15 days in North East India | A Travel Guide and Itinerary

15 days in North East India | A Travel Guide and Itinerary
Reading Time: 17 minutes

 

Jack Kerouac in his book On the Road, says, “There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.” Traversing through majestic mountains and lustrous valleys in the middle of nowhere while admiring the flawless creations of nature seems like an idea, too good to be real for now. But it is wise enough to find respite from mundane schedules by making a virtual tour of destinations in your bucket list and plan for future travel.

 

Mawphlang, a village in Meghalaya

 

North East India is known to be in the bucket list of many discerning travelers. The alluring beauty of nature and rich culture intertwine to make the North East a top pick for many. The eight states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim constitute the North East region in India. The vast region with countless idyllic travel destinations requires you to spend months there to be able to explore the region well but in reality, this is not something everyone can possibly do. But setting aside 15 days in a year to head to the rather unexplored part of India is something doable. Hence, I am compiling this 15-Day Travel Itinerary comprising of 3 states in the North East – Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. If you are someone who had always wished to wander through the winding roads in the North East and jump into the pools of hidden waterfalls but never found a perfect itinerary to make the best out of your available time, this itinerary is for you. Go ahead to read and plan your next trip to the North East.

 

 

A detailed 15-day Travel Itinerary for North East

 

 

Day 1 : Guwahati to Shillong

To start your journey in the North East, you’d have to fly to Guwahati in Assam, which serves as the base for almost all routes.

 

How to reach Shillong?

  • Hire a vehicle from Guwahati Airport or Guwahati Railway Station to Shillong. It would ideally cost you about INR 2000 for a drop off at Police Bazar, Shillong or your Hotel.
  • You can also hop onto a shared sumo/taxi from the airport or railway station which would cost about INR 300. If you do not find shared vehicles there, you can head to Paltan Bazar in Guwahati from where you’d easily find shared vehicles for Shillong.
  • You will also find buses for Shillong from ISBT, Beltola in Guwahati.
  • The journey is approximately 3 hours long.

 

Where to stay in Shillong?

Backpacker’s Hostel : Silver Brook

Homestays : Quinton Enclave | Breeze Vale Homestay | Midhill Cottage | Mid Pine Homestay

Hotels : Windermere Inn | Hotel Polo Towers | Rockski Boutique Bed and Breakfast | The Loft Executive Inn

 

Where to eat in Shillong?

Dylan’s Cafe | ML 05 Cafe | Cafe Shillong

Tango Restobar and Lounge | Deja VuThe Evening Club

 

Police Bazar Area in Shillong

 

If you manage to reach Shillong by afternoon, you can easily take a short tour of the city. Hire a local cab to visit Elephant Falls and Shillong Peak, which are within 15 kms distance from the central part of the city. Ward’s Lake is right in the heart of the city and you may stop by to spend some quiet time by the lake.

 

Ward’s Lake, Shillong.

 

Elephant Falls, Shillong

In the evening, take a stroll in the Police Bazar area and check out the amazing cafes and restaurants in the area.

 

 

Day 2 : Shillong to Cherrapunjee

 

How to reach Cherrapunjee?

  • Private cabs can be booked from the main market area, known as Police Bazar.
  • There are shared vehicles available too which are available from Bara Bazar Area. Usually these are Tata Sumos or Altos that ply between Shillong and Cherrapunjee. Cherrapunjee and Sohra are the same places. Do not get confused if the taxi drivers are calling out for passengers for Sohra.
  • It takes about 2 hours to travel the distance of 52 kms.

 

Where to stay in Cherrapunjee?

Homestays : Goshen Homestay | Aisha Guest House | Shalom Guest House | Nisibon Nongrum Homestay

Hotels : Coniferous Resort | Polo Orchid Resort | Sulawado Resort

 

Things to do in Cherrapunjee

Make sure you start early from Shillong so that you may reach Cherrapunjee by first half of the day. You may hire a local cab to take you around the famous spots in Cherrapunjee. Here’s a list of things you can do at Cherrapunjee:

 

Nohkalikai Falls

Visit the tallest plunge waterfall in India, Nohkalikai Falls, which has a height of 350 metres. There is an entry gate from where you can reach the mouth of the waterfall by following the trail. The view point of the waterfall is about 4-8 kms from Cherrapunjee, depending on where you start your journey from.

