What’s the best North East itinerary?
Even if you have a personal vehicle, completing the seven state circuit is not an easy task. If you’ve read our previous blog post regarding the security concerns of North East and now, have plans to pay a visit to the incredibly green states, here is the next one to help that.
Depending on the skills of a person, there can be a better itinerary for North East trip. The one I’m sharing here comes from my personal experience of the roads, public transport, personal transport, and local information I gathered during my trip.
North East Itinerary
I hitchhiked till Guwahati all the way from Jaipur and did a short trip over there to collect these travel information. As your friend, I’m sharing all those details right here.
Before you start travelling North East, it’s recommended to keep two nights for Guwahati as you need Inner Line Permit (ILP) papers for visiting Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh states. You can read our detailed guide on North East ILP to know more.
#1 Reach Guwahati (Assam)
Guwahati is often called as the Gateway to the Seven States, as this is where you have to arrive first. It is well connected by road, train, and air, and the city has every modern facility.
Other than investing time in getting ILPs, you can visit the famous Kamakhya Temple and Assam State Zoo which is known for having one-horned Rhinoceros.
#2 Go to Shillong and Cherrapunjee (Meghalaya)
Once the paperwork is done, move next to Shillong. You can get a shared cab (yellow colored Sumo Taxi) from Khanapara which is the border area of Assam and Meghalaya.
Shillong is a gorgeous town which stays chilly for most of the time. From here, you can plan a trip to Cherrapunjee where you can visit Mawsmai cave, go for Living Root Bridge trek and a must visit at Dawki river which is about 90KMs from Cherrapunjee town.
After exploring these exotic places of Meghalaya, come back to the Shillong. You can find shared taxi from Cherrapunjee which operates in the day time. 5-6PM is the last operating hours!
#3 Shillong to Karimganj (Bangladesh Border – Assam)
From Shillong, you can take a bus journey (probably night) to Karimganj which is a town sharing a border with Bangladesh. Also, the town is en route to Tripura, so, it’s advisable to take a break here.
There isn’t much to do here, unless you’ve a local friend, as the place is totally non-touristy. But, you can still hire a cab and visit the India-Bangladesh border.
Please don’t expect anything touristy in this region. But, you’ll get to eat delicious Bengali food, as this region is dominated by Bengali people.
#4 Karimganj to Agartala (Tripura)
From Karimganj, you can take a local train to Tripura, which starts in the morning and reaches Tripura, the capital of Agartala in the evening hours.
In Agartala, you can explore the capital city, must visit the Tripura Palace and find out how different Tripura culture is. It’s mostly matching with the Bengali culture. You can also visit Rabindranath Tagore’s house which is now turned into a museum.
#5 Agartala to Silchar (Assam)
From Agartala, you can take a train (best option) to Silchar, which will be your base camp for rest of the journey. Silchar is known as the connecting town, hence, a perfect spot for the Base Camp.
There isn’t much to explore Silchar but, you can still walk down the local streets, enjoy local cuisines and know their culture. In short, take a day off!
#6 Silchar to Aizawl (Mizoram)
Next morning (early morning), you can take a shared taxi to Aizawl which is probably going to cost around 600-700INR. It’s the only time you get the public transportation here.
There is no train connectivity in the states of Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland, so, shared taxi is the only choice you have. If you have a good budget, hire a personal taxi that will take you to Aizawl and then to Imphal, entering Manipur.
#7 Aizawl to Silchar (back to base camp)
In my recommendation, coming back to base camp using the same shared taxi option is a good move. From here, you can again take a day off!
I love slow travel but, due to work and all, I have to move fast. Ever heard this term? “Want, Doesn’t Get It!”
There is a reason why you have to travel slowly in North-East as the transportation part is not that strong. A 100KMs journey can take 4-5 hours and will be tiring.
#8 Silchar to Imphal (Manipur)
From Silchar, you can find a connecting taxi to Imphal. Here, you can plan a stay for two nights, exploring the Kangla Fort, Manipur State museum and interacting with the locals in the streets.
