North East India - The Little Explored Destination

by Abhijeet Deshpande


Posted on 2nd July, 2016


Living Root Bridge Meghalaya

My wife and I made a longish tour in 2013-14 - in what became a life-altering experience. I've turned into a travel writer since, with the manuscript of my travelogue picked up by a literary agent (hope it gets published soon!). The proposed book, that aims to promote tourism in Northeast India, is a tribute to the people of the region to whom we would be forever grateful for their generous hospitality.

Backpacking in North East India

I've done budget travel in north east India. So, the first thing I'd say, especially when you intend to backpack, is that don't plan too much. And northeast India is all about nature!

Just buy a road atlas of the region and land there. I started off from Dibrugarh and then weaved my circuit on the go. But you may well start from Guwahati or any other city/town that you fancy along the train route from New Delhi. Here, I'm sharing a rough estimate of costs of transport, hotels and food.

Transport:

Northeast India is seven sisters and a brother (Sikkim) now. Except Assam, most of it is a mountainous region without extensive rail connectivity. State Transport's buses are available but shared taxis are the preferred choice for long distance travel. These are affordable, unless you venture into really remote areas. Stick with these shared taxis that generally cost between INR 300-900 for intercity travel.

Accommodation:

Most towns have guest houses and may offer rooms in the range of INR 200-1500 per night (shared toilets, sometimes). In addition, you may find dormitories at hotels (usually rented by accompanying taxi drivers of business travelers staying in that hotel). Plus, sometimes religious places like Churches may offer a bed.

Food:

I don't know your dietary preferences. However, there's plenty of choice available for both vegetarians and meat lovers. I preferred to eat local food and a street side meal should cost between INR 50-150, based on what you eat.

You do have chances to further cut down the costs by:

  • choosing to hitch hike instead of buying a shared taxi ticket
  • exploring home stays (as a courtesy, always carry some souvenir for the host or goodies for the family's kids)

In addition to the above tips, please secure Inner Line Permits for the three States of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. This is a fairly straightforward process. Weather-wise, November to April is perhaps the best time to travel in northeast India. The famous tourism festivals of Hornbill (Nagaland) and Sangai (Manipur) are during this time too.

Diversity of North East India

One thing to bear in mind is that though there's a tendency to bracket the region as one, these are eight highly diverse States with many indigenous communities, cultures and lifestyles. We clicked over 4000 pictures. Here I share few reasons for you to trust your intuition to travel in Northeast India. Have a look and decide for yourself:

Dibrugarh Railway Station Clean
A wintry morning at Dibrugarh Railway Station. Clean and calm:

At some places the other bank of river Brahmaputra extends to the horizon. River is home to world's largest inhabited island - Majuli. Get there, this way:

Majuli Island Brahmaputra Boat

Observe that carrying arms is a way of life in some parts of the region.
Either guns: North East India Guns Protection
....or more often, the multipurpose Daav (Machette) North East India Daav

Get used to wobbly but reliable hanging bridges (made out of bamboo or iron):

North East India Hanging Bridges Bamboo

Realize that villages are clean:

North East India Clean Villages

You are never too far from a tea plantation

North East India Tea Plantations

Grab a byte of history - at Shahid Minar, Imphal or. . .

North East India Historical Monuments

. . . the World War Cemetery at Kohima:

Word War Cemetery Kohima

Realize that the game of Polo is Manipur's gift to the world of sports:

Horse Polo Manipur

Discover nature's bounty: Dzukou Valley....

Dzukou Valley Nature

...Loktak Lake, world's only floating national park:

Loktak Lake Floating Islands

...or the legendary Rih Dil Lake

Rih Dil Lake

... Cruise over River Gomati at Chhabimura (for an Amazonian experience):

River Gomati Chhabimura

...or walk the Living Root bridges

Living Root Bridge Meghalaya

Be aware though, you might carry home a spider this size (riding on your back from one of those treks):

Huge Spider North East India

Enjoy the local elixirs .......Tongba in Sikkim:

Sikkim Local Food Tongba

Learn local words, phrases to enjoy moments with warm and friendly people. Its priceless:

Locals North East India

I am happy to take specific questions and help you travel in this "paradise unexplored".
(PS: I may not be prompt to respond, but I will!)

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About the Author: Abhijeet Deshpande

Abhijeet Deshpande

Abhijeet Deshpande is an accidental nomad. Since discovering his passion, he has travelled from the sand deserts of Thar to the snow deserts of the Arctic. Over time, his frequency and the length of travel have been steadily increasing. To keep up, his choices are changing, too: from planned holidays to spontaneous, from fixed time to flexible, flying to rails and roads, from sleeping in star-rated hotels to sharing toilets, trolley bags to backpacks, guided tours to exploration, from relying on travel guides to using local advice, and from ticking-off 'recommended places' to discovering. He writes on multiple platforms. Interact with or follow him on Quora.

Tags:

North East India, Majuli, Hanging Bridges, Shahid Minar, Kohima War Cemetery, Dzukou Valley, Loktak Lake, Rih Dil Lake, Living Root Bridges, Tongba