Northeastern India doesn’t always get its due as a desirable travel destination. We give you eight thrilling reasons why you’ll fall in love with the eight states.
If you truly wish to get your adrenaline pumping, move away from the buttoned-down destinations and set off on a thrilling journey across Northeast India. From tribal expeditions and breathtaking hiking trails to ancient caves and stunning sculptures — each state of the region has something to offer for the thrill-seeker in you.
Arunachal Pradesh: Brave the waves of Siang on a raft
River Siang flows into the mighty Brahmaputra after traversing more than 2,000 kilometres from its source in the Tibetan Plateau and cutting its way through the higher Himalayas. That’s probably the reason why its raging rapids make an absolute fit for rafting. Go on nervewracking battles against the river’s wild currents, as your raft tilts at every turn with you barely hanging on, navigating through deep gorges and getting sneak-peeks into endless woods and little tribal inhabitations along its banks.
Try: Join Abor Country in its annual Siang Rush rafting expedition that lets you camp by the river, and additionally, takes you on hiking trips to places like the Ponging Village that’s connected to the mainland only through a hanging bridge!
Assam: Glide through the Brahmaputra on a seaplane or luxury cruise
Fancy flying in a seaplane whizzing through turquoise waters and you taking it all in from high above? You don’t need to fly all the way to the Maldives for that. Closer home, water aerodromes are soon going to come up on Guwahati’s riverfront, making the dream of landing on the mighty Brahmaputra come true. While you will have to wait a little longer to catch a bird’s eye view of the region’s rolling landscapes from a private seaplane, leisurely gliding on the Brahmaputra in a luxury cruise ship can make your trip to Assam equally exciting. Stay in a chic cabin, explore local fishing culture during shore excursions, spot rhinos and deer on the banks, or simply sip on your glass of bubbly as you watch the sunset from the deck. Bliss!
Try: Adventure River Cruises offers Brahmaputra excursions on the famous MV Mahabaahu luxury cruise ship that has everything from 23 aesthetically designed cabins including two luxe suites, a bar and lounge, and a Jacuzzi spa, to five decks, a swimming pool, and a range of itineraries to pick from.
Manipur: Trek to Dzukou Valley to find a rare lily
Adventurers usually trek to reach the top of a peak for a breathtaking view, or to strengthen the body’s core, or even to find mental peace amid nature. But have you ever thought of climbing up a valley to spot a tiny flower? As unusual as it may sound, a trek to Dzukou Valley is about just that, and then some. With its undulating dwarf bamboo grasslands, peppered with wildflowers and set against misty hills, Dzukou Valley has been attracting hikers from far and near alike. Sandwiched between Manipur and Nagaland, the scenic trek starting from Mount Isu in Senapati, involves a steep climb, followed by a gentle descent into the valley, and a walk through the two states thereafter. But the main attraction of the two-day trek is spotting the pink Dzukou Lily, a rare endemic type found only here. Every June, its bloom adds a dash of pink to the lush emerald valley, making it an absolute sight to behold!
Try: Pick the Dzukou Valley excursion offered by India Hikes, that can be further extended by three days to include a rhododendron trail to Japfu Peak, one of the highest in Nagaland.
Meghalaya: Try spelunking your way through hidden caves
Jostling through dark murky trails, wading your way through wild streams, scurrying past nocturnal creepy crawlies — spelunking isn’t everybody’s idea of fun. But if wild adventure seems to be of your taste, arrive in Meghalaya, where the Jaintia, Khasi and Garo Hills are together home to 1,580 krems (meaning caves in the Khasi dialect), out of which 980 are completely or partially explored. Explore Krem Liat Prah, known to be the longest natural cave in India, Krem Mawmluh in Cherrapunji that has gnarly rock formations and stalagmites inside, and Krem Dam in the beautiful Mawsynram.
