The vast eastern region of India starting from the northernmost point consists of: the contiguous Seven Sister States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura; the Himalayan state of Sikkim; Chhattisgarh; Jharkhand; West Bengal; and Odisha.
The climate in the north-eastern to eastern sector of India is predominantly humid and sub-tropical, with the region experiencing hot, humid summers from March to June, heavy monsoons from July to October, and milder winters from November to February. West Bengal sees snowfall in the extreme north of the state. Chhattisgarh, being an inland state has a slightly drier climate and relies heavily on the monsoons for rain.
The north-eastern states are linked to the rest of the eastern states via Assam through what is known as the Siliguri Corridor, in West Bengal. These states are rich in natural resources, with vast forests and spectacular wildlife sanctuaries, tea estates and grand rivers like the Brahmaputra. The region is also home to elephants, and endangered wildlife like the one-horned rhinoceros. Due to tensions in the area and disputed borders with China, there are travel restrictions on foreigners, but for those who do get to explore, there are some superb attractions.
Due to the richness of the land there are numerous National Parks. The Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh, is one of the most notable as the third largest national park in India by area and the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. The Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam is a World Heritage Site and the most important stronghold for the Indian rhinoceros. The state of Meghalaya boasts some spectacular waterfalls at heights of over 1,000 feet, including the Nohkalikai Falls, the Cherapunjee Falls and the Nohsngithiang Falls. The living root bridges of Cherrapunji are also found in Meghalaya, they are alive and have grown and gained strength over hundreds of years, in the rainforest of Cherrapunji. Meghalaya is also famous for its caves, some of which are listed as the amongst the deepest and longest in the world. There are some amazing hill ranges in the north-eastern region, like the Kangchenjunga that is located in Sikkim and eastern Nepal, which is the third highest mountain in the world, with an elevation of 8,586 metres. Among the numerous hill ranges, the Tawi Tlang is particularly beautiful, in central Mizoram, and attracts tourists interested in adventure sports. There are some impressive lakes in the region also, particularly in the state of Sikkim, including: the Khecheopalri Lake, believed to be a wish-fulfilling last that is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists; the Gurudongmar Lake which is one of the highest lakes in the world, at an altitude of 17,100 feet; and Lake Tsongmo or Changu Lake, a glacial lake in East Sikkim.
The Dibrugarh district in Assam is known as the tea capital of the world. Tourists are afforded the opportunity to glimpse life on these extensive tea estates, situated on the edge of the Brahmaputra River. In neighbouring West Bengal, the Darjeeling tea estates also attract many visitors, and the town also affords magnificent views of the Kangchenjunga Mountain, as well as the opportunity to see the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other significant attractions in the region include the river islands and the numerous Buddhist monasteries.
The state of Chhattisgarh, in the central-eastern region has a rich cultural heritage and great natural diversity. The state is home to an abundance of attractions like ancient monuments, intricately carved temples, Buddhist pilgrimage sites, palaces, National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls, hot springs, caves, rock paintings and hill plateaus. Many of the sites are untouched and under-explored and offer an alternative experience for tourists, compared to the traditional overcrowded destinations.
Some of the most ancient and notable temples in Chhattisgarh include: the Bhoramdeo temple near Kawardha in the Kabirdham district; the Shri Ram Janki Temple at Setganga in the Mungeli District; the Bhoramdeo temple near Kawardha in the Kabirdham district; the Chandrahasini Devi temple at Chandrapur; and the Vishnu temple at Janjgir. Chhattisgarh is very much a green state with 41.33% of its area covered with forests and it is one of the richest bio-diversity regions in India. There are several National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries that are popular eco-tourist destinations, including: the Gamarda Reserve forest at Sarangarh in the Raigarh district; the Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Bilaspur district; the Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctuary in the Mahasamund district; the Indravati National Park and Kanger Ghati National Park in the Bastar district; and the Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary in the Raipur district.
Other natural attractions worth visiting in the state include the Amrit Dhara waterfall in Koriya which is particularly spectacular. Other notable waterfalls include the Gavar Ghat waterfall, and the Ramdaha waterfall also in the Koriya district, Tiger point waterfall at Mainpat in the Surguja district and Chitrakot and Tirathgarh waterfalls in the Bastar district. There are also interesting caves to be found in Chhattisgarh, particularly interesting is Kotumsar cave in the Bastar district, and Singhanpur cave in the Raigarh district with its pre-historic paintings.