A view of Nohkalikai Falls

 

Mawsmai Caves

Take a tour of Mawsmai Caves, located about 6 kms away from Cherrapunjee. The cave is made of limestone and is home to unique flora and fauna. Once you enter the cave, you are only allowed to walk up till 150 metres inside the cave and the rest of the cave is not open for visitors.

 

Arwah Caves

Arwah Caves is a hidden gem in Cherrapunjee. This cave does not have well demarcated trails and thus, it is advisable to take a guide along with you. You need to take a detour from the main road and cover a muddy patch of road to reach Arwah Cave. Before you reach the entrance of the cave, you’d find a beautiful bridge. You would spot limestones and fossils inside the cave. A visit to Arwah Cave would be an adventurous activity. But considering the fact that you only have one day to visit all these places, you might have to pick one between Mawsmai and Arwah Caves as they are located in the extreme opposite locations outside Cherrapunjee.

 

 

Day 3 : Cherrapunjee – Tyrna – Nongriat – Tyrna

Start your day early as you have to trek the most talked about Living Root bridge of Meghalaya in Nongriat on this day. 

 

How to reach Nongriat?

  • Take a private taxi from Cherrapunjee to drop you at Tyrna, the starting point of the trek.
  • It would cost you about INR 500 or a little more for this distance.
  • From Tyrna Village, your downward hike for Nongriat starts.
  • It is advisable to take a porter if you have a heavy rucksack. A porter would charge INR 500 a day.
  • It usually takes about 2 hours for the downward hike. But you may finish the hike faster depending on your speed.

 

After crossing many suspension bridges and root bridges along the forest trail, you’d reach one of the major highlights of Meghalaya, the Double Decker Living Root Bridge. Only when you see the marvelous creation, you’d know how beautiful and powerful nature can be, if utilised well. Sit by the natural pool and soak in all the energy of the forest.

 

The Double Decker Living Root Bridge

 

You can also ask your guide to take you to the Rainbow Waterfall, located a short hike away from Nongriat village. There are also a number of gorgeous natural pools which are untraceable and only known by the locals. If time permits, pay a visit to these naturals pools to make your day even more exciting.

By afternoon, start your upward hike back to Tyrna. The upward hike may take a longer time. Reach back to the starting point and stay at Tyrna, to get an experience of the rural side of Meghalaya.

 

Where to stay in Tyrna?

Delight Homestay | Royal View Resort

 

 

Day 4 : Tyrna to Shillong

On the fourth day of your trip, head back to Shillong and spend a day in the Scotland of the East.

 

How to reach Shillong?

  • Travel to Cherrapunjee from Tyrna in a reserved cab, following the same route.
  • From Cherrapunjee, you can hire a vehicle for Shillong or take a shared vehicle.

Upon reaching Shillong, spend the day to explore the famous spots of the city if you had missed them on the day of your arrival. 

 

 

Day 5 : Shillong – Tezpur – Kaziranga

This will be a long day on the roads as you head back to Assam from Shillong. To proceed with your journey to the North East, you’d need to head to Tezpur in Assam from where you will further head to Kaziranga National Park.

 

How to reach Tezpur?

  • The first and the most comfortable way to travel to Tezpur from Assam is to reserve a vehicle. But it will cost you a whopping INR 5000-6000. If you are traveling in a group and would not want to compromise on comfort, you may choose this option.
  • There are bus services between these two places. The buses would take about 7 hours to cover the distance and the schedule can be checked and tickets can be booked on the Assam State Transport Corporation‘s website.

 

Tezpur to Kaziranga

Tezpur to Kaziranga is a 40 kms journey that takes about 1.5 hours. It’s best that you move to Kaziranga from Tezpur and spend the night there because the safaris start very early in the morning. You need to spend a night in a nearby homestay or resort in order to make it to the morning safaris, which are most preferred. Staying in a cottage or homestay in Kaziranga will also give you a taste of the Assamese culture and daily life.

  • You will find Assam State Transport Corporation Buses from Tezpur to go to Kaziranga. 
  • You can also reserve a cab to drop you off till your accommodation this being a short distance. It will make your travel easier.

 

Where to stay in Kaziranga?

You can put up in the cottages that are run by the Kaziranga National Park. But do note that they are more on the expensive side for solo travellers. Works fine if you are in a group.

You can also opt to stay in a cottage near the National Park, which are more budget friendly. Some options are listed here:

Dhanshree Resort | Kaziranga Florican Lodge | Kaziranga Resort

End the day and get some good sleep as you reach your destination as the day starts very early the next day.

