As the cultures of the seven states that make up the region are similar, they are often collectively referred to as the 'Seven Sister States.'
An ethnically diverse state, home to several tribal groups and a large Tibetan Buddhist following. Administered by India but also claimed by China (as South Tibet).
Known worldwide for Assam tea and being the first site for oil production in Asia. Also home to some national parks, some of which are designated as World Heritage Sites.
Credited for introducing the sport of polo to Europeans, Manipur is known as the "Jewel of India", with its capital city as the "Flower on Lofty Heights". The state's also contains the world's only floating national park.
Known for having a capital that is often dubbed as the "Scotland of the East" and amazing, jubilant scenery. The state is one of the few Christian-majority states in India.
One of the most geographically isolated states in India, as well as being home to several tribes who have their roots in Southeast Asia. The state is one of the few Christian-majority states in India.
Home to 16 major tribes, the state has the distinction of being one of the few Christian-majority states in India.
One of the most isolated states in India and most populous states in the region. Many of the state's residents are ethnic Bengalis who fled from Bangladesh during the second Indo-Pakistani war.
Here are nine of the most notable cities.
- 1 Agartala — capital of Tripura
- 2 Aizawl — capital and largest city in Mizoram
- 3 Guwahati — largest city in Assam with more than two thousand years of history
- 4 Imphal — capital of Manipur
- 5 Itanagar — capital of Arunachal Pradesh
- 6 Kohima — capital of Nagaland
- 7 Matabari — located near Udaipur, Tripura this town is home to the Tripureswari Mandir
- 8 Shillong — capital of Meghalaya
- 9 Tuensang — a district and town in Nagaland with a great view of Mount Saramati
- 1 Intangki National Park (Ntangki National Park), Nagaland — a wildlife park located in the Perren district. Home to several endangered species as well as other mammals and birds. Among them are the golden langur, white-breasted kingfisher, python and sloth bear
- 2 Kaziranga National Park, Assam — one of the oldest national parks in India with the largest habitat for Indian single-horned rhinos
- 3 Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh — (rain forest area) third largest national park in India with a large diversity of mammals and birds and for being home to the northernmost rain forest in the world
- 5 Nokrek National Park (Nokrek Biosphere Reserve), Meghalaya — a small population of red pandas reside in this park. It is habitat for the Asian elephant, species of cats and primates. It is also an important area for birds. Rongbang Dare Water Fall and Nokrek Peak are located in this park with tall, thick forest
- 6 Clouded Leopard National Park , Tripura — a small population of clouded leopards reside in this park. It is also home to four species of primate monkey. This national park is located within the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary. It also has a zoological park and a botanical garden among other educational and recreational facilities.
- 7 Bison National Park (Rajbari National Park), Tripura — a significant population of bisons (gaur), deers and golden langurs reside in this park. It is located within the Trishna Wildlife Sanctuary and houses numerous floral and faunal varieties. Other animals like wild boars and leopards could also be seen here. The park is also a haven for birds species.
With the possible exception of Assam, which is famous worldwide for its tea, this is the least-known region of India. Most of these states are populated by hill tribes, who have fought long insurgency battles with the central government. However, this has been on the wane in recent times, and now it is rare for outbreaks of violence to occur. (See § Stay safe.)
This area of the country is different demographically from the rest of India, which is partly shown by the nature of its religious diversity. While the great majority of Tripurans are Hindus and most Assamese are Hindus or Muslims, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland are overwhelmingly Christian, Manipur is almost equally divided between Hindus and Christians, and Arunachal Pradesh has a very slight plurality of Christians, with Hindus in nearly equal numbers and the indigenous Donyi-Polo religion, which combines shamanism and Animism, close behind. There is also a Buddhist presence, especially in places like Tawang that are close to the borders of Tibet and Bhutan. Tibetan cultural influence extends far beyond the population of practicing Buddhists, for example by influencing local foods in some parts of North-Eastern India. Given the unique cultural and social landscape, it helps a visitor to avoid patronizing questions about race, citizenry, or even food. Remember, these are seven diverse states with highly diverse legacies.
Geographically, again, Assam is a state apart, as it is centred around the valley of the broad Brahmaputra, whereas all the other states in this region are at least partly hilly, with some featuring tall snow-capped mountains.
This region of India has about 220 languages from multiple language families. English and Hindi are not generally understood. Among the native languages from the region, the Indian Constitution recognises Assamese, Bodo and Meitei (Manipuri) in the 8th schedule.
Below is a list of the official languages of each state which will help your trip planning to some extent:
- Arunachal Pradesh — Hindi and English
- Assam - Assamese, Bengali (in the Barak Valley) and Bodo (in Bodoland)
- Manipur - Manipuri (Meitei) and English
- Meghalaya - Khasi, Garo and English
- Mizoram - Mizo and English
- Nagaland - English
- Tripura - Bengali and Kokborok
The north-east is not exactly the easiest place to enter, especially for Indian citizens. You must have a permit to visit almost all states.
