Looking to travel to Northeast India? Check out this ultimate Northeast India itinerary to help you plan your adventure!
Northeast India is one of the most undiscovered and unexplored places in India. If you’re looking for adventure, gorgeous mountainous landscapes, lakes, forests, waterfalls, and a taste of unique tribal cultures, then you definitely have to travel here. I hung out in an opium den in Nagaland, drank tea in a homestay that floated on a phumdi on Loktak Lake, cycled through villages on the biggest river island in the world, trekked to living root bridges, and traveled extensively on local sumos. This guide is composed of my exact itinerary from 5 weeks in Northeast India. It includes Sikkim and the seven sister states of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh.
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- Arunachal Pradesh
Sikkim has a fascinating history, and they only recently became a part of India in 1975. Their two main languages today are English and Nepali, and there is a cultural mix of Tibetan, Indian, and Nepalese influence throughout the state. It’s home to the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, which is visible from Gangtok.
Travelers need an Inner Line/Restricted AreaPermit for Sikkim. This can be obtained either in Darjeeling (a two step-process: first you have to visit the Foreigner’s Registration Office next to the ICICI Bank, then the District Magistrate & Collector’s Office where they will stamp your passport) or at the border at Rangpo (make sure you have photo copies of your passport and passport photos).
Gangtok (2-3 days)
Daily sumos depart from Siliguri/ Darjeeling to Gangtok. You can also charter an entire taxi.
Some things to do in Gangtok are Directorate of Handcrafts and Heirlooms, visit the Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel, eat Sikkimese thali at Nimtho Sikkim, and hang out on MG Mall Street.
Ravangla (1-2 days)
A few hour sumo right is a quiet little town famous for ‘Tathagatha Tsal’ or the Buddha Park, a 40 meter tall statue of Buddha. You can also visit a new monastery, the Rabong Monastery, as well as the largest monastery in Sikkim, the Ralang Monastery. Nearby is the Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the oldest and most famous monasteries in Sikkim. You can also visit the Chenrezig Skywalk.
Oakhrey (1-2 days)
This gorgeous tiny village in Western Sikkim is located near the Oakhrey Rhododendron Sanctuary. You can visit the gorgeous Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. In March and April, when the rhododendrons are in full bloom, you’ll have breathtaking views of vibrant red flowers amongst the green hills.
Pelling & Khechoperi Lake (2-3 days)
Nearby to Pelling is Khechoperi Lake. This lake is considered to be a holy lake that is shaped like a footprint when viewed from above. It’s surrounded by forests, and is said to have curative properties. You can also take a 4 hour roundtrip hike to a cave, offering spectacular views of the lake from above.
Yuksom (2-3 days)
Yuksom is a beautiful village in Western Sikkim that sees very few tourists. If you want a very authentic feel for Sikkim, then definitely put Yuksom on your list.
How to Get from Sikkim to Meghalaya
Take a sumo back to Siliguri and then fly from Bagdogra to Guwahati, Assam. Take a shared sumo from the airport to Shillong.
Meghalaya (6-7 days)
Meghalaya was one of my favorite states, and it might be yours too during this Northeast India itinerary. It’s the wettest place in India, meaning it has the most amount of rainfall. Because of this, it’s also one of the greenest and most lush places in India, with its forests and waterfalls and lakes. It’s quite easy to get around and is a great place if you’re a nature lover.
From Guwahati, take a shared taxi to Shillong for 500 rps, or a shared sumo for 170rps.
Shillong (1-2 days)
Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and a good city to visit for a couple of days. Some things to do are visit Elephant Falls, Umiam Lake, and Shillong View Point.
Where to Stay in Shillong
Dew Drop In: A very comfortable, homey guesthouse with very friendly owners. Probably one of the comfiest beds I’ve slept in, in a long time! Located very close to the Shillong View Point. I found an awesome price for this hotel which I found at Booking.com
How to Get from Shillong to Cherrapunjee
From Shillong, take a shared sumo that leaves from the top floor of the parking garage near the shared taxis to Cherrapunjee.
