Homestays in Northeast India: Homely Accommodations in the Region
I’ve written about Northeast India many times that I thought the region receives no introduction in my future posts (like this one where I’m writing about homestays in northeast India). I was, of course, wrong. I recently finished Patrick Rogers’ The Green Unknown. I find similarities in Rogers — or, what he feels about Meghalaya — and myself.
He loves the jungles, the mountains, the people and the complexity of a small state that became part of India only by a historical accident. I love the jungles, too. And the mountains, the people, the waterbodies, and the complexity that run deeps. The rugged terrain of the northeastern hills carry complex stories, I, a phareng (like he labels himself), could not fathom. Rogers reminded me that Northeast India always needs an introduction.
“Large tracks of Meghalaya are about as foreign to people from Delhi to Mumbai as they are to tourists from London or New York,” Rogers writes.
So here I am, writing another post about Northeast India (and the best homestays in Northeast India) and introducing you to the region. (Don’t feel bad about yourself if you don’t know. You are in the majority.)
Northeast India is an often “overlooked” region in India, bordering neighboring nations such as Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It consists of eight states: Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
In this essay for BBC on Mizo cuisine, writer Pearly Jacob says that “although the borders and clocks of the eight states that make up this disparate region are bound to India, there is little else to suggest the fact. The landscape, people, culture and cuisine here differ completely from all that the mainland is known for.”
I am not an expert on this region; I believe no one can ever be. But from the very little I have glanced, I hope everyone visits this absolutely breathtaking region that is often hindered, negated and sidelined by gross stereotypes.
If you ever consider visiting, here’s a list of homestays in northeast India (the region is home to a handful of luxury accommodations and hostels, but as with anywhere else, I truly believe that the true essence of a place lies with homestays, or homely accommodations run by no one but locals).
Homestays in Northeast India: homestays and accommodations in Arunachal Pradesh
It’s a shame that I have not yet been to Arunachal Pradesh, but it’s a place I’d go on to visit whenever I can travel to India again.
A travel blogger from Northeast India, Jitaditya Narzary authors a blog dedicated to Northeast India named Periplus Northeast and he told me where to stay in Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh if you visit.
Homestays in Dirang
Dirang Boutique Cottages is one of the most exciting new properties in whole Arunachal. While the state has uncountable hidden gems, lack of modern infrastructure has always been an issue. This is where this new property looks like a game changer.
With several pretty cottages on the banks of a picturesque hilly river, it reminds you of the likes of Tirthan Valley or Jibhi. All rooms are fitted with modern amenities and there is also a spacious common dining hall that can also be a place to hangout.
Dirang is a regular stopover en route to Tawang. But you can easily extend your stay here and explore nearby attractions like Sangti Valley, Dirang Dzong, Thembang, Mandala etc. Dirang Boutique Cottages is not a mere resort but it has been designed as a responsible farmstay that gives something back to the society. They grow most of their vegetables in their backyard and the campus is lined with orange trees.
Sange Tsering, who conceived this property, is also a known face in the tourism circuit and he has enabled many local Monpa youths finding employment through various activities for tourists. Many work as guides while we had a couple of local girls conducting a momo making class!
Homestays in Along
For this post, I talked to the founder of Dirang Boutique Cottages and Holiday Scout Sange Tsering — who, according to my Facebook — is, admired by everyone for his amazing tours and community work. Sange suggested me a lot of homestays in Arunachal Pradesh. Reyi Homestay is one. Reyi Homestay sits in the Darka Hills, and have comfortable double and single bedrooms. They also serve traditional meals.
Homestays in Tawang
Dondrub Homestay is a gorgeous accommodation in the popular tourist town, Tawang. The accommodation features three executive rooms: one triple and two double bedrooms with spacious parking. All are well-furnished rooms with attached bathrooms. They also give you complimentary breakfast.
Homestays in Bomdila
A lovely home away from surrounded by nature, Dhe Dhen Gakhyil is a guesthouse in Bomdila serving homecooked meals that are organically grown and locally-sourced in the region.
Other homestays in Arunachal Pradesh
Sange also recommend me Lhazom’s Homestay in Sheragon, Arunachal Pradesh.
Homestays in Northeast India: Homestays and accommodations in Assam
Homestays in Guwahati
My friend Sahid has an extremely cheerful, modern homestay named Travellers Abode in an apartment in a quiet residential neighborhood (it’s very much in the centre of the city, too).
