19th July 2012
The Northeast of India is a treasure trove of amazing things to do and see – from trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas, sailing down the mighty Ganges River, tiger spotting in Sunderbans and sampling some of the world’s finest tea. Unlike much of India, large swaths of the north and northeast are still to make their way onto the mainstream tourist trail offering truly unique travel experiences.
Here are our top picks of things to do in the northeast of this vast country.
Take a walking tour of Calcutta
From the first records of East India Company to British architectural dominance at the height of the Raj, Calcutta's indomitable civilisation has been characterised by its wondrous buildings. From the shores of Hooghly River, over Howrah Bridge, through the flower market - at times jumping on and off the only tram system in India - and culminating in a visit to those municipal triumphs, like the general post office, the Victoria Memorial and St Paul's Cathedral, walking though Calcutta takes you to the true heart of this unique urban circus.
Trek the villages of Sikkim
Village to village trekking in remote Sikkim is magnificent way to visit the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, and meet those that live there. Among mysterious mountain hamlets, resting at colourful wooden homes, and trekking to astounding Buddhist monasteries, walking in Sikkim is a fizzy enchantment that will once more allow you to touch the spectacular glory of the surrounding mountain giants.
Cruise on the Brahmaputra
Who could not be tempted to take to the waters of one of Asia's mightiest rivers, the mythic Brahmaputra? Rising in Tibet, crossing India, China and Bangladesh, the Sanskrit name means 'son of Brahma', and like the Ganges the lower reaches of this might waterway are sacred to Hindus. Beyond the religious myth, cruising the Brahmaputra is to touch triumphant sunsets, verdant shores - where you will visit some of the country's best wildlife parks - and sense how deeply in India a river runs through it.
See Tigers in the Sunderbans
Where the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of semi-impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans is a vast area covering 4264 square km in India alone, and forms largest Tiger Reserve and National Park in the country. The name Sundarban can be literally translated as "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest" in the Bengali language, and is known for numerous flora and fauna, particularly the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger. The Sundarbans have recently been enlisted amongst the finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Stay at a Tea Plantation
Out of the bustling mayhem of Calcutta, staying on a tea plantation is to experience another side of India. Although tea is classically associated with the British, the leaf is indigenous to Eastern and Northern India, cultivated for consumption and medicinal purposes as early as the Ramayana, around 500 BC. Since India produces 70% of the global tea crop, cultivated plantation life amid man-made lakes and gorgeous sweeps of flowering tea bushes, their brown, black and white leaves, harvested at an elegant pace in mountain country, is to find the most delicious oasis of peace, in an often over-boiling country.
Visit Kazaranga National Park
The Asian one-horned rhinoceros is almost common here and while tigers remain elusive, their signs are easily seen. The park lies on the flood plain of the mighty Brahmaputra and vast acres of tall grass provide grazing for herds of wild elephant, gaur, and wild Asian buffalo among many others. The nearby forests are lush green and bursting with all kinds of life, the avifauna as so often in India can be breathtaking. There is also some surprisingly good accommodation.
Sailing on the Ganges
For those that like their travel to get 'up close and personal' this is a great experience as you travel by an old sailing boat, from Allahabad to Varanasi, down India's holy river. Drifting slowly along, stopping to visit remote village and temples - camping up for the night on isolated sand banks - offers something very unique and mystical. The Ganges River is the greatest waterway in India and is one of the longest rivers in the world. It begins high in the Himalayas as a pair of head streams in an ice cave in the mountains 10,300 feet above sea level, then flows across the northern corner of India until it empties out into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges River has always been known as a religious icon in the world and represents the focus of the Hindu religion. As such while on the Ganges we must treat it with the spiritual respect it deserves. It will be a journey down the lifeline of the great subcontinent. For those with a sense of adventure, this trip is a must!
For a really amazing Ganges experience join us on our Slowly Down the Ganges Kumbh Festival trip in January 2013!
Almora Village Walks
This pioneering village walk is at the heart of Wild Frontiers visits to this stunning region, enabling you to enjoy rural life in the remote mountains, in a fun and ethically sensitive way. The Kumaon Region contains some of the most stunning mountain scenery the subcontinent can offer, from the perennially snow-capped peaks of the Great Himalaya range in the north to the pretty hill stations of Almora and Nainital in the foothills and the stunning wilderness of Corbett National Park. Walks run to and from pretty and elegantly converted village homes and include a lunch or breakfast set up under an awning on the route. The walks range in duration from 3-6 hours on any given day, but your guide will always vary the walks according to the fitness and interests of our guests. These are very much walks and not treks and as such they are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Designed to keep you off the beaten path and providing authentic experiences of local life, the walks are the perfect antidote to the frenetic world you may be leaving to travel on a quiet and more intimate holiday. Few people have heard of this area outside of India and these wonderful walks, in an unspoilt and off the beaten track part of India, bring a 'low-impact' tourism that benefits both the local people of the region and the guests that travel there, without a negative impact on the environment and culture.
More information on travelling to Calcutta and the Northeast of India