Cherrapunjee (1-2 days)
Cherrapunjee is a good starting point for your trek to the living root bridges. Make sure you visit Nohsngithiang Falls/ Seven Sisters Waterfalls, the fourth highest waterfalls in the world are located in Cherrapunjee, as well as Mawsmai Cave.
Where to Stay in Cherrapunjee
Accommodation in Cherrapunjee is very basic and a bit pricey for what you’re getting, but this guide to traveling in Meghalaya will help you find a comfortable stay. D-Cloud has very basic rooms with a friendly owner. By The Way offers cheap accommodation with a dorm room.
How to Get From Cherrapunjee to Nongriat
Take the 9:30AM bus that leaves from the street in front of By The Way Hostel (opposite side of the road) to Tyrna Village, it costs 30 rupees. You can also grab a taxi for around 250-400 rupees depending on your haggling skills.
From Tyrna, it’s a 4.63 KM walk to the double rooted bridge/ Nongriat Village where you can spend a night or two.
Nongriat Village/Double Decker Living Root Bridge (1-2 days)
Once you reach Nongriat (it’ll take 1-2 hours) you’ll be close to everything.
You definitely have to visit the Living Root Bridges and the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. These spectacular bridges were made from the Khasi people, and can supposedly hold up to 500 people and last up to 500 years. Also visit Rainbow Falls.
Where to Stay in Nongriat
Serene Guesthouse: The owner of this guesthouse is so friendly! It’s basic but comfortable accommodation, dorms are 300 rupees and privates are 800-1000 rupees. There is an all you can eat buffet dinner for 130 rupees at 19:30. You can just show up and book, or you can call the owner at +9194778 70423.
How to Get from Cherrapunjee to Dawki
You’ll have to head back to Shillong and take a sumo back down to Dawki.
Dawki/ Mawlynnong (2-3 days)
A crystal clear river runs right through Dawki to Bangladesh, and from Dawki you’ll be able to see Bangladesh. Mawlynnong is deemed the cleanest village in Asia and India.
In order to get to Mawlynnong from Dawki, you have to take a sumo to Pongtung and then find a shared taxi or hitchhike to Mawlynnong. You could also trek there, it’s 18KM so would take around 4.5 hours.
Where to Stay in Dawki
Lamin Guesthouse: Affordable and comfortable accommodation. Chen, the owner, is so friendly and I actually ended up befriending him and spending a couple of days exploring the area with him. It’s really close to the river and there’s a delicious restaurant underneath the guesthouse.
How to Get from Meghalaya to Tripiura
Take a sumo to Shillong, then another sumo to Guwahati. Fly from Guwahati to Agartala, Tripura
Tripura (1-2 days)
You’ll only need a couple of days in the capital of Tripura, Agartala. Visit Ujjayanta Palace, Jagannath Bari, Gedu Mia’s Mosque, and Neermahal Summer Palace.
Where to Stay in Agartala
I stayed in Prantik Hotel, it’s very basic accommodation but one of the only hotels that accepts foreigners. The owner is very friendly and will help you out with sightseeing around the city.
How to Get from Tripura to Mizoram
Mizoram (2-3 days)
The Land of the Mizos/ Highlanders, Mizoram is home to orchids, rhododendrons, Phawngpui Peak and the bustling capital city of Aizawl. It’s mostly covered by forests, and has the highest concentration of tribal people in the entire country
This is a bustling, vibrant, hilly city and the capital of Mizoram. Visit the Mizoram State Museum, Soloman’s Temple, Durtland Road, and the Bara Bizaar (for some shopping). You’ll only need a day or two in Aizawl.
For some traditional Mizo food, eat at Red Pepper. Try the local rice beer as well. For some delicious chocolate, dessert, and coffee, head to the Chocolate Room.
Where to Stay in Aizawl
I stayed at the Annexe Homestay. It was so comfortable and includes breakfast in your room every morning. There’s a balcony and a terrace you can relax on to enjoy the sunshine, and the rooms are very big and spacious.
