Northeast India Travel Guide to Ukhrul and Imphal - The Dialogue Diaries

Northeast India Travel Guide to Ukhrul and Imphal – The Dialogues Diaries™

India’s North East is opening up to host an increasing number of travelers. The Dialogue Diaries™, an interview platform by Backpacking Series, is delighted to feature opinions of residents from the region. In this Northeast India travel guide to Ukhrul and Imphal, Tushar Nongthombam from The Oo-Morok Trails shares recommendations and hacks for you to follow.

What stands out for you about North East India?

As a proud resident of North East India, a foodie and as a traveler in the region, I am always on the lookout for indigenous foods. Besides places in my home state of Manipur, I’ve been to Guwahati and Jorhat in Assam, and Dimapur, Kisama and Kohima in Nagaland.

However, I just love going back to the famous Hornbill festival in Kisama – not only for the fun festivities and beautiful landscapes, but also since it offers a sample of all mouth-watering Naga delicacies!

What’s your favorite destination in North East India?

North East India is literally a paradise and I’m proud to be a resident here. As a Manipuri, I will talk about two travel destinations in the state – Ukhrul and Imphal.

Northeast India Travel Guide to Ukhrul and Imphal

Ukhrul, Manipur: A Quick Travel Guide

Why visit Ukhrul?

Ukhrul, about 80km northeast from state capital Imphal, is one of the best hilly getaways of Manipur and remains my all-time favorite. Why, you ask? Lets count to three: hospitality of people, weather and landscapes, and yes food! There aren’t many things that can beat such a formidable combination. I recommend Ukhrul for backpackers to experience the authentic blue-hills’ life with camping, food, and music.

When to visit Ukhrul?

Though you may visit Ukhrul round the year, but I recommend planning your vacation during the Shirui Lily festival. This 5-days long festival usually falls in April first week when everything is fresh and green. During this time you can witness the sacred Shirui Lily blooming atop Shirui Hills. In case you do not know, Shirui Lily is the state flower of Manipur and it is endemic to Shirui Hills, Ukhrul.

Where to stay in Ukhrul?

Villagers offer home stay facilities to tourists, especially during the festival time and you get to enjoy homecooked naga foods with a local family! If you prefer, there are many camping sites in the vicinity.

Imphal, Manipur: A Quick Guide

As a resident of Imphal, I couldn’t resist the urge to recommend it to travelers. But, if you could overlook my selection-bias, it is for good reason. Read on:)

Why visit Imphal?

Imphal is one of the biggest cities in the region and you are likely to observe quite a few firsts here: the world’s first polo ground, the only market run by women, the only floating national park in the world, and then some more. All this against a backdrop of scenic landscapes.

When to visit Imphal?

Although Imphal is a year-round destination, the time from September to April are considered as ideal months to visit. I recommend you to visit Imphal during the Sangai Festival, typically held in the last week of November.

During Sangai Festival, Manipur observes its biggest celebration. People from every nook and corner of the state come together to showcase only the best of art and culture, handloom and handicrafts, music, indigenous and adventure sports, and of course, my favorite – cuisines!

Here’s a tidbit for the curious – Sangai is the state animal of Manipur that habitats the  floating marshy grasslands of the Keibul Lamjao National Park (the only floating park in the world).

Where to stay in Imphal?

Being the state capital, there are many hotels, guesthouses, and hostels to choose from. You may google for something that fits your budget. If you are coming in to witness the Sangai Festival, just make sure to book early!

How to get to your favorite destinations, Imphal and Ukhrul?

Best way to visit Manipur, especially to witness the festivals, is by a flight. From the airport, you can get a taxi to your hotel or guesthouse, and even guides. If you want to visit Ukhrul, you can easily find a bus service from Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) Imphal.

What are some must-try culinary recommendations from North East India?

Northeast Indian food is diverse and delicious. The mere thought of indigenous food of this region makes my mouth water! From vegetarian, to fish to pork, literally everything is slurpy here!

Usop: A vegetarian feast every visitor to Manipur must try!

For vegetarians, recipes from the Meitei community is something to die for. Manipur occasionally hosts a grand feast called Usop, an apt time to find various vegetarian recipes. Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough, you can find 108 vegetarian recipes in one Usop feast.

Must-Try Fish and Chicken Delicacies in Imphal, Manipur

For meat lovers, northeast India is your go-to place. In Manipur, the Meitei community is fond of various kinds of fish and there are many recipes for fish curry alone! As a visitor, you must try a good fish platter / fish feast at The Luxmi Kitchen in Waheng Leikai area of Imphal city.

When it comes to chicken, OK Hotel is the talk of the town. Nothing beats the consistency of presentation, aroma, signature taste, and texture of this hotel’s chicken curry or its famous chicken roll, and this is what has made OK Hotel a household name in Manipur since 1966. Whenever locals think of eating out at a ‘rice hotel’ (popular Indian phrase for quick-menu restaurants serving delicacies with a standard rice platter), they invariably end up at the OK Hotel – next to Nirmalabas School in Thangal Bazar.

Must-Try Pork Cuisine of Ukhrul, Manipur

For the best pork in Manipur, Ukhrul is the right place to go to and try a fabulous sumptuous pork thali. Cooked in a traditional Nungbi pot, with its unique Ukhrul hathei (chilli), I am sure, just as me, you’ll come back for more!

What’s the culture and lifestyle of North East India like?

Culture and lifestyle in northeast India is unique and distinctive. Keeping the traditions alive is one of the most important practice for every north easterner. Backpackers, travelers, and tourists will not only notice the distinct clothes, food, but also the diversity within the region.

What are your recommended travel planning hacks for North East India?

I’d recommend visitors to consider a mix of travel styles – backpack on a budget when traveling between and within cities of the region and hire guided tours to visit nearby places. You’ll be comfortable with a guide, especially when visiting the outskirts.

Seeking recommendations from someone who has been here before or looking up the Internet about the places you’re planning to visit will be helpful as well. Besides, as a resident, I find Airbnb as a trust-worthy website to make your stay arrangements in northeast India.

Note by Backpacking Series: If you are planning to ride a bus from Nagaland to Manipur, you’d need travel permits for Nagaland. For more on the topic, click to read Travel Permits to Northeast India.

What are your North East India Travel Tips for Visitors?

As a resident of the region, my top travel tips for visitors to Northeast India are:

  • Never trust the false media! Northeast India is safe to travel and people are friendly. Except on some occasions, such as festivals, avoid staying out late-nights, especially in remote areas, since smaller towns or villages do not offer many activities after sundown. Note by Backpacking Series: For more on the topic of safety, please click to read North East India is Safer Than You Think.
  • Always carry warm clothes, even in summer. You can never predict the weather in the hills.
  • Keep identity documents handy. Always carry documents such as Adhaar card (for Indians) or passport (for foreigners) wherever you go.

Other than that, enjoy every bit of your stay in the region, interact with the locals to feel the friendly vibes, and look out for unique cuisines of different tribes!

What’s your new bucket list for North East India?

As a foodie, I gravitate to places that satisfy my palate! And so, I am likely to continue to revisit Kisama in Nagaland, and Ukhrul and Imphal in Manipur. If you are anything like me, you must have these places on your Northeast India itinerary 🙂

I'm Tushar Nongthombam from Imphal, Manipur. I run a YouTube channel and an Instagram page under the name "The oo-morok trails" to promote healthy and fuss-free cooking recipes from the North Eastern states of India. The effort aims to preserve the rich legacy of ethnic North Eastern delicacies and pass on the culinary trove to future generations for the world to know and relish. Experience the aroma on YouTube or follow the oo-morok trails on Instagram!

Think North East India

For those who do not know, North East India comprises of eight states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Himalayas and its waters define the region’s terrain, climate, rich biodiversity, and the peculiar indigenous lifestyles her people follow.

Share Your Story or Review Our Book!

That North East India is bound by Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet to the north, Bangladesh to the south and west, and Myanmar to the east hints at the eclectic mix of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. This is where elements of Asia come together to do what they do best – cast a spell.

The region’s innate charms have remained under-explored. Travelers, who figure out how to backpack in North East India, find gems such as Dzükou Valley all to themselves. Importantly, the hospitable people of the region make sure that visitors take back the choicest of memories.

Meanwhile, pick up a copy of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It covers over two dozen places and attempts to answer the question – what is it like to travel in the region? Give it a read and make your own choices.

 Pin this for later! 

Have you been to or live in India’s North East? Come, let’s talk about your experiences and help someone follow your footsteps! Click The Dialogue Diaries™ for details and to get started.

Get new stories in your inbox

Disclaimers: (1) Maps, wherever used on this site, serve a representational purpose only. Backpacking Series does not endorse or accept the boundaries shown, names, or designations used by map providers. (2) This story / article is based on personal opinions of the author. Backpacking Series is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity and it does not assume any responsibility or liability arising out of use of any information provided herein.

25 thoughts on “Northeast India Travel Guide to Ukhrul and Imphal – The Dialogues Diaries™

  1. Are the stars at night really like that in that part of India. If so, I am in. I am from London and there is way too much light pollution and dont get the chance often to see stars like this. 🙁

  2. This part of India sounds fascinating. I think I’d go to Ukhrul and try to do a homestay as I love to learn about the culture from the local people.

  3. I’m not a backpacker or camper so I think it would be a really cool experience to stay with a villager in Ukhrul and get that local experience learning about the culture and eating the food! Great way to really get to know a destination! I think I would most like to try the pork cuisine of Ukhrul of the foods you listed!