Chhattisgarh is also one of the fastest-developing states in India and a source of electricity and steel, accounting for 15% of the total steel produced in the country. The state is also mineral rich, with the highest coal output in the country. Chhattisgarh is also the only tin-ore producing state and produces the third most iron ore as well as 20% of the country’s cement output.
West Bengal is India’s fourth most populated state with over 91 million inhabitants and in one of the country’s fastest growing states. West Bengal is the highest contributor to the GDP of India among all the eastern states and is the hub of industry and economic activity. The state capital Kolkata, which was the capital of India under British rule until 1911, is the largest metropolis and centre of commerce in the region and the third biggest city in India. Kolkata is fast becoming an IT, ITES and financial outsourcing hub along with its satellites Salt Lake City, and Rajarhat. The central business district is found in Central Kolkata, along with the main government offices. In contrast to the centre, the northern part of Kolkata is the oldest area of the city, characterised by 19th-century architecture, crowded bazaars, narrow alleyways, dilapidated buildings, and overpopulated slums. Kolkata is home to colonial and heritage buildings as well as monuments and skyscrapers. Among the most notable attractions are the Victoria Memorial, a museum that documents the city’s history, the Howrah Bridge that links Kolkata to the West bank of the Ganges, the Marble Palace, a European Mansion, and the Indian Museum, the oldest in the country that displays Indian art and natural history.
Around 19% of the state is forested and there are several protected areas in the form of 15 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks. The most notable of these are the Gorumara National Park, Neora Valley National Park, the Sundarbans National Park, Buxa Tiger Reserve, and Singalila National Park. The wildlife that can be found in the state includes Indian rhinoceros, elephants, deer, leopards, tigers, and crocodiles, as well as many bird species. Mangrove forests along the Bay of Bengal also serve as a natural fish nursery, and in recognition of its special conservation value, the Sundarban area has been declared as a Biosphere Reserve. One of the most popular green destinations in West Bengal is Darjeeling in the Lesser Himalayas, which is famous for its tea industry. Visitors are afforded the opportunity to see life on the tea estates that produce 7% of India’s tea output.
Another popular tourist attraction in West Bengal is the Hazarduari Palace, in Murshidabad, known to contain the second largest chandelier in the world and also the largest staircase in India. This three-storey palace was built in 1837 in the Indo-European sty;e by Duncan McLeod for the then Nawab of Bengal. The palace was built in the Indo-European style. Its name is derived from the thousand doors in the palace - among which only 900 are real. Another notable palace is the Cooch Behar Palace, in Cooch Behar, built in 1887, and designed to resemble Buckingham Palace in London, during the reign of Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. West Bengal is also famous for its terracotta temples of Bishnupur.
Odisha and Jharkhand are mineral rich states and are centres of heavy industry, dealing with coal, oil, gas, steel, and fertilizers among others. Several mineral based industries are now based here and while Jharkhand is one of the poorest states in India, this is likely to change in the future with increasing industrialisation. Jharkhand is very rich in flora and fauna however and much of the state is covered by dense forests and the National Parks and located here serve to support the populations of elephants and tigers.
The most notable parks in Jharkhand include the Betla National Park in the Latehar district, covers an area of about 250 square kilometres and is home to a large variety of wildlife, including elephants, tigers and bison. The Hazaribag Wildlife Sanctuary, close to Ranchi is set in a similar ecosystem to Betla and is an area of outstanding scenic beauty. The Jawaharlal Nehru Biological Park in Bokaro Steel City is a large Zoological Garden which has made important contributions to animal conservation. The Park contains many animal and bird species, spread over 80 hectares and includes an artificial waterpark with boating facilities.
Odisha also has a notable eco-tourism industry with several National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries containing a wide variety of flora and fauna. The Bhitarkanika National Park is known for its second largest mangrove ecosystem. The bird sanctuary in Chilika Lake provides a haven for millions of birds and is one of the few places in India where dolphins can be spotted. Also popular with nature lovers are the Simlipal National Park features a tiger reserve and waterfalls, the Gharial Sanctuary at Tikarpada, and the Gahirmatha Turtle Sanctuary, as well as the hill station Daringbadi, known as "Kashmir of Odisha, located in the Kandhamal district. As well as the picturesque hills, valleys, and breathtaking waterfalls, Odisha is also known for its 500 km of beautiful coastline with some of the best beaches in India, which include Konark Beach, Astaranga Beach, Talsari Beach, Pata Sonapur Beach, Satpada Beach, Chandipur Beach Baleshwar Beach, Paradeep Beach and many more.
