Your gateway to the North East, Guwahati, fondly called the ‘City of Temples’ is also a great place to explore the myriad charms of the region. Located between the banks of the Brahmaputra and foothills of the Shillong plateau, this is your base to getaway into some other parts of the North East. We list some for you here.
East Garo Hills, Meghalaya
Forming the western part of the State the Garo Hills is spread over 8000 sq kms of dense forests and is a biodiversity hotspot. This is where you can see nature’s beauty at its best thanks to the Simsang river. Stop by at Williamnagar, a riverine town built on the curve of Simsang river and flanked by mountains, known for its abundance of both vegetation and water. Close by is Rongrenggiri home to the last battle field where the Garos bravely resisted the British. Also check out Naka-Chikong, a big rock with deep hollows in the midst of the Ildek river in Badaka village. Teeming with fish all the year round, locals believe that if you touch the big rock under whose hole the fish are, they disappear from the river. Do also check out the hot spring at Resubelpara and the Pelga Waterfalls when you are here.
Home to two third of the world’s one horned rhinoceros, Kaziranga’s wild life sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park itself is home to elephants, wild water buffalo, swamp deer and is an important Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. The topography of the forest with tall elephant grass, marshland and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests with rivers running through that also makes it a birding hotspot. In fact the park is home to birds like the great Indian hornbill, wreathed hornbill, marsh babblers, weaver birds, Hodgson’s bushchat, rufous-vented grass babbler, Pallas’s fish eagle and grey-headed fish eagle among others. Incidentally this semi-evergreen forest is also home to the endangered Assam Roofed Turtle, Golden Langur, Hispid Hare and Pygmy Hog.
Assam’s only hill station, Haflong is natural paradise replete with rich wildlife, tree laden hills and tranquility that is hard to miss. Being the headquarters of Dima Hasao district, this place is called as the White Ant Hillock and has a rich cultural heritage. Popular as a picnic spot, you must visit the Haflong Lake a beautiful and well maintained water body that offers boating facilities too. When you are here, stop by at Maibong home to a beautiful Hindu temple of Ramchandi and Jatinga is known for a strange phenomenon called bird’s suicide. The sunrise from this place makes for a stunningly beautiful sight and do try your hand at the delectable delicacies of Assam.
The capital of Meghalaya which has the moniker ‘The Abode of the Clouds’ courtesy the fact that is close to 5000 feet above sea level is a charming hill station with waterfalls, lakes and mountains abound. A place that must be on your itinerary is the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures is a museum with a research and publication space is spread over seven floors and is an ode to the cultural heritage to all things North East India. The Elephant Falls on the outskirts makes for a stunning sight with its three successive falls over the fern covered rocks. In fact there are several waterfalls here including the Bishop and Beadon Falls, Spread Eagle Falls, Sweet Falls and Crinoline Falls. A taxi ride will get you up and close with Shillong’s love to overhaul cars!
Said to be the gateway to Nagaland, Dimapur literally means city by the great river. This is the largest city here and is a curious mix of tradition and modernity. The brilliant architecture and intricate glass work of the Dimapur Jain Temple that was built in 1947 is sure to mesmerize you. If you love nature, you must visit Nichuguard Village, Kuki Dalong Village, Chumukedima, Sethekima Village and Medziphema as well as the Rangapahar Reserve forest. Do remember to go to Diphupar to buy products made by tribes like Angami, Lotha, Sangtam, Ao, Rengma Pochury,Chakhesang, Sumi and Zeliang. Do make time to visit the Kachari ruins, witness Naga wrestling matches, go on a day tour to Chumukedima and bite into the world’s hottest chilly!
Orang National Park, Assam
Located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra river, the Orang National Park is quite small spread over a mere 78.8sq km and is a swampy grassland with a few wetlands in between which is a breeding ground for migratory birds in winter. The story is that this place belonged to the Orang tribe who deserted it when a fatal disease struck. Often referred to as mini Kaziranga, the park is home to the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, pygmy hog, elephant, wild buffalo and tiger. Over 50 species of fish have been recorded in the river and channels that flow through the park. The Bengal florican, a threatened bird species is seen in this park as part of its conservation.
The headquarters of the West Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya, Nongstoin is an island surrounded by pure unbridled nature. This place is well known for a unique stone which actually has natural embroidery colour in itself which is only found here. Pope Benedict XVI erected a diocese here in January 2006. The annual Nongkhnum Festival here includes many activities like pole climbing, trekking and Moto-Cross among others. Some areas of interest around this place include the Weinia Falls, Riatsohkhe Falls, Langshiang Falls, Shadthum Falls, Wei Spi Falls, Shad Chong Falls, Mawthadraishan Peak and Lakes, Rwiang river and Wahblei river.
If you want a quiet holiday in the hills, head to the cultural capital of Assam, Tezpur. With enchanting views of verdant green valleys and the Brahmaputra river you can also do angling and water rafting in the Jia Bhoroli river. When you are here stop by at Agnigarh, a large fortress atop a hill accessible via a circular staircase. Likewise, the ruins of the Bamuni hill that go back to the 9th century are a must visit for its history and art. Stop by at Cole Park home to two stone pillars and sculptural remains of Bamuni hill. In fact at Da-Parbatia the famed Gupta era ruins there is an intricately carved door with images of Ganga and Yamuna, with garlands in their hands, flowers and foliage. Also pay your respects at the second largest statue of Lord Shiva in the world at Mahabhairab Mandir.
This story appeared in the April issue of Travel3Sixty here: