Mizoram and Tripura are often clumped together, not because they’re much alike, in fact they’re actually very different. However, they are both the least accessible and therefore, least explored states in Northeast India and both get very few visitors, rarely any foreigners.
Mizoram is perhaps the most isolated state, basically making you pass through Silchar in Assam to come in and out of the state by road. The state is home to some of the last untouched wilderness in India, with incredible green rolling hills for miles.
Tripura is an interesting state; a blend of cultures and religions, but is probably more ‘Indian’ than Mizoram and has a much similar vibe to Assam than to any other Northeastern state.
For exploring both Mizoram and Tripura by land, Silchar in Assam will be your base/start point and you may find yourself going back and forth from there a few times (as I did). Keep reading to find out how to explore these two states in Northeast India.
Silchar is a bustling town with a lively bazaar street in Assam state. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants around as it is also a major transport hub. This is the base from where you can easily explore both Mizoram and Tripura. Land transport into both of these states are very limited, and I found that using Silchar as a base was by far the easiest.
I stayed at Sewak Lodge in Silchar. The rooms are large, the location is perfect for multiple transport options, staff were nice and the WiFi is also really good: what more could you want? I found it actually cheaper to book it online for some reason than turning up without a booking. It’s pretty popular and can often be full.
How to get to Silchar
Silchar is quite an easy place to reach from various towns in Assam. There is a train station and bus station, with multiple transport options depending on where you’re coming from.
Originally, I came by train from Jorhat, with an overnight stop in Lumding (half way point between Jorhat and Silchar). I then took another train the next morning from Lumding to Silchar.
If you’re coming from Guwahati, there are a couple of trains that head to Silchar as well. You can look up Indian train info and timetables here.
From Silchar, you can explore both Mizoram and Tripura. However, unfortunately, it’ll likely mean a return trip to Silchar in between. The roads between Mizoram and Tripura are extremely remote and rarely used, and I couldn’t find any public transport connecting the town states.
Mizoram is right up there as one of the least visited states in all of India. It’s quite an isolated state with very little transport connections to anywhere other than Silchar in Assam.
There’s not a whole lot to do in Mizoram and it doesn’t necessarily have any typical ‘tourist sights’. I was often asked, “What are you doing here?”. Still, the green rolling hills make the views spectacular from almost anywhere in the state and the people are very friendly.
English is extremely well spoken by most and many people will strike up a conversation with you either on the bus, in a sumo or on the street. They are genuinely curious and mostly want to know what you are doing in their state. Most people assumed I was either working or a Christian missionary and it took a bit of convincing to get them to understand that I was actually a real live tourist!
Still, I can recommend exploring a couple of places in the state, including the capital and some other towns further south.
Aizawl is a sprawling, modern city perched on the top of beautiful rolling hills. The capital of the state is a pretty clean, orderly and contemporary city centre if there ever was one in India (traffic even gives way to pedestrians!).
You’ll soon notice some differences between Mizoram and other parts of India. Women smoke openly in public, go for early morning runs in tights and walk around late at night without a hassle. In fact, a few local women told me on various occasions that I should feel 100% safe walking around, even at night or early in the morning, which was a refreshing change from other areas in India.
The Mizos are fiercely independent and believe that history somehow went wrong for them and perhaps they would have been better off separated from India. Interestingly, the Mizos share much more of their culture and traditions with ethnic groups in Myanmar and further north to the Chinese border. In fact, their ancestors migrated from Myanmar to the hills in Mizoram centuries ago and so many of them (probably mostly the older generation) don’t truly feel ‘Indian’.
There is limited industry in Mizoram and they have had to rely heavily on trade with neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar with very little infrastructure connecting them with the rest of India. Much of the economy is based on agriculture, yet surprisingly a lot of the hills are still covered in forest rather than crops which keeps the views spectacular.
Where I stayed
I stayed at Arini Hotel, recommended by Lonely Planet, and seems to be very well known in general. I found the staff to be so friendly and always up for a chat and the rooms are really large, I was happy to spend a few days there. Check availability here.
The food is a little overpriced, however, I found a lot of the restaurants in Aizawl were pretty similar.
How to get to Aizawl
I took a shared sumo from Silchar at 8am. There are multiple companies in Silchar and they all leave at either 8am or 7pm, it’s best to book the day before in order to get a decent seat. The drive took around nine hours, but the views were beautiful, especially once you crossed into Mizoram.
