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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > May 2017 > Great Escape

Great Escape

In an overlooked corner of a vast country, trek to the living bridges of the Khasi Hills, before heading out to spot rhinos around Kaziranga National Park. Then explore the stilt villages on the river island of Majuli, relax witha cuppa in a Jorhat tea garden, to finish among the hill tribes of Nagaland.
Village life on the river island of Majuli

Plan your trip

1 Cross ingeniously crafted root bridges, living sculptures designed to endure monsoon floods in the Khasi Hills (p44).

2 Seek out rhinos, elephants, water buffalo and possibly even a tiger in Kaziranga National Park (p46).

3 Catch a ferry across the Brahmaputra to Majuli, the world’s biggest river island, a haven of monasteries and stilt houses (p48).

4 Sample some of the finest Assam teas available, straight from the source, with a visit to the plantations of Jorhat (p50).

5 Venture into the untamed wilderness of Nagaland, a land of remote hill tribes once led by fearsome headhunters (p52).

MAP ILLUSTRATION: ALEX VERHILLE. PHOTOGRAPHS: SIMM REDDY/ALAMY, MAXIMILIAN STOCK LTD/GETTY, PRADEEP GAUR/MINT VIA GETTY IMAGES

HOW TO GET THERE

Air India and Jet Airways offer flights to Guwahati from the UK, via Indian hub cities (from £450; airindia.in). The trip to Jorhat is longer, with at least two stops (from £505; jetairways.com).

HOW TO GET AROUND

This trip covers several hundred miles, so travel times are long. Domestic flights will cut travel time: the most useful airports are Guwahati, Jorhat and Shillong. Once you’re on the ground, hiring a driver and a small car or minibus is by far the quickest and comfiest way to go. Count on paying around £65 per day including petrol and tolls; it’s important to make sure your driver has prior experience of driving to Nagaland, as well as the necessary permits, before you travel. For local journeys, taxis and tuk-tuks are cheap and available everywhere. Roads in the more remote areas, such as the Khasi Hills and Nagaland, are often poorly maintained; travel times to these areas can be punishing.

HOW LONG TO SPEND

The itinerary for this trip can just about be covered in 10 days, although the long journey time to and from Nagaland means two weeks would allow for a more comfortable pace. And remember to factor in a bit of extra time for delays – traffic on India’s main roads is generally awful, and domestic flights are often delayed.

WHAT TO BUDGET

Budget travellers could manage on less than £30 a day by staying in hostels or homestays, eating at street stalls and taking public transport. Between £50–£80 covers mid-range hotels, admissions and activities; over £80 and you’ll be able to stay at luxury hotels, and hire a guide and driver. The recent demonetisation of the old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes has caused a serious cash shortage. Withdrawals are still limited at ATMs, and many foreign cards won’t work at all, so change plenty at the airport.

WHEN TO GO

The monsoon season drenches most of northeast India between May and November. It’s not impossible to travel during this period, but high humidity, torrential downpours and the possibility of flash flooding must all be taken into consideration. December to April brings more settled weather, and balmy daytime temperatures. Nights in mountain areas can be surprisingly cool, so bring a fleece, hat and gloves.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

In the May issue… We're spilling some travel secrets. Northeast India is the country's most overlooked corner – follow us on a Great Escape here to see rhinoceroses and meet hill-country villagers whose not-so-distant ancestors were headhunters. New Zealand's North Island may be better known, but using a campervan to get around opens up unforeseen vistas and possibilities. In other features, Northern Ireland proves to be a surprising gastronomic destination, while Casablanca's status as Morocco's largest city – yet one that features on few travellers' itineraries – means its Art Deco-era treasures hide in plain sight. Plus, discover 24 fantastic places to stay this spring, and much more
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