The capital of India’s eastern-most state, Imphal, enjoys a beautiful setting surrounded as it is by verdant hills, rivers and forests. This tiny city, which has become a bustling commercial centre over the years, still seems to be stuck in a time warp as it retains many vestiges of its splendid past.


Once the home of the royal families of Manipur, Imphal remained peaceful till it was occupied by the British Empire in 1891. There were many battles thereafter, including the Anglo-Manipur War in the same year, and the Battle of Imphal during World War II. The region gained independence with the rest of the country in 1947.


Kangla Palace and Fort

Located in the heart of Imphal, the Kangla Palace was once the centre of power for the Meetei rulers of Manipur, and is the most important historical and archaeological site in the state. The palace grounds once extended on both sides of the Imphal River, but now remains only on the western side.

Phumdis of varying sizes on the surface of Loktak Lake
Phumdis of varying sizes on the surface of Loktak Lake
Sanjoy Ghosh

Manipur was ruled by a long line of kings, starting from the mythical God-king Nongda Lairen Pakhangba in 33 CE. The reign of the last king, Maharaj Kulachandra, came to an end in 1891 CE, and after the British defeated the Manipur Kingdom in the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, they occupied the Kangla Fort for more than a century.

After independence, the Assam Rifles occupied it until 2004, but were met with stiff opposition from the locals who consider the palace their shrine. In recent years, the area was declared a protected area by the state government.

War Cemetery

The Imphal War Cemetery has 1,600 graves of British, Indian, Canadian, African, Australian and Burmese soldiers, who lost their lives in World War II. The cemetery is maintained by the Com-monwealth War Graves Commission. A bronze plaque and stone records the name and brief account of the sacrifice of each of the martyrs.

State Museum

Housing a very curious collection of artefacts, the State Museum is located very close to the polo ground. There are tribal costumes and other accessories on display. As the game of polo is said to have been invented in the ground in front of the museum, polo equipment used over the centuries is also on display here.

Other exhibits include the clothing, jewellery and other articles used by the erstwhile princes and princesses of the Manipur kingdom. An ornate royal boat measuring 78ft in length is also on display in the lawns outside the museum.

Kangla Gate, the west entrance to the Kangla Fort
Kangla Gate, the west entrance to the Kangla Fort
Courtesy Wikipedia


Excellent stay facilities are available in Imphal for tourists coming from all over the world. Hotel Nirmala (Tel: 0385-2458904, 2459014; Tariff: ₹800–5,000) on MG Avenue has 30 rooms and 15 suites, a restaurant, gym, Internet and a travel desk.

Hotel Anand Continental (Tel: 2449433; Tariff: ₹1,400–1,600) at Thangal Bazaar on Khoyathong Road has 30 rooms, a restaurant, travel desk and Internet services. Hotel Yaiphaba (Tel: 2460496/ 570, Cell: 08014847496; Tariff: ₹1,900–4,500) also in Thangal Bazaar can be found on MG Avenue.

Hotel Imphal (Tel: 2421373, 2423372; Tariff: ₹2,214–6,920) and The Classic Hotel (Tel: 2443967/ 2423369; Tariff: ₹2,410–7,890) are in North AOC.

Loktak Lake

The largest freshwater lake of the Northeast never ceases to amaze visitors. Loktak Lake has multiple ring-shaped land masses floating on it that are known as phumdis or phumshongs. Some of these are big enough to accommodate a couple of huts inhabited by local families. The lake is referred to as a miniature island sea and a bird’s-eye view of this water body is simply indescribeable. These phumdis are largely made up of weeds and are surrounded by colourful water plants and water chestnuts.


Keibul Lamjao National Park

The world’s only ‘floating’ national park is a popular destination on the travel itineraries of those visiting the Northeast. The park spreads across 40sq km and is actually located on a phumdi, on the southeastern part of the lake. The best time to visit this national park is between November and April.

One can see the endangered brow-antlered deer or sangai, which is indigenous to this area. Other species of deer seen here include the hog deer, sambar and muntjac. One of the most primitive primates, the slow loris, is found in scattered pockets on the hills.

Rare birds also inhabit the park. Waterfowl, winter migrants to the lake, are also found here, though their numbers are declining due to an increase of phumdis. The eastern white stork, bamboo partridge and green peafowl are also found here. The black eagle and the shaheen falcon are some of the raptors seen here.

Location 40km S of Imphal


Basic accommodation is available here. In most places food has to be arranged by the visitor.

The Sendra Park and Resort (Tel: 0385-2443967/ 69; Tariff: ₹2,750) has cottages that overlook the lake. Another option is the Forest Rest House in Phubala, close to Loktak Lake. Contact the tourist office in Imphal for details.


When to Go Any time of the year; except the monsoon (June–October) Tourist Office

Tourist Information Centre, Directorate of Tourism, Imphal, Tel: 0385-2421046, 2450038

STD code Imphal 0385


Air Nearest airport: Tulihal Airport (7km/ 30mins) is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Guwahati. Taxi to Imphal costs ₹400–500. Rail and road journeys must be taken with caution due to uncertain political conditions in Manipur

Rail Nearest railhead: Dimapur (219km/ 7hrs) in Nagaland, is linked to Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Guwahati. Taxi ride costs ₹4,000–6,000 a day, and includes charges of fuel, vehicle and driver. Rates vary according to season

Road Imphal is connected to all major cities in the Northeast, but the road journeys are often unsafe. From Guwahati (482km/ 8hrs), NH37 to Nagaon; NH36 to Dimapur; NH39 (Indo-Burma Road) to Imphal