I had heard a lot about North-East and how it is the true gem of India. Obscured from the world lies the enticing land. The Northeastern states are surrounded by ageless forests and breathtaking mountains. The area is also one of the richest biodiversity areas in the world. So this travel season, it topped my list as I set out to explore the realms of nature.
You can follow me on Instagram: @boatimovic for more details and awesome content.
Here you find the perfect amalgamation of tribal cultures, scenic landscapes, all kinds of climate and rich cultural heritage. In this wonderland, you will find everything from glaciers to Assamese floodplains, dense wildlife as rhinos graze in Kaziranga’s swampy grasslands. Name it and you have it all, the untouched beauty of Northeast leaves you speechless.
When to visit: October - April are the best months to visit.
How to reach: Guwahati serves as the gateway to the entire northeast and is well connected by rail, road and air to rest of the nation. Further, you can hire a private Taxi, shared traveller or take the state transport. All the options are very economical and absolutely safe.
We set on our journey on 28th October early morning and took a connecting flight via Delhi from Chandigarh to Guwahati and then hired a private taxi further till Shillong. By the time we reached Shillong, it was dark, we had our rooms booked at Air-force station and stayed on the outskirts of the city near the elephant falls. It was truly one of the cleanest and most beautiful places I had ever seen.
Our next stop was another viewpoint located just 10-15km from the bridge. Being situated on top a hill, just next to a waterfall, it presents you with an equally breathtaking view and is a must visit.
Moving ahead just before Sohra lie the beautiful 'Wah Kaba falls' there is a viewpoint at some distance from where you can capture the breathtaking view of the beautiful falls that are often skipped by tourists.
While on the circuit you can visit a lot of beautiful places such as "The Double Decker living roots bridge, the Mawsmai Caves (Do not visit if you are claustrophobic) and the world famous 7-Sister falls and the Nohkalikai falls which have a tragic legend associated with it. Unfortunately, we missed it as the area was completely engulfed by clouds by afternoon and we were stuck with 0 visibility.
On our way back to Shillong, as the sun was about to set, we visited the famous Elephant Falls which the Khasi people refer to as Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew ("Three Steps Waterfalls"). The waterfall has 3 tiers which are well surrounded by stairs so you can enjoy the beauty of all 3 and spend some quality time. It takes approximately 40-50 min to cover the entire place.
It was a short day and we spent rest of the time in Police Bazar Shillong. You can have all kids of food over here and this is the heart of Shillong. You can also find all kinds of stay options in Police Bazar.
No words or Camera can do justice to the beauty of the Umngot river.
After being left speechless by Dawki we started our journey onwards to the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong. It is a perfect example the word needs to follow.
Day 1: The Cherrapunji Excursion
On day 1 we set out for Cherrapunjee early in the morning. It is a good 1.5 hour journey and you pass through very scenic routes on your way. The first stop on the journey is:
-The Mawkdok Dympep Valley View Point / Duwan Sing Syiem Bridge
This point marks the very beginning of the Sohra (Cherrapunki) tourist circuit. It is a prominent tourist attraction and presents you with the very first sight of some breathtaking views. The forest department has made a viewpoint here from where tourists can enjoy the valley. One has to descend around 50-75 steps to reach the exact viewpoint. This is the point from where most tourists get the first view of the Mawkdok Dympep Valley, which extends right up to Cherrapunji. Reaching there early morning almost guarantees a good view as this place is not covered with clouds, as the day passes the clouds engulf the entire place.
Day 2: Shillong local tour
As it was raining, so we decided to stay in Shillong and do a local sightseeing tour as it is not advisable to travel to travel or visit any other place during rain. Shillong is a small yet beautiful town. We started our day by visiting the Shillong Peak which is located inside the air-force station. It provides a clear view of entire Shillong.
After Shillong Peak, we proceeded to the beautiful Wards Lake. It is a must visit place in Shillong. The lake is named after the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, Sir William Ward.
Day 3: Dawki & Mawlynnong
Apart from all our expectations, little did we know that this was going to be one of the best days of our trip. This day is sure going to remain with me for the rest of my life. Dawki is a small town in Jaintia Hills with Bangladesh on one side and the enticing crystal clear Umngot river. The drive to Dawki is one of it's kind, you travel through the breathtaking Laitlum canyons, and drive with a clear view of the Bangladesh border. This is a ride to remember. A small viewpoint has been built from where you can enjoy the mesmerizing view of the Laitlum canyons.
As we reach Dawki, we have to cross the beautiful Umngot river. The crystal clear river is a major tourist attraction and marks the separation between the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills. You can feel the brotherhood and patriotism with your heart beating faster as you cross the border till zero point. it is a very friendly border.
