North-East India is one of the remotest areas of the country. The seven northeastern states are collectively known as Seven Sisters and offer a wide type of attraction for travelers. The states in this region are mostly untouched by most travelers, and it was only the recent years when tourism boomed. Although traveling flourished in the area, it is mainly confined to three northeastern states, i.e., Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya.
The other four states are relatively untouched by travelers, and at the same time, less information is available in the public domain. One such state among them is the state of Manipur. The word Manipur means “Jewel State” and India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru rightly called Manipur the “Jewel of India.” Manipur is known for its rich history, a wide range of flora and fauna, and cultural amalgamation. The game of Polo originated in Manipur, and the state hosts the only floating National Park in the world. The state has a lot to offer to travelers, yet tourists less visit it as compared with other northeastern states of India. Therefore, in this post, I will be sharing some famous places to visit in Manipur, and I hope it will reignite travelers to visit this beautiful state of India.
What could be the best place to start your journey other than the state capital Imphal. The town was the ancient royal seat of the former Kingdom of Manipur, and it is evident from the city architecture. Imphal is famous for its temples, markets, and natural landscape. The first step in exploring Manipur is to understand the state and what could be the best place to start other than the State Museum. The Manipur State Museum is one of the best-maintained museums in North-East India. The state museum is a vast museum and stores relevant information about the state and northeastern India. The museum depicts History, Geography, wildlife, culture, and other information related to Manipur. Photography is strictly prohibited, and cellphones and cameras are not allowed. Adjacent to the state museum lies the Polo Ground (Mapal Kangjeibung in Manipuri Language), which hosts the annual polo tournament during the Sangai Festival. As mentioned in the beginning, Manipur is the birthplace of the game of Polo, and it is evident from many polo grounds in the state. Yet the Polo Ground in the Imphal city is the most visited among all.
Eight hundred meters from the state museum lies the famous Kangla Palace. It is situated on the banks of Imphal River and a major tourist attraction of the city. Kangla Palace hosts a few temples within its compound, depicting the influence of religion on the Manipuri culture. Within the fort compound lies the Shree Govindajee Temple with Govindajee as its primary deity. Govandajee is another name of god Vishnu, who is one of the three principal deities of Hinduism. Ebudhou Pakhangba Temple, Site of Lord Wangbaren, and Field Marshal General Slim’s Cottage are a few more things to see while visiting the palace.
After Kangla Palace and Govindajee Temple, the next place to visit is the Imphal War Cemetery. Imphal War was one of the significant and brutal battles fought during the Second World War. The struggle is also known as the “Stalingrad of the East,” and in 2013, the British National Army Museum voted the Battle of Kohima and Imphal as one of the greatest battles in British History. The war cemetery has graves of 1600 commonwealth soldiers, mostly from the British Army. Unlike the Kohima War Cemetery, the Imphal War cemetery spreads over a vast area. The cemetery is well maintained and lies three kilometers from the Kangla Palace and can be reached by walking.
If you are not exhausted by visiting the above places, there are a few more places to visit in Imphal. The Ima Market, also known as Mother’s Market or Nupi Keithel (Manipur language), is the biggest in Asia run by women. The market spreads over a vast compound and has shops that sell everything ranging from grocery, vegetables, fish and clothes. The distinctive feature is that all the shops are owned and ran by women. While in most of the world and India patriarchy is still patronized, the IMA market proves that women as no less than men. It is advisable to visit the market in the evening when all shops are open, and people come out to buy daily stuff. Interacting with women and understanding how they balance the work and household duties will increase your respect for them. If you are a food enthusiast, there are many famous eateries in Imphal, and all are situated in the area surrounding the above sites. Enjoying dinner at Luxmi Kitchen or non-veg at Naoba’s Chakhumang is a must to do while visiting Imphal.
The next place to visit in Manipur and Imphal is the Andro Village. It lies on the outskirts of the Imphal city at a distance of 25 kilometers and requires 45 minutes of drive. It is an old-fashioned village famous for its historical artifacts. The village hosts manuscripts and ancient utensils used by the people of Manipur. Visiting the cultural heritage complex (a hut shaped house) will give you a glimpse of how the tribes used to live in old times.