Odisha is also well known for its rich culture and huge number of ancient temples. The temples in Odisha are known for their majestic grandeur and were constructed according to the Indo Aryan Nagara style of architecture, with distinctive features specific to this region. The most famous of these are: the Lingaraja Temple at Bhubaneswar, which has a 150-foot (46 m) high deula; the Jagannath Temple in Puri is around 200 feet high and dominates the skyline; and the Konark Sun Temple, only a portion of which still exists today is still staggering in size and is an outstanding example of Odisha architecture. The Sarala Temple, in the Jagatsinghpur district is also one of the holiest places in Odisha and a major tourist attraction. The state is also well known for its Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage destinations. Buddhist relics and ruins can be found at the three hilltop complexes of Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, and in Dhauli there is a large statue of Buddha which attracts international Buddhist tourists to Odisha.
The capital of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, as well as being a centre of religious and cultural importance, is also the centre of the economy of Odisha. Since the 1990s, Odisha has benefitted from large investments in IT, telecommunications and higher education, particularly in science and engineering. There are at around 60 engineering colleges in the city as well as a large number of tutorial and coaching institutes that prepare students for entrance exams.
The Changland district in the state of Arunachal Pradesh is home to the Namdapha National Park, the largest protected area in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. It is the third largest national park in the country as a whole as well as one of the richest areas of biodiversity. The terrain of the park changes with the altitude, changing from tropical moist forests to mountain and temperate forests, to alpine meadows at higher altitudes. The park also contains widespread bamboo forests. Due to the different vegetation zones, the park supports a wide variety of mammal species. The park is home to big cats like tigers, common leopards, and snow leopards; large predators like wolves, and Asiatic black bears; smaller carnivores including red pandas, red foxes, binturongs and mongooses; large herbivores like elephants, and wild boar, and primates like the stump tailed macaque and rhesus macaques. The park is also said to have over 400 species of bird.
Golaghat and Nagaon
In the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of the state of Assam lies the Kaziranga National Park, a World Heritage Site. Two-thirds of the world’s great one horned rhinoceroses are found here, as well as the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world. The park is also a breeding ground for elephants, wild water buffalo and swamp deer. Kaziranga is also home to a a large variety of birds, including migratory birds, predators, water birds, scavengers and game birds. The park contains many small bodies of water and is criss-crossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the land is a combination of dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, marshland and elephant grass. Relatively speaking the park has been successful in wildlife conservation but there has been some controversy about its policy of shooting poachers which has resulted in a number of deaths and often there is no verification if the person killed was a poacher or not.
Dibrugarh, in the state of Assam is known as the tea capital of the world. The town is located on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, amidst extensive tea estates. Tea tourism is increasingly popular and there are several companies offering tea tours, offering visitors the opportunity to experience life on a tea estate. Tipam, an ethnic village within Dibrugarh, is famous for its historical sites. Other attractions in the area include the Dehing Patkai rainforest, and the railway station which is the biggest in the state with 18 lines running through it.
Cherrapunji is a town in the state of Meghalaya, that sits on a plateau in the southern part of the Khasi Hills, facing the plains of Bangladesh and is credited as the wettest place on Earth for the amount of rainfall it receives. There are several nature attractions in Cherrapunji such as the living root bridges in the rainforests that have grown over hundreds of years and are still alive, and growing and gaining strength over time. The state of Meghalaya is home to several incredible waterfalls but the tallest plunge waterfall in India is the Nohkalikai Falls at 1,120 feet in Cherrapunji. Some of the longest caves in India are also in the state of Meghalaya in the Khasi Kills, but one of the most visited by tourists are the Mawsmai caves near Cherrapunji. These limestone caves, are unique as they are the only ones with enough natural light that enable visitors to fully appreciate the natural formations of the stalactites and stalagmites that come in innumerable forms, shapes and sizes. The entire length of the cave is not open to the public, but visitors can still venture up to 150 metres inside.
