Have you ever been to North East India? If not, then you are missing out on one of India's most diverse and vibrant regions. It is one of the most adventurous, greenest and environmental friendly places in the country. The scenic beauty is breathtaking with clean and fresh air, age old traditions, friendly locals, untouched flora and fauna, surreal landscapes and unfamiliar new experiences awaiting you at every corner of these seven sister states. Nagaland, the eastern most Indian state and Meghalaya, the 'Scotland of the East', are two states which illustrate the region's diversity and are the best destinations to start off exploring this stunning part of India. To give you a glimpse, here’s a list of must-have places to visit in North East India in these two states.
Experience the Nagaland Hornbill Festival at Kisama Heritage Village
The 17 different tribes in Nagaland make North East a cultural melting pot where festivities of different tribes happen almost every month. But at the end of the year from 1-10 December, it’s time for the Hornbill Festival at the Naga Heritage Village of Kisama in the foothills of Mount Japfu. The festival is named after the bird, Great Indian Hornbill, which is mentioned in many tribal tales and folklore. It’s the time of the year when all the tribes of Nagaland gather to celebrate the cultural richness of this region that has been a matter of immense intrigue for travellers. The Hornbill International Rock Competition, the tribal dances, traditional archery, Naga wrestling and delicacies from different tribes during Hornbill Festival make it an important event to showcase the culture of the region. To be part of this incredible festival surely tops the list of things to do in Nagaland, or India for that matter, for any traveler. The Nagaland Hornbill Festival is the perfect way to get a glimpse ad experience of the vibrant and colorful Naga culture.
Caving in Meghalaya: Unforgettable experience
Meghalaya has some of the best caving adventures in India with a large network of caves in Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The caves at Arwah and Mawmluh are the popular ones in Cherrapunjee. Arwah is thronged by tourists and anyone can access it while Mawmluh requires you to take a specialized guide with you. Caving or Spelunking, as it is formally called as a sport, can be done vertically or horizontally. Mawmluh cave is perfect for getting your first experience walking deep into earth. As you wade through narrow fissures and walk through waist deep water with hanging stalactites, stalagmites and various shimmering rocks dotting your route, walking into the darkness with your head torch in this enclosed environment is almost dreamlike. Make sure you never enter a cave without an expert guide and always inform other people on the surface where and when you are headed.
Cherrapunjee: A must visit place
Cherrapunjee receives one of the highest amount of rainfall in the world and is also its claim to fame worldwide. But this region is replete with limestone deposits which has led to the formation of fourth largest cave network in Asia. Even though many visit this region in the monsoon, we suggest you to visit between September/October and March, when the rains are at bay and you are free to go caving or trekking. When you’re at God’s natured place, Cherrapunjee, you can’t afford to miss the magnificent beauty of the numerous waterfalls. There are many waterfalls, like Seven Sisters falls, which can be seen from tourists spots. However, we recommend you trek to Rainbow waterfall ahead of the Living roots bridge in Nongriat village. A pretty stunning fall with a perpetual rainbow!! And if you are fit enough and up for the challenge, you can climb the never ending line of steps, an ancient route used by villagers over hundreds of years, up from the village to Noh Kali Kai falls, which is the tallest plunge waterfall in India at 1150 ft. Go chasing waterfalls in this stunning region!
Spice things up with the traditional twist of flavours in Naga Cuisine
Looking to spice things up?The traditional Naga cuisine when traveling through this food haven is right up your alley. Naga cuisine is the amalgamation of the food choices of the 17 tribes across the state and believe us when we say it is very spicy! Rice with pork, chicken or fish remains a staple diet largely throughout Nagaland and the love for smoked pork and beef dishes is a common food choice of all tribes in this state. Any dish with Raja Mirchi, voted as one of the fiercest chillies in the world, is to be handled with care (Don't tell us we didn't warn you!). To try out the authentic bamboo shoots cooked with pork or fish or lamb is a must-have and if you’re hunting for Naga delicacies to try on your trip to this state, experience at the Hornbill Festival gives you just the right opportunity to taste the distinct delicacies of various tribes of Nagaland at one place.
Trek to the Living root bridges at Nongriat and Nong Thynmai
On your adventure trip across Meghalaya, trekking to the living root bridges on the southern slopes of Khasi and Jaintia hills is a must. To reach the Nongriat Village, you have to descend almost 3000 stairs leading to the village. The single root bridge at Nong Thynmai Village and the double decker root bridge in Nongriat are definitely awe-inspiring sights that are unique to the state of Meghalaya. The journey to the villages of Nongriat and Nong Thynmai Village is definitely a box ticked in your bucket list! The living root bridges in these villages are an example of the ingenuity of the local Khasi and Jaintia tribesmen of Meghalaya. These bridges, made out of the aerial roots of a certain species of Indian rubber tree, are meticulously tied, twisted and trained together to move in a specific direction, usually over a river or stream. Believe it or not, some of these bridges have been operational since the last 1000 years and there are more than 11 (regularly used and popular) functional root bridges in this region. Are you ready to experience Adventure Meghalaya?
Camp out in the stunning Dzukou Valley
The hunt for an offbeat destination for a great adventure has now brought the thrill-seekers to the eastern edge of the country. Dzukou Valley, with its rolling green hills, is a majestic spot that lies at an altitude of 2438m at the border of Nagaland and Manipur. Camping in this stunning valley with rollings green hills is definitely a bucket list experience and an incredible family adventure travel holiday. During summers the valley remains replete with medicinal herbs and after the monsoons, the regions comes to life with various exotic flowers. Travellers who’ve been here often call it the 'Valley of Flowers of the Northeast' but truth be told, it has an unparalleled charm that can be experienced only if you travelled this far to experience it. Witness stunning sunrise and sunsets with your family and friends for memories lasting you a lifetime! Add this to your bucket list now!
Canyoning in Meghalaya for the thrill-seekers
Not many know about the wonderful sport or activity that is canyoning. Meghalaya provides thrill-seekers a chance to have the time of their life. The small village of Mawlongbna is a secret hub of exclusive travel experiences in Meghalaya. This sleepy village is an ideal spot for various treks in this East Khasi region and has been the choicest destination for birders too. For thrill seekers, canyoning to the Umkhakoi Reservoir is simply unmissable. While following the stream all the way to the reservoir, you can swim and make your way through the unique rock formations in the region. The uniqueness of the terrain of this region can also be noticed on reaching Split Rock, a distinctive rock formation where two 30 ft high rocks stand side by side giving little space for a few people to stand in between. If you’re looking for a completely surreal adventure this season, here is something you must definitely sign up for.
Fall in love with the Meghalayan delicacies
Most travellers would agree that the soul of a destination lies in its local food and when in Meghalaya, the lip-smacking local delicacies just can’t be missed. The spicy meat and fish preparations with rice have been a staple food of the locals and during your visit, these delicacies of the region can be a window for an insight into a culture that is deeply fascinating. The Khasi and Jaintia people have a special fondness for Jadoh, Ki Kpu and pickled Bamboo shoots. Stop by small shops run by Khasi next to the roads or markets to sample the best of local cuisine.
Visit Khonoma Village of the Angami Tribe
20 kms away from Kohima lies the Khonoma village of Angami tribe of Nagaland. The grand village gates of Khonoma welcome you from a distance. The Angami tribe is said to have inhabited this village for the past 700 years and have been pioneers of various ingenious agricultural practices. Angamis are recognized as some of the only indigenous people of Nagaland who practice wet rice cultivation on hillslopes. Interacting with them will give you a chance to share their immense indigenous ingenuity regarding the conservation practices that have officially earned Khonoma the title of 'The Green Village'.