You’ll fall in love with the smiling faces, culture and the food (unless you’re a strict vegetarian).
#9 Imphal to Silchar (back to base camp)
Coming back to our base camp is the obvious choice now but, you can also plan to visit Kohima. The road distance is just 140KMs if you have can hire a personal taxi.
Or else, go with the next point in the North East itinerary here.
#10 Silchar to Nagaon (Assam) via New Haflong
The reason why I’m recommending to come back to our base camp is because of the New Haflong. You shouldn’t miss this place, at any cost and is worth every single second.
You can either plan a road trip (I doubt if you can find a shared taxi) or a train journey with locals. I did the train journey and the views I had, were incredible. I’ve seen Kashmir which is known for its mountain views but, New Haflong offers a completely different package.
#11 Nagaon to Kohima (Nagaland) via Dimapur
From Nagaon, you can hire a personal taxi that will take you to Nagaland via Dimapur. If you don’t have the Nagaland inner-line permit, Dimapur border area will get you one.
In case if you don’t find a connectivity between these places (at that particular time), it’s recommended to move up to Dibrugarh!
#12 Dimapur to Dibrugarh (Assam)
If you’ve found a way to visit Nagaland, come back to Dimapur after exploring and start travelling to Dibrugarh.
Dibrugarh is connected via train, road, and air and is a place from where you can travel to the nearby villages of Arunachal Pradesh.
There is a newly constructed Dhola-Sadiya bridge, which is the longest river bridge in our country. I’d recommend taking the boat ride, as it’s Brahmaputra River we are talking about!
#13 Dibrugarh to Zero (Arunachal Pradesh)
Now from Dibrugarh, you can start travelling towards west, and take the next stop at Zero. It’s a popular town among travellers and a must visit place of Arunachal Pradesh.
#14 Zero to Tawang via Tezpur
From Zero, you can plan a visit to Tawang, another must-visit in Arunachal Pradesh. The road will go via Tezpur!
The culture and demographic of Arunachal Pradesh is different than rest of the North-East states. So, you’ll have a chance to explore one more different culture. Yay!
#15 Back to Guwahati
From Tawang, you can come down to Guwahati. Either go home or plan a visit to Sikkim which is the eight state of North East!
Sikkim is considered as one of the NE states but, isn’t counted among the Seven Sisters.
Before planning a Sikkim tour, you must be aware that it’s a costly affair, compared to other states you just read about. So, you better be left with a good budget and energy after following this long North East itinerary to travel all seven sisters.
Alternate North East Itinerary
If not the Guwahati, you can start from Silchar which has direct flight connectivity. As I added above, Silchar is the connecting town for Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur. It’s the centre town from where you can find road and rail transport for these states.
Once you’re done with Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur, you can visit Kohima (Nagaland) via Dimapur. After visiting Nagaland, you can come back to Dimapur, and continue to Dibrugarh then Zero then Tawang and Guwahati.
Now, visit Meghalaya which is easily connected via road, and come back to Guwahati once done.
Important – It is advisable to take ILPs from Kolkata or Delhi if you’re planning to take this itinerary.
North East Tour with Public Transport
The Indian Railway connectivity is in Assam, and Tripura only. When I was travelling there (April 2017), there wasn’t any bus services to Manipur and Mizoram from Silchar.
There are private options you can look for, yellow colored sumo cabs (shared taxi). From Guwahati to Shillong, the shared cab charge is approx 70INR.
From Shillong, you can find bus connectivity to all major attractions nearby. From Silchar, there is an option for a shared cab (taxi) but, the charges are about 500-700INR.
Unless you’re travelling in a public bus or train, it’s advisable to travel during the day hours only.
I mostly travelled in the daytime but, also took a whole night bus journey, from Shillong to Karimganj. Throughout the night, I was watching the roads and believe me, the roads in North East are mostly in bad conditions.
If you have a plan of driving, it’s advisable to have 2-3 drivers in the vehicle (at least, two), and one of them should be expert in off-roads. More on this in the coming section!