Shillong is the capital and a hill station of Meghalaya, in the East Khasi Hills district, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. It was once referred to as the ‘Scotland of the North’, as the rolling hills reminded the European settlers of Scotland, and like Scotland, Shillong is also home to a golf course, known as the ‘Gleneagles of the East’. The Shillong Golf Course is one of the largest, and one of the few natural golf courses in Asia as well as the world’s wettest! The course is scenic and enjoyable but also challenging as it is set in a valley full of pine trees and comprises tight fairways and streams. Shillong is also home to Elephant Falls, spectacular waterfalls that visitors can get up close to, providing great photo opportunities. Wards Lake, located in the centre of the city is also a popular picnic spot with its tranquil ambience where visitors can also try boating.
Dimapur is the largest city in the state of Nagaland. There are a number of attractions for visitors such as the waterfalls, the ancient villages, the Kali temple and the ruins of the Dimasa Kachari Kingdom. The Dimapur Jain Temple is also a draw with its impressive structure and intricate glass work. The temple is considered very auspicious by the people of the city. The ancient villages within the city also attract tourists for their bazaars and the opportunity to procure exceptional handicrafts.
Melaghar in Tripura is famous for its water palace, the Neermahal, built on Rudrasagar Lake. The palace is modelled after the Jal Mahal in Rajasthan. Visitors can take a boat ride to the palace, and the banks of the lake are a popular picnic spot in the winter. Migratory birds also flock here in the winter season. At night the palace is lit up to provide spectacular views.
Moirang is a city in the state of Manipur, and is home to Loktak Lake, the largest freshwater lake in North-East India. The lake contains the world’s only floating national park, Keibul Lamjao. The park is the last natural habitat of the Sangai – the dancing deer of Manipur and wildlife enthusiasts are sure to want to catch a glimpse of this rare creature. Other wildlife to be found here include the Hog deer, otters, water fowl and migratory birds during winter. Moirang is also famous historically for the ancient temple of the pre-Hindu deity, Lord Thangjing.
Tawi Tlang is a picturesque hill range in the central part of the state of Mizoram. Tourist are drawn to the area for its natural beauty but also for the range of adventure sports available.
Gangtok is the capital of the Himalayan state of Sikkim and is known for its tourist attractions. Gangtok affords spectacular views of Kanchenjunga, the world's third-tallest peak. Gangtok is a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site and a centre for Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and centres for Tibetology based in the city. The most notable Buddhist monasteries are the Enchey Monastery that belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism and the Rumtek Monastery, one of the most sacred in Buddhism, located on the outskirts of town.
There are also dense temperate, deciduous forests in this mountainous region, with birch, oak, poplar and elm trees, as well as evergreen, coniferous trees in the wet alpine zone. Eco-tourism has increased in recent years, with the availability of nature oriented activities and trekking, mountaineering and river rafting. Other attractions include the Banjhakri falls that form part of a composite recreation centre and a theme park. There is also the chance to travel in the Gangtok cable car – a great way to view the mountainous region in all its glory.
Khecheopalri is a village in Sikkim, famous for the sacred Lake Khecheopalri. The lake is a site of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus and is believed to be a wish-fulfilling lake. The lake is often visited by tourists on trekking trails. The valuable ecosystem of the lake was under threat from tourism, pilgrims and villagers alike, resulting in conservation measures being put in place. No fishing, bathing or recreational activities are allowed on the lake and steps have been taken to preserve the surrounding vegetation also.
Koriya is a state in the state of Chhattisgarh , which was formerly a princely state under British rule. Koriya is known for its outstanding natural beauty, with its dense forests, rivers, waterfalls and mountains. Koriya is also mineral rich and there are substantial coal deposits in the area too. The dense forests are rich in wildlife and in the Guru Ghasidas National Park, on the borders of Koriya and Madhya Pradesh, there are tigers, wild boar, leopards and other mammals, as well as over 300 species of bird. One of the most famous waterfalls in Koriya is the Amrit Dhara Waterfall. This natural waterfall originates from the Hasdo River and falls from a height of 27 metres, and is around 3 to 4.5 metres wide. The site of the Amrit Dhara Waterfall, is also known for a very auspicious Shiva temple and a very famous mela is held here every year.