Foreigners need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) to enter the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Assam (Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati), Manipur (Imphal International Airport), Nagaland (Dimapur Airport) and Tripura (Agartala Airport) have direct flights from other parts of India (Delhi and/or Kolkata). There are two other major airports serving upper regions of Assam and neighbouring areas - Dibrugarh Airport and Silchar Airport. Arunachal Pradesh is served by four airports. There are helicopter services to Naharlagun (14 km from Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh) and Aizawl (Mizoram).
There are good train connections from most of the major Indian cities to Assam. Incidentally, Assam is the only state in region with rail lines (barring Nagaland with one station-Dimapur). The important stations in Assam are Guwahati, Bongaigaon, Lumding, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. The fastest train from Delhi is Guwahati-bound Rajdhani Express (28 hrs) followed by North-East Express (32 hrs) and Dibrugarh-bound Brahmaputra Mail (42 hrs), while the fastest train from Kolkata (Howrah) is Saraighat Express. The train track in Assam is not electrified and is a single lane, so delays are the norm.
There are narrow gauge trains to Arunachal Pradesh and Barak Valley area but they are very much prone to cancellation and delays and are not at all comfortable.
All the states have good network of roads in urban areas. There are regular long journey buses from West Bengal to many north-eastern states. Self-driving is not a good idea as all roads pass through heavy forest reserves and areas infested by insurgents.
- Greener Pastures, ☏ . An eco-tourism company that promotes travel, conservation and sustainability in North-Eastern India. They provide tours that deal with tribal cultural exchange, wildlife viewing, extreme adventure sports, river cruises, history learning and tea stays.
- Kaziranga National Park. Famous for its one-horned rhino found nowhere else in the world. Elephant rides in the park make for a thrilling experience. Has accommodation cottages and restaurants.
- See also: South Asian cuisine
North-East India is famous for its delicious and ethnic delicacies. The cuisine includes world famous vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes. The North-East has earned accolades for the various dishes prepared from local herbs and spices. Apart from local dishes, it is also equipped with restaurants and hotels serving conventional Indian foods (both North Indian and South Indian). So eating is no problem for tourists.
If you are over the age of 25, you can drink alcohol in India. In North Eastern India, there are many refreshing alcoholic beverages that you can drink. Look for aphung (a rice-beer) in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, and zutho (a type of wine) in Mizoram You can find many of these in local markets.
NE India is completely connected with the rest of the world with excellent communication facilities with all the major telecommunication companies like Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea (Vi), Airtel and BSNL.
In the past, the region gained a bad reputation due to separatism, tribal and sectarian violence, and militant activities. Since then, many of these activities have simmered down as many rebel groups have made peace with the Indian government, and the region is safe for travel. Locals will still warn against traveling to the mountain states during elections, since that tends to bring out more violence, but it's not clear whether there's actually any hazard to tourists.
In terms of personal safety, most travellers, including solo female travellers, will not face any major problems walking around the streets at night.
Driving in North-Eastern India is remarkably safer and more reliable than in other areas of the country. Drivers will not impatiently honk at you and most visitors can expect to cross roads with ease.
While travelling to the more mountainous states, be aware of the altitude sickness problems.
North-Eastern India has a plethora of distinctive languages and cultures that set it apart from the rest of India. Hospitality is a cornerstone of many of the cultures here, and many locals will go out of their way to make a visitor feel welcomed. For instance, it's not uncommon for a local to help someone out if they're in need of transportation or anything else. You may, however, be expected to give it back one way or the other.
The people from North-Eastern India have East Asian or Southeast Asian rather than more typical South Asian features. On occasion, this has caused some North Easterners to be teased and subjected to discrimination in other parts of India. So be prepared, and don't be surprised.
Although they may be casually used in other parts of India, never use terms such as "Chinki", "Chinese", "Nepali", "Chowmein", "China man", or "Momo". These are considered demeaning.
In places like Mizoram, religious institutions play an influential role in society; respect that while you're there.
North-Eastern India is one of the most politically active regions in all of India. For this reason, politics here are complex – very, very complex, much more so than any other region in India. The various tribes found in the state are fiercely keen on promoting their cultural distinctions from the rest of India.
During the second Indo-Pakistani war, millions of Bengalis immigrated to North-Eastern India and this greatly affected the ethnic balance in the region. In states such as Tripura, the number of ethnic Bengalis outnumber the tribal population. Although things have calmed down, some Northeasterners regard Bengalis as "outsiders" who have no business being in their state and feel that by allowing them in, they would be outnumbered and put at a disadvantage. This is one of the many reasons why you need a permit to visit states in North-Eastern India. In states like Assam, antipathy against Bengalis runs very high.
North-Eastern India is an often overlooked part of India. Although much work has gone into integrating the region into the rest of the country, many Northeasterners have faced social problems (e.g. racism and discrimination) in other parts of India, and many of the more well-aware Indians regard this as an incredibly embarrassing issue.
- Bangladesh — There is a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala. Two BRTC (Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation) buses leave daily from Dhaka and connect with TRTC (Tripura Road Transport Corporation) vehicles, running six days a week with a roundtrip fare of 600 Bangladeshi takas. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey.
- Eastern India — North-Eastern India's western neighbour is culturally rich and perhaps the most welcoming to outsiders. It is also the mineral storehouse of India, having the country's largest and richest mines.