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Travelling in India's northeast - including the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim - in addition to a fascinating menu of history, architecture, and culture is also packed with spectacular sceneries of waterfalls, lush valleys, and more. They're a dream for outdoorsy nature- and adventure-lovers of all types, and here are five areas for hiking/trekking - some relatively easygoing, some challenging - that will take your breath away:
The Pemako Valley of Arunachal Pradesh
India's northeasternmost state, up in the eastern Himalayas between Bangladesh, Bhutan, Tibet, and Myanmar, is a land of soaring peaks and gorgeous valleys, some of which are called beyul ("hidden valleys"), described by Tibetan Buddhist texts as Shangri-Las where the essence of Buddhist tantra is preserved for future generations. One of these is Pemako, "the hidden land shaped in the form of a lotus," part of the larger Siang Valley. Here the hiking experience is one from a fairy tale, full of stunning lakes such as Danakosha, woodlands, wildflower meadows, and offering inspiring views of soaring peaks like Namcha Barwa over the border in Tibet.
The Living-Root Bridges of Meghalaya
East of Arunachal Pradesh, this state whose name means "abode of clouds" is known for quite a few things-- its rich, forested hills; heavy rains; gushing waterfalls; lip-smacking food; and distinctive Jaintia, Khasi, and Garo tribal peoples; soaring cliffs; and most famously of all, the "living-root bridges" of its southern jungles. These are some 40 suspension bridges across waterways created by the Jaintia and Khasi from the aerial roots of rubber fig trees, with the most famous being the "double-decker" in the hamlet of Nongriat. (Another notable local village, by the way, is Mawlynnong, known as the cleanest in Asia.) could be an experience in itself.
This small, Christian-majority state is known especially for pleasant climate and dramatic landscapes - lakes, waterfalls, hills, forests, caves - as well as outdoor activities (boating, biking), cuisine, and culture. And one of its gems is the village and surrounding hills of Reiek, located at 1,465 metres (4,806 feet) above sea level and just 12 kilometres (7½ miles) from state capital Aizawl. Besides its charming Mizo tribal architecture and culture, hiking in the fields and forests of the nearby hills is a wonderful - and fairly easygoing - experience, including treading paths through meadows with grass growing as high as a person.
The Dzükou Valley of Nagaland
Just south over the Arunachal Pradesh border, Nagaland is another small, rural, and mountainous state whose allures include heritage villages and wildlife sanctuaries. And straddling its own southern border with Mainpur state, the Dzükou Valley is well known for its natural environment, flora (especially seasonal flowers such as the Dzükou lily, found only here), and fauna. The hikes will take you across verdant plains and hills Take the gentler path into the valley and the steeper path out. The very best sights of this trip aside from the plains are the rivulets as well as swirling streams.
Nathu La Pass, Sikkim
This small state nestled in the Himalayas next to Tibet and Nepal is a wonderland for lovers of mountains, with its 28 peaks, more than 80 glaciers, well over 200 high-altitude lakes, a handful of hot springs, and more than 100 rivers and streams. In the east at an altitude of 4,310m (14,140 ft.), the Nathu La Pass is the state's gateway to Tibet, and trekking up here is definitely energised with its scenic views, wonderful waterfalls as well as of course enchanting peaks. Just be mindful of the uneven roadways, and keep your steps measured while hiking because low oxygen levels can leave you breathless!