Also known as Blue Mountain, this is the highest place in the state and a great place to come for trekking and beautiful viewpoints. Check out this page for more information on Phawngpui Peak.
How to get from Mizoram to Manipur
Fly from Aizawl to Imphal, the capital of Manipur (Flights depart on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, & Sunday)
Manipur (4-5 days)
Manipur is also known as the Jewel of India. It’s home to the only floating national park in the world, Keibul Lamjao, as well as the Sangai deer and many species of bird. This is the place to come if you want to experience a homestay and relax for a few days on Loktak Lake.
How to Get to Loktak Lake
Once you land in Imphal, take a 200 rupee rickshaw to the Woman’s Market and grab a sumo going to Moirang for 60 rupees. From Moirang, walk for about 10 minutes down the road, cross the bridge and make an immediate left turn. Catch a shared rickshaw to Thanga. You could even sit on the roof!
Loktak Lake is a nice place to come and unwind for a few days. Once you’re at Loktak Lake, rent a bicycle, ride in a boat with a local guide, visit Keibul Lamjao National Park, and indulge in the local Manipurian cuisine.
Where to Stay in Loktak Lake
If you’re visiting Loktak Lake, I highly recommend spending a few nights at Mr. Maipakchao’s Homestay (Contact +91 70051 71790). There’s an incredible view of the lake from the homestay, and it’s located in a quiet area of Thanga. His wife cooks mouthwatering food (eggs, fish curry, chicken, vegetables, papad, rice, daal), and you’ll get breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. A private room is around 1000-1,500rps/night, food included in the price.
Another homestay is Loktak Floating Homestay, where you can stay right on the lake in a floating home. Rooms are 1500rps/night with all three meals. I enjoyed delicious tea with the family when we stopped there on my boat ride, and the rooms looked so comfortable. You can even go swimming right outside the doorstep! (Contact +91 93781 22084).
Head back to Imphal after Loktak to continue your journey in Northeast India.
Where to Stay in Imphal
If you’re looking for a bit of luxury, I highly recommend Sangai Continental. I booked a night here after I was in dire need of a hot shower and a big, fluffy bed. Breakfast is included and you’ll get aircon and room service. There’s even a fitness center at the hotel!
How to Get from Manipur to Nagaland
Imphal to Kohima/ Dimapur, Nagaland: 6 AM sumo from bus stand, 700-800 rupees. I recommend booking the day before.
Nagaland (6-7 days)
Nagaland is a beautiful state that borders Myanmar with a very interesting history. From the Headhunters, to Christian missionaries, to previous occupation by Assam, Nagaland has a lot to offer.
Dzükou Valley Trek
From Dimapur, take a local sumo (3-4 hours) to Kohima to do the Dzükou Valley Trek. You can start the trek in Viswema and spend a night or two in the Dzuko Guesthouse, then trek back down to Zakhama. Starting the trek from Viswema is easier than starting it from Zakhama (less of an incline) I also recommend bringing your own food, blankets, and mattress pad, since the guesthouse only offers basic food and very basic accommodation.
From Kohima, you can make your way to Mon District to see the Headhunters.
1 PM bus with Deep Travels from Kohima to Mon, arrives at 5AM
From Mon, catch the 7 AM sumo to Longwa (2-3 hours).
Only several dozen years ago, neighboring rival tribes and villages of Nagaland would choose their strongest fighter to fight one another if an argument ensued. The winner collected the head of the loser, placed it into a basket and kept it as a trophy. The skulls they collected were said to have magic powers, and the Headhunters proudly displayed them.
It was only when the government intervened and they eventually converted to Baptist- based Christianity that this practice stopped.
Where to Stay in Longwa
Once you’re in Longwa, I recommend staying at Traveller’s Inn (+91 98560 15152). The guys that work there are super friendly and helpful. You can go on a tour of the area with one of them (1500-2000rps).
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
Every year from the 1-10 of December, the Hornbill Festival takes place in Kisama, Nagaland. All of the tribes of Nagaland participate in an effort to protect the culture of Nagaland. I would highly recommend coming to Nagaland during this time if you’re interested in learning more about their culture.