For an onlooker like me, Guwahati appears to be partly hip, and partly traditional. Travellers Abode fits this description: it’s got modern, minimal interiors but step out and you meet the charming old school neighborhood. I think my favorite part about the homestay — apart from Sahid (I love him obviously) and the food he cooks — is the neighborhood it sits in.
Your day here will start with dipping two biscuits in your ginger-smothered, mud-colored chai. You sit on a small bamboo chair in the balcony, when marigolds creep towards the looming sun. The dukaan (shop) uncle opens his doors. “Maas…Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas…..,” the fish vendor cries.
A few minutes later, the sabziwala arrives. Another uncle retreats on a rickety plastic chair — one that he brought from the house — on the street. He’s not bothered about the brightening sun because he’s glued to the newspaper. It’s truly a world I love.
Inside the homestay are three large rooms; one comes with an attached bath. The living room is large enough that my Hyderabdi friend, whom I met on the train, told me that it’d be five separate houses in Mumbai.
If you want to chill or want to hear a lot of stories from Sahid (who grew up in the region), pick Travellers Abode. He might cook for you if he’s home (he’s an expert in anything fish, like most Assamese are).
Homestays in Kaziranga National Park
This family-managed homestay named Homestaytion isn’t inside the park (I believe no accommodation should come inside a national park). We picked this place to stay for a day when we were arriving from Nagaland. It’s in the area of Kaziranga NP. The hosts were great, and the place is spotlessly clean and well-kept.
Accommodations in Orang National Park
Kaziranga receives a lot of visitors, but not Orang. When we visited Orang in December, we were pretty much the only ones there. I wasn’t lucky to spot a tiger, but I later learnt that Orang has about 36 big cats, and you are most likely to spot one. At Orang, there’s a lodge managed by the Forest Department, which was a clean, no-frills accommodation. They made a lovely gobi dish for our breakfast roti.
Homestays in Majuli Island
Majuli is Asia’s largest river island. The mighty Brahmaputra surrounds Majuli, where life runs slow. The island brims with yellow mustard fields in winter. Paddy fields disappear into a ridged line of the blue sky. Mising* tribal houses built with bamboo contrasts the traditional Assamese architecture (cement houses coated with colorful paint).
Their exterior, too, different. Mising houses, truly sustainable, sits on a raised bamboo platform. Flocks of hens and a sounder of pigs gather below the houses, picking up leftovers of the food. A large pond covers the Assamese households, where fish comes for daily meals.
In the garden are vegetables and herbs for a self-sufficient life. Majuli has gained popularity over the years, thus, it has many homestays now. I could recommend you Shanti Kunj Bamboo Cottages in the central area of the island.
*Misings — pronounced Mishings — are an indigenous group calling parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh their dear home.
Homestays and accommodations in Manipur
Photos of Loktak Lake by @mahendrabakle.
Loktak Lake in Manipur attracts plenty of travelers. Near Loktak Lake is Maipakchao Homestay, one of the oldest accommodations run by the local Maipakchao Oinam, who’s passionate about the sustainable tourism in the area. It’s a no-frills accommodation, but one that comes with warmth and love (and delicious home-cooked meals).
Homestays and accommodations in Mizoram
Homestays in Aizawl
Welcome to Mizoram, aka India’s northeasternmost state, and possibly for now, the least visited Northeastern state. Outside Indians require permits to enter, which has limited the influx of domestic tourists.
For many years, foreigners needed a permit, too. Not anymore. So thanks to this new law, I’ve seen a handful of ambitious foreign tourists now venture into these far eastern jungles of India. I was one.
When I boarded a sumo from Silchar to the capital of Mizoram in October, 2019, I knew nothing about Mizoram, except for the unmanned shops in Mizo countryside.
When I arrived in Aizawl, I was truly welcomed home by my hosts at Zobawam Homestay, which is a 20-minute walk from the center, with spacious rooms and views of the hills. In the wee hours of the morning, sun looms over the hills dotted with manbuilt houses, and I gobbled up homemade breakfasts as the mist slowly enveloped the hilly capital.
In this post where I write about the unforgettable memories from the Northeast, I also talk about being home, in Aizawal. I felt home, and that was all thanks to this lovely Mizo family.
Homestays in Northeast India: Homestays and accommodations in Meghalaya
Homestays in Shillong
I have to say travel is booming in Meghalaya (along with its plastic pollution). Shillong is probably the most-travelled Northeastern city, perhaps after Gangtok in Sikkim. It can also be labeled as one of the costliest Indian cities. Shillong is beautiful, but for some reason, everyone who visits Shillong tends to stay at the chaotic Police Bazaar. Skip it if you want to love Shillong.
