This is the story of seven sisters born to a mother who is so culturally diverse that people, who do not have a personal touch with her, wonder how she is still in one piece. From the crown she wears to the waters that washes her feet, Mother India is full of life. Enigmatic and beautiful, most of the Indian peninsula is well documented and written about. However, turn east and you will find yourself lost. The land where the first rays of the sun touches India is ironically the darkest spot in any tourism map. The land of unspoken beauty is also the land least frequented or visited by the average tourist and hence called “Paradise Unexplored”. Only the adventurous get a chunk of paradise. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura form the seven sisters. They cover 7% of India’s total land area and has 3.7% of India’s total population.
Roughly shaped like a bird with wings stretching along the length of the Brahmaputra River, Assam is the central state in the North-East Region of India and serves as the gateway to the rest of the Seven Sister States. Also called the land of Red Sea and blue hills, Assam is known for the successful effort in conserving one-horned rhinos and the golden langurs. The Kaziranga National Park is a major tourist attraction in Assam. It is a safe haven for the wild animals and tourists can view the animals in their natural habitats from a safe distance with trained officials who arrange the safaris. The nearest airport is in Rowriah (Jorhat Airport). Buses owned by Assam State Transport Corporation and private agencies between Guwahati, Tezpur, and Upper Assam stop at the main gate of Kaziranga on NH 37 at Kohora. Guided tours by elephant or Jeep are available. Visitors can come in their own vehicles if they are accompanied by guides. Hiking is prohibited in the park to avoid potential human-animal conflicts. Of course, Assam is friendly to those who prefer sitting, relaxing and drinking tea rather than going on safaris. Dibrugarh is the place to go for the tea-lovers. It is also called the tea-capital of the world. The town is situated on the edge of the Brahmaputra River. Set amidst extensive tea estates, Dibrugarh offers tourists the opportunity to experience a life in a tea estate. The recent tea has started becoming popular, with travel companies such as Greener Pastures and Purvi Discovery offering tea tours.
Known by many names like “land of the dawn-lit mountains” and “orchid state of India”, Arunachal Pradesh is the easternmost state of India. So yeah, the first rays of sun touches India here. Your day starts early here, so that gives you more time to go places. That is lucky because Arunachal Pradesh has some really beautiful things to show the world. Places to visit include Tawang, which is at an elevation of 3000m and has got a Buddhist monastery built in the city and Sela Lake near Bomdila with its bamboo bridges overhanging the river. Parshuram Kund in Lohit district which is believed to be the lake where Parshuram washed away his sins is another place the religious among you would want to visit. Of course, your adrenaline rush can be satiated by abundant scope for angling, boating, rafting, trekking and hiking. Rafting and trekking are common activities.
With its capital settled in oval valley with being 720 mtrs above sea level, Manipur is perhaps the hishest historically sound state. With a brilliant history dating back to the 33 A.D., Manipur has made its way into the Indian subcontinent after independence. The sheer beauty of this particular sister has led to her being called the ‘Switzerland of India’. It is culturally very rich. Keibul Lamjao National Park, 48 km away from Imphal is an abode of, rare and endangered species of Brow Antlered deer and visitors get to see these creatures under the supervision of forest authorities. The mild and pleasant climate makes the place heavenly and it is said people who visit Manipur once visits her again. Also, once in Imphal, one would not want to miss Lake Loktal, which happens to be the largest fresh water lake in North-East India. It is like a veritable miniature inland sea. The Sendra Island in the middle of the lake is an ideal tourist attraction. The Sendra Tourist Home with an attached cafeteria is a place you wouldn’t want to miss. A special attraction in this area are the floating islands which people can view after hiring boats for a nominal fee.
The name literally means “abode of the clouds” in Sanskrit. And what else to name a place so beautiful, so high and so majestic that people actually thought gods lived here. This state receives more rainfall everyday than most places in Africa receive in a whole year. Cherrapunjee holds the world record for being the place with maximum rainfall. It is a land of exotic beauty, with mountains that are so high that clouds shy away to make way for the peak.
Shillong is another very famous hill station of India. It is usually a place to visit in every average Indian traveller’s bucket list. Visit this place between March to July and you will have experiences that you will love telling your grandchildren when you are too old for the mountains. Shillong also has India’s oldest golf courses.
Ecotourism and Adventure tourism are both very popular in Meghalaya. This is so because Meghalaya has India’s largest forest reserves. Rock climbing, trekking, hiking are all very popular in this region and will definitely satisfy that inner dragon in you which craves for excitement. The Mawphlang sacred forest, also known as “Law Lyngdoh,” is one of the most famous sacred forests. It’s located about 25 kilometres from Shillong and is a must visit for nature lovers. These forests have been protected since the ancient times and holds wisdom and grandeur on a different level.
Mizoram is called the land of rolling hills, rivers and lake. As many as 21 major hills or peaks rise across the length and breadth of the state. The dramatic landscape and pleasant climate makes Mizoram a very desirous place to be. Head to Aizwal, which appears to be set atop mountain peaks, and there you can enjoy shopping at bada bazaar. Or if you feel like touching the spiritual side of you, head to Solomon’s temple, which is a grand cathedral erected as a symbol of love of Jesus of Nazreth. Or you could just sit and do nothing other than look at the majestic mountains, so huge you will find yourself wondering why god made you so small.
Extremely proud of its history and heritage, the people of Mizoram boast of all the artefacts that once belonged to heroes of the old. The village Chawngtlai, which is a historical village of the state, has many of these artefacts. One such artefact is the Hmar Lungtat, which is a whetting stone of Hmar tribe dating back to 1700 AD. Other equally priceless artefacts also adorn the shelves of the museums in the historical village.
Also called the “falcon capital of the world”, Nagaland is named so because it is the home of the Naga Tribes who got their names from the pierced noses they sport. People from Nagaland are extremely friendly and culturally diverse. The government of Nagaland is now promoting their traditional celebration of nature, where they dress up as hornbills and dance merrily. Traditional arts which include paintings, wood carvings, and sculptures are also on display during this happy time. Additional attractions include the Konyak fire eating demonstration, pork-fat eating competitions, the Hornbill Literature Festival , Hornbill Global Film Fest, North East India Drum Ensemble, Naga king chilli eating competition (you’ve got to try this one out).
Sadly, tourism in this state is badly affected due to the naxal problem. It is not exactly advisable to go there unless you either want to join forces for or against the naxals. The government of India is taking the necessary steps to remove the problems and hopefully soon, Nagaland will become the hub of cultural celebration that it is meant to be.
The most secretive of the seven sisters, Tripura in Sanskrit means “three cities”. A calm state with beautiful scenic hamlets, Tripura is for the nature lovers who love calm and quite of rural retreat. Of course, the capital city is an attraction enough, but tourism in Tripura has not really attained the status of other states. Vastly unexplored, people miss out on much more than just mountains in this beautiful state.
A visit to the north-east India should definitely be on your “places-to-go-to-before-I-die” list. I am adding it to mine. See you somewhere in the mountains.