Photo Location : Nagaland, India

James McGuire

James McGuire remembers the northeast of India by its tea gardens. Not only did he roam the flat estates of Assam, but also found the whiff of fresh green leaves in parts of Nagaland. After hearing tall praised of the Assamese tea, not only did this throw up a pleasant surprise, it
prepared him for the wonderful novelties that he would come across the rest of his trip over a month in the seven sisters of northeast India. He particularly loved how the valleys clung onto the clouds and released them off their green clutches only by afternoon. The experience was ‘cathartic’ by his own admission. “The memory of a warm cup of warm tea in my hands and a view like this is forever etched in my mind”, he says.
Tribal dancers at the Nagaland Hornbill festival
If offbeat travel is your choice of exploration, the northeast region of India should be on your list. Not only is it relatively untreaded, but offers an enchanting unknown image of the country that one is not exposed to on regular brochures and websites. Vibrant festivals, exotic cuisine and topography that is unique, are the few highlights of the region. Amongst these, the festivals should definitely be part of the itinerary. Here are some of the top festivals of the region that should be included in your plan.
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland – Decidedly one of the most popular festivals of the region, Nagaland’s Hornbill Festival promises an orientation into tribal dances of the state, their music, food and even a rock concert. 16 major tribes of Nagaland converge at Kohima in December to showcase their vibrant culture and tenacity to hold onto their roots. The seven days are truly fabulous – especially that bonfire on the last day.
Bihu Festival, Assam – The gentle rhythm of steps tapping to a low beat and elegant movements are what come to your mind when thinking of Bihu. This is the dance that the Assamese ladies perform during the agricultural festival. An invocation to spring is reason enough to dance, eat and make merry for the Assamese people. There are three Bihus that are held in the state. Torgya Monastery Festival, Arunachal Pradesh – The people of Arunachal Pradesh welcome the new year with a three-day monastery festival known as Torgya. This is observed by the Monpa tribe of the state. Sacred dances by brightly costumed monks in
A Bihu dance performance is being watched by locals