 

 

Day 6 : Excursion to Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park, well known across the country for being home to the one-horned rhino is one of the Best National Parks of India. Not only the one-horned rhino, but you can also spot Royal Bengal tigers, swamp deer, wild water buffaloes and Asian elephants in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spread over 430 square kilometers, Kaziranga National Park houses unique flora and fauna. 

 

One-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park

 

There are two ways you can take a tour around in this place. The first is an Elephant Safari and the other is a Jeep Safari. An Elephant Safari starts as early as 5:30am in the morning and you need to book them a day prior to when you want to go for the safari. The slots for Indians are way too less than the number of slots reserved for foreigners. Also, not many people personally prefer Elephant Safaris on grounds of morality. But even if you want to, you may not get a chance at this because of the one day prior booking policy.

The best way to explore the Kaziranga National Park is to opt for a Jeep Safari which has many slots, even in the afternoons. Please note that Kaziranga National Park is only open during the months of November to April so plan your travel accordingly if you don’t want to be disappointed at the last moment.

 

How to book a Jeep Safari?

  • The tickets can be booked from the counter on the same day on first come first served basis.
  • The Safaris are about 2 hours long. You can check the schedule of the Jeep Safaris beforehand.
  • You cannot book a seat but will have to book the entire Jeep and pay an extra amount for cameras. If you are traveling solo, the best is to wait and join another group and split the cost.
  • An entire Safari costs between INR 1550-2750. There are different price ranges for different circuits. For cameras, you need to pay INR 100 extra per camera; INR 200 for foreigners.
  • From your stay, you will need a vehicle to drop you at the starting point of the Safari. You can ask your hosts to arrange for this and they’d be glad to help you out.

If you take a morning safari, you will have ample time to head to the Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park. The biggest Orchid park in the North East belt in India, this park hosts 500 varieties of wild orchids, 132 species of fruits and vegetables, various species of bamboo, cane and other plants.

 

After a tour of the Orchid park, you can head back to Tezpur from Kaziranga and spend the night in Tezpur.

 

Where to stay in Tezpur?

Homestays : The Bhowmick’s Bungalow | Pokhila Bon

Hotels : Hotel Gateway Tezpur | Hotel Palazzo Prime | Dayal Residency 

 

 

Day 7 : Tezpur to Dirang

Dirang is a picture perfect town in West Kameng District in Arunachal Pradesh, often chosen as a transit point by traveler. Dirang is quite unexplored till this point of time probably because its counterpart, Bomdila is known more in the travellers circuit. Surrounded by tall mountains, beautiful monasteries and crystal clear river waters, a stop at Dirang would be the best way to start your trip to Arunachal Pradesh.

 

How to reach Dirang?

  • There won’t be shared cabs specifically  meant for Dirang but you can hop onto one going to Tawang and get down at Dirang.
  • Shared Sumos are found at ASTC bus stand in Tezpur and they leave around 6am. Check for the Tata Sumo Counter for Tawang as you reach there. Make sure you reach well ahead of time to find yourself the best seats, else you will end up stuck at the last row with no legroom for this long journey.
  • The shared Sumo fair for Tawang from Tezpur is usually INR 750 per person. Dirang would cost you lesser than that. But post pandemic, the costs are expected to go higher.
  • A reserved vehicle from Tezpur to Dirang would cost somewhere around INR 8000. If you are in a group, you may opt for this as you won’t be compromising on comfort.
  • The distance is about 200 kms and it takes around 6 hours to cover.

 

Where to stay in Dirang?

J L Homestay | Pemaling Lords Inn Homestay | Tenzing Dolma Homestay | Keeduk Inn

After having completed a long and bumpy ride, take rest in your hotel/homestay.

 

 

Day 8 : Explore Dirang

Even though Dirang has gained popularity only among travelers only in the recent years, there is a lot to explore in this quaint village. One day is never enough to explore the place to the fullest. Still, something is better than nothing so you can utilise the day to the fullest and go around and breathe the fresh air of this surreal destination, your first stop in Arunachal Pradesh.

 

Things to do in Dirang

 

Dirang Dzong

Visit Dirang Dzong located on the banks of Dirang Chu (river), an outstanding remnant of the rich cultural history of Arunachal Pradesh. It is a small village with a few houses that are more than 500 years old. Dirang Dzong also has a prison which dates back to 9th century. Walk through the houses and alleys and interact with the locals to know more about the ancient architecture, traditions, art and culture. It is located about 3-4 kms from the main town of Dirang. You can take a local cab but the distance is walkable if you are comfortable walking.

