Why you should visit kolkata and Eastern India
- Visit the thriving city of Kolkata and learn about its colonial past
- Watch the sunrise over the third highest mountain in the world, Kangchenzonga
- Explore lush tea estates throughout Assam and stay at a planters bungalow
- Visit the historical hill station of Darjeeling full of colonial charm
- Witness the annual gathering of the Konyak tribes at the Hornbill Festival
Kolkata, Darjeeling & Sikkim
Travelling to Kolkata is considered by many to be discovering the country’s cultural hub. Spend a little time here and gain insight into how 13 plus million people live together. Heading north, travel in the Himalayan Foothill regions of Northern West Bengal and Sikkim that contain stunning mountain scenery and a rich colonial past. Visitors tend to retreat from Kolkata and the steamy plains to enjoy the cooler climes of these beautiful regions. Reaching Darjeeling in West Bengal and beyond into Sikkim is achieved by either an overnight train from Kolkata or a short flight to Bagdogra followed by a three hour drive.
The old colonial summer retreat of Darjeeling is a hugely popular destination, surrounded by spectacular views, lush tea estates and thickly covered forests. Darjeeling itself is now rather crowded, dirty and noisy however one can stay just outside in some glorious little home-stays such as Glenburn Tea Estate and make day trips into the town. The idyllic setting and stunning views of the Kangchendzonga range are well worth the visit.
Continuing across the border you enter Sikkim. This state is renowned for its rich variety of plants and flowers as well as its ethnically diverse population. Sikkim is an orchid lover’s paradise while the monasteries of Rumtek and Pemayangtse are just two among a wealth of fascinating centres of Buddhism in the state. Organic farming and ecotourism have really taken off here and serious trekkers are exploring the less developed routes on offer.
Eastern India - Assam
Head east from Kolkata by plane and fly to Guwahati or Dibrugarh, the eastern state of Assam to spend time cruising on the mighty Brahmaputra River. There are some excellent boat options on which you can spend four, seven or 10 nights on board exploring this far-flung part of India. For wildlife enthusiasts, stay at Diphlu River Lodge and visit the excellent Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horned rhino. Assam is renowned for tea production. Every year in December the tea planters come together and celebrate with a Tea Festival.
Pioneering visits - Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh tribal states
Better known for the Hornbill Festival every December, Nagaland is also rich in history. The Hornbill Festival celebrates the rich culture of Nagaland. This annual melange of cultural displays from all 16 tribes of Nagaland, known as the last head-hunters, includes colourful pageants showcasing the cultural treasures of the Land of the Nagas. We recommend staying at the temporary Kohima Camp, operated by the luxury mobile camping outfit, The Ultimate Travelling Camp, available for the 12 days during the festival only.
There is also a smaller authentic festival every April which we feel is worth the effort to reach, accessed from Mon with bumpy slow roads, as is the norm in this region. The lesser know Aoling Festival is a celebration of Spring after a tough and rigorous time of seed sowing in the fields. It is a time of hunting, drinking, dance and merrymaking. On display are the fascinating colourful tribal dress, headgear and traditional ornaments. The days are spent singing, dancing, feasting and practising ancient rituals. Also, witness the re-enactment of the Konyak headhunting practice.
You can reach Nagaland from Assam if you wish to combine the land of tea with tribes. We are fond of Phejin Konyak who is a fascinating lady, owner of the Konyak Tea Retreat and great-granddaughter of the infamous tattooed head hunters of the Konyak Nagas.
Kohima, the state capital, is home to one of the most important battles of World War II. It is home to the WWII cemetery and museum. Walk Kohima Ridge, the site of one of the bloodiest of all battles fought between the British and Japanese.
Neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh was called the North East Frontier Agency by the British, it was effectively a no-go zone. Today you can reach Debang valley from Assam. The Reh festival is celebrated every February by the local Mishmi tribal villages. Wakro is home to the Mishmis, aMongoliod tribe with Tibetan-Burmese origin. The abundance of natural beauty, colorful and charming tribes and ancient archeological sites make the place a perfect destination for nature lovers, adventurous tourists, archeologists, and anthropologists.
Meghalaya, known as the Scotland of the East, has breathtaking scenery. The Living Root Bridges are the most extraordinary pieces of art and engineering by the Khasi's. The David Scott Trail is a beautiful one day trek covering 17 kilometres through spectacular scenery. Named after the British administrator during the British Raj his operations lasted 29 years in the Khasi HIlls.
When to go to Kolkata and east India
The best time to visit these regions is between October and February in Kolkata, and October to May in the hills and plains of Eastern India. Avoid the months of June through to September due to the heavy rains of the monsoon season, which can cause landslides in the high country.