Here’s why you need to travel in Northeast India

5 reasons why you need to travel in Northeast India, one of our favorite regions of India to date.

 

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re totally in love with Northeast India. That is, the seven “sister states” of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura. We spent about 2.5 months there, and would’ve gladly stayed longer if monsoon hadn’t rained us out. We didn’t make it to Mizoram or Tripura, but we hear great things. Needless to say, we hope to visit these states soon.

 

 

Why you need to travel to Northeast India - Map of Northeast India - Lost With Purpose

 

The region is a dream, and not just because there are fewer honking horns than the rest of India (though that certainly plays a part). The relaxed pace of life is alluring to even the speediest travelers, and warm local hearts slow visitors down to their own steady beat. Birdcalls sang to us from the depths of lush tropical forests, and fresh Himalayan air nipped our noses as we crossed sky-high mountain passes. Friendships were forged over beers on the banks of rushing rivers, and stories were shared while scrambling up muddy mountains in the pouring rain.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Drinking beers on the riverside in Daporijo, Arunachal Pradesh - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Best of all, Northeast India is still well away from being a beaten tourist track. As tempting as it is to keep it a secret, the wonders of the Northeast are something to be shared. The region’s tourism potential is enormous, and could provide a steady source of income for many of its people. We can’t say no to that!

If you enjoy straying off the beaten track and into nature, are titillated by the possibility of adventure, or simply want to explore a new part of India you haven’t seen before, here are five reasons you need to travel in Northeast India.

Many people add Sikkim to their Northeast itinerary. Want to know more, check out this guide on Sikkim!

Love off the beaten track travel, outdoor adventures, and friendly local people? Maybe it's time to consider traveling to Northeast India! Read on for 5 reasons why you should travel to Northeast India, plus more inspiration, advice, and travel blog posts on the region.

 

5 reasons why you need to travel in Northeast India

 

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Longwa culture at the fire in Nagaland - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Yaowang, an elder from Longwa, Nagaland who once represented his tribe as a headhunting warrior

1. There are more cultures than you can shake a stick at.

We reference Northeast India as one entity to make things easier. In reality, the region is wildly diverse, home to hundreds of different tribes. Travelers could explore the region for a lifetime, and still only scrape the surface of the region’s cultural offerings.

Fiercely proud Naga people live in bamboo villages in the hilly regions spanning several states. Calm Tibetans occupy towns and villages precariously perched on the edges of mountains in Arunachal Pradesh. Peaceful Khasi tribes act as forest guardians and protectors in wet Meghalaya.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India ASAP - Mask maker at Natun Samaguri Satra in Majuli island, Assam, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

At the Natun Samaguri Satra, a sort of monastery-meets-art center on Majuli island in Assam, mask making and theater performances have been an integral part of life for the residents for centuries.

When people ask us if we ever grow bored of traveling in India, we always chuckle and give the same response. “In India, if you take a bus for two hours, you’ll be met by a different group of people with a totally different language, culture, and history from the place and people you just left.”

Northeast India is no exception.

 

Why you need to visit Loktak Lake, Manipur, Northeast India - Woman on boat - Lost With Purpose

Serene Loktak Lake in Manipur felt almost like a mirror image of Inle Lake in Burma, right down to the colorful longyi the women wear.

2. It’s completely different from the rest of India.

Despite being equally as diverse as the rest of the country, much of the Northeast couldn’t be further from “stereotypical” India. Aside from Assam, the places we visited felt much more like Southeast Asia… minus the mass tourism and backpacker pancake trails.

5 reasons to visit Northeast India - Sharing Manipuri yu rice beer with friends - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Forget the Chang towers or crates of Beer Lao—how about sharing some cups of homemade yu (rice beer) with friendly locals in Tamenglong, Manipur instead?

We often asked locals if they felt like they are a part of India, and the responses were overwhelmingly similar:

“Yes, I feel this is India. I am Indian. But we are not like other Indians.”

The difference is visible almost immediately. Gone are the massive throngs of loitering men, eyes staring incessantly as you walk past. Young girls stroll the streets without a care, and it’s totally normal to see groups of young girls and boys hanging out together in public in villages.

 

Faces are broader and fairer, eye shapes reminiscent of past Burmese or Mongolian ancestry. Time moves more slowly, and pace of life on the streets is more relaxed. Perhaps most importantly, people seem to understand honking your horn doesn’t make traffic move faster.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Tibetan homestay host in Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Our beautiful homestay hostess of Tibetan descent in Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh

If you’re a traveler in need of a vacation from the rest of India, or simply want to appreciate how diverse the country truly is, time to pack your bags and book a train to the Northeast!

 

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Guide walking through the hills of Dzukou Valley in Nagaland and Manipur - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Dzukou Valley in Nagaland and Manipur is a popular destination for local tourists… but hardly any foreigners ever make it to this far-flung reach of India!

3. No matter where you go, you’re traveling off the beaten track.

Bar parts of well-developed Assam, virtually all of Northeast India qualifies as off the beaten track. There simply aren’t many tourists visiting this part of the country!

Take 2015, for example: in that year, 118,644 foreign tourists visited the Northeast region, only 0.5% of total foreign visitors in India. That same year, 1.43 billion domestic tourists visited other states, but only 7.2 million of those were in the Northeast. That’s nothing!

Why you need to travel to Northeast India ASAP - Sebastiaan and army men in Manipur state - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Army bros on the border of Manipur gettin’ all excited to see the white man rolling in

You might run into the occasional tour groups in the most popular destinations in Assam or Meghalaya, or need to share the view with selfie squads at Tawang monastery in Arunachal, but that’s about it. No need to worry about streets lined with souvenir stalls, or untrustworthy touts on a quest to part you from your money.

Why you need to travel to Northeast India - Riding on top of a Tempo taxi near Loktak Lake, Manipur - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Lack of space down below? No problem, I’ll ride on top!

Tourism in the Northeast is still finding its feet, and we assure you, any Northeast India destination you choose will feel like an offbeat adventure.

 

Why you need to visit Northeast India - Views in Mechuka - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Enjoying the awesomesauce that is every single degrees of view in Mechuka, Arunachal Pradesh

4. You can see what unspoiled Indian nature looks like. 

Yes, such a thing exists in India, which can be hard to grasp given the state of many sights and natural areas in the rest of the country!

That’s not to say the region is spotlessly clean—there are plenty of people who like to use nature as a trash can rather than respect it—but there are still a good number of places where you can roam without tripping over bottles and cans. or tangling feet in plastic bags and kite strings.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Hills of Dzukou Valley - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The rolling hills of Dzukou Valley aren’t spotless, but the locals running the only guesthouse in the valley have installed trash bins and pick up litter in a grassroots attempt to keep the area clean.

The offbeat and untraveled status of the region is part of the reason so much of the nature is unspoiled, but in some areas, the credit belongs to the people. Many of the tribes in Northeast India worship nature, particularly the sun and the moon, which leads to a greater respect for their natural surroundings.

The Apatani tribe in Ziro work together with the land in a fascinating fashion. One example: they raise fish in the water of their rice paddies, maximizing their food outputs every season.

The Khasi tribes in Meghalaya are the perfect example. A Khasi village named Mawlynnong is famous for earning the moniker of “Cleanest village in Asia”. Aside from the fact that this is a slightly absurd and very unfortunate competition, it’s a clear case of the Khasi tribes’ devotion to respecting their environment. Even outside of Mawlynnong, it’s not uncommon to see Khasi adults and children picking up trash from the ground… something we never expected to see in India.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Khasi girl by root bridges in Nongriat, Meghalaya - Lost With Purpose travel blog

A young Khasi girl running by the famous double decker root bridge in Nongriat, Meghalaya

Instead of taking my word for it, come savor the nature yourself. More importantly, be inspired to action by the cleanliness of the Northeast’s nature and people.

(And please, for the love of god, clean up your trash while you’re there.)

 

Why you need to visit Northeast India - Flower market woman in Imphal, Manipur - Lost With Purpose travel blog

A woman selling seasonal flowers outside the women’s bazaar in Imphal, Manipur’s capital

5. The people.

We came to the Northeast for the nature, but it’s the people we met who left the most lasting impressions.

On Majuli river island in Assam, a friend led us all over the island. He acted as a guide and translator, helping us better understand the place and its people, hoping we’d share our experience with others.

