The Incredible Northeast

The ‘Indian Summer’ might be a much-fantasised dreamy state that is often put on a pedestal by people who live in very cold countries. However, for those of us living in India, summer is about hot, sticky, and sometimes uncomfortable weather that makes us want to fast forward to the monsoon. So for those of you who want a quick break from the heat and want to explore the country’s often overlooked Northeast region, there are myriad options that can make you forget you’re in India in the middle of April.

The Northeast region is among the most unexplored and magical places in India. Encompassed by the majestic Himalayas with the gushing Teesta River crisscrossing the entire stretch, Sikkim and other places in the Northeast are some of the best tourist spots to uncover. Its untouched beauty adds to the appealing factor for discerning travellers. So this summer you don’t have to travel overseas to escape the heat; simply head to the Northeast. You’re sure to be amazed by the beauty of this hidden gem, all this while still escaping the torturous heat.

 

PELLING, SIKKIM

If you’re contemplating spending your summer break in a hill station other than the Shivalik or the Western Ghats, head to Pelling, Sikkim’s popular hill station. One of the best summer holiday destinations in Northeast India, Pelling is around 10 kilometres from Gyalshing, the district headquarters. The unsurpassed view of Kanchenjunga at dawn is perhaps the most exciting part of travelling to Pelling. Here you get the golden opportunity to mingle with nature and be yourself. The famous Pemayangste Monastery is just a kilometre away from Pelling, and you can reach it by trekking. There are short treks too, if you’re looking to go for a rejuvenating nature walk, passing through a serene environment and scenic backdrop.

Weather: The temperature of Pelling, Sikkim ranges from 16°C to 21°in summer.

TSOMGO LAKE, SIKKIM

For touring Northeast India in summer, Sikkim hardly has any other rivals. To verify this yourself, pay a visit to Tsomgo Lake, which is tucked away at an altitude of 3,780 metres. Located around 38 kilometres from Gangtok, this lake exudes ethereal views of the surrounding mountain ranges of the Himalayas. The best part of exploring this lake in summer are the unmatched vistas painted with blooming rhododendrons, primulas, and blue and yellow poppies. If you’re travelling in May, the chance of witnessing snow are brighter, as the town remains frozen till mid-June. The area surrounding this is inhabited by red pandas and several rare species of birds. You can also see the exclusive Brahminy Duck. Do not forget to capture a few shots of them.

Weather: The temperature of Tsomgo Lake ranges between 20 to 22°C from March to June.

DZUKOU VALLEY, NAGALAND

A trip to the Dzoku Valley is worth it only if you are zealous about travelling and love to explore the most exclusive natural beauty with open eyes. Tucked away at an elevation of 2,438 metres, this valley is a dreamland for trekkers. This lovely Nagaland hill station is known as the “Valley of Flowers of the Northeast”, as it is carpeted with wildflowers in summer. Dzoku is located at the border of Manipur and Nagaland. Trekking expeditions in this valley tend to be easy to moderate. The base camp of this trek is located at Viswema Village, which continues on to a narrow moss-covered hilly route. Numerous hills host wonderful natural caves and rock overhangs, suitable for group camping.

Weather: The temperature of Dzoku Valley ranges from 16°C to 31° in summer.

TAWANG, ARUNACHAL PRADESH

A veritable multi-coloured canvas painted with strokes of white-brown and green, Tawang is the land of the Monpas. Picturesque Buddhist monasteries, sparkling lakes and cascading waterfalls deck this travel destination that looks like nothing less than a slice of heaven. Tawang is definitely worth a visit, as it has enough to meet your expectations. Unlike other Indian cities, you don’t have to wait in long queues to visit its monasteries like Taktsang Gompa or Tawang Monastery. You’ll have sufficient time to explore the rich collection of artefacts and Buddhist manuscripts. For good sightseeing options, explore attractions like Jaswant Garh, Pankang Teng Tso Lake, and Urgyelling Monastery.

Weather: The temperature during summer at Tawang does not exceed 21°C, making it an ideal spot to spend your summer vacay.

ZIRO VALLEY, ARUNACHAL PRADESH

If you want a break from the mundane routine of city life and are looking for a less commercial yet refreshing tourist spot, Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh will fit the bill. The blossoming paddy fields, rippling rivulets, and placid locale will amaze and invite you to sit at the edge of a small hillock to feel at one with nature. You’ll be enchanted by the pleasant weather and the long stretches of greenery that extend as far as your eyes can see. Explore the small, friendly villages of Apatani tribes. Observe their lifestyle, and you’ll see how the women of this tribe sport huge bamboo nose plugs. Explore the tribal villages of Hong, Dutta, Bamin and Hija, all of which are located within 10 kilometres. If you want to feel more ethnic, opt for home stay options arranged by Ngunu Ziro. For hotels and other necessities, you can depend on Hapoli (New Ziro), around 7 kilometres South of Ziro Valley.

Weather: April to June is the summer in this region, and the temperature at this time does not go beyond 30°C.

MOKOKCHUNG, NAGALAND

You may have seen several tribal villages and communities in your life, but the ones in the Mokokchung district in Nagaland are unusual to say the least; you won’t find them anywhere else in India. Although the entire community of this region follows Christianity, they have not given up their traditional practices; thus making it an absolutely enriching place to explore. The small villages of this district are found on green hillocks and are inhabited by the friendly Ao Naga tribe. Longkhum allows you to enjoy the best natural views during full bloom season when its narrow roads are flooded with colourful rhododendron. The Moatsu Festival runs from May 1-3, during which the villagers of one area exchange gifts and build friendships with those from another.

Weather: The average temperature of Mokokchung does not exceed 22°C in summer.

HAFLONG, ASSAM

Assam’s only hill station, Haflong is dubbed as the “White Ant Hillock”, and you’re guaranteed to fall in love with it the minute you reach the area. Located 310 kilometres from Guwahati, this quaint hill station revives you from the inside, as it’s far away from any commercial activity or city noises. Less crowded and less advertised in comparison to other Indian hill stations, Haflong may be the best summer holiday destination in Assam. The headquarters of the North-Cachar District, this tourist spot is home to a handful of historical buildings that carry the marks of the British colonial past. Here you’ll find scenic vistas dotted with crystal clear mountain streams, small hillocks and a blend of lush greenery and dense vegetation of pineapple orchards. But don’t get too relaxed here; try exploring the attractions of Maibong or the mysterious Jatinga, where birds from different corners of the globe oddly gather to commit mass-suicide.

Weather: The average temperature of Haflong in summer is 30°C.

SHILLONG, MEGHALAYA

If you’re looking to enjoy your much-awaited summer holidays in the Northeast without compromising on the level of comfort and class, then consider Shillong. The neat and clean roads meandering through the hills, pleasant weather, and the free-spirited locals will inspire you to visit once, and then long to return. Dubbed as the “Hollywood of Northeast”, Shillong has lavish accommodations built on the edges of placid mountains and lakes. Beautiful pine trees and flower gardens dress this town as a newlywed bride and bewitch you with picturesque houses sitting in the lap of the hills. For sightseeing in Shillong, Ward’s Lake, Shillong Peak, Elephant Falls, Laitlum Canyons, Lady Hydari Park, Shillong Golf Course, and the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures are a few ideal spots. If you’re to travel a few kilometres more, you can visit Nokrek National Park.

Weather: The average temperature of Shillong remains within 23°C, so, you can consider it an ideal destination to visit in summer.

CHERRAPUNJI, MEGHALAYA

If you’ve dreamt of walking amidst the clouds even in the sweltering heat, head to Cherapunji, one of the wettest places on earth. 58 kilometres from Shillong, this amazing spot has invigorating waterfalls, lush green meadows and delightful weather that take your summer to a new level. Officially known as Sohra, Cherapunji features abundant camera-friendly landscapes. Nohkalikai Falls is reckoned to be the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Some of the liveliest waterfalls in Cherapunji are Seven Sisters’ Falls, Dainthlen Waterfalls, and Mawsmai Falls. To explore further, you can visit the David Scott Memorial, Eco Park, and Khasi Monoliths. If your family is adventurous and up for something more offbeat, go for caving in Krem Phyllut Cave or Krem Mawmluh Cave.

Weather: The average temperature of Cherapunji does not exceed 23°C in summer.

-Suneela, with additional inputs from: Travel community of India and Travel Triangle