North East India

The Least Explored North East India

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. 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.

Abhijeet Deshpande, author of Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey, shares some sights from this incredible land, few thoughts on why it retains the tag of least explored, and why you must visit this region – sooner than later.

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Meghalaya

Home to the wettest places in the world, the state, organized into three areas viz. Garo Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Khasi Hills, is aptly named in Sanskrit to mean abode of clouds. Towns like Cherrapunji (also known as Sohra) and Mawsynram are known to record highest rainfall on earth. It sports few of wildest national parks, some breathtaking waterfalls, rivers, and lakes, and the famous living-root bridges. Meghalaya’s matrilineal society, wherein the youngest daughter inherits the family wealth, lends it a unique characteristic. Besides, it is one of the few states of the country where lottery is legal. So, when visiting, do not forget to buy yourself a teer-lottery ticket – it is based on a system that declares winners on the outcome of an archery event held in its capital, Shillong. All of this merely scratches the surface.

Nagaland

Bordering Myanmar to its east, Nagaland is home to the legendary headhunters who once had the Britishers in a quandary. It dons one of the most colorful outlooks in the region and hosts the iconic Hornbill Festival – named after the state’s bird. Nagaland’s capital city of Kohima commemorates some of the bravehearts of World War II at a sprawling landmark cemetery. Nagaland has an interesting Japanese connection. Few Japanese continue to visit the state to pay homage to their beloved who died in the war. What is peculiar is how a Japanese sub-culture thrives-on in the state – teenagers pick up Japanese slangs, design anime avatars and participate in related cosfests (costume festivals). Nagaland is also where the Siberian Amur falcons stop by while migrating to southern Africa. Indeed, Nagaland’s allure does not end here.

Sikkim

Did you know that Nepalese is an official language in India? With Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet to its east, west and north respectively, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Sikkim is one of the smallest states in the country. It holds enviable distinctions of enforcing a smoking-ban in public places in letter and spirit, banning plastic water bottles, and, being India’s first 100 per cent organic state. Besides organic oranges and the classic Temi Tea, visitors are lured to try hot selling thukpas, dumplings, and its signature Tongba (millet-brew, mildly intoxicating). In between the binge, enjoy visiting Buddhist monasteries, with colorful prayer flags fluttering atop. All of this against a dramatic landscape, lends this Himalayan state, a distinct outlook. Gangtok, the picturesque state capital, offers both – soul-soothing Tibetan music and, places to let your hair down.

This is just an overview for three of eight states of North East India. Impressive, isn’t it? Yet, it remains the least explored part of the country. Why? The short answer? Because the bulk of explorers are looking elsewhere. Having said that, it is somewhat tricky to club the entire region as one. Sikkim near the Siliguri corridor is a relatively popular destination. And so are a few places 500-700 Km east of the corridor, such as Kaziranga National Park in Assam, or parts of Meghalaya, etc. The least explored bit starts as you go deeper. So, what happens there? Why does it remain relatively untouched? Well, there’s a legacy.

North East India Is Transforming

Concerns that impeded travel to this glorious region are becoming a thing of the past. Concerns that used to be real are quickly moving to the realm of mere perception. North East India is opening up to host an ever increasing number of footfalls every year.

Safer Than You Think

Insurgencies that once plagued the region are receding quickly and, are limited to specific remote areas, especially along the international borders. North east India is a collection of eight states – not just two, three or four. If at all, your travel is more likely to be affected by bandhs or peaceful shutdowns (resulting in nothing more than delays). For more on the topic, read this.

Better Access, More Options to Sleep, Food Galore

Flight and train connections allow to get there faster. Buses and shared taxis connect all remote areas. Alternately, you could hire private cabs. To sleep in, besides the tourism rest houses, there are guesthosues, homestays, hostels, and hotels (advance bookings may be required during peak season of October to April,). Finally, for those hesitant to try the delicious indigenous cuisines, there’s good news – all cities have a mix of eateries offering local, popular vegetarian, or even continental food. For more, read How to backpack North East India?.

Easy Travel Permits

This is a British-era legacy. To protect their assets (oil fields, tea estates, etc.), the colonizer had restricted entry to some areas of North East India. Three out of eight states continue to ask Indian nationals to acquire Inner Line Permits (ILPs) and for foreigners to acquire Restricted Area Permits (RAPs) / Protected Area Permits (PAPs). The good thing is that such permits are routinely issued for tourism-related visits. Read more on this topic.

Think North East India

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. Buy now!

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Have you been to or live in North East India? If yes, you stand to win a free paperback! Check out The Sweet Deal.

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53 thoughts on “The Least Explored North East India

  1. Nice. I am planning to start travelling, but im scared to end up without money. May I ask how much money does it cost for you to travel like this?

    1. Thank you, Monika. North East India welcomes guests with all sorts of budgets. For instance, a solo backpacker to the region may effectively manage herself anywhere upwards of $15-20 per day. If you like, consider reading this eBook for more answers.

  2. I think it is lovely that these places are not fully explored by many tourists. It preserved it beauty and cleanliness. Sometimes, being crowded it not good at all.

  3. Beautiful photographs of a land that is so intriguing. Love the Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind. Thanks for sharing!

  4. what a breathtaking views in north east india. truly beautiful and i love the combination of nature and old structures.

  5. A trip to North East has always been on my mind and your post has made me think to actualy go for it !!! The pictures are so fascinating I am imagining how beautiful it would be in real.
    The best part is that they are so clean and maintained !!!
    Thanks for sharing !!!

    1. Thank you for stopping by! It remains one of the best places to hike! Go for it, officially the ‘paradise unexplored’, and let us know when you do! Meanwhile, consider reading up Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey to know more!

    1. Thank you Biswa! If you have enjoyed Meghalaya, we urge you to go deeper in to the region in your forthcoming tours 🙂 Consider reading up Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey to know more!

  6. Beautiful photographs of a land that is so intriguing. Love the Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Never knew India could be this beautiful! Thank you so much for letting us witness the beauty of India through this post.

  8. India is home to the beautiful Himalayas. Apart from this globally known land mark the indigenous lifestyles her people follow would be good thing to view in real time..

  9. I simply love India but I haven’t explored the North East part of it yet. Your post showed me that the area has so much to offer and it’s definitely worth the visit. Is North East India a good road trip destination?

    1. Hi Lydia. We are always excited when we meet people who wants to explore North East India. You are right, the place has a lot to offer and is still one of the Least Explored regions in India. Roads trips are just great there! You can explore a lot!

  10. Oh I’d love to travel to India, thank you so much for sharing this! I’m off to read your other posts now. Keep sharing this amazing content!

    1. Thank you for stopping by Amy. Hope you travel to India soon. You can read all about North East India and many other fantastic places on Backpacking Series website! Happy Reading and Happy Travelling!

  11. I can live vicariously through your travels. The pictures are a beauty – and I’ve always wanted to visit India, and now I can!

  12. I’ve always wanted to visit India, and now I can live vicariously through your travels. Thanks for the beautiful pictures and sharing your travel blog!

  13. The place looks absolutely cool! i would really love to see everything there. As a person who have never been to India yet plan on doing so I am very intersted Bookmarking it

  14. This is an awesome guide! I haven’t been to India or anywhere in Asia yet but I am dying to go. It looks so beautiful, especially the mountains!

  15. Absolutely wonderful, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking the kids to India for a visit, and I’ve always though that the North east has a certain charm to it that is quite different. I’m looking up the special visa link. many thanks.

  16. What an informative post you got here. Good history about India. I didn’t know any of these information.

  17. I didn’t know that part of India speaks Nepalese. That would make sense. I always like to explore the less-explored places like this.

    1. Yes Nina. With Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet to its east, west and north respectively, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Sikkim is one of the smallest states in the country. Hope you plan to travel to North East India as it is officially dubbed as paradise unexplored!

  18. i’ve been wanting to visit north east India for a while now and finally i made my plan to go there in December, do you have any suggestion in terms of transportation?

    1. We are happy that you would be travelling to North East India soon Melissa. For transportation, most of the state capitals have airports, majority of the places are connected with trains and for local commute and places where you do not have flights or trains, shared or private cabs can be hired. It totally depends on where all you plan to visit. You may like to read our travelogue – Backpacking North East India: A Curious Journey. It will give you a lot of information to plan and prepare for your travels to North East. Do not forget to get ready for the travel permits – look up for our post on Travel Permits to North East India.

  19. Those rolling hills are majestic! I love nature tripping like this. Whenever we travel, we don’t like going to malls and other modern developments. (oh well, just some theme parks for the kids). But we like natural and cultural exposures. And food trips, too. Would love to visit North East India someday. 😀

  20. Oh this is amazing!
    Im glad I crossed with such valuous information, whenever I think on India comes to my mind another image, I think that the north of india is amazing and I would love to go to meet once I can see that it is full of things to discover. thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you Sara. India is vast. We also have to cover a few places even though have been travelling for over 20 years now! Hope you plan your travels to India soon and make sure to add North East India in your list! Feel free to connect for any help.

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