You can pick homestays in Laitumkhrah; it is the hip center of the city, with chic cafes, music and laid-back evenings. My little sister Sara stayed at the Breeze Vale Homestay run by a local Khasi youth. She gives it 11/10, for the location, food, well-kept atmopashpehre and the hosts. If you find Laitumkhrah slightly expensive (as most homestays are above 1500 INR a day), I suggest staying at Nongthymmai at Russet Homestay.
You can also pick a suburb. I’ve stayed in Upper Shillong and in quiet Mawdiangdiang in this beautiful airbnb.
Homestays and accommodations in Sohra (Mainland Indians call it Cherrapunji)
A lot of budget travelers pick By The Way, a clean, well-kept, no-fuss accommodation in the center of Sohra. When I went, I stayed at Sohra Plaza, a slight upgrade from a traditional homestay. It’s a mid-range hotel and I truly loved my stay. Sohra brims with waterfalls, rolling clouds and caves so it’s become touristy over the years; a reason why I avoid staying more than a day.
Sohra also has charming luxe lodges and resorts if you don’t mind splurging, such as Sai Mika Resort, and Jiva Resort. If you don’t want to stay in Sohra, go and stay in Tyrna. More details below.
Homestays in Tyrna
Tyrna is a small village, but it’s been popular over the years as the gateway to the famous double decker living root bridge. In Tyrna, I stayed at a lovely homestay run by a local Khasi family. My host was also the principal of the school. It’s a wonderful place with homecooked meals. You can call them by dialing: +91 9366914866. The name of the homestay is: JingKyrKhu I Pa Homestay in Tyrna, Meghalaya.
I know I told that everyone comes to Tyrna for the double decker root bridge and rainbow falls in Nongriat, but if you want to do something different, take a day trip to beautiful Shella. I found Shella to be…a melting pot of cultures (it’s cliche I know). I was lucky to visit the market where Khasis, Garos and Bengalis sell and purchase local produce.
You can also go to Sohbar (a scenic river spot frequented by Shillong Khasis. In other words, it’s kind of a picnic spot for them during the weekend). This trip to Sohbar though includes hours of bumping up and down in a cramped car as the dust cakes your shampooed hair.
Homestays in Mawsynram
Mawsynram is the rainiest place on earth, and I’ve written an extensive post about it. Not many people venture into Mawsynram but if you go, stay at Emily & Sankrita’s Homestay. Sankirta prepares delicious Khasi meals.
You could visit several cave systems, including the world’s longest cave. Day trips include nearby Mawlyngnbna (you can do boating, kayaking and fishing here) and Mawpdai where you could climb inside a large tree with a hallow.
Homestays and accommodations in Dawki and Shnongpdeng
Skip Dawki and go to Shnongpdeng for laidback vibes. Jonathan is my friend but I’m not biased. I give 12/10 for his campsite by the river in Shnongpdeng village. It’s on the quieter side, in other words, where the jungles starts. So, on most days, you’d have the whole place to yourself. He can also arrange meals, bonfire, boating, fishing, kayaking and other watersports. You can contact him: +91 7085487756/ +91 9366081208
Umngot River that runs through Dawki and Shnongpdeng is famous for the transparent, glass-like shallow waters. The season runs from October to March in winter. Rainy season turns the water into a muddy stream.
Accommodations in Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya
If I write a post about accommodations and homestays in northeast India, I can’t skip Jaintia Hills. Many people frequent Jaintia Hills for Krang Shuri Falls. There are many stay options at Krang Shuri from tents to homestays. I’d also suggest you visit beautiful Phea Phea Falls. The local name Phea Phea translates to paradise.
I’ve stayed at the campsite there, which is peaceful and serene, but I’ve also heard mixed reviews about the place (some people have been overcharged).
Other homestays and accommodations in Meghalaya
Not many people venture into Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills. If you go, stay at the homestay in Nongkhnum Island. This is Asia’s second largest river island, falling behind Assam’s Majuli. There are only about 14 households in this place. You can also visit Mawphanlur and stay at the Travellers Nest there.
If you decide to visit Kongthong, a small village that became popular for their tune giving tradition, there’s a community-run homestay in the village. It’s called Travellers Nest, Kongthong. Contact: +91 9856060347. If you want to read more about this tradition, read my piece for Atlas Obscura.
