Touring North East India with Holiday Scout: My Review

North East India – The Final Frontier of Indian Exploration!

If you are looking for a real off the beaten track adventure, unlike anything else you might have seen in India, or anywhere in the world actually, then I’ll let you in on a secret!

The North East of India is a diverse, fascinating and relatively unexplored region that is a world away from the chaos of the rest of India and offers the ultimate off the beaten track exploration, until recently even the Lonely Planet only gave it a small mention but now all this is changing and the North East is set to be the next hottest destination for travel in India.

So now is the time to visit as the North East is just opening up to tourism, yet still blissfully untouched and touristy so, for the moment at least, you can pretty much have this unexplored paradise known as ‘the last Shangri- la to yourself.

map of north east india

Map of North East India

North East India is separated both geographically and culturally from the rest of India and is bordered by Bhutan, China (Tibet), Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

The North East consists of 7 sister states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura all with different cultures, tribes, languages, food and scenery that are just heaven for intrepid explorers!

Why I took a tour around North East India

I recently spent almost 2 weeks exploring Arunachal Pradesh and Assam on the Monastery and Tribal Discovery Tour with an amazing local tour operator called Holiday Scout. After this amazing trip it’s safe to say that I’m a little obsessed with this region and I’m already planning to come back to visit Nagaland!

I usually travel independently but the North East of India is one region where I would definitely recommend that you take a tour for several reasons:

  • Tourism is just in it’s infancy in North East India and as such there is not a huge supply of transportation and hotels making it difficult to travel independently
  • Visitors require special permits to visit Arunachal Pradesh which would be difficult to obtain independently
  • Using a local tour operator will mean you can understand more about this diverse and fascinating region and give you better access to meeting tribal people who would probably not be so welcoming if you were without a guide who could translate.

My experience touring North East India with Holiday Scout

Receiving a tradtional welcome and dance is Assam, North East India

Receiving a traditional welcome and dance is Assam, North East India

I had high expectations of my Holiday Scout tour and from the moment Sange met us at the airport in Guwahati I knew this guy was special, not an ordinary tour guide.

Sange Tsering is the founder and driving force behind local specialised North East India tour operator Holiday Scout. Sange’s story is really interesting – his uncle was the pioneering force for tourism in North East India and set up the first tour company here. Sange was so passionate to follow in his footsteps that he set up Holiday Scout when he was only 21 years old! You can read more about him in this interview.

Sange is from the Monpa tribe in Bomdila, a part of Arunachal Pradesh where the Tibetan influence is highly visible and it was a real treat to be able to stay at his family home in Bomdila, to meet his family, and experience his Mum’s amazing Tibetan food and warm hospitality.

I really couldn’t have asked for anymore from our trip through North East India with Holiday Scout. Sange is the complete gentleman and his attention to detail, organisation, passion for the region, passion for tourism and all round kindness was faultless. Sange anticipated our every need and went out of his way to make sure we were happy – we were truly spoilt by Sange and his passion for the region was really infectious and his knowledge was second to none.

Sange Tsering our Holiday Scout guide with headhunter tribes in Nagaland!

Sange Tsering our Holiday Scout guide with headhunter tribes in Nagaland!

Unlike a packaged group tour we had a private car and driver and dedicated tour guide which gave us the flexibility to not feel like we were on a tour as we were able to customise the itinerary to suit our needs and interests which meant that we really had the best of both worlds – the freedom to explore this amazing region without the hassles of independent travel which would be quite strenuous in this remote region.

To Sange’s credit the whole trip, despite the lack of infrastructure in this, one of the world’s least explored areas, ran exceptionally smoothly. From the plains of Assam where we enjoyed a close encounter with endangered one horned rhinos at Kaziranga National Park, to the colourful Tibetan monasteries of Tawang, to meeting the fascinating Apatani tribal people in Ziro Valley, exploring North East India really blew me away and opened my eyes to a totally different, unique and oh so captivating aspect of India.

At the end of the tour I was sad to say goodbye to not only a tour guide but a new friend at the end of the trip. I even went on a 2nd trip with Holiday Scout in April to explore Nagaland and meet the head hunter tribes as well as attending some unique tribal festivals and would also love to visit Ladakh with him.

Why I fell in love with Arunachal Pradesh

Exploring Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh

Exploring Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh

Out of all the states in North East India, mountainous and mysterious Arunachal Pradesh, nestled between Bhutan and Tibet, offers the ultimate adventure as it this is ‘the final frontier of Indian exploration.’ In fact, it’s so off the beaten track that some parts of the Himalayan ranges in Arunachal Pradesh have not even been mapped yet!

Arunachal Pradesh is a most diverse state, where you could believe that you have stepped back in time as you witness the way the many different unique tribal people live their life nestled in these largely unexplored mountains. Arunachal is perhaps the last sanctuary for India’s natural and anthropological heritage.

Arunachal means the ‘Land of Dawn-lit Mountains’ which is appropriate as the state is home to soaring Himalayan mountains, 26 unique, indigenous tribe with different and fascinating people and cultures, rare wildlife, colourful Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, including the largest Tibetan monastery in the world that is still in use (Potala Palace in Lhasa is the largest but is now only a museum) vibrant festivals, beautiful handicrafts and a captivating and distinctive culture that makes it seem a world away from the rest of India.

If you want a real adventure, to step back in time, to experience the beauty and serenity of Tibetan culture and to witness tribal cultures unlike anything you have even seen before then come and explore Arunachal Pradesh!

Simply put, the North East of India offers the ultimate adventure and Holiday Scout offers the perfect solution for women who want to explore off the beaten track in India!

 

Don’t just take my word for it! – See what Rachel from Hippie in Heels has to say in her honest review of Holiday Scout tours.

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