  4. India is so far away from Berlin (Germany). A dream would someday fly there once. Maybe then to Ukhrul and Imphal ?! It seems to be interesting there- In any case, I like the food – looks delicious.

  5. The Shirui Lily festival in Ukhrul sounds so much fun. It’s great that the villagers open their homes to tourists. I’d also love to visit during the Sangai Festival in Manipur. It’s too bad they don’t happen at the same time of year 🙂

  6. Manipur, Ukhrul and Imphal sound and look like very interesting and fascinating places. India is very high on my bucket list and hopefully I make it soon for a longer trip to there. Not only the hospitality of the people but also the great Indian food I would love to experience and try. If I already just think about that fish curry, I am getting hungry! Beautiful impressions, thank you for sharing Tushar!

  7. You had me at a floating national park! How freaking cool is that? Indian cuisine is my favorite though I’m not familiar with the foods of this region. I’d be happy to try them though. The Ukhrul hathei has me intrigued.

  8. Ukhral and Imphal sound incredible, and both are places I’ve never heard of before. In fact, I don’t think I’d heard of Manipur full stop! My boyfriend and I have plans to bike around India for some months and I’ll definitelt have to persuade him to add more stops in the Northeast based on these recommendations.

  9. Now I’m curious – a floating park?!? But I’m more of a city girl so your hometown of Imphal is more my speed. Plus as soon as you mentioned the great food dishes, my stomach started doing flips. Thank you for introducing us to an area of the world most foreigners have not heard of.

  10. Imphal looks like a great place to visit with a lot of wonders. And I would visit during festival days, as you say it is more interesting there. As Ukhrul is connected through state bus then it is a good option to reach there and also get some time to travel with locals. I was not knowing that we vegetarians have a lot of varieties there. Good to know about Usop feast. And it sounds like a joke that it sometimes has 108 vegetarian varieties. Thanks for tips about not believing on false media, and carrying warm clothes in summers too as hilly regions can be unpredictable sometimes.

  11. Really interesting guide about a part of India I don’t know much about. But I’m hooked, this interview makes it sound like somewhere I’d love to explore. I love the idea of the Usop festival – all those vegetarian dishes, it sounds fantastic.

  12. Your night photo from camping in Ukhrul is really good! Nice to see places where the light pollution is not a factor. Of all the places in this roundup (and I note food is a big part of each of them which makes me happy as I love sampling local foods), I think Ukhrul appeals to me the most. Love also seeing names in other countries that don’t quite translate the way they were intended in English — OK Hotel for one. 😉 I am sure it is a grand and amazing hotel and place to eat, but for Westerners like myself, OK is too easily read “yeah, its ok” meaning, passable, but not great.

  13. Have heard of Imphal but not about Urukul and this is truely a great destination. Posts like yours show us new places to visit. I have travelled north east India quite a bit but never here. Looks amazing. The star filled shy looks amazing. God to know it’s an all year round destination. Thanks for sharing a beautiful place to visit filled with natural beauty.

  14. It’s so nice to read the perspective of someone from the area. I agree that sadly, the media can scaremonger, me included (!), as I’ve read many not so great stories about females traveling in this region of India. I’ve yet to visit the country myself, but after reading his recommendations, and all the food too, I’m more than inspired to visit.

  15. I have been toying with the idea of going on a 1-month exploration trip to Northeast India for a while now. I am Indian too and it’s a pity that I haven’t been further east than Kolkata all my life but then that part of the country has been a little closed off with many news (true or false) of instability and unsafety so it wasn’t a place we visited when younger. Now that I am an avid traveler and explorer myself, I really want to go. The idea of trying homecooked naga foods with a local family or even camping under the stars sounds superb.

  16. The pristine and untouched states of the North East are real undiscovered gems of India. We have not really explored much of this region but the beauty of the region beckons. Ukhrul sounds enchanting and this is a place we would like to explore. Being vegetarians we are fascinated by the idea of Usop, and hope to try out some of these vegetarian dishes some day.

  17. Reading this post and interview, I suddenly feel that we Indians hardly know anything about the North-East, well..at least I am not aware of many things. Never heard of these places nor the Lily festival. I am planning my first visit to NE this year-end or in early 2019. Hope to explore this beautiful region of India. Enjoyed this informative and interesting post!

  18. Oh wow! That’s an interesting series of interviews… Looking forward to read the rest too!
    I super glad to know about Usop – this vegetarian meal of north eastern India.
    I did plan to head in that direction once which was not fruitful. Hope I’ll get to go soon!

  19. I quickly looked up Shirui Lily and was enchanted by the beauty of the flower. I am so surprised I had never heard of this wonderful bit about India. I am totally inclined to travel to this place not only for the flower but also for that amazing Usop meal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses spam protection software. Learn how your comment data is processed.