 

Dirang Monastery

Originally known as the Thupsung Dhargye monastery, Dirang Monastery is a rather new monastery and recently renovated. The monastery is surrounded by manicured gardens and the view from here is serene. Spend an hour at this place to experience tranquility. It is located right in the heart of Dirang.

 

Explore Dirang on Foot

There is no better way to explore a place than to explore the place on foot. Walk around the town, the river banks and drink tea with the locals. You will know a lot more about the history and culture than what the internet tells you about a place.

 

 

Day 9 : Dirang to Tawang

 

How to reach Tawang?

  • The shared sumos start very early in the morning. Talk to your hotel/homestay management to find out if you can book a seat the previous way. There is no straightjacket formula to traveling in public transports in the North East.
  • The shared sumos would cost around INR 450 from Dirang to Tawang and travel time would be around 6 hours. 
  • You can also join other groups if they are booking a private vehicle and share the expenses.
  • Ask the driver to stop at Sela Lake for tea. That way you get a glimpse of the splendid Sela Lake.
The entry point of Tawang

 

Where to stay in Tawang?

Dondrub Homestay | Hotel Tawang Heights | Hotel The Oak | Hotel Tawang Centre Point

Spend the evening strolling around the town of Tawang or head to Dharma Coffee House for a cup of hot chocolate.

 

 

Day 10 : Explore Tawang

To explore the various places in Tawang, the only option is to book a local cab for sightseeing. If you are traveling solo, you would probably have to join another group. But there is no issue if you are in a group. In the local taxi stand, you will find local drivers who conduct these Bum La Pass, Sangetsar Lake, P T Tso Lake sightseeing trips. You will need a permit from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner in Tawang District to visit Bum La Pass. But not to worry, the driver can arrange that for you easily. Make sure you make this arrangement right on the day you arrive. A full day trip will cost you between INR 5000-6000.

Tawang Monastery

 

Things to do in Tawang

  • Visit the Tawang Monastery, the largest monastery in India and the second largest in the world. Situated at a height of 3000 metres, this three stories monastery is postcard perfect and one of the main highlights of your trip to Tawang.
  • Visit the historically significant Urgeling Gompa, the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama.
  • Head to Tawang War Memorial, which commemorates the martyrdom of 2140 Indian soldiers of the Indo-China War.
  • Explore the popular Bumla pass, located at an altitude of 4633 meters in  the Indo-China border.
  • Stop by Sangetsar Lake, more famously known as Madhuri Lake after a Bollywood movie starring Madhuri Dixit was shot here. A walk around the lake will be enough to refresh your mind and soul.
  • Visit the P T Tso Lake, another famous spot in this circuit. With crystal clear waters and mountains on all sides, you will find this lake a rejuvenating escape.

Head back to your hotel/homestay and rest in the evening.

 

 

Day 11 : Tawang to Bomdila

This day holds a long journey for you. The shares Sumos for Bomdila leave very early in the morning and hence, you’d have to be prepared to leave early. 

 

How to reach Bomdila?

  • Hop onto a shared Sumo from Tawang.
  • It takes between 7-8 hours to cover this leg of the journey, depending on the conditions of the road.
  • The fare for a seat in a shared vehicle is around INR 600.
  • Reserved Vehicles would cost about INR 10000 (Xylo/Innova).

 

Where to stay in Bomdila?

Holiday Hills | Hotel Tashi Den | Doe-Gu-Khil Guest House

Spend the day rest of the evening strolling around the streets of Bomdila or stay back at your hotel/homestay.

 

 

Day 12 : Explore Bomdila

Bomdila is another transit point apart from Dirang, between Tezpur and Tawang. Bomdila is known more and opted by the travelers because of its easy accessibility with other places. Situated amidst lofty mountains and home to beautiful monasteries, Bomdila truly deserves the attention of the travelers. There are many things you can do in this quaint town. Some of the places of interest are listed here.

 

Things to do in Bomdila

  • Head to the highest view point of Bomdila, RR Hill to witness a unparalelled views of Bhutan and Tibet.
  • Visit the gorgeously built Bomdila Monastery. Built in 1965, this monastery is divided into three segments, the Upper Gompa, the Middle Gompa and the Lower Gompa. The Upper Gompa is situated on a steep mountain slope and is the biggest among the three.
  • Hire a vehicle and head to Eagle’s Nest Sanctuary, located 20 kms outside the town. It is a great spot for bird watchers.
  • Head to the apple orchards of Bomdila and pack some apples for your journey backwards.

