Assam acquired its sobriquet ‘Land of Blue Hills’ from Haflong, which is located in Dima Hasao District. This pretty town is tucked between the hills of southern Assam, which are primarily inhabited by the tribes of Dimasa, Jeme-Naga, Hmar, Kuki, Biate, Hrangkhol, Khelma, Jaintia, Karbi and Vaiphei. Here you will find blue hills, scenic rivers and rumbling waterfalls, and best of all, it is still relatively undiscovered. Haflong’s people are friendly, and happily and readily tend to their orange orchards and pineapple gardens.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The advantage of being off the beaten path is that the drive into Haflong is a quiet one, which gives you the chance to enjoy the scenery – hills rise up on one side while the other side drops into a valley. The town is small enough to be discovered on foot. Walk through the narrow alleys leading to the little villages guarded by the bamboo canopy or follow the orchid trails without worrying about getting lost. There are numerous small treks here and one can also try paragliding. And if you are a birding enthusiast, then this place might just prove to be a treasure trove. The town sits around Haflong Lake. Chances are you will be staying right next to it, in which case you’ll see the lake every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep. The sweeping views of the valley from the Circuit House, which sits on top of a hill, will leave you breathless and wishing that you could see such beauty everyday. Here, the clouds hang low and surround you in a gentle mist.

Swapan Nayak
Mist-covered hills and lush foliage, Jatinga
Mist-covered hills and lush foliage, Jatinga

If you time your visit to Haflong well, the orchards will be ripe with fruit. Orange, pineapple and gin­ger are produced in huge quantities here. Ask around about which or­chard you can visit. Explore an or­chard, eat the fruit, and then relax on the sweet-smelling grass under the mellow warmth of a pale sun.

Haflong Lake

This picturesque lake will almost make you feel like you’re in the gorgeous Lake District in England. One of the largest water bodies in Assam, Haflong Lake is great for boating and there are watersports on offer as well. If you’re not excited by the prospect of physical activity, then simply take a relaxing stroll along the lake’s periphery. The hanging bridge, which stretches across the waters is the perfect spot for a photo op.

Swapan Nayak
A train crossing a bridge over densely wooded hills, Haflong
A train crossing a bridge over densely wooded hills, Haflong

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Haflong has the best accommoda­tion options in Dima Hasao and it is wise to visit the surrounding places from here. You can stay at Ho­tel Landmark (Tel: 03673-239009, Cell: 09957189229; Tariff: ₹4,499), a luxury option near Haflong Lake. The hotel offers a multi-cuisine restaurant, bar and swimming pool. Hotel Elite (Tel: 237250; Tariff: ₹600–1,100) and Nathao Lodge (Tel: 236112; Tariff: ₹600–1,800) are oth­er options. Here meals are arranged on request.

A few small restaurants near the main market will serve you a con­fusing meal of chowmein, chicken curry, rice and roti. Be a little adven­turous and ask around for places to try local cuisine.

Around Haflong

Jatinga (10km)

Jatinga is a short drive south of Halflong and is famous – or rather infamous – for the mysterious bird suicides that happen at this village. Like a story out of a scary novel, on a moonless monsoon night, when the air is heavy with mist and fog, the bizarre phenomenon of this place commences. From the higher perches, with their wings closed, birds jump towards the tiniest sliver of light. Some hit the ground or a tree with a thud, while others fall prey to the bamboo poles and catapults of the local villagers.

Various studies have revealed that at least 44 species of birds are attracted towards light within a particular stretch of the forest of Jatinga. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to various reasons, from the peculiar weather of this season to the breeding habits of these birds. But whatever it is, it does evoke mystery, and nature enthusiasts flock to this place to witness these supposed suicides.

On a lighter note, Jatinga is also an outstanding place for Orchid lovers.

Thuruk (38km)

The only place in the district of Dima Hasao to witness snowfall in winter, Thuruk is a trekker’s paradise. This quaint village, not too far from Haflong, is very well known for the hospitality of its villagers.

Maibang (50km)

About 50km away from Haflong, on the banks of the River Mahur, lies the ancient town of Maibang. Once the capital of Dimacha Kingdom of the Kachari rulers (16th–18th century), Maibang is now one of the regional headquarters of the Dima Hasao District. Maibang is blessed with a scenic landscape and ornamented with the ruins and monuments of its erstwhile rulers.

Maibang’s famous attraction is the Ramchandi Temple. This two-roofed monolithic temple is an architectural wonder, having been chiselled out of a single rock. It bears inscriptions dating back to 1761 CE.

Umrangso Valley (110km)

The undulating Umrangso Valley falls on the route between Shillong and Haflong. About 110km from Haflong, Umrangso’s beauty can rival any village in Europe. There is a hot water spring in the River Kopili, believed to have curative powers.

The Kopili Tea Estate is also a great place to visit. The beauty of this place warrants a stopover of a day or two. There are a few lodging options here including the NEEPCO Guest House, PWD Guest House and DC’s Inspection Bungalow.

Panimoor (120km)

Lying at a distance of 120km from Halflong, Panimoor’s main attraction is the surging waterfall formed by the River Kopili. It is also a sacred site of the Dimasa tribe. Every year during the winter, on the day of Magh Purnima, people of the Dimasa tribe take holy baths in the river.

FAST FACTS

When to go November–March

Tourist Offices

Directorate of Assam, Government of Assam, Station Road, Guwahati, Tel: 0361-2547102, 2544475

W assamtourism.gov.in

Tourist Information Office, B-1, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, New Delhi, Tel: 011-23345897, STD code 03673

GETTING THERE

State Assam

Location This hill station is located in the district of Dima Hasao

Distance 298km SE of Guwahati, 96km NE of Silchar

Route from Guwahati Take NH37 till Bar Pathari Sutar Gaon, turn to NH36 and take NH627 via

Dehangi, Gunjung Route from Silchar NH54 via Jatinga 

Air Nearest airport: Silchar (105km/ 3hrs) is connected with Kolkata, Guwahati and Tezpur by Air India and Jet Airways. Taxis cost ₹4,500 for a drop

Rail Nearest railhead: Halflong Station. At the time of research, the Lumding- Silchar line’s conversion into broad gauge was under progress and passenger services were to start soon. Please check for latest train schedules on the Indian Railway website (W indianrail.gov.in) at the time of booking

Road From Guwahati NH37 to Jorabat; NH40 to Shillong via Nangpoh; NH44 to Silchar via Jowai, NH54 to Haflong via Barakhala and Jatinga Bus State transport and private buses ply from Guwahati and Lumding. Tata Sumo services available from Silchar