To visit Agartala (Tripura), taking the train journey is recommended, as it is way cheaper than you can expect. Also, between the Silchar-Guwahati/Nagaon, the train journey is recommended.
Tip – Don’t check public transport on Google or any other website (even HighwayMonks), rather, go to the Railway or Bus station and get the local information straight!
The Indian Railway journey is not just cheap but, you can actually enjoy the views from the window seat. Also, you get the chance to interact with more locals and understand their culture.
Not to forget, you’ll get a chance to taste a whole lot of local train food and tea/coffee. Yummy!
From Dibrugarh, you can visit the villages of Arunachal Pradesh. Taking the boat ride in the day time is both cheap and advisable. A newly constructed longest river bridge between Dhola-Sadiya is also ready if you’re with a personal vehicle.
But, I’d still prefer taking the boat ride, as we are talking about Brahmaputra River here!
North East Road Trip with Personal Vehicle
The itinerary I’ve shared above can be followed if you’re having a personal vehicle. A road trip to North East is really a good idea as the public transportation is not that solid in the region.
The government and local bodies are trying to improve the status but, a personal vehicle is always a better choice.
You can expect, at least, half of the roads to be good, and be ready to have an off-road experience on the remaining.
The vehicle in-use must be in good shape. An SUV or Cruiser Motorcycle is the best choice. You should carry common spare parts and spare tyre tubes if the tyres are not tubeless.
Video – You can watch my video on how safe or unsafe travelling North East is. Again, everything I’ve shared here and in the video is based on my personal experiences. (Ignore if you’ve read it’s blog post I added above)
Important – Things might change with time and if you find anything concrete which has to be updated here, please mention it in the comment section below.
Best Time to Visit North East?
Well, it’s a tough question to answer, all because of the Rain. The monsoon which arrives in the month of June in rest of the country, reaches first in North East, in the month of May itself.
In some years, it has arrived in the month of April itself. Few places in Assam, experienced floods in the last week of March 2017!
And, believe me, you don’t want to travel North East when it’s raining continuously. That part of India is all green, hence, attracting heaviest possible rainfall!
Cherrapunjee was once known as the wettest place on Earth, while the current one is Mawsynram village. Both are located in Meghalaya!
The roads and railway connectivity are affected during the monsoon, leaving the Seven States disconnected from rest of the country. The inner-connectivity is also affected severely!
Bottom line, you shouldn’t plan a North East trip between the month of May-September, unless want to experience the states during this season. The best month to travel North East is March-April, when it’s not that cold, neither humid!
When I planned it, I kept an eye on weather reports of all capital cities of seven sister states, for a week. I was lucky enough to meet the rain, only in the night hours when I used to be either inside a hotel or home.
Travel Fact – The locals told me that when it starts raining in Cherrapunjee, the town goes all dark, even if it’s the noon time! Adventurous, isn’t it?
North East Itinerary Map
The Ministry of Development of North East (MDONER) has shared a road map of National Highways and a map of Indian Railway (pdf) coverage. You can have a look at these to have a reference for the final North East itinerary.
The commute timing and other common details mentioned over Google Maps are mostly incorrect. This is what I’ve personally experienced, hence, you should rely on the local information, compared to what’s available on Google.
Example – Using the information available on Google, I crafted a North East itinerary for road journey. But, due to the lack of a good budget I went there by hitchhiking means (video on HighwayMonks YouTube channel). Here is a screenshot of my initial map.
This second map shared here (above one), IS NOT A GOOD ONE TO FOLLOW. Instead, the two itineraries I’ve shared in the starting, are the one you can trust and follow. I’ve added this map for you to know that even I made a not-so-good plan, and the reason why it’s important to have local information before visiting North East.
Over to You
This was the best I know and can share about itinerary to cover North East. There are a lot of useful guides and experiences we’ve shared on North East which you can read along and have a detailed understanding of the region.
If your plan is happening near, then get ready to have an unforgettable experience which can’t be matched anywhere in the country!
Thoughts on my North East itinerary?