Seven Sisters- North East India

The seven states of North East India (now eight with the inclusion of Sikkim) are (clockwise) Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. It is only connected to mainland India by the 22 kms. wide Siliguri Corridor and is elsewhere bordered by Bhutan, Tibet, China, Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh. Opened to visitors a couple of years ago, positive moves are now being made to develop tourism.

Permits :
Only Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura can be visited without PAP (Protected Area Permits) or RAP (Restricted Area Permits). Getting them is possible but not easy for independent travelers though no problem for groups traveling with an Indian Tour Operator who will do all the paperwork. It is advisable you take help of a local tour operator in getting this much needed permits done through in case you plan to travel individually. 

Area :
Over 250,000 sq. kms.

English is commonly spoken by all. Other languages spoken are Assamese, Hindi and about 100 tribal Dialects.

Brief History :
The people of the region are a mixture of Aryan and Mongoloid origin, most of the tribal groups racial origins being visibly those of the peoples of Tibet, Burma, Thailand and Laos. They consequently have little in common with the rest of India.

Whilst some of the more accessible regions came under British Administration under the Raj, much of the region, being covered in mountains and jungles and home to warring tribal groups such as the notorious 'Naked Naga' headhunters remained off-limits. Although some tribal people fought with the British and Indian forces in the decisive battles in Nagaland that turned back the Japanese in WWII, political unrest continued after Indian Independence, with head hunting raids persisting in remote areas into the 1960s. The situation was further exacerbated by the Chinese incursion into Arunachal Pradesh in1962 when they reached as far as Assam, their gateway to India, before running out of supplies and being pushed back to Chinese Occupied Tibet.

Throughout this time, the seven states continued to suffer from ethnic violence and even today, there are still some freedom movements from both the Bodos of Assam and the Naga people though they no longer seem to receive much popular support. There are also tribal struggles between the Kukis and Nagas of Manipur and similar unrest in Tripura. Additionally, there are some border incursions, particularly from Myanmar and an influx of migrants the area can ill afford, from Bangladesh and Nepal.

Geography :
Apart from Assam, it's all up or down, with almost no flat land! Trapped at the eastern end of colliding tectonic plates, deluged by monsoon rains, gouged by great rivers and covered in jungle, travel is not easy! Altitudes vary from 6800m along the Tibetan border down to less than 100m at Guwahati on the Brahmaputra River, which cuts through the eastern Himalaya, having its source at the sacred Mt. Kailash in Tibet. Elsewhere, the hills are mostly around 3 4000 mtrs. in height, divided by steep sided jungle-filled ravines often 1 - 2000m in depth. 

Wildlife :
In the numerous National Parks, you will see elephants, one-horned rhinos, various deer, wild boar, otters and a variety of birds. Tigers, clouded leopards and snow leopards are also there but very elusive.

Adventure activities :
Climbing, trekking, rafting, caving and paragliding.

How to get there :
Gateway to Northeast India is Guwahati which is conveniently connected from Delhi & Kolkata. Once in Guwahati, you can easily connect to other north-eastern cities by Air and Road.

Clothing and equipment :
Warm woollens for winters (November to February) and light clothing for the rest of the season. Climbing gear is obviously essential if you are heading for the big Himalayan peaks. A good sleeping bag is invaluable in Arunachal Pradesh, and a head torch. And if you are going trekking, consider taking a compact, lightweight tent.

Health :
Chloroquine and Proguanil are recommended against malaria though much of the time you are likely to be over 20000 mtrs. and malaria free. Water purifiers are useful, if not essential if drinking from streams. Insect repellents and after-bite creams are worth considering in jungle terrain. If going above 4000 to 5000 mtrs. take appropriate altitude precautions.

Best time to visit :
It all depends what you are into. September to April avoids the monsoon and is the best time for most activities. September is generally the best time for flowers, following the rains. October- November is harvest time. The rivers are at their lowest by springtime but still have enough Himalayan run- off to guarantee a good rafting trip. Festivals happen in all states throughout the year. The Naga Hornbill Festival in early December is excellent though no doubt others such as the Buddha Mahotsava Festival in Tawang in mid October is equally remarkable or you may just bump into some traveling troubadour.

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