Visiting the Tribes of Northeast India

Visiting the Tribes of Northeast India

Visiting the tribes of Northeast India should on everybody's list of travel. India is a hotspot of some pristine, beautiful destinations and people. Among all the less explored regions of our country, Northeast India is the least explored of all. 

Northeast India is one of the beautiful sides of India which needs more exploration and people should be more aware of the pristine beauty of Northeast India. The beauty of Northeast India needs to be praised in all its manifestations. Northeast India has approximately 150+ tribes with unique cultures, dialects, and rituals. Not all tribes in northeast India can be visited however in this guide of visiting tribes of Northeast India we will explore the famous tribes of northeast India who can be visited. This guide to visiting the tribes of northeast India will help you know more about the tribes in the North East and their cultures and traditions.

    Which Part of India is called Northeast India?

    When we say North East India, it refers to all seven states that are present in the northeastern part of India. These seven states in Northeast India are also known as seven sisters. 

    These are - Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Tripura. Sikkim is not a part of them but is usually included in this discussion.

    These sisters are located in the North East of India surrounded by China, Bangladesh, and a part of Myanmar. Do you know you can do a road trip to Myanmar from India and cross the India border to enter Myanmar?

    The seven sisters are located in the lap of Himalayas and have various other local hill ranges also. The rivers Brahmaputra and Barak are the main ones. Teesta in Sikkim is also famous. Due to its unique geography, the tribes of northeast India have been able to not only evolve but also survive for so long. The culture and rituals of these tribes of northeast India have got preserved over the centuries as it is not easy for people to navigate the treacherous roads of Northeast India and reach the places where tribes of northeast India stay. However, due to modernization, many tribes of northeast India are losing their unique culture & heritage.

    When is the Best Time to Travel to Northeast India?

    The whole North east India is very soft, gentle, and has undulating topography. This makes it prone to frequent earthquakes, floods, weather changes, cloudbursts, etc. 

    So the ideal time would be around November- May. Try not traveling in June to August, as Monsoon is heavy in the area.

    How to travel to Northeast India to Visit the Tribes

    Reaching Northeast India is not at all a problem contrary to what people believe. You can directly board a flight from any of the major cities in India like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai.

    Fortunately, there are airports in four states- Manipur ( Imphal Airport), Assam (Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport), Nagaland (Dimapur Airport ), and Tripura (Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport). You can also travel by train from Kolkata however the connectivity is not direct. You can reach Assam and from there you can either take a car to go to various places or take a further connecting flight.


    Besides that, if you are in Kolkata, you can even take a road trip. A road trip from Delhi will take almost 2 days to reach.

    For commutation within the area, you can use domestic flights to reach one state from another. You can also travel by car, taxi or ferries, though you will require permits to visit certain areas.

    How to get an inner line permit for visiting the tribes in Northeast India? 

    People often get confused when they hear the word inner line permit. To put it in simple words, inner line permit is a travel document which is required to visit four northeastern states - Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur & Nagaland. To visit the tribes of northeast India, getting an inner line permit is a must.

    This inner line permit is issued due to the sensitivity of the place in terms of military importance. Also, the inner line permit is issued to protect the indigenous tribal communities of these states from exploitation. This inner line permit permits you to travel or work.The kind of places that a traveler can access depends on the type of ILP which is issued. The kind of inner line permit depends on the purpose of the visit.

    If you are Foreign tourists you would also need ILP and Protected Area Permits (PAP) or Restricted Area Permits (RAP) for visiting the northeast India states.

    You can apply for an inner line permit online or visit any of the offices to get an inner line permit from there. 

    Inner line permit for Arunachal Pradesh

    For visiting the tries of northeast india for traveling to Arunachal Pradesh you can apply for Inner line permit online or also obtain it from Delhi, Tezpur, Shillong, Kolkata amongst other places. 
    You can also get an ILP on arrival however I would suggest you take it earlier. You can Apply here for getting the Inner line permit.

    Foreign Tourists need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

    Address: F-1, Lok Nayak Bhawan, Khan Market, New Delhi 110 001.

    Inner line permit for Mizoram

    You can obtain the ILP for Mizoram from a Liaisoning Officer in Kolkata, Silchar, Shillong,Guwahati or New Delhi from Government of Mizoram. Additionally, it also can be obtained on arrival from the Lengpui Airport, Aizawl. The permit, however, has got to be renewed depending upon the aim of your visit. You can look up more info here.

    Application Fee: Rs 20 per person.
    Exemption: Government employees visiting for official purposes.

    If you are a foreign national then you have to register yourself at the office of Superintendent of Police (CID/SB) in Mizoram who is the designated Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) of the state within 24 hours of arrival. 

