngbna is located near Mawsynram at the border of India & Bangladesh. Mawsynram receives the highest amount of rainfall in the world and therefore is considered the wettest place on earth.
About 14.6 km from Mawsrynram town, Mawlyngbna is an offbeat destination which has attracted tourists for its adventure activities and peaceful camping vibes.
There are two cottages for a stay in Mawlyngbna at the top of a hill covered by trees. Camping in the woods is also allowed there. The Mawlyngbna Traveller’s Nest which looks after the place conducts adventure activities such as river canyoning, kayaking and hiking. One of my favourite is to watch the view of the hills of Meghalaya merging with the neighbouring plains of Bangladesh.
The best time to visit Mawlyngbna in Meghalaya is from the month of August till the start of the monsoon.
Accommodations in Mawlyngbna are available both at Mawlyngbna Traveller’s Nest and near Umkakhoi Lake.
There is a regional Airport at Umroi in Meghalaya. However, Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Internation Airport and the nearest railway station both are in Guwahati, Assam.
Phe Phe Falls, Meghalaya
Phe Phe falls is a recently discovered waterfall in the West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. It is located near the Jarain Village and is about 20.6 km from Jowai Town.
The waterfall is an offbeat destination and is unique compared to other waterfalls in Meghalaya. Phe Phe Waterfall, also referred to as Phea Phea falls is a two-step waterfall. The first is relatively smaller than the latter. The trail to reach the waterfall starts from the Paradise Adventure Camp which is situated near the Jowai-Dawki Road. Initially, they will help you cross the river stream with a Kayak. One needs to hike for about 20-25 minutes alongside the river and eventually cross the river to reach the main waterfall.
The hike before was steeper near the waterfall. However, during my visit last year, I have seen proper steps being created to descend comfortably. It provides a better viewpoint of the waterfall as well. Apart from the views, the carnivorous pitcher plants can also be seen during the hike.
The best to visit Phe Phe Falls would be during the winter months. The Paradise Adventure Camp has three cottages, 4 cabins and tents for accommodation.
On reaching Guwahati in Assam via train or flight, you will get cars, sumos and buses for hire or for rent.
Dzukou Valley, Nagaland
A Northeast India trip is incomplete without hiking to Dzukou Valley in Nagaland. Dzukou Valley is located about 2453 m above sea level in the Kohima District of Nagaland. The fascinating landscapes of the valley allure every visitor.
The vegetation at Dzukou Valley is comprised of dwarf bamboo shrubs on uniform hillocks and a few trees. High peaks surround the valley and a tranquil river passes through it. This river freezes during winter.
The rare Dzukou Lily along with other yellow, brown and white flowers blossoms during the monsoon months – May to August. It is during this time that the valley remains the greenest. The view of the valley under clear blue skies, the sound of the river and the clear starry night is a wonderful experience.
The Valley is looked after by Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO). They offer accommodation and food, along with other basic facilities. The valley can be accessed from two trails near the Viswema and Jakhama Villages.
To go to Dzukou Valley the easiest mode of transport is to reach Dimapur Railway Sation (Nagaland) from Guwahati (Assam). Buses ply to Kohima from Dimapur till 4 in the evening.
Kisama Heritage Village, Nagaland
Kisama Heritage Village, also known as Naga Heritage Village, is located about 12 km from the capital city of Kohima in Nagaland. The most popular and the fastest growing cultural and musical extravaganza of Northeast India, the Hornbill Festival is organised at Kisama Heritage Village every year from the 1st of December to the 10th of December.
The village is an initiative of the state government of Nagaland, to promote and protect the culture of 16 major Naga ethnic groups. It is composed of 16 architectural traditional houses with all its cultural elements such as the log drum in it.
The best time to visit the Kisama Heritage Village is during the Hornbill Festival. In those 10 days of the festival, you will get the opportunity to interact with all the ethnic groups, and learn about their cultural nuances, songs, dialect, languages their colourful traditional attires. Apart from that, you can try local food or drinks and buy mementoes as a goodbye gift. All the Naga ethnic groups have their own unique dialect and languages and speak Nagamese, a common language to communicate with each other, fascinating right?
After reaching Kohima from Dimapur, you can hire and board cars from Kohima town or go to Kisama via public transport. Dimapur also has a regional airport.
Sangti Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
A quaint valley by the river, Sangti Valley ought to be one of the most scenic locations in Arunachal Pradesh. About 12.5 km from Dirang town in West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh, Sangti Valley can be considered an offbeat destination that you ought to add to your list of places to visit in Northeast India.
Tourists visiting Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh often stay at Bomdilla or Dirang town. But, Sangti Valley can be the right choice for accommodation. Soothe yourself in the calmness of the river, the hills, the clouds and the local Monpa people at Sangti Valley.
When in Sangti Valley, go for a village tour, spend your time by the Sangti river, and visit the Sangti Mahayana Buddhist Temple. The Monpa Trail Trek which starts from Sangti Valley and ends in Thembang Village is an adventurous and cultural experience that you can opt for.
Sangti Valley can be visited in different seasons. March to May is when Rhododendron blooms. The Monpas collect their harvest from maize fields and fruit orchards in the post-monsoon months i.e from September. September can be a good time to visit. Winters are cold but not as cold as Bomdila or Tawang which receive snowfall.
Vehicles to Sangti can be rented from Dirang. One can avail of sumo vehicles and buses on a shared basis from Tezpur or Guwahati in Assam.
Majuli, the island district of Assam, is one of the largest river islands in the world. It was once the World’s largest river island, however, due to constant erosion and climate change, the island has lost about two-thirds of its original land. It is surrounded by the river Brahmaputra, Subansiri and its tributaries.
Majuli is considered one of the unique places to visit in Northeast India for its geographical location, the culture of the ethnic groups such as Mising and Deori, and the Neo-Vaishanvisim culture of Assam.
In Majuli, visit the Vaishnavite Satras, explore the local culture with a bicycle, learn about the Mask-making culture and attend the local festival such as Ali Aye Ligang or the Raas Utsav.
The best time to explore Majuli is from October to March. The Majuli Music Festival organised in November can also be a good time to visit the place.
Majuli is accessible via ferry boats from Jorhat town. You can book them on the Inland Water Transport website by the Assam Government. To get a local and cultural experience stay at Chang-ghars and homestays in Majuli. You can also stay in Assam Tourism-run accommodations and Satra guesthouses.