Fthe monastery's courtyard are performed to ward off evil spirits and bring prosperity to the tribe. Many close by villages converge during this time to participate in the extravaganza. Nongkrem Dance Festival, Meghalaya – A five day harvest thanksgiving festival, the Nongkrem Dance festival is unique to the Khasi tribe of the state of Meghalaya. The traditional dance is performed by the youngsters of the region. This is held in the village of Smit, 15km from Shillong in the month of November. A crispy chill surrounds the village but the dance and music are enough to distract the crowds from the weather and concentrate on the festivity. Chapchar Kut, Mizoram – Another harvest festival, this is named after bamboo. A traditional bamboo dance is performed by the women and is the highlight of the festival. It is known as ‘cheraw’. Food, handicrafts and music are the other central themes of the festival. This is best seen in the capital city of Aizawl.
Footloose in
Essential encounters in the state
If you think that Assam is dominated by tea gardens and the mighty Brahmaputra, think again. What lies in store are experiences that straddle both cultural and natural themes. For this, our editor, Supriya vouches. She has travelled to the region several times and has come back more enthralled than the last time. Supriya has picked five essential encounters that one must experience in the state to get the rite of passage to say that you have travelled to the northeast. These experiences also give you a brief insight into the different dimensions of this vibrant state.
A ferry wades through the Brahmaputra towards Majuli Islands.
Makalu Base Camp – Usually, travellers do not think ahead of the Mt. Everest Base Camp. Thousands of travellers from across the world want to reach here, if not the peak. We take you on a journey, which is away from this scramble. Try the Makalu Base camp. This peak is the 5th highest in the world and offers stunning scapes of dense rain forests over steep passes, to high pastures below glacier-clad peaks. Heaven on earth. Ofcourse, to traverse this ruggest trail, one should go with trained instructors, as all you see on the way is a handful of teahouses and villages.
Mardi Himal Trek – Just east of one the most popular routes, the Annapurna basecamp, the Mardi Himal Trek is delightfully untreaded. Evading the eyes of those who want to just tick off the list, this is made for those who want an easy pace to take in the stunning environs. The trail wends along small dirt tracks, through a magical copse of rhododendron trees until you
climb out of the forest at an elevation around 3,300 m. The landscape changes quite abruptly to a rugged high mountain landscape, but what waits ahead makes it all worth it - amazing views of Mardi Himal, Machapuchre, Annapurna South
and Hiunchuli. Annapurna Sanctuary – It is just not about scaling high peaks, it’s also about being immersed in the local life of Nepal. The Annapurna Sanctuary trek, begins from Pokhara, and leads to the base of this impressive 8,091 m mountain. It is a long trail of 8-10 days, but one that is stunning. The sanctuary was believed to be the home of several deities, from Hinduism and Buddhism, but that has nothing do with the spiritual connection that one feels. If you love the company of mountains, this experience is a moving one.
The Humla Circuit- Humla is one of the most untouched places in Nepal. The villages here have never been inundated with western influence.
A tea worker plucking tea leaves in a tea garden of Assam.
Photo credit- Akarsh Simha
The only tourists that one might spot are the on the border town of Hilsa in Tibet. This is the old salt trading route that used to go all the wayup to Tibet. Be ready to be mesmerised by the simple living of the Thakuri women in heavy gold jewellery and the livestock roam on the undulating hillsides with abandon. This is one of the most rewarding walking trails in Nepal. Rara and Humla – This is a special trail for birding enthusiasts as almost 250 species of birds surround the Rara Lake, the largest in Nepal. The trek offers many deviations - from here, trekkers can head along the old salt route to Humla, the royal highway to the plains, or take any of several adventurous paths into neighbouring Dolpa. This place is what adventurer’s dream is made of – authentic culture, a wealth of natural beauty and the trails largely to yourself.
The vantage location of Diphlu River Lodge at the edge of a river that skirts the Kaziranga National Park is the highlight for guests. The proximity to
the jungle and the serene environs makes it one of the top properties to stay near the wildlife haven. Here, be immersed in nature and surround yourself with the wisdom of the forest – birdsong, intense greenery and warm hospiritualality give you company during your stay.
Highlights include:
• Local essence in the architecture of the rooms
• Proximity to the jungle; balconies overlook the forest
• Personalized attention to guests
• Organic vegetable garden
• Quiet spots like the machan, to unplug
• Responsible tourism
• Activities like elephant bathing can be experienced
• Excellent local and international cuisine
• Overall immersive experience of Assam
Leela and Al Sawari
Holdings Join Hands
Al Sawari Holding will be joining hands with Leela to establish a 100-room property near the Taj Mahal. Another management agreement has been signed with AIANA Hotels and Resorts, a global hotel management company, to operate a 150-room Aiana Hotel on the same plot of six acres. “We are delighted to partner with Al Sawari Holdings, and view this agreement as a forerunner to several other developments in India and overseas. The proposed Palace hotel will combine unparalleled views of the Taj Mahal with a truly luxurious hospiritualality experience in Agra. We are also looking forward to further
strengthening our presence within the golden triangle by adding a Palace hotel in Jaipur and will continue our efforts to expand in Jodhpur and Jaisalmer,” confirmed Vivek Nair, Chairman and Managing Director, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. Luxury travellers can look forward to yet another exciting hotel to stay at.
Night Flights to Srinagar
by GoAir
Srinagar has become more accessible to travellers, effective June 15, 2016. GoAir announced that flights G8-228 and G8-229 took off from Srinagar at 18:40 pm to Mumbai and Delhi, respectively. The newly introduced evening flights help keep up with the demand from tourists, and the increase in flights will aid in keeping the prices competitive and ensure that Srinagar remains accessible to both business and leisure travellers. One-way fare for this journey costs Rs 9000 + taxes.
The Fern has an address
in Bhimtal
The Fern Hotels& Resorts announced the opening of The Fern Hillside Resort at Bhimtal. This is pegged as a premium resort located in the hills of Bhimtal and overlooking the central lake of the town. The resort offers 30 spacious rooms with a contemporary aesthetic. The room rates start from Rs 2250 plus taxes. All rooms are spacious and offer a beautiful view of the surrounding hills, and are equipped with all modern amenities required for
a comfortable stay. One can expect a multi-cuisine restaurant, a meeting room, and in-door activity options such as pool table, table tennis, and board games. Adventure sport activities such as rappelling, river crossing, rock climbing, kayaking, paragliding, trekking and boating will also be organised. Other close by destinations such a Naukuchiya Taal and Nainital will also be a central attraction for people, so that they can combine the trip to cover these as well.
Keys Hotels expands
Three new hotels mark the expansion plan for Keys Hotels – Keys Hotels in Vishakhapatnam, Keys Hotels Malabar Gate in Calicut and Keys Lite Om Niwas in Jaipur will be the three new addresses. The company also plans to open 8-10 new management contract hotels in the next 12-18 months by adopting assets light strategy. Speaking about the expansion strategy, Anshu Sarin, CEO, Berggruen Hotels Pvt. Ltd. said, “Keys Hotels is committed to expand its footprint across smart cities and we will adopt assets light strategy to support this growth. We are pleased to launch three new hotels as a part of this expansion plan. Calicut, Vizag and Jaipur are very important markets for us as all three cities attracting a large volume of tourists and business travelers.
Apart from these cities we are looking to be present in major smart cities and we have aligned our growth plans accordingly.” Situated close to the beach, Keys Hotel Malabar Gate, Calicut is ideal for nature lovers. All the hotels have great access to the sightseeing spots of their respective cities.
Proposed fee hike for ASI
monuments curbed to 50%
There has been a proposed fee hike for all the Archeological Survey of India managed monuments in the last few months. The decision has been made on this and the hike has been curbed. The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) has decided that the increase in ASI monument fees will only be 50 per cent of the proposed hike of 300 per cent. This means that for Category B monuments, there will be an increase from Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 only instead of Rs. 300. However, a premium ticket will be introduced of Rs. 300/- with some value additions. Similarly for Category A monuments, there will be an increase from Rs. 250 to Rs. 500 only instead of Rs. 750. Premium ticket will cost Rs. 750 with similar value additions. The above new rates will be effective from April 1, 2016. Also, there will be a separate counter and queue to enter at all the ASI monuments for those having ticket in category A of Rs. 500 and above and in Category B of Rs. 200 and above.

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