Road trip to the Seven Sisters
Road trips in Northeast India are journeys that take you through some of India’s most sublime end-of-the-world landscapes.
Road trips in Northeast India are journeys that take you through some of India’s most sublime end-of-the-world landscapes. Having only recently made its way onto Indian travel itineraries as an offbeat and budget-friendly destination, Northeast India has a rich and diverse historical, natural and cultural legacy and the best way to experience it is through a road trip. The seven sisters which make up the northeast of India is a land that has barely been explored by most Indian travellers. The logistical challenges of getting there was a deterrent for explorers. But the last couple of decades have seen significant improvement in terms of road, rail and air travel infrastructure.
Better connectivity has seen people from around the country venturing out to these seven states and returning wide-eyed with the beauty of the place. The time is now ripe for you to plan out your next long road trip to this magnificent region of the country.
You can fly to Guwahati from any part of the country and start your trip from there. Or you can drive down from wherever you are located via Siliguri and the so-called ‘chicken’s neck’ to enter the Northeast. Here’s what you can expect when visiting these beautiful lands.
Th e gateway to the northeast, all roads must pass through Assam. That doesn’t mean you only should drive through this state, it is filled with culinary, natural and cultural delights.
The biggest attraction in Assam is Kaziranga National Park, famous for its one-horned rhinos. You also have the largest river island of Majuli to visit and see the awe-inspiring Brahmaputra River. This mighty river floods the surrounding region, which is why it is best to avoid visiting the northeast during the monsoons.
Assam is also home to tea gardens and visiting these places is an experience in itself. The chai lovers amongst you can also enjoy buying tea leaves straight from the gardens where it is grown. Kamakhya Temple is another major tourist attraction of the state. From Assam, you can also drive to all the other northeastern states, depending on the time you have at hand.
Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state in the northeast and it also divides India and China with a 1,126 km Line of Actual Control (LAC). Unlike Assam, this state is still relatively underdeveloped and unexplored. You also need Inner Line Permits issued by the government to visit many parts of the state.
Arunachal is known best for its easy access to nature in its rawest form and a different culture. Of particular cultural importance is the Tawang Monastery, the largest in India and one with great significance in the Buddhist religion. One can also attend the Ziro Festival of Music, which now draws travellers from around the country for this annual affair.
For nature lovers, there is the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary and Namdapha National Park. There are also numerous treks in the area, with Sela Pass being a highlight of the region.
Arguably the most scenic amongst all the states in the northeast. Meghalaya means ‘Abode of the Clouds’ in Sanskrit.
The road to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, from Assam is scenic, as you climb into the hills from the plains. And those scenes grow even more majestic by the kilometre. The state is home to Cherrapunji, which is famous for being the place in the world that receives the maximum rainfall every year. Near Cherrapunji is the double-decker living roots bridge, which is a sight to behold of the strength of nature. Another top tourist draw is the village of Mawlynnong, which has been awarded the cleanest village of India.
Another spectacular sighting for travellers is Dawki Lake, which is on the Bangladesh border. The water is so clear, that you can see the bottom of the lake from your boat. There are several waterfalls, the most famous of which is Nohkalikai and limestone caves in the state. All these together make Meghalaya a must-visit place when you plan your northeast trip.
Another state of the northeast hasn’t been fully tapped for tourism, because of political discontent in the region. For tourists, the biggest attraction is Loktak Lake, which is 50 km from Imphal, the capital of the state. Loktak is the largest freshwater lake in the northeast. The lake has a special attraction to small floating islands, which are watery weeds and other plants combined.
Manipur is also famous for the endangered species of Brow Antlered Deer, which can be sighted in the Keibul Lamjao National Park. The state also has a plethora of natural caves and waterfalls for the ardent nature lover.
The most vibrant state of the northeast, Nagaland is nature enjoyed in its truest form. Most tourists visit Nagaland during the Hornbill Festival held in December, named after the bird, which adorns most tribes of the state.
Wherever you travel in the state, you will be in the lap of nature and afforded gorgeous views. But due to political problems, the state was never fully developed to its full tourism potential. As such, it is difficult to build a structured itinerary for the state, but it also provides that sense of adventure for the unknown.
The southernmost state in the northeast, Mizoram is now quite a mainstay on the traveller’s roadmap, because it is an en route for people travelling to Myanmar and beyond, by road.
A hilly state, the landscape is decorated with sharp hills and narrow rivers.The state is a nature lover’s paradise, with a visit to Dampa Tiger Reserve and Murlen National Park, almost mandatory. Both filled with a rich variety of flora and fauna. It is also a birder’s paradise.
The Chapchar Kut Festival is a major draw for tourists in spring. If possible, do try to time your visit to the state around March.
The smallest state of the northeast and one which shares a massive international border with Bangladesh. Even though the road distance from Kolkata to Agartala, the state’s capital is just 350 km via Bangladesh. People need to drive 1700 km to travel between the two cities.
As such, Tripura is a state which is difficult to access, which makes it a rather unique place to visit. The state is known for its art and culture and is loved by history buffs. You can visit the Ujjayanta Palace, Neermahal and Tripurasundari Temple. The last is where the state is said to have got its name. For nature lovers, there is the Trishna, Gumti and Sepahijala wildlife sanctuaries.
We club the seven sisters in one big list, but it is difficult to travel through all the states in one shot. It is preferable to choose your destinations and travel through those lands at a leisurely pace. You will not be disappointed by the beauty of the seven sisters.