Aizawl, the capital city of Mizoram, stands like a citadel perched on gorgeous ridges, about 1,132m above sea level, overlooking the valley of River Tlawng. On to its east is the deep green valley of River Tuirial and to the north are the peaks of Durtlang. Interestingly, the Tropic of Cancer passes thorough this town.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Besides taking a stroll in the city and soaking in the diversity of culture and tradition this city has on offer, there’s very little to do in Aizawl.

The Mizoram State Museum at McDonald Hill in the town centre is a must visit. The museum is a small treasure house of Mizo history, society and traditions, storing rare histori-cal relics, ancient costumes and traditional souvenirs.

 Timings 9.00am–5.00pm Monday– Friday; 9.00am–1.00pm Saturdays Closed Sundays Tel: 0389-2340936

d the ‘abode of the highlanders’ owing to its rich tribal heritage. Aizawl also serves as a perfect gateway from which you can explore the hinterlands of this far-flung state.

Swapan Nayak
The city of Aizawl offering panoramic views of the surrounding hills
The city of Aizawl offering panoramic views of the surrounding hills

You can also visit Chanmari, which is located a little away from the town. This is primarily a residential complex teeming with tourism-related establishments and shopping centres. It is the most interesting place to explore around Aizawl.

Situated 7km away from Aizawl is Berawtlang Tourist Complex, a recreational centre. An interesting Zoological Garden showcasing native wildlife located on the way to Lengpui Airport is also worth a visit.

Other beautiful places to visit in the city are KV Paradise, considered the modern Taj Mahal of Aizawl, built by Khawlhring in memory of his wife Varte who died in a car accident in 2001. The mausoleum, which is around 45-minutes drive from the main city, is named after the couple’s initials.

For the best views of Aizawl city, drive to Durtlang Hills, which has verdant slopes. Around 16km away from Aizawl are Bung and Paikhai, both beautiful picnic spots.

For those interested in architecture, there’s the nearby Salvation Army Temple, known for its white Gothic inspired exteriors.

The adventurous can try paragliding, a relatively new sport here, though Vanlaiphai – about 86km from Aizawl – Thenzawl and Durtlang hills have already become popular paragliding sites. The 3Dimensional School of Paragliding in Mizoram – the third of its kind in India – in collaboration with the Department of Tourism holds paragliding festival and events.

SHOPPING IN AIZAWL

Shopping in Aizawl is more like a leisurely stroll. You can visit the shops undisturbed by touts.

Bara Bazaar at Bau Tlang, the main shopping centre, overflows with umpteen souvenirs such as the traditional Mizo dress, known as puan, and other Mizo garments, Chinese toys, Tawainese electronics, river crabs, cloth from Myanmar, bamboo items and local hand-made garments.

Courtesy Mizoram Tourism
The striking white edifice of KV Paradise
The striking white edifice of KV Paradise

The Main Bazaar is where people are seen in ethnic costumes selling produce from farms and homesteads, including river crabs in little wicker baskets. This market especially comes to life on Saturdays when it takes the form of a fair on the streets of this already teeming bazaar.

The must buys here, during this time, are Mizoram’s exquisite shawls and bags with traditional patterns, which are woven by Mizo women from cotton and woollen yarns on the loin-loom.

Tip When buying these, check for neatly finished edges

Luangmual Handicrafts Centre, which is 7km away, takes half an hour to reach by car. The khumbeu – ceremonial Mizo bamboo hat – is made here using the waterproof hnahthial leaves.

The State Government and Handloom Emporium at Ritz market in Aizawl is the best place to buy handcrafted items.

Zohanco in Zarkawt has shawls, traditional Mizo puans, bags and furnishing material for homes. Besides, Solomons Cave is a shopper’s paradise for imported garments, cosmetics and shoes. Other shopping centres in the town include the Millennium Center, Dawrpui, LalbuaiaShopping Complex, Zarkawt, Zodin Square and TS Market.

WHERE TO EAT

Try local food from banana flowers and rice, string beans with herbs or boiled fish with rice. At City Center there are facilities such as restaurants and tourist cottages. For Mizo, Thai, Chinese and Indian dishes try David’s Kitchen at Chanmari, while Curry Pot near Hotel Arini, has good biryani. If you want to listen to good music while eating your meal, head to Aizawl Masala.

Courtesy Mizoram Tourism
Paragliding over the lush fields in Vanlaiphai
Paragliding over the lush fields in Vanlaiphai

WHERE TO STAY

For a luxurious stay in the lap of nature, The Tourist Lodge (Tel: 0389- 2341083, 2349421; Tariff: ₹400– ₹1,000) at Chaltlang is a good choice. It offers 44 single, double rooms, suites and deluxe guesthouses.

The stylish Hotel Regency (Tel: 2349334; Tariff: ₹2,000–₹6,500) located at the heart of the town offers clean rooms.

