North East India – Beyond the crowds
If you are looking for an adventure off the beaten track in India, you have to travel to North East India. A breathtaking destination that is unique and much different from the rest of the country. And yet, it remains distinctly Indian, in culture and traditions.
The region comprising the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura is wedged between Bhutan, Tibet (China), Bangladesh and Myanmar. The first thing you notice during your visit to this place is the complete absence of the chaos – the noise, traffic and the teeming crowds – of Delhi, Jaipur and Mumbai.
This is the quietest and the least populated part of India, with an almost perfect climate. It never gets too hot, and stays cool even during the summer. There is travel caution during the monsoons for the period June- September, when some parts of the region receive excessive rainfall. However, September is the time of receding monsoons and for those who do not mind a bit of rainfall, the sights around the place are at their best.
The North East due to its unique geographical position is home to a diverse population, who are warm and friendly to tourists, rare wildlife species and stunning natural beauty. What’s remarkable about the region is that it remains relatively unexplored compared to the rest of India, largely because of its remoteness and isolation from mainland India.
The region has had its share of troubles, ravaged by militant insurgencies for many decades, but over the last decade and a half, it can be said that peace has finally returned to North East India. Things are very much normal and what the folks here want more than anything else is jobs and economic prosperity.
Tourism is critical to the North East and the limited impact of tourist activity in the region has brought about a lot of positivity among the youth not only in terms of securing jobs and a livelihood but also a sense of pride in their rich cultural heritage, which is otherwise being forgotten by the new generation. The people here are famous for their hospitality and welcome guests with their simple warmth. Incidents of crime against tourists are unheard of in this part of the world.
The Seven Sisters of the North East
Let’s take a quick look at the 7 North East Indian states.
Arunachal Pradesh is the largest of all North Eastern states in terms of area, but is very sparsely populated. It has 26 major tribes and some amazing tours during the festivals taking you to villages of animist tribes. The state is also famous for the Tawang monastery, largest in India and the second largest in Asia and is a sacred place for Buddhists. The Eagle Nest Sanctuary located in Arunachal Pradesh is one of the emerging topmost birding destination in the world.
Assam is the most populous state in the North East, famous for its wildlife sanctuaries such as the Kaziranga National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. It has a rich and varied flora and fauna, besides being home to two third population of the One-Horned Rhinoceros, it also has many other endangered species of animals, birds and reptiles. The mighty river Brahmaputra flows through Assam and is a lifeline for the people here.
Manipur is called the ‘Switzerland of the East’ because of its natural beauty. Some of the attractions here are Keibul Lamjao, the world’s only floating sanctuary; the Hiyang Tanaba Boat Race, and the beautiful capital city of Imphal.
Meghalaya gets a lot of rainfall and is famous for Mawsynram, a small village which is considered to be the wettest place in the world. It is home to the exotic tribes of Garos, the Khasis and the Jaintias, who follow a matrilineal society. Some of the attractions of Meghalaya include Mattilang Park, Umiam Lake, Lady Hydari Park, and Thangkarang Park. Museums such as the William Sangma State Museum and Don Bosco Museum are worth a visit as well.
Mizoram is a quiet and beautiful state noted for its lovely hill stations such as Hmuifang and Reiek Tlang. Some of the attractions here include Palak Dil Lake, Tam Dil, Vantawng Falls, Murlen National Park Phanwgpui Peak, and the Dampa Tiger reserve.
Nagaland has a diverse tribal culture and is home to as many as 16 major Naga tribes. The state is particularly famous for its festivals such as the Hornbill festival, Sekrenyi, Aoling, Miu festival, Ahuna, Tuluni, Mimkut and Yemshe, which are celebrated with gusto.
Tripura is popularly called the Queen of Eastern Hills. There are as many as 10 rivers that flow through this state. Some of the biggest attractions in Trupura are Kamala Sagar Lake, Bhubneswari temples, Pilak and Unakoti temples, Rudra Sagar Lake, Gomati wildlife sanctuary, and the Kala Pania Ecopark. Agartala, the capital of Tripura is a very romantic city.