Along the hills bordering Nagaland and Manipur in the northeast of India lies the magical Dzukou Valley. Located at a height of over 2,000 meters, it is a popular spot for local residents but is as yet largely undiscovered by the world. It's a trekkers delight. Find out why they keep returning.
The Dzukou Valley is surrounded by the mighty Japfu range that provides ideal opportunities for trekking. A few icy cold streams criss-cross across the valley. The rolling hills carpeted with dwarf bamboo interspersed with fields of colourful wildflowers and winding rivers against a backdrop of dramatic shape-changing clouds that descend to the hilltops provide a spectacular view.
The best time to visit is April to July when the valley is in bloom – however, the monsoons in those months, make it a tough hike. From September to February, the valley is drier, but the clear blue skies make for some wonderful viewing – and if you're lucky, the milky way is clearly visible when the night skies are clear.
In summer, the Dzukou lily blooms and gives the valley an ethereal look with swathes of pink splashed on an emerald green expanse. As the seasons change the lilies are replaced with a variety of wildflowers of assorted hues. In the winter months the scene changes. The temperature drops, rivers and waterfalls freeze. At times the ground is covered in frost. The bright sunlight reflects off the ice creating an out-of-the-world look.
"Is this for real?" one wonders. The valley offers something at any time of the year – challenging trekking trails, rock climbing, or just soaking up nature.
To approach the valley from Nagaland one has to reach Dimapur either by air, road, or rail and then travel by road to Kohima and from there to one of the three villages of Jakhama, Viswema, or Khonoma. Each approach varies in the time taken and intensity of climb.
The trek from Jakhama Village to Dzukou Valley is very demanding yet takes less time. The trek from Viswema Village to Dzukou Valley is more gradual but generally takes longer.
Dzukou Valley from Jakhama Village
It's a 4-5 hour climb up a steep path lined with rough-hewn stone steps. This shorter, steeper, and more difficult trail is preferred by seasoned trekkers. The trail ends very close to the rest house in the valley. The two trails merge at some point.
India Trail recommends trekking up from Viswema and descending from Jakhama.
At the valley
The assault on the senses is the perfect reward for one's efforts. Finger-shaped smooth hills roll into each other as far as the eye can see. Rows of pink lily and purple shrubs with blackened tree trunks scattered between them brighten the carpet of green grass waving gently as the wind blows. Oh what a blissful sense of absolute peace! A trek further down leads to a cold stream.
The route to reach the valley calls for a steep climb starting at the crack of dawn, followed by a gentle descent into the valley. To enjoy the solitude, silence, and starry skies, overnight accommodation is available at a dormitory and a few private rooms, toilets, and a firewood kitchen. Blankets and tents can be hired. Simple breakfast and dinner are also available. The panoramic view of the valley and the sunrise from here are etched permanently on one’s mind.
Camping is allowed only at the base camp and many measures have been taken by the locals to protect the environment and beauty of the region – some of these include – banning of plastic, checking of bags and heavy fines to ensure compliance, restricting bonfires and cooking to specific areas to prevent forest fires.
Since the complete trek is an eight to nine-hour-long walk, it is recommended to take a local guide to show you the way and a porter to carry essentials, and even tents; and sleeping bags and warm clothing to the list if you wish to spend the night there.