Darjeeling is in West Bengal in the Lesser Himalayas, and is noted for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area in the past has been affected by political instability which saw a decline in tourist numbers, but these are on the rise again. Darjeeling tea has a distinctive natural flavour due to the unique agro-climatic conditions of the area and is internationally reputed. Darjeeling produces 7% of India's total tea output, which amounts to approximately 9, million kilograms every year. Several tea estates are operated on a workers' cooperative model, while others are being planned for conversion into tourist resorts. Over 60% of the workforce in the tea gardens are women. Darjeeling also provides spectacular views of Kangchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain.
Kolkata is the capital city of the state of West Bengal and was the former capital of British India until 1911. It is located on the East bank of the Hooghly River, and is considered to be the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India. The Port of Kolkata is the oldest operating port in India and the only major riverine port.
As the third biggest city in India, Kolkata is fast becoming an IT, ITES and financial outsourcing hub. Central Kolkata is home to the central business district as well as the main government offices. In the very centre of the city is a large open field known as the Maidan and is referred to as the ‘lungs of Kolkata’. Sporting events and public meetings often take place here. The Victoria Memorial, a museum that documents the history of Kolkata and Kolkata Race Course are situated at the southern end of the Maidan.
The north of the city in contrast to central Kolkata is the oldest part of the city and is notable for its crowded bazaars, narrow alleyways, decaying buildings, overpopulated slums, but also for its 19th century architecture, in stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers of the centre. Kolkata has several notable attractions. The Howrah Bridge that links Kolkata to the West bank of the Ganges is popular with visitors, as is the European Mansion, the Marble Palace. Kolkata is known as the birthplace of Indian culture, so it is appropriate that it is home to the oldest museum in the country, the Indian Museum, which showcases Indian art and natural history. Several historical museums are also housed within Fort William, which was built in 1780 by Robert Clive as a form of protection against Muslim attackers at the time. Kolkata is also a great place to shop and the New Market is a famous place where you can find almost anything. The nightlife of Kolkata is growing and vibrant. Nightclubs are gaining in popularity as lifestyles change with the younger generations.
Betla is in the state of Jharkland and the location of the Betla National Park. The park contains a large variety of wildlife that includes tigers, elephants, bison, wild boar, pythons, spotted deer, rhesus monkeys, rabbits, wolves, wild cats and foxes. The park has also been a tiger reserve since 1974. There are also around 120 species of birds in the park. The diversity of flora is also vast, with over 17 types of grasses and bamboos, 46 different types of shrubs and herbs, and nearly 100 types of seed bearing plants and trees.
Bokaro Steel City
Bokaro Steel City is a planned city in the state of Jharkhand, and a base for the Steel Authority of India Ltd. The Bokaro Steel Plant owns and manages the largest zoological garden in the state, the Jawaharlal Nehru Biological Park. The park is spread over 80 hectares and is home to numerous animal and bird species. The zoo has successfully engaged in breeding programs for white tigers, royal Bengal tigers and Asiatic Lions. There is also a toy train, a state of the art aquarium and boating facilities on the artificial lake on the premises.
The district of Kendrapara in Odisha is home to the Bhitarkanika National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is famous for having the second largest mangrove ecosystem. The park is a treasure trove of flora and fauna that invites many species of birds and reptiles. Saltwater Crocodile, White Crocodile, Indian python, King Cobra, black ibis, darters and others make their home in this sanctuary. There are large numbers of wild boar and spotted deer, as well as eight varieties of Kingfishers to be found in the park. There are a number of rivers that flow through the land including the Brahmani, Baitarni, Dhamra, and Pathsala among others, and boat rides through the park are highly recommended. Sightseeing trips take place through licensed boats, normally between the Khola and Dangmal gates, that travel along an artificial creek, giving visitors a glimpse into the estuarine ecosystem.
Chilika Lake is spread over the districts of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam in Odisha. The lake is a brackish water lagoon at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal. It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and reportedly the second largest in the world at 1,100 km2. The lake is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent, and is home to several endangered species of animals and plants. The lake is a thriving ecosystem with large fishery resources that sustains over150,000 fisher-people living in the surrounding villages. Chilika is one of the few places in India where dolphins are found. The lagoon is one of only two in the world where the Irrawaddy dolphin is found and there is also a small population of Bottlenose dolphins that migrate into the lagoon from the sea.