A good budget option is Hotel Chief (Tel: 2346418, 2341097; Tariff: ₹539–3,434). You could ask the staff to prepare local dishes such as boiled vegetables, string beans, bamboo shoot and boiled fish with rice. This is also a good place to get a taste of the local wine made from wheat or rice. Equally good rooms are available at Hotel Ritz (Tel: 2310409–10; Tariff: ₹990–3,990; Email: info@ritzaizawl) in Bara Bazaar; and State Guest House (Tel: 2340132, 2349979. Fax: 2340132) in Bawngkawn. Hotel Orchid (Tel: 2316565; Tariff: ₹400–850) in Zarkawt is good and has 12 rooms.

Hotel Clover (Tel: 2305736; Tariff: ₹1,500–2,750), located a little away from the town, at Chanmari, has a good atmosphere. Local lore says that there was once a couple who used to farm here. The husband died, leaving the wife alone. One day, her husband appeared in a dream and told her about a mustard plant in the field which she should tend to with care. She did so, and the plant thrived. Eventually, she remarried, and her new husband, envious of her attach-ment to his predecessor, yanked the plant out by its roots. Immediately, water gushed out of the hole, filling the valley and creating the beautiful Tam Dil Lake.

AROUND AIZAWL

Tam Dil or Tam Lake (110km)

Tam Dil lake or Tam lake, which literally means ‘lake of mustard’, is a three-hour drive from Aizawl. The serenity of this lake is mesmerising.

Courtesy Mizoram Tourism
Vantawng Waterfall
Vantawng Waterfall

Mizoram’s largest lake famed for its variety of fish, a prawn farm and boating facilities, Tam Dil is surrounded by lush mountains and virgin forests. It is a popular picnic spot where you can go and relax by the tranquil waters and even opt to take a drive into the nearby jungles or to the resort village of Saitual, which is just 10km away from the lake. Tam Dil Lake is also a popular camping site. You can stay at the cottages (Tel: 2333475, Cell: 09862382938; Tariff: ₹500) here. There are also boating facilities and a cafe available here.

Location 110km E of Aizawl

Thenzawl (43km)

Thenzawl was initially a dense forest with numerous wild animals before it was cultivated and inhabited in 1961. Like Aizawl, the Tropic of Cancer runs through this picturesque village as well. Thenzawl is an important centre of traditional Mizo handloom industry. The looms at Thenzawl produce rich and colorful varieties of textiles. One can also observe the indigenous weaving techniques of the Mizos here and obtain Mizo clothes at comparitively cheaper prices.

Other tourist attractions at this town include Vantawng Waterfall which is located at a distance of 5km south of Thenzawl; Thenzawl Deer Park, which has several deer in their natural environment and Chawngchilhi Cave, an important site replete with legends.

Where to Stay

For a comfortable stay, check Tourist Lodge (Cell: 09485079901; Tariff: ₹500–1,000) at Thenzawl. There are seven rooms and six cottages on offer here.

Elephant grazing in the wild at Murlen National Park
Elephant grazing in the wild at Murlen National Park

Around Thenzawl

Close to Thenzawl lies Mizoram’s highest and most beautiful waterfall, Vantawang Khawhthla or Vantawng Fall, which falls from a height of 228m. Set beautifully amidst dense bamboo groves and tropical forests, the waterfall is located on the Vanva river near Thenzawl and is named after Vantawnga who was said to be an excellent swimmer, and used to glide in the cascading waters like a fish. Unfortunately, during one such performance, a log fell from the hills above and killed him.

Though it is difficult to get close to the waterfall because of the forested hills surrounding it, there is a comfortable watchtower built for interested visitors.

RURAL MIZORAM

Waking up to the sounds of chirping birds and gurgling streams, breathing in a lungful of fresh, unpolluted air and feasting your eyes on a delightful green landscape – are ingredients that make for a perfect getaway from the hustle of city life.

Rural Mizoram, with its hilly terrain and rugged mountains, offers all the above mentioned simple luxuries. Travelling here is a spiritual experience, the one that moves your body and soul together. The meandering roads built along hills and the occasional but breathtaking waterfalls make rural Mizoram a must visit.

The interiors of Mizoram can be reached either using local taxis or buses that regularly ply from the state capital. Those into outdoor activities can go on short treks or ask your hotel or a travel agency to arrange organised treks.

Amongst the few yet varied trekking options available here are Phawngpui/ Blue Mountain National Park Trekking and Camping – known to be the best in Mizoram. Champhai District is also known for its trekking trails. Other popular trails in the state include Lengteng and Mawmrang.

Courtesy Northeast Tourism
Butterflies at Khawnglung Wildlife Sanctuary
Butterflies at Khawnglung Wildlife Sanctuary

WILDLIFE MIZORAM

The Phawngpui National Park or Phawngpui Blue Mountain National Park is one of two national parks located in Mizoram. Covering an area of 50sq km, the park is home to the Blue Mountain, close to the international border with Myanmar. The larger park in the state is the Murlen National Park. Located in Champhai District about 245km from Aizawl, the park is spread over an area of 200sq km and houses a rich variety of flora and fauna. The other reserves in Mizoram are:

Ngengpui Wildlife Sanctuary

In the southwestern part of Mizoram is Ngengpui Wildlife Sanctuary, quite close to Indo-Myanmar and Indo- Bangladesh borders. The total area of the sanctuary is 110sq km and ranges in altitude between 200–1,200m.

There are several species of flora and fauna found here. The sanctuary is home to the tiger, clouded leopard, elephant, guar, barking deer, sambar, wild boar, hoolock gibbon, rhesus macaque, leaf monkey and common langur amongst others.

Khawnglung Wildlife Sanctuary

The Khawnglung Wildlife Sanctuary is situated about 170km from Aizawl. It covers an area of 35sq km and ranges between 400m to 1,300m in altitude. Visitors may possibly sight wild boar, deer and langur in this wildlife sanctuary.

Courtesy Mizoram Tourism
Display of Mizo arts and crafts
Display of Mizo arts and crafts

Thorangtlang Wildlife Sanctuary

Spread over an area of 50sq km, Thorangtlang Wildlife Sanctuary is situated around 240km from Aizawl. The reserve can be accessed via Thenzawl village in western Mizoram, and is adjacent to Dampa Tiger Reserve. The sanctuary serves as a corridor for elephants that migrate from Bangladesh. The animals found here include the tiger, leopard, hoolock gibbon and barking deer apart from a variety of birds.

For more information on wildlife in Mizoram, contact Principal Chief Conservator, Aizawl, Tel: 0389- 2325727 or Chief Wildlife Warden, Aizawl, Tel: 2325371

Arts and Crafts of Mizoram

Mizo arts and crafts are best displayed on the streets of two important cities – Aizawl and Thenzawl – where you can see women dressed in vibrant puans decorated with bold, broad stripes. The finer ones, inlaid with minute geometric and flower motifs or shimmering subtly with a silken sheen, can be seen during formal occasions such as weddings, local festivals and other social gatherings.

Mizos have, over centuries, created an artistic heritage, reflecting their culture and spirit. Just as the ancestral technique is still kept intact, each weave, colour and motif tells its own tale – caste, creed of the wearer, her marital status, and the region of her origin. For instance, the gorgeous puan skirts and shawls, skilfully interwoven with designs handed down from mother to daughter for centuries, are more than mere pieces of fabric – they are living traditions, with each piece of work defining the artisans’ background.

Thenzawl is an important hub of the traditional Mizo handloom industry, which produces rich and colorful varieties of Mizo textiles. Since the forests in the Northeastern region of India are conducive for the growth of bamboo, Mizoram is a treasure trove of crafts that are made from the plant. The state’s cane craft is also quite propular. Men and women, young and old, weave fine cane or bamboo with consummate skill into exquisite and highly durable items such as baskets, hats, furniture and other decorative items. Currently there are 821 handloom units in Thenzawl. Students are trained in handloom, woodwork, cane and bamboo works here, making local handloom and handicrafts into a viable commercial activity. Thenzawl is now being developed by the government as a ‘Handloom City’.

To give fillip to the handloom and handicraft industries, an Apparel and Garment Making Centre has been initiated in Aizawl by the government, followed by the opening of a Weavers’ Service Centre, to provide technical assistance, designs and marketing opportunity to all weavers and address their concerns in the sector.

FAST FACTS

When to Go September–May

Tourist/ Permit Offices

Director, Directorate of Tourism, Aizawl, Mizoram, Tel: 0389-2335690, 2335677

Resident Commissioner, Mizoram House, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, Tel: 011-26153563/ 65, 26145401, W mizotourism.nic.in

Inner Line Permits

Domestic tourists need to take an Inner Line Permit (₹130) to visit Mizoram, easily obtained from the addresses above

GETTING THERE

State Mizoram

Location To the north of The Tropic of Cancer, at an elevation of 1,132m Distance 492km S of Guwahati

Route from Guwahati Take NH40 to Shillong Bypass Road, then take NH44 till Bairabi Road; turn right onto NH54 to Aizawl

Air Aizawl’s Lengpui Airport (45km/ 1hr) is connected to Kolkata. A cab to town from here will charge about ₹1,300 for a drop

Rail Nearest railhead: Silchar (140km/ 6hrs). Independent Sumo taxi costs about ₹4,000; sharing ₹300–400 per head, to Aizawl

Road NH37 and NH40 from Guwahati to Shillong; from Shillong take NH44 to Silchar via Jowai. From Silchar drive straight down NH54 (ends near Myan­mar) to Aizawl via Sonaimukh, Kola­sib and Mualvum Bus Private buses (along with Sumo taxis cost ₹11,000; sharing ₹1,100 per head) also serve the Guwahati-Aizawl route regularly