The north-eastern states of India, comprising Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland, are severely underappreciated part of the country. Often clubbed together, these states are known for their hill stations, lakes and some truly stunning scenic areas. However, each state has its own distinct and original culture, heritage and traditions as well that are exhilarating to experience. While tourists deserve to do each state justice on their trips, here are the must-see locations across the Northeast you should visit in 5 days.
Assam - While there are a multitude of places to visit in Assam, Kaziranga National Park should make it to the top of your list. One of the best places in India to spot wildlife, flora and fauna and perfect for nature and animal enthusiasts, Kaziranga National Park is home to two-thirds of the world's population of one horned rhinoceroses. It is also known as a tiger habitat, and became a tiger reserve in 2006. Tourists can also spot other animals like wild water buffalo, swamp deer and elephants at Kaziranga, as well as birds of all kinds. While visitors aren’t allowed to hike through the Park, there are numerous wildlife tours one can take part in. While the park is closed to visitors between the months of May to October due to the monsoons, this is the ideal location for anyone visiting the northeast this winter. While en route to Kaziranga, make the most of Assam and visit the Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati, an important pilgrimage destination for many hindu’s and also a site of stunning architecture and design. Don’t forget to try some aloo pitika (a traditional comfort dish made of potatoes) and some thukpa while visiting this stunning state.
Meghalaya - A quick hop over from Assam, Meghalaya is known for its gorgeous hill stations and mountain terrain. Your first stop has to be the capital city, Shillong - one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. Known as the “Scotland of the East” there are an abundance of things to do to make your trip here magical.
The Elephant Falls are a popular tourist destination, characterised by successive step falls and Shillong Peak is the ideal place for a picnic, and to get a panoramic view of the entire city. If you’re more interested in learning about the history and culture of the area, then the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures in Shillong will help you gain more knowledge about the various cultures and traditions of the local tribes in the Northeast. Another place to visit in Meghalaya is Cherrapunji. Earlier known as the wettest place on earth, Cherrapunji would get 11,777 millimeters of rainfall every year on average. Despite the rain, it is still one of the most gorgeous places to visit and has mountain peaks and forests as far as the eye can see. The root bridges of Cherrapunji are a must visit, bridges across rivers made from the roots of the ficus elastica or rubber tree, a natural and eco friendly way to connect tribes and towns together. Local villagers mold the roots as they evolve to form these amazing bridges.
While travelling and delving deep into the states of Assam and Meghalaya does take up time, there is one more state in the Northeast that you cannot skip. Sikkim, a state that borders the Himalayas, Nepal and the former Tibetan region, is a breathtaking landscape of mountains and peaks, including Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. A trip to Pelling, one of the many hill station towns will bring you close to the base of this mountain, and will also provide you with the opportunity of visiting Khangchendzonga National Park, which is home to a few tribal settlements, a monastery and a host of flora, fauna and wildlife unlike any other. It is definitely the place to visit to try and spot the musk deer, snow leopard and the Himalayan Tahr as well as reptiles like the Russell’s viper.
Another one of Sikkim’s most famous tourist destinations is Tsomgo Lake, also known as Chaangu Lake, a few kilometers outside the state’s capital city, Gangtok. A glacial lake that is mostly frozen during the winter months, it is revered by the locals and Buddhists all over the world for the changing colours of the surface of the lake that transform as the seasons change. Tourists can take yak rides up to the lake, bask in the winter sunlight, eat thukpa at the local kiosks and visit the Shiv Temple on the edge of the water.
If you have one final day left in Sikkim, then go visit Nathula Pass, a high altitude mountain pass at the India-China border. There is an army exhibition centre that’s open for tourists as well as a war memorial to honour all our fallen soldiers. Only 16 kilometres away from Tsomgo Lake, this is the ideal place to bring your holiday to an end.
While most visitors would probably only be able to cover 2-3 states over 5 days, the Northeast is a riot of culture, history, heritage and wildlife and we recommend a much longer visit, so that each state can be explored and discovered for all the wonderful experiences they have to offer. While Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim have the most popular and well known tourist attractions, there are plenty more avenues to uncover in this under-represented part of the country.