Mizoram Land of the Hill People

From lakes, waterfalls and tropical evergreen forests to guitar-toting minstrels and smuggled goods in bazaars, Mizoram is one of the most delightfully remote states in the Northeast
Mizoram Land of the Hill People

Dangling on the southernmost corner of the Northeast, Mizoram is arguably the remotest state in the country. But getting there is simple enough, with daily Indian Airlines/Alliance flights from Kolkata as well as connections from Imphal and Guwahati. Silchar, the nearest railhead, is 6-8 hours from Aizawl by road. The monsoons are heavy and protracted here, as they are in most of the Northeast, making winter and spring the most attractive time for tourists. Visit in March and you could be in time for the Chapchar Kut, a major agricultural festival which which is still a big deal in Aizawl

This once-quiet outpost straddling a ridge on the Tropic of Cancer has grown into a sprawling city. Seen from the viewpoint at Tlangnuam, 6km to the south, you could mistake Aizawl for Shimla, but up close it&rsquos very different. For one thing you won&rsquot meet too many other tourists here. It&rsquos a bustling place all the same, particularly in the heart of Bara Bazaar, which overflows with goods both local and smuggled. Hang out with the guitar-toting minstrels on the AR Grounds. If you&rsquove been admiring the wraparound puanchei skirts visit the Weaving Centre in Luangmual. Eat at Beijing Blue for delicious steamed fish and baked pork momos. Stay at the highest point in the city (3,713ft) at Chaltalang Tourist Lodge (0389-2341083, 2349421) or in the heart of town at Hotel Chief (2346418/1097).

Some 110km from the capital, Tamdil Lake is the largest lake in the state. Ringed by dense forests of tropical evergreens and bamboo home to a variety of wildlife including bear, deer and wild pig, the lake itself is an abundant source of fish and prawns. So you know what to order for dinner. Ask for Chhum&mdashboiled fish with herbs. Stay at the Tourist Lodge (0389-262395) in Saitual, 7km away.

Sticking to superlatives, Mizoram&rsquos tallest waterfall is at Vantawng, 150km from Aizawl on the Lau River. The 750ft-high cascade is framed by dense bamboo groves and forests. Boat rides and angling are on offer. Stay at the Tourist Lodge in Thenzawl, 7km away (0953838-261489).

When you&rsquore ready for a little more adventure, head south on a trek to Mizoram&rsquos highest peak, the 2,150m-high Blue Mountain, or Phawngpui. The peak rises very close to the Myanmar border and a walk along its slopes or to the summit affords fine views of the Chimtuipui river and landscapes of bamboo, orchid and rhododendron. The area is apparently a lepidopterists delight (but who doesn&rsquot like butterflies). The cliffs on the western slopes are home to mountain goats and the summit is a large tableland.  The closest village to the mountain is Sangau, to the north, but you should probably head for Saiha, some 380km from Aizawl. There is a Tourist Lodge here (03835-34015) Lake Palak, a legendary fishing spot is close at hand. Follow the Chimtuipui River to the mountain and put aside two days to explore it on foot.

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