At the state border, foreigners need to register with the officer on duty there. He didn’t even know how to fill in the registry book for foreigners so I had to help him out a bit and I still don’t think he did it right! The official sign at the office says that foreigners still require a permit but that is untrue as of 2018 and only Indians from other states require an ILP.
Thenzawl was recommended to me as a pretty town. It’s on the way between Aizawl and Lunglei so it’s not too much of a hassle to stop for the night.
It’s most well-known for having some beautiful waterfalls nearby. If you’re visiting after the rain season then they should be full of water, but they were practically dry when I visited at the start of the year. It still offers some incredible nature and lovely picnic parks to explore.
Tuirihiau Falls is located just 5 kilometres south of Thenzawl and is considered the most beautiful of all the waterfalls in Mizoram. The uniqueness of this waterfall is that you can step inside from behind the falls when they’re flowing well.
Where I stayed
Thenzawl has a good government-run Tourist Lodge if you want to stay the night. I found it really comfortable with private rooms and ensuite bathrooms. Restaurants are a little few and far between in town but the food at the Lodge was delicious and reasonably priced.
How to get to Thenzawl
From Aizawl, there is the State Transport Corporation (MST) bus and multiple sumo companies plying to Lunglei, the state’s second largest city. I chose to go with the bus and there were two leaving at 6am. They were mostly empty when I bought my ticket and only had around 15 people on it for the whole journey. They will stop half way in Thenzawl, to let you out if you let them know.
To leave Thenzawl, I took a sumo from Mim Restaurant where you’ll find the only transport counter. There are sumos leaving throughout the day but I took the first one at 6.30am to be safe.
Lunglei is the second largest town in Mizoram. The drive from Aizawl to Lunglei is simply spectacular, with incredible rolling hills in all directions.
There are beautiful national parks and wildlife sanctuary’s to the south of the city, however, with limited tourist infrastructure and being an independent traveller these places are a little inaccessible. I spent most of my time around Lunglei and admiring the views from different parts of town.
Where I stayed
Hotel Elite in Lunglei is perhaps one of the best places I stayed in the Northeast. The owner is a very nice lady and the food was also very good. However, the view from the windows and balcony of the rooms is exceptional and I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a view from a hotel before, especially not a budget hotel for 600 INR per night. I can highly recommend it. It’s a steep walk up from the main street in town.
How to get to Lunglei
You can get to Lunglei on either the public buses or sumos. There are frequent departures between Lunglei and Aizawl, stopping in Thenzawl. The buses tend to have very early morning departures like 6am, while sumos leave a little later and throughout the day.
To leave Lunglei back to Aizawl, there are around six sumo counters next to each other on the Lunglei-Thenzawl Road. They leave throughout the day at around 6.30am, 10am, 12pm and 2pm, you can usually get a ticket on the day without pre-booking.
Note: Don’t plan on travelling in Mizoram on a Sunday. All transport stops on this rest day, with most of the population being Christian. It means you might have to spend the day in your hotel, with very few other shops open.
Tripura actually boasts a few beautiful tourist sights that are worth taking the time to explore. It’s a stark contrast to Mizoram, with less beautiful scenery but some interesting attractions. Tripura is also much more similar to Assam and the rest of India than Mizoram, with the bustling capital Agartala. However, it’s bordered on three sides by Bangladesh and its also home to some fascinating tribal groups.
The tourist offices and lodges all offer newly printed brochures and information on the state, but most of the sights are easily accessible on your own as well. Being a small state, most of the sights can be reached from Agartala quite easily.
Agartala, the state’s capital, is by no means a large city. It definitely has a small town vibe and is very walkable, although bustling enough to remind you that you’re in India.
The main attraction in Agartala is the Ujjayanta Palace, which houses the State Museum. It was so much more impressive than I had imagined and it’s definitely worth the 150 INR entrance ticket. It gives a nice detailed history and general information about Tripura but also the Northeast region as a whole with some beautifully displayed artefacts.
Where I stayed
For my first night in the city I stayed at Hotel Welcome Palace, recommended by Lonely Planet and one of the most popular and well known places in the city. I discovered they are not exactly a budget choice and start from around 1000 INR. It was a nice bit of luxury for a change and the only hot water shower I had in the state. Check availability here.