Homestays in Northeast India: Homestays and accommodations in Nagaland
Many people visit Nagaland during the Hornbill Festival. When I went, we stayed at Sahid’s friend’s house. Travel blogger Avantika Chaturvedi suggests that you should stay at the Longsha Homestay in Longwa village if you go.
Avantika writes: Longsha Homestay in Longwa village of Nagaland belongs to a big family from the Konyak tribe – known to be the last head-hunters of Nagaland. This modest bamboo hut has a plethora of traditional Konyak wood sculptures depicting ancient Konyak folk lore, made by one of the members of the extended family.
Take a peep inside and you’ll find traditional Konyak jewellery made of colourful beads carefully hand crafted by the matron of the family.
Lovingly called Anyu,when not working in the fields, she spends her time by the open fire stove in the kitchen shooing of chickens that sneakily find their way inside the house. On the other hand, Appaor the father can often been seen making baskets and hats out of cane reeds.
On a lazy winter afternoon, he might even tell you stories from his headhunting days – before this tradition was banned by the government. During my week long stay with the family, Appa taught me how to gut and roast rats for dinner, Anyu showed me how to tend after paddy, while their youngest daughter Apham showed me around the best and the hidden spots in the village which most tourists miss.
Longhsa Homestay is a must visit not for the house, or the number of things there are to do in Longwa, but simply because of the several interesting people that live inside it, each with their unique personalities and distinct talents.
Homestays in Northeast India: Homestays and accommodations in Sikkim
I absolutely love Sikkim. It receives a lot of visitors, both locals and foreigners. I planned my stay around small homestays to avoid the heavy touristy areas.
Homestays in Gangtok and other places in East Sikkim
In Gangtok, I stayed with a local family. It’s a charming home, just a five-minute walk from the pedestrian-only MG Marg. You can book them on Airbnb; it’s called Shyar Sikkimese Guest House. I can also recommend House of Meesu and Booman’s BnB adjacent to Rachna Books.
Homestays in North Sikkim
North Sikkim destinations like Lachen and Lachung are places with jaw-dropping landscapes. Solo foreigners are not allowed to travel to these places, so I couldn’t go. That was why I picked the remote Dzongu Valley and I’m so happy I did.
I stayed a week in Upper Dzongu in Lingthem Lyang Homestay run by Sangdup Lepcha. The whole valley is the native land of the Lepchas and today, it’s a conservation site. If you want to learn more about the culture and history of the Lepchas, or if you just want to forget the outside world for a while, this is a beautiful home away from home.
Homestays in South Sikkim
From Dzongu, I took a taxi to South Sikkim. Ravangla is the major town there and is famous for the large Buddha park. I stayed in a small village called Bakhim, about 8 km from Ravangla. My homestay was run by a sweet family and had a quaint farmhouse.
Michelle Tirkey from High ON Himalayas also shared her homestay recommendations in South Sikkim.
Michelle writes: Samaghang Cottage in Kewzing, South Sikkim is a home full of warmth and legendary hospitality. With a lovely family of hosts, sustainable buildings, home grown vegetables and organic food on your plate, this homestay is a perfect place to experience community tourism.
A day at Samaghang Cottage starts with spotting the snow capped peaks of Mt. Pandim and Mt. Narsing right from the balcony and ends with a sumptuous bowl of thukpafor dinner and making merry by the fireplace.
Day time engagements include guided bird-watching tours, village hikes, exploring the cardamom plantations and learning to cook Sikkimese cuisines.
If a laid back life in a quaint mountain village is your jam, you should definitely plan a quick stopover in Kewzing while traveling through Sikkim. And staying at Samaghang Cottage would undoubtedly be one of the best decisions in your trip to North East India
Homestays in West Sikkim
The most-frequented West Sikkim destinations are Pelling and Yuksom. I stayed at Eshab Homestay in Sribadam, near Sorong. Eshab is an enthusiastic host with a vision to develop tourism in the local area.
Sribadam is a charming village with a few monasteries, fine forests, icy-cold cascades, flowing streams and mountain cottages. They also prepare local meals and can organize you traditional herbal treatments.
Homestays and accommodations in Tripura
I haven’t yet been to Tripura. I’m keeping this space free for future recommendations when I visit. Until then, Dr. S Das’ Homestay in Agartala (the capital city of Tripura) has good reviews.
Leaving a note to say this homestays in northeast India blog post is always open for suggestions and write ups. Please feel free to drop a line or say hi if you would love to contribute or suggest me a quaint homestay in Northeast India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | IG: @natnzin
Cover picture credit goes to my friend Sahid.
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