Why you need to visit Northeast India - Monk at a satra on Majuli island, Assam - Lost With Purpose travel blog

This monk studying at a satra in Majuli insisted we sit for a chat… and tea, and fresh apples, and biscuits!

In Imphal, Manipur’s capital, our homestay host and friend took us around the city and the surrounding areas (despite proclaiming there to be nothing for tourists in Imphal). He showed us everything from local hangout spots to ladies at the city bazaar secretly selling weed!

A young hotel owner in Daporijo, Arunachal Pradesh, loaded us up on the back of his motorbike one afternoon. We bounced and bumped over muddy roads for over an hour so he could show us a cave temple hidden amongst misty mountains.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Sebastiaan motorbiking around with a friend in Guwahati, Assam - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Zipping around Guwahati, Assam with some friends we met weeks before in Dzukou Valley, Nagaland!

To be fair, we admit this would not necessarily happen to everyone and anyone. Sebastiaan is a tall, white, blond foreigner who immediately attracts attention—usually positive—wherever he goes. It’s privilege at play, but if you’re a clear-cut foreigner, you’re likely to experience the same.

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Making friends in Daporijo, Arunachal Pradesh - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Domestic tourists may face a different welcome. Bitterness towards mainland Indians is not uncommon in the Northeast. Many men from the Northeast study in other parts of India; they often face harassment, racial slurs and jokes, and general discrimination. Experiences not easily forgotten.

Domestic tourists, don’t let this deter you. Travel to the Northeast is an opportunity to learn more about the homelands of your distant brothers and sisters. It’ll encourage better understanding between the Northeast and the rest of India.

Many locals are excited to see domestic tourists. “Before we only saw them on television and in Bollywood films, and now they are coming in real life!” a man in Ziro Valley exclaimed over chai one evening. If you are kind to the local people and give them a chance, they will not disappoint you.

 

Why you need to travel in Northeast India - Sunset over tea fields in Assam, India - Lost With Purpose travel blog

The famous tea fields of Assam

Get inspired for your trip to Northeast India

So ends my list of reasons you need to travel in Northeast India. I’m assuming you’re all aboard the Northeast India train by now (if there were more trains through Northeast India).

Why you need to travel to Northeast India - Train travel in Assam - Lost With Purpose travel blog

Though select areas in some of the Northeastern states are connected by railway, Assam is the only state with a flourishing rail network. The fact that much of Assam is flatlands helps!

If you’re looking for inspiration on India’s Northeast, below are all of our blog posts on the region. Make yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable, and enjoy reading!

Our travel blog posts on Northeast India

Arunachal Pradesh

Manipur

Meghalaya

Nagaland

* For more travel advice and how-to guides, see our Northeast India archives.

 

Love off the beaten track travel, outdoor adventures, and friendly local people? Maybe it's time to consider traveling to Northeast India! Read on for 5 reasons why you should travel to Northeast India, plus more inspiration, advice, and travel blog posts on the region.

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex Reynolds

28 thoughts on “Here’s why you need to travel in Northeast India

    Simon Leroy says:

    Hi there !
    I think you’ve convinced me to go there, thank you for all the nice articles !

    Simon from britanny (we met in Xinjiang)

    Sebastiaan says:

    Hi Simon, great to hear from you again. It’s an amazing place, we’re sure you’ll love it!

    Ben Rippley says:

    You guys are the shit. I love this site. Every time I visit I end up reading an article that teaches me something new and sparks a curiosity that sends me spiraling down into an information rabbit whole. This article got me interested in racism in India, particularly against north-easterners. Check out some of these cool/informative videos I watched:
    Al-Jazeera – India’s North-easterners Complaining About Racism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQ1WNhea_l0
    Al-Jazeera’s The Stream – Discriminating Against Their Own in India: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7URETSJxQc

    I have a blog of my own: Diaries of a Wandering Madman. Check it out to see stories, interviews and pictures from the 30 countries and counting that I have visited.

    Alex says:

    Haha, I know exactly what you mean—I call it the black vortex of interwebs myself. Anyway, thanks for passing along these videos. They’re frustrating, but seem to be in line with what people have shared with us…

    Will give your blog a look, but I’ve removed the link from your comment, as we don’t allow irrelevant links in our comment section. Cheers!

    Thomas @ BestTravelsandVacations says:

    Amazing. I just love your blog .