Try: Join Kipepeo, a socially responsible tourism venture for Northeast India, in its week-long ‘Meghalaya Caving Adventure’, anytime from November to March.
Mizoram: Go mountain biking from Aizawl to Reiek
With ubiquitous waterfalls, hidden jungle trails, spectacular vistas, and serene mountain villages, Mizoram is where you must come to slow down, and dwell in nature’s beauty. Ditch the car and pick up a bike instead to truly experience it. The 30-km route from Aizawl to Reiek, a pristine Mizo village, might be small, but it brims with abundant greenery and a peaceful silence lingers in its air, making the bumpy ride worth it.
Try: You can rent a self-ride bike from FTS Travel (9570469372) at a reasonable price. Upon reaching Reiek, park your ride and climb to the top of Reiek Peak that promises views into Bangladesh on a clear day!
Nagaland: Embark on a tribal trail
The undulating hinterlands of Nagaland are home to 16 major tribes, with tribal culture and clan traditions playing an important role. Live the Naga life in their villages like Longwa, Mokokchung, Touphema, Khonoma and more; learn all about (and may be try a hand at) the traditional art of weaving handed down through generations, as they create shawls, bags, decorative spears, wood carvings and bamboo works; and indulge in evening soirees when they gather for folk war dances!
Try: Ontrip‘s signature Tribal Trail is a nine-day itinerary exploring close to seven different Naga villages and meeting Konyak (famous as the headhunters), Ao (popular for their colourful dances), Angami (sit with them for ethnic food and rice beer), among others tribes.
Sikkim: Take a camper van tour to Gurudongmar Lake
Sleep under the stars in your recreational vehicle, wake up to soft morning drizzles blurring the windscreen, brew yourself a hot cup of coffee in your kitchenette, witness the great outdoors at your own pace — the caravan life is a blessing for road trippers. And when you are about to set off on a road trip from Gangtok to Gurudongmar Lake, one of the coolest campervan circuits in India, your ordinary wheels just don’t cut it. Start from Gangtok and drive for five hours along the bumpy but scenic route to park in Lachen, explore the village, and sleep the night off. Next day, leave Lachen at dawn-break and drive for next four hours stopping only for a quick chai and Maggi break in Yithang Valley, and reach the stunning glacial lake of Gurudongmar, via Lachung, before 11 am as post that, the wind gets too chilly and the Indian army closes its entrance! Do remember that the lake, a pilgrimage to both Sikhs and Buddhists, is one of the world’s highest perched at an elevation of 17,800 feet. The dizzying altitude might lead to acute mountain sickness, so stock up on warm clothes, water, chocolates and popcorn (help in preventing AMS), medicines, and an oxygen spray can.
Try: You can rent your choice of caravan from Motorhome Adventures that has on offer luxury loungers, ‘club on wheels’, and expandable camper vans, equipped with slide out decks, theatres, cosy beds, ensuite bathrooms, pantries, and more!
Tripura: Witness the rock-cut sculptures of Unakoti
Steeped in myths and legends, Unakoti is definitely Tripura’s best kept secret. Nestled deep in the dense thickets at 160 kms from Agartala, it is home to India’s largest bas relief sculptures, carved to perfection by skilled artisans and laden with myriad legends. Some say these sculptures stem from a curse by Lord Shiva to 99,99,999 gods and goddesses who failed to follow his command, others say they were built by an artist in a single night on Goddess Parvati’s command but fell short of one sculpture, hence the name ‘Unakoti’ meaning ‘one less than a crore’. The most impressive carvings are that of the huge Shiva head in the centre and the gigantic Ganesha figures. The astonishing sight is also dotted with ancient temple ruins and serves as a Shaivite pilgrimage dating back to the eighth century CE.
Try: Arakya Holidays offer a six-day tour to Unakoti and other attractions in Tripura, including Agartala’s Jagannath Temple, Ujjayanta Palace, Neermahal, Sipahijola Wildlife Sanctuary, and more.