 

Bomdila Monastery

 

 

Day 13 : Bomdila – Tezpur – Guwahati

 

How to reach Guwahati?

  • There are two possible ways to reach Guwahati.
  • You will find direct buses that go to Guwahati but they are extremely long and tiring. A 15 hours of journey through the bumpy roads would be no less than a pain. But you may still opt for this if you are used to traveling in buses.
  • The alternative option is to break the journey at Tezpur. First take a Shared Jeep to Tezpur that’d cost you INR 350. From Tezpur, you may either take another Sumo or get onto an ASTC bus towards Guwahati. Take a seat in the front of the bus and it will be quite a comfortable journey.

 

TRAVEL TIME:

Bomdila to Tezpur – 4.5 hours

Tezpur to Guwahati – 4.5 hours

(It is always best to keep some buffer time and not having anything booked in advance)

 

Where to stay in Guwahati?

Backpackers Hostels : Gibbon Backpackers Hostel | Cupidtrail Backpacker’s Penthouse 

Budget Stays : Hillside Rooms | Kristal (BnB) | Jironi-Studio Unit

Mid-Ranged Stays : Magnolia Inn | The Riverside Lodge | Hotel The Kalyaniz

Luxury Stays : Vivanta Guwahati | Radisson Blu Guwahati | Novotel Guwahati

After a long day of travel, retreat to sleep early as you approach the last day of your trip.

 

 

Day 14 : Explore Guwahati

Though the itinerary starts from Guwahati, you technically do not get to spend a day in Guwahati, often considered a gateway and junction to travel to all other destinations in the North East region. It is thus advisable to dedicate a leisurely day to explore the city at your own pace. There would be no checklists to follow or rush to visit all possible points. Just take a walk, spend the afternoon at a cafe or engage in some shopping at Fancy Bazaar or The Maati Centre.

An areal view of the city of Guwahati

 

But if you are still keen on visiting some popular spots in the city, you may head to Assam State Museum or stargaze at Guwahati Planetarium.

If you want to add on a few extra days to the itinerary and explore some more places in Assam, you must check these 6 jaw-dropping locations in Assam that should be on your list.

 

 

Day 15 : Fly out from Guwahati

 

Fly out or take a train back from Guwahati with bag full of memories.

 

North East Itinerary – In brief

 

Day 1 : Guwahati to Shillong

Day 2 : Shillong to Cherrapunjee

Day 3 : Cherrpunjee – Tyrna – Nongriat – Tyrna

Day 4 : Tyrna – Cherrapunjee – Shillong

Day 5 : Shillong – Tezpur – Kaziranga

Day 6 : Excursion at Kaziranga National Park – Transfer to Tezpur

Day 7 : Tezpur to Dirang

Day 8 : Explore Dirang

Day 9 : Dirang to Tawang

Day 10 : Explore Tawang

Day 11 : Tawang to Bomdila

Day 12 : Explore Bomdila

Day 13 : Bomdila -Tezpur – Guwahati

Day 14 : Explore Guwahati

Day 15 : Fly out from Guwahati

 

 

Tips to remember while planning the trip

  • It is best to travel in the months of November to early December or March-April. The itinerary covers high altitude destinations like Tawang and you would not want to get stuck due to excessive snowfall during winter months or landslides in monsoon.
  • Traveling to Arunachal Pradesh requires an Inner Line Permit which maybe applied online and obtained beforehand. The fee is INR 100 for Indians and is valid for 30 days.
  • You will be on the roads on almost every day of the trip. It is advisable to carry water bottle and dry fruits so that you can stay hydrated and have something to munch on.
  • Please avoid carrying snacks in plastic packs. Most of these locations are in remote places and they do not have a recycling system. If at all you produce plastic waste, carry them till Guwahati and dispose them at Guwahati.
  • Always keep some buffer time when you travel in public transports. You never know what unforeseen circumstances may arrive.
  • Reach the booking counters well before time so that you may find the front seats in the Tata Sumos. If possible, book both the seats so that you can travel comfortably.
  • Respect the culture of the locals and thank them for every service.

 

Also, check these articles if you want to travel further to other places in the North East:

 

 

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