    Sebastiaan says:

    That’s great to hear. Thanks!

    Sassythrill says:

    Great post..Northeast India will not leave a stone untouched in astonishing you.Their languages,their culture,their habits,their way of living will make you feel WOW.It’s a must visit place in India.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot. NE India is absolutely amazing!

    P.S. I’ve removed the URL in this comment as it didn’t relate to the content of this post.

    sassythrill says:

    Great post..Northeast India will not leave a stone untouched in astonishing you.Their languages,their culture,their habits,their way of living will make you feel WOW.It’s a must visit place in India.

    Sebastiaan says:

    We couldn’t agree more!

    Luc says:

    Hey

    Thank you for discovering and sharing. To read the articles and seeing the photos inspires to travel.

    I have one question about traveling in the north east states of India. Did you take any Malaria medication?

    I wish you all the best and great adventures !

    Sebastiaan says:

    Glad to hear you like the article and feel inspired. We didn’t take any malaria medication in India. There weren’t that many mosquitoes when we were there.

    Kanika says:

    How beautifully you explore this place. Thats!! amazing, you made an unforgettable moment over there..

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot, we had a great time!

    Madhurima says:

    “Before we only saw them on television and in Bollywood films, and now they are coming in real life!” a man in Ziro Valley exclaimed over chai one evening.- I cried on that line and typing right now from north east. What a place this is. And I am so glad mainlanders have not visited this heaven with their pile of shit. Read the book ‘Is that even a country sir?’ On north east. A stunner I say.
    PS: I blog at Orangewayfarer and came here from FTB

    Fabian Keresztfalvi says:

    Interesting read and great photos too;-) Thanks for sharing.

    Alex says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to read it!

    kesari says:

    Kindly can you share the details of guide . i want to plan northeast india tour

    Inès says:

    You said what needed to be said! I’m a French girl currently traveling and interning in ecotourism in Northeast India. I just launch a blog to raise people awareness regarding this unexplored and resourceful place but also to promote responsible tourism. I shared your article on my facebook page, you might be interested to have a look to it; Inès in India.

    amazuy says:

    Awesome and accurate, very informative article.

    Nick says:

    Hi!

    I really liked this article. I have been quite curious about northeastern India for some time and now that I moved to China from the US, it seems more feasible to visit. How’s the weather in February?

    Hannah says:

    My partner and I have been dreaming about our NE India trip for a while now and this blog has provided so much amazing information- thanks!

    We’re thinking about heading there over Dec/Jan. We know it’ll be cold, but do you think it’ll be too cold to enjoy all the nature?

    Also how did you find your homestays?

    Thanks 🙂

    Nirmala says:

    Indeed North East India is a must visit… most places unexplored, untouched. Sharing my travel to Meghalaya
    (URL has been removed because it wasn’t relevant – admin)

    Nirmala says:

    Beautifully written and beautiful pictures. It affirms my thought Thank God I am from North East (a link was removed from this comment because it was irrelevant-admin)

    Smitakshi says:

    Thank you for this article about my region. I love everything about it and always urge people to visit. Your words captured every essence of my home beautifully.

    Dinesh Singh says:

    North India is famous for wildlife, temples, and landscape. I have been planning to visit North East but guess after reading your information excited to visit. One of my friends suggested me to book travel service from Happy Holidays Tours and Travels. Thanks for sharing!

    Priya Singh says:

    Beautiful pictures! I would never imagine having this kind of experience in India. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Porie Saikia says:

    I am North East India!
    From the mountains of NEFA, Manipur, Nagaland and Khasi Hills to the bends of the Brahmaputra in Sadya, Pasighat and Saikhowaghat in the east and Goalpara, Dhubri, Patakata in the west, I have bumped up and down in bare minimum jeeps, pillion drove on motorcycles through every mountain road criss-crossing with bengal tigers, herds of elephants and rhinos, slow boated up and down the rivers and flown into every aerodrome, most of which are now defunct, stood in the misty hills of Thangkharang looking at the flooded valley of East Pakistan and the peaks near Mechuka craning up at the Himalayas, pitched tents in no-man’s land in Nampong & Changlang in Tirap bordering Burma, as this is how I spent my summers days with my father in North East India while he was working – some five decades ago.
    Kudos to those that love this land and make me relive my childhood.

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