Loktak Lake is the biggest attraction of Manipur, and it lies 50 kilometers south of the capital in Moirang. Loktak Lake is the biggest freshwater lake in northeastern India, and it is famous for its abundant aquatic life. The lake hosts more than 400 species of marine animals and many species of fish, which form the main diet of Manipuri People. The lake spreads over an area of 287 km2 (111 sq mi), and there are many small islands within the lake inhabited by the locals. The island of Thanga, Karang, and Ithing is the biggest while Sandra Island has a tourist guest house, restaurant, and some fantastic sites to get a perfect view of the lake. Loktak Lake plays a vital role in the economy of Manipur. It is a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation, and drinking water supply. Phumdi (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matter at various stages of decomposition) floats over the Loktak Lake and acts as a natural habitat of one of the endangered deer species of the world known as the Sangai Deer.
The Phumdis stagnate at one end of the Loktak Lake, and there they cover an area of 40 sq.km, thereby forming the only floating national park in the world, also known as the Keibul Lamjao National Park. The Keibul Lamjao National Park is the only national park in the world that floats over water and is home to Sangai Deer. They were once declared extinct in 1950, yet in 1953, six Sangai spotted in the natural park, and the government quickly took action to preserve them. Today the count is more than 260 and is one of the main attractions of the national park. Sangai is the state animal of Manipur, and every year in November Sangai festival is organized by the state government and attracts visitors from all over the region. The Keibul Lamjao National Park is open for tourists from 6 AM to 12 PM and then again from 2 PM to 6 PM. The forest department has built a watchtower fitted with telescopes to watch Sangai. Moreover, a boat ride within the park will clear any doubt if the park floats over water, or it is just a hoax.
After Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao National Park, the next attraction in Moirang is the INA War Museum. The INA or the Indian National Army was an army formed by Indian Nationalists under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The primary aim of INA was to gain independence from British rule with the help of the Empire of Japan. The museum has old photographs and documents explaining chronology of Nataji’s travel to the world and seeking support from countries. The INA Museum also showcases the arms and ammunition used during the World War-II and other important information showing the contribution of Manipuri people in the struggle of India’s freedom.
These three places in Moriang will consume the entire day. If still, someone wants to enjoy nature, he/she can again visit the Loktak Lake in the evening and enjoy as the sun sets over the lake. Spending night and interacting with locals and understanding how the population in this part of India flourishes away from the bustling crowd of cities. The town of Moriang is although not a significant town yet it has almost all the facilities from a tourist point of view. Good restaurants, shops, and hotels, everything is available in Moriang as it is the second most visited town in Manipur.
The next destination in Manipur is the border town of Moreh. Moreh town is on the International Border of India-Myanmar and lies 110 kilometers from Imphal. Enroute Moreh, tourists can visit the Khongjom War Memorial built for the martyrs of the Khongjom War, also known as the Anglo-Manipur War. The war was fought between the British Empire and the Kingdom of Manipur, where the British forces won the battle, establishing a stronghold on Manipur. After visiting the Khongjom War Memorial, the next place to visit is Moreh via a drive through the hills of Tengnoupal.
Moreh is also known as the commercial capital of Manipur as well as north-east India. The Integrated Check Post at Moreh facilitates the trade between India and Myanmar as well as to other countries of South-East Asia. A visit to Moreh requires driving through the dense forest and hills of Manipur. Moreh lies in the Chandel district of Manipur, and it is one of the few hill districts of Manipur. Another reason for visiting Moreh is that Indian citizens can cross the border and visit the town of Tamu in Myanmar without a visa. The FRM policy enables Indian citizens to visit the village across the Myanmar border up to 16 kilometers without visa restriction. Tamu in Myanmar famous for its market and Buddhist Pagodas. Enjoying local snacks in Tamu with Myanmar Beer is a must to do the thing while visiting Moreh. The road from Imphal to Moreh is in excellent condition (thanks to the trade), and one can reach after a drive of three to four hours. Clicking pictures of the India-Myanmar Friendship Gate and India-Myanmar Friendship Road is a few things to do apart from enjoying Myanmar Beer.
If you are interested in exploring more of the hