The gateway to the northeast and the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the region, Guwahati serves as the starting block for most Northeast itineraries. It’s a somewhat featureless city – a prosaic heap of glass and concrete for the most part – but there are a scattering of interesting temples to explore.
Far from India’s popular tourist circuits, Tripura is a culturally charming place which thrives on the hope that its handful of royal palaces and temples will draw the world's attention some day. For the moment, though, foreign travellers remain very rare, despite the fact that no permit is currently required.
Irreverent Shillong was the capital of British-created Assam until 1972. Since becoming the state capital of Meghalaya, it has rapidly developed into a typical modern Indian town, but still retains some its colonial-era charm in certain pockets. Overhauled cars are all the rage here – take a ride in one of Shillong's many taxis and you'll know.
The uncontested ‘wild east’ of India, Nagaland is probably one of the reasons you came to the Northeast in the first place. A place of primeval beauty, Nagaland’s dazzling hills and valleys – right on the edge of the India–Myanmar border – are an otherworldly place where, until very recently, some 16-odd headhunting Naga tribes valiantly fought off any intruders.
Kohima to Mon
The scenic but but insufferably bumpy road from Kohima to Mon passes through beautiful forested hills, at one point briefly entering Assam. A convenient stopover en route is Mokokchung, a laid-back town with a spectacular hillside setting. The spiffy Hotel Metsuben is the best place to look for a bed, and a range of hearty and fiery Naga dishes.
If not for its crazy traffic and rampant urbanisation, Nagaland’s agreeable capital – scattered across a series of forested ridges and hilltops – could easily rub shoulders with the best hill stations of India. Avoid Kohima on Sunday if you can, as apart from hotels, everything is closed.
Seated precariously along rows of north–south-running mountain ridges, pristine Mizoram is more of an experiential journey than a tourist destination. Ethnically, the majority of the local population shares similarities with communities in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries such as Myanmar (Burma), and the predominant religion is Christianity.
Cheerful and clement Dibrugarh, Assam’s original tea city, usefully closes a loop between Kaziranga National Park and the Ziro–Along–Pasighat route in Arunachal Pradesh. It is also the terminus (or starting point) for the fascinating ferry ride along the Brahmaputra River to Pasighat. Hotel Little Palace, on the edge of town, is anything but little.