    Inner line permit for Manipur

    Manipur has recently joined with the other three states. Inner Line Permit for Manipur can be obtained from the various counters set up by the government. There are 4 different types of permits that will be issued, regular permits (valid for 6 months), special category permits (valid for 3 years ), temporary permits (valid for 15 days) and labor permits.

    For foreign nationals, permit is not required. Foreigners visiting Manipur has to visit the CID office in Imphal and register there. If you are a foreigner and visiting Manipur by car from Nagaland then you have to register at Mao Gate checkpost for a quick immigration check.

    Inner line permit for Nagaland

    For visiting Nagaland one can fill the form for ILP both online and offline. The form once filled will be submitted and only after acceptance one can proceed for the payment. Complete details can be looked up here.
    Application Fee: Rs 50 per person (for 15 days), Rs 100 per person (for 30 days).

    No permit is required for foreign nationals. However, they need to register with the Foreigner’s Registration Officer (FRO) of the district they visit within 24 hours of their arrival.

    Visiting the Tribes of Northeast India: Where to Stay in Northeast India 

    Tourism is still picking up in the Northeastern part of India. There are not many hotels as there are in other regions of the country owing to limited resources in the region. 

    The main cities like Shillong, Guwahati, Imphal, Gangtok have excellent 5-star properties however as you go a little away from the main city you will not find many luxurious hotels.

    Since visiting the tribes of northeast India you will have to stay away from the main cities you should expect basic accommodation with basic food. I would suggest carrying your own sleeping mattress and inflatable pillow if you want. 

    Also while visiting the tribes of northeast India, be ready to compromise on the services as it will not be standard. You have to enjoy the beauty of such a lifestyle. In hills the laid back, family-run service you will enjoy a lot. Ditch the hotel and stay in a homestay when you are visiting to see the tribes of northeast India. You will not only get pampered but also can enjoy the local way of living. The locals will take care of you like their own family. 

    While visiting the tribes of northeast India when you visit Mizoram,stay at government tourist lodges as you will find these tourist lodges everywhere in Mizoram. Just ensure you book a little in advance.

    A list of places where you can stay while visiting the tribes of northeast India :

    Arunachal Pradesh: You can stay in the Abasa Homestay in Siiro. The traditional Apatani family will welcome you and you can enjoy watching their native cultivation and farming practices.

    Arunachal Pradesh: Another location in A.P is the Homestay Monpa Tribe, Thembang, Western A.P. This is an ideal village to stay with no private ownership. It may be difficult to find since it's hidden but it will be a cherishing experience.

    Homestay with the Khasi tribe in Mawlynneong - Asia's cleanest village can be another exciting option. This village has the exclusive feature of the treehouse in which guests can live in nature's lap. Apart from that, to your surprise, the villagers exhibit a 100% literacy rate. You can have a nature stroll or can bath in the local pool.

    Community Stays with Angami tribe in Touphema, Nagaland can be also lovely ways to enjoy. They will serve you with good meat, chicken, insects, etc. The women will entertain by singing and working. They also decorate houses with hornbill feathers.

    For those who want 5- star hospitality, there is the Taj's Vivanta Hotel in Guwahati and Classic Grande in Imphal.

    The Tribes of Northeast India

    Now let's begin the most interesting part of this blog post. Let us see the list of most interesting tribes of Northeast India whom you can visit. The list is not in any order.

    Before you Visit the tribes of northeast India ensure you keep an open mind. Don't disrespect their tradition, food, culture in any way and accept the way they are. You will have a huge language barrier and you will not be able to understand each other so you need to be extra cautious.

    So let us begin with  visiting the tribes of Northeast India with the names of the tribes :

    Visit the Konyak Tribes of Nagaland, The Last Headhunters

    What if you get to meet a tribe who chopped off the heads of enemies and displayed in their village. Does it give a shiver in your spine? Well, when visiting the tribes of northeast India visiting the Konyak tribes is a must. 

    The  Konyak tribes are one of the major Naga ethnic group and they mostly stay in the Mon district of Nagaland. Mon district of Nagaland is called as the "The Land of The Anghs", Anghs was basically the chief of the Konyak Tribe in Northeast India.  The most interesting part if you see a Tattooed person you should rest assured he has chopped off the head of an enemy. The facial tattoos are earned and every time a Konyak tribe of northeast India takes the head of an enemy he earns the tattoo.The huts of the Konyak tribes in northeast India were earlier decorated with the heads of the enemy however today bear skulls of animals that have been hunted for food are displayed. 

    How to go to Mon District to visit the Konyak Tribes of Nagaland

    To meet the Konyak tribes of Nagaland you have to travel to the Mon District and the Longwa village which borders Myanmar. Mon district is one of the most remote places in Nagaland. 

    You will not be able to reach the Longwa village in two or three days. From Kohima in Nagaland first you have to take a bus to Mokochung village which will take approximately 6 hours and INR 200. You have also take a hired jeep or sumo from Kohima to Mokochung village. Once you reach Mokochung village you have to again hire a Sumo/jeep to reach the Mon town. It will take another 6-7 hours to reach Mon. Once you reach Mon you have to stay here. You will hardly find any tourists here and carry cash as ATM here hardly work.
    Once you reach Mon next day hire another Jeep or Sumo to Longwa village where you will be able to meet the head hunters. I would suggest stay there for atleast two days to thoroughly enjoy the culture of the Konyak Tribes of Northeast India.

    You can stay at various homestays in the Longwa village and the owners double up as the Guide.

    Visit the Whistling Tribes of Meghalaya

    What if you asked someone their name and in reply, they just whistle. Well, this is the uniqueness of the whistling tribe of Meghalaya who resides in the Kongthang Village. The Kongthang village is also referred to as the Whistling Village. This tribe of northeast India is unique as the individual tribe members don't have a name, they only have a tune which they whistle.


    Kongthong village is located in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. The whistling tribe should be on everyone's list whoever is visiting the tribes of northeast India. It is on UNESCO'S list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

    Whenever a child is born here, the mother composes a tune or lullaby which becomes the identity of teh child. The mother composes two tunes, one is a complete song and the second one is an abridged version of it. There are approximately 600 individuals of this whistling tribe in Kongthong village that means there are 600 unique tunes. 


    The whistling sound is inspired by nature and sounds from nature. The lullaby is approximately 30sec-1 minute long. The mothers always call their children by whistling the first 5-6 seconds of the lullaby. The whistling tribes of northeast India will always call themselves by whistling and would never use their official names.

    How to go to the Whistling Village to visit the unique tribes of Northeast India

    Kongthong village or the whistling village is located near Shillong and can be done as a day trip. To see the whistling tribes of northeast India you have to drive just 55 kms from Shillong. Hire a private car/jeep and head to the Kongthing village to visit the Whistling tribes. The last 7 kilomters to reach the village you have to trek and this trekking is not tough and extremely mesmerizing.

    You can stay in a homestay called Traveller’s Nest which has been set up to boost tourism and efforts are being made to preserve the indigenous culture.

    Visit the Aptani Tribes of Northeast India of Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

    Another interesting tribe in Northeast India is the Aptani tribes of the Ziro Valley. Yes, the same place which hosts the famous music festival.  Ziro is also home to the Aptani tribes who are known for their Nose Piercings and facial tattoo.

    The older woman of the Aptani tribes has facial tattoos & massive nose plugs. They used to pierce their nose and insert the nose plugs in order to look beautiful. However, from 1975 onwards the Aptani tribes have stopped practicing the art of tattooing their face and wearing the nose plugs. Bamboos play a lot of importance in the life of Apatani tribes.

    So the older women only adorn the facial tattoos & the nose plugs. So if you want to document and see the unique Aptani tribe and their culture you need to visit soon as this unique tradition will vanish once the older generation perishes.

    How to reach Ziro Valley to visit the Apatani Tribes of Northeast India

    From Tezpur in Arunachal Pradesh, Ziro valley is approximately 8 hours drive. From Ziro valley you can hire a local car and visit the village of Hong which is known for the Apatani tribes of northeast India. the hong village is the second biggest and one of the most organized tribal villages in Asia.

    Visiting the Nishi Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India

    Nishi tribe is the largest in Arunachal Pradesh. Though it's a not so well known tribe, yet the mark to recognize it is that the men and women of the tribe plait their hair in different hairstyles which look peculiar. After that, they tie it on their forehead. Nishi tribes of northeast India are a warrior tribe.

    You can see Nishi tribal women wearing bead necklaces which are multicolored, heave bracelets on their hands, and brass chain on their neck. From childhood, bamboo rings are inserted in their ear lobes which make it stretched. The men wear cane helmets decorated with fake hornbill beaks and feathers. Earlier they used to hunt the hornbills and use their beaks. However recent conservation efforts have yielded results and they have started using fake beaks. The houses of the Nishi tribes are elevated with bamboos.

    How to visit the Nishi tribes in Ziro Valley

    Nishi Tribal village is en route to Ziro valley. Once you reach Ziro Valley you can take any local transport to reach the Nishi tribal village.

    Visit the Ao Naga tribes of Northeast India in Nagaland

    You can visit the Ao Naga tribes in Mokochung village in Nagaland. Mokochung is one of the most important hubs in Nagaland. The main areas of Ao Naga tribes start from in the east of Tsula Valley to Tsurang (Disai) Valley in the west in the Mokokchung district. The Ao Naga tribes were the first to adapt to Christianity. 


