Northeast India Treks

While there is extraordinary trekking potential in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, strict government regulation and red tape makes it difficult, and illegal in some cases, to trek independently.

Sikkim and Darjeeling

To legally trek at higher altitudes in Sikkim you need a permit (obtainable through a travel agent) and a guide.  Low altitude treks such as the "monastic loop" do not require permits and are easy to do independently.  In addition to enter Sikkim a permit is also required, this permit is issued free of charge in Siliguri, Darjeeling and the Rangpo border post.  The permit is valid for only 15 days but after that it may be renewed for another 15 days but you have to return to Gangtok to do it.  This means if you do trek here you need to do some careful planning so you are not out in the middle of nowhere when your permit expires.  There are only two routes that really qualify as Himalayan treks open in Sikkim both require additional permits.  The permit for the Goecha La trek is easy to obtain assuming you go through a travel agent and have a guide, the other trek is the Green Lake trek which is a much more difficult permit to obtain.  I wouldn't recommend trying to do it without a permit.  If you have your own camping gear it may be possible to hike around the check point at the edge of Yuksom and do the Goecha La trek independently without a permit.  I'm not sure what the chances of someone asking for a permit further up or turning you if they found you without a permit would be, but I would guess it would be pretty low.  It is a beautiful trek especially in the spring when the rhododendrons are blooming.  It's also the only trek I've done in the Himalayas with a guide, not because it was necessary to find the way (its pretty straightforward route finding), but rather for the legal reasons.

The Singalila Ridge Trek from Darjeeling used to be a popular easily independently done trek and then the powers that be took a page out of neighboring Sikkim's book and started requiring an unnecessary guide to do it.  The whapping 350 INR a day for the mandatory guide has kept me away form this trek, although the views of the distant Himalayas including Mt. Everest are supposed to be quite good, weather permitting.  I've heard of at least one person who talked his way through by telling them he did the trek before and didn't have a guide (when it wasn't required).  I'm also not sure about the possibly of using alternate entry points and hiking around check points to avoid the guide.  For me it was simpler to just trek somewhere else.

Best Season:  April-May and September-November

Base Cities: Darjeeling (Shared Jeeps and Buses from Siligiri), Gangtok (Shared Jeeps and Buses from Siligiri), Siligiri (Train and Flights from Delhi or Calcutta)

Guide book/MapsLonely Planet Trekking in the Indian Himalaya

Arunachal Pradesh

Arunachal Pradesh has recently become much less restrictive than it used to be.  It is now possible to get a month long permit to the state for 2 people for $100, where under the old rules you needed 4 people and you where only given 10 days.  With a month long permit Arunachal becomes a much more feasible Trekking destination.  You will need to bring all of your own camping gear and supplies and make sure you write down all the towns on your proposed route when you apply for the permit to the state.  Both the Tawang and Menchuka regions appear to offer a great deal of trekking potential. The trick will be finding maps and routes, it may be worth enlisting the services of a local guide as there is very little information written about trekking in Arunachal.

Best Season:  April-May and September-November

Base City: Tawang (Shared Jeeps and Buses from Tezpur or Guwahati, Assam)

Guide book/MapsLonely Planet Trekking in the Indian Himalaya

Indie T&T Reviews of Guidebooks & Maps

Published: 2009-10-01
4
Indie T&T Review in Brief

Decent book and really the only option for treks in India outside of Ladakh.  Maps are useable and better than most you can find in India.  Descriptions are brief but adequate.  I've used the book quite successfully on many occasions, so for the treks it covers it does the job. It does cover a lot of treks in a relatively compact space, Treks covered include: Himachal Pradesh Treks: Jagatsukh to Hampta Pass, Chandrakani Pass, Chandra Tal & Baralacha La, Bara Bhangal, Pin Parvati to Spiti, Indrahar Pass, Kareri Lake Circuit, Manimahesh Kailash, Kugti Pass,  Uttarakhand Treks: Rupin Pass, Har Ki Dun, Dodi Tal, Source of the Ganges, Khatling Glacier, Valley of the Flowers, Kuari Pass, Roopkund, Pindari Glacier, Milam Glacier, Darjeeling & Sikkim: Singalila Ridge, Goecha La

Published: 2001-08-01
3
Indie T&T Review in Brief

Although out of print, you can still find it used as well as new in some book shops in India. In addition to treks, Trekking and Climbing in the Indian Himalaya, covers many trekking peaks as well as a couple more technical ones.  I used this book as an outline when I climbed Chamser Kangri in Ladakh.  The practical information is pretty brief on the treks and climbs themselves and there is a lot of extra nonessential information and pictures that makes it pretty heavy to trek with, but the book covers some interesting routes and peak not covered elsewhere.  If you can get your hands on a copy it worth a browse to get some ideas.

Published: 2013-10-01
3
Indie T&T Review in Brief

Lonely Planet is still probably the best guide book for logistics in India though I find it seems to get worse with each edition instead of better, and its monopolistic popularity mean that any place mentioned in the book is likely no longer a good deal when it comes to accommodations.  Still when it comes to the nuts and bolts of getting around, maps ect, LP is still probably the way to go.