Every year during the first week of April, the Konyak Tribe in Mon celebrates the arrival of spring. If you want to see the Headhunters of the Konyak tribe in their traditional dress plus a ton of celebrations, then definitely visit Mon during this time.
How to Get from Nagaland to Assam
You’ll need to take a combination of sumos, buses, and a ferry to get from Nagaland to Assam: Longwa – Mon – Sonari – Sivasagar – Jorhat
Once you’re in Jorhat, you’ll probably need to spend the night since the ferries to Majuli stop at 3:30PM. I recommend staying at Hotel Gulmohor Grand for a comfortable nights stay.
Assam (3-4 days)
Assam is a beautiful state that’s home to the only floating river island in the world and the one-horned Rhino. It’s rich with culture and is the most accessible of the Northeastern States.
Kaziranga National Park
Situation along the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River, the Kaziranga National Park is home to one-horned rhinos and elephants. The 430 square kilometer park is a protected area that is full of grasslands and river dolphins. Check out more information here.
If you’re coming from Nagaland, you might get stuck in Jorhat for one night since the ferries stop running at 3:30 PM. I treated myself to some beers and a nice hotel. There are lots of budget options as well.
Majuli is the only floating river island in the world. It’s a wonderful cultural hub of Assam and where you’ll find laid-back island life. You can spend your days cycling to villages, visiting the Mask Making at the Samaguri Satra, drinking tea at the Majuli Cycle Cafe, or indulging in good Assamese thali.
I recommend staying at Ygdrasill Bamboo Cottage. One of the best experiences to have in Majuli is staying at a cottage. This one is situated next to a gorgeous lake with incredible views of the island.
How to Get from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh
Check out my blog post on how to go from Assam to Arunachal Pradesh: How to Get from Majuli to Ziro
Arunachal Pradesh (1-2 weeks)
Arunachal Pradesh is one of India’s least visited states. It baffles me that more people don’t visit this land of rolling hills, sanctuaries, valleys, mountains, and lakes!
Applying for an Inner Line Permit
First, you’ll have to apply for an ILP. If you’re an Indian national, you can do this online. If you’re a foreigner, you have to go to the office in person.
This is straightforward and takes a few days to process. I applied for mine at the Office of the Deputy Resident Commissioner in Guwahati, office open 10:00-17:00 Monday – Friday. You’ll fill out a form with things like your name, visa number, Father’s name, where you plan to visit and how long you’re planning on being in the state.
Since I was traveling solo, I was only allowed access to Ziro Valley, Itanagar, Bomdila, and Tawang. If you’re a couple or more, then you have access to the entire state. My application cost 1,800 rupees, but I believe if you’re going elsewhere in the state I’ve heard it will cost 3,500 rupees (but I could be wrong).
Ziro is a beautiful area of Arunachal Pradesh that’s home to tiny local villages and beautiful scenery. It’s a nice place to walk around and visit both Old and New Ziro. I stayed at Hotel Valley in New Ziro for 500 rupees/night. You can visit the Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Meghna Cave Temple, and Kile Pakho View Point.
Sumo from Ziro to Itanagar, 400 rupees, departs 5AM, 9-11AM.
Itanagar is the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, however there is not much to see. If you’re here on a layover, you can visit Ita Fort. Stay at Hotel Blue Pine, 1200 rupees for a single room.
Overnight bus Itanagar to Tezpur, departs 7:45 PM. Bus stand is near Hotel Blue Pine. Sumo from Tezpur (Assam) to Bomdila, 8 hours.
This is a great place to stop on your way to Tawang. It offers spectacular mountain views and gorgeous scenery.
Bomdila to Tawang sumo, 8 hours.
If you’re into monasteries and mountain vistas, then Tawang is the place to be! Visit the Tawang Monastery, Tawang War Memorial, and Giant Buddha Statue.
Tawang to Tezpur, 13-14 hours sumo. From Tezpur, head back to Guwahati and fly out!
Did you enjoy this Northeast India itinerary? If you have anything else to add, please leave it in the comments below!
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