The boat ride also takes you to the Bangladesh border where you can have tea prepared by Bangladeshis without crossing the border.
Maylynnong also has a famous living roots bride. It is a 300 stairs trek to reach the bridge and it is absolutely worth it. A perfect example of how man and nature can coexist. Made by weaving roots of the rubber tree this is a traditional bridge built by native tribes for their use and has now become a major tourist attraction.
Day 4: Shillong to Kaziranga
On the 4th day we set out for Kaziranga early in the morning. It is a nearly 8 hour drive and the roads are great. You will absolutely enjoy this road trip.
We stayed at Aranya tourist lodge which is an Assam Tourism hotel. The hotel is excellent, undoubtedly the best hotel in Kaziranga. It is super cheap and cottages are very luxurious. Food is also good considering you are in the middle of a forest, it is rather really good. Super cooperative and helpful staff. We book the Elephant Safari for next day western range from the hotel itself. On our way back we stopped by the beautiful Lake Umiam. It was still engulfed in fog but we sure were impressed.
Day 5: Kaziranga Safari
We had booked an early morning elephant safari for the day, we went for the first slot that leaves at 5:30 so we reached Bagori at 5'o clock. People staying at Aranya sure get the privilege and are given early access. Little did we what deep impression it was going to leave in our hearts. Seeing animals and the endangered rhino from up close we were left stunned. How cruel man is and how beautiful and innocent these beasts are. It is surely an experience of a lifetime. Kaziranga is one of the best national parks in India with rich biodiversity and a wide variety of flora and fauna.
This experience is going to stay with you forever and you would always want to go back.
Since more than 50% of the park had not re-opened after floods and was still closed for maintenance but we were so moved by the park that we decided to take a jeep safari in the central range towards the evening and send as much time as possible there. Central range still had not opened completely but we were very much impressed with what we saw.
Our final day in Kaziranga ended with a lot of beautiful memories and I will for sure go back as soon as I get a chance to.
Day 6: Guwahati
As the trip was coming to an end we returned back to Guwahati. It is a 4 hour drive from Kaziranga to Guwahati. Excellent roads make it really enjoyable. On our way back we visited the famous Balaji Temple and Kamakhya Temple. A trip to Northeast is not complete without visiting the Kamakhya Temple.
We ended the day on a religious note and took a hotel in Paltan Bazar. You can find a lot of good budget hotels here.
Day 7: Final Day Guwahati local sightseeing
On the final day, we decided to do local sightseeing around Guwahati which took us around 4-5 hours.
The best part of this day was the visit to Umananda Island (Peacock Island). It is worlds smallest inhibited river island. Umananda also has a 17th century Shiva Temple located at the top. Peacock Island is situated in the middle of river Brahmaputra River just off Guwahati. Best way to visit the island is by taking a government-run ferry which charges Rs 20 per person and is a lot safer than private boats. Umananda Island is the home to the species of golden langur. There are 4 of these endangered golden langurs and to see them you can ask the tea stall owner to call the langur, they have adapted and learnt to stay with humans. The langurs come down to have food on their call and love being photographed. It is an absolutely amazing experience. It wouldn't be wrong to call them the 'Most photogenic monkeys of India'
After Umananda we visited the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra and few local temples. The experience was great and we returned back with some great memories to be cherished forever.
Day 8: Time to say goodbye
Bid adieu to the enticing magical wonderland, gods own garden and take along amazing tales to tell to friends, family and the world.
Where to stay:
Tourism guest houses and hotels are everywhere in Northeast, they are very reasonably priced and have excellent rooms and food. Plus they are very economical. Especially in Kaziranga, Aranya tourist lodge is par excellence considering it is in middle of the forest.
What to pack:
Rain jackets, umbrella, binoculars, Multiple pairs of shoes and socks. A good backpack with all essentials, water etc. Woolens for Shillong, Cherrapunjee, Mawlynnong and light woollens for Kaziranga. T-shirts/light woollens for Guwahati as weather is almost like Chandigarh
When to visit:
October - April are best months, but Kazinga has tall elephant grass until February so animal spotting is difficult. If you are going specifically for spotting animals then go in 1st week of March as most of the grass has been burnt and it is very easy to spot animals, you might even get to spot tigers.
Start your day early as the sun rises early in the Northeastern states and sets early, on most of the days Meghalaya gets engulfed in Fog and Clouds by afternoon so you will not be able to see anything after 2 PM and always return back to your hotel before night.
You can follow me on Instagram: @boatimovic for more details and awesome content. Trip cost mentioned is inclusive of return airfare from Chandigarh, without airfare it would cost you around Rs 12000.
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