    From Mokochung around 10 km away you can find the historic village of Ungama.It is the oldest village where you can find the Ao Naga tribes of northeast India. You shouldn't miss the old long drum which is used during the festivals of Ao Naga tribes. In the early days the Ao naga tribes used to use this drum to inform people about any intruders.

    How to visit the Ao Naga Tribes of Northeast India

    From Kohima in Nagaland first, you have to take a bus to Mokochung village which will take approximately 6 hours and INR 200. Reaching the village of Ungama from Mokochung is very easy. You will lots of busses and local taxis which keep of plying between the places. Its just a 15 minutes ride from Mokochung. If you want to walk, it will take approximately 30-45 mins to reach Ungama village from Mokochung.

    Visit the Garo tribes of Meghalaya in Northeast India

    The Garo tribes of Meghalaya is one of the largest tribes of Meghalaya. Garo means hill tribes and the name was used earlier for a wide range of tribal people.

    the Garo tribe inhabits most parts of Meghalaya. They are the 2nd largest community in Meghalaya and occupy ⅓ rd of the region. 
    They are presently Christians but earlier belonged to a different religion. Their women are spectacular and you will find a matrilineal society present among them. Women own all the property and the men in the house go to women's place after marriage. They speak the Garo language and eat non-vegetarian food. 
    Their traditional festival is Wangala in which they offer Thanksgiving to their deities. Altogether, you can explore them in Meghalaya's Garo hills.


    How to visit the Garo tribes of Meghalaya

    You can meet the Garo tribes in Tura which is a hilly town in West Garo Hills. Tura is well connected by road from Shillong. By road, it will take approximately 7 hours to reach from Shillong.You need to hire a taxi to reach the Tura. Once you reach the Tura village you can hire a jeep or car for the entire day and do all the sightseeing.

    Visit the Angami tribes of Nagaland

    Angami tribes of  Northeast India are one of the major tribes in Nagaland. The territory of Angami tribes spread across the Kohima districts. Angami tribes of northeast India prefer to stay on the top of hills so that they have a clear sight of the enemy from the top.

    Angami tribes also practiced headhunting however they gave up the practice during 1900-1905. They have an interesting dance which is called Pita. They perform this dance when they host other tribes in their village.they are one of the only two groups of Nagas out of the 17 who practice wet-rice cultivation on terraces made on the hill slopes.

    Where to meet with the Angami tribes of Nagaland

    You can meet with the Angami tribes of Nagaland in Jhakhama & Kigwema Village. Kigwema village is located in Jakhama Tehsil of Kohima district in Nagaland, India. It is situated 5km away from  Jakhama and 13km away from district headquarter Kohima. You can take local taxis/ jeep from Kohima to reach the village of the Angami tribes.

    Visit the Monpa tribes of Arunachal Pradesh

    The Monpa tribes of northeast India in Arunachal Pradesh share a very close relationship with the Sharchops tribes of Bhutan. The language of Monpa tribes belong to the Tibetian family but is extremely different from the Eastern Tibetan dialect. 

    The Monpa tribes of northeast India are known for wood carving, Thangka painting, carpet making, and weaving. The Monpa tribes are also known for manufacturing paper from the pulp of the local sukso tree. The dresses of the Monpa tribe are extremely colorful with thick blankets and jackets which are made of yak hair. Living at such an altitude, the Monpa culture, food, and clothing are in many ways dependent on yaks. Women and men flaunt headgear made of yaks hair and tails. 

    How to visit the Monpa Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh

    We need to visit Dirang to interact with the Monpa tribes. Dirang is approximately 135 km from Tawang and will take 5 hours to reach. You need to stay for at least 2 days as you will not be able to return the same day after visiting the Mona tribes of northeast India.

    Tips for Visiting the Tribes of Northeast India

    Keep the following tips in mind while visiting the tribes of northeast India :

    1. Don't disrespect the culture, tradition, food while visiting the tribes of northeast India
    2. Before photographing the tribes of northeast India ask for permission
    3. If the tribes of offer you any food don't say no, at least taste a little bit of it
    4. If possible take a local guide before visiting any of the tribes of northeast India
    5. Get some gifts for the children like chocolates these always make everyone happy
    6.  Appreciate their way of life.

    And lastly is you liked this blog post on visiting the tribes of northeast India and would like to read it later, we have ready-made PINs created for you.

    Visiting the Tribes of Northeast India

    This blogpost on Visiting the tribes of Northeast India is a collaborative effort by Kriti Agarwal & Tanayesh from Shoestringtravel. 
    Kriti loves to write. She had been fond of writing down her thoughts since childhood. She didn’t realize when this hobby turned into a full-blown passion. She has just started her professional journey in the world of writing. You can follow her on Instagram

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    1. I have a special place in my heart for Nagaland, sooo happy to see the Konyaks make into this list. Truly one of the most misunderstood people. Mainland indians need to visit this side more often ❤️

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