How I got around Tripura
From Agartala, the main tourist sites in the state are relatively accessible. The South Bus Station, south of the Battala Mahadev Temple roundabout and across the river, is the main transport hub for exploring the attractions in the south such as Neermahal and Udaipur.
There are buses, shared sumos and all sorts of other vehicles leaving in a constant stream and you only have to take one step near the place and you’ll have plenty of touts asking where you want to go.
Neermahal is a former royal palace built in the 1930s and although it might not be as extravagant as similar one’s in Rajasthan, it’s still a beautiful place to visit. It’s built in the middle of the lake and there are boats available to take you there. You can either hire a private boat yourself or pay per head and wait until it fills up.
I went at sunset, which was a perfect time for two reasons. First, there were plenty of other locals going at the same time so I was able to jump on with them and pay just 30 INR round trip for the boat. Second, the lighting was perfect and I would say the best time to go for photographs.
It’s empty and so there’s not much to see in the palace, but the architecture is nice and you are free to roam around the palace for an hour before taking the boat back.
How to get to Neermahal
There are frequent shared transport and buses leaving Agartala for Melaghar and back again. Melaghar is the main town where you can find the Neermahal palace. You can easily walk from where the bus drops you to the lake or take a tuk tuk.
In Melaghar, you only have to wait on the main street for a couple of minutes before a bus or other form of transport will come past for Agartala.
Where I stayed
Just 150 metres away from the boat dock for Neermahal is the Tourist Lodge. You can stay for 700 INR for a single room. They also have food available which was delicious too. The manager is nice and handed me every brochure ever printed on tourism in Tripura that he found in his cabinet before I left!
Udaipur and Tripura Sundari Temple
Tripura Sundari temple is more than 500 years old and is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the entire region. It’s still common practice to slaughter goats at the temple as a sacrifice, and many people come to bathe in the water of the lake. To be honest, it’s not very spectacular and despite it appearing on Tripura’s ‘must see’ attractions I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it, unless you time it with a religious ceremony or festival or are a Hindu yourself.
How to get to Udaipur
There are frequent buses leaving Agartala for Udaipur and vice versa, the journey only takes about two hours one way so you can see the Tripura Sundari Temple on a day trip from Agartala. Once in Udaipur you can take a shared autorickshaw for 20 INR to the temple.
Kailashahar and Unakoti
Unakoti archaeological site is a pilgrimage place for worshippers of Lord Shiva. The rock carvings date back to the 7thand 9thcentury without any real evidence to suggest why or how. Sadly, a lot of the smaller rock-cut carvings have been defaced over the years. However, the larger ones are extremely impressive and are not something you will see anywhere else in India, adding to the intrigue.
The site is also free for both Indians and foreigners (although I’m not sure how long that will last) and it’s a very popular place for dignitaries and officials to visit when in the Northeast region.
Kailashahar is the main town from where you can explore Unakoti, located right on the border with Bangladesh. Unakoti Rock Carvings are around 10km from town and you’ll have to take an auto rickshaw to reach it.
At the moment, it’s a very underexplored place in the Northeast and I was an absolute celebrity for the one night I stayed in Kailashahar. Every second person stopped me to ask where I was from. I even met young girls in college who had never seen a white woman in person before! People were still relatively friendly, but it was a tiring place to spend time as a foreigner.
Where I stayed
I stayed at the government Tourist Lodge in Kailashahar for 800 INR per night. I arrived in the morning and the lodge manager spoke zero English and kept shaking his head when I asked for a room.
He pointed to a sign that said all guests must pre-book online (which I hadn’t needed to for other tourist lodges). After standing my ground and not moving for a while, he finally called the only local guide who speaks English who came to translate and finally, I was given a room!
The guide, Rahul, told me there was actually a hotel in town called Hotel Nirmala, where you can also stay as a tourist. Rahul is available to hire as a guide for Unakoti if you wish (every local will know him, just ask around). Otherwise, you can explore the archaeological site on your own.
How to get to Unakoti
I caught the train from Agartala (the same line that goes to Silchar) and got off at Kumarghat where there are shared autos and vans waiting to take you to Kailashahar, just 20km down the road. There are a few trains per day taking this route, I left on the earliest one at 6.15am.
I returned to Kumarghat the next day for the train to Silchar which passed through at 2pm (an hour later than scheduled). Shared autos and buses leave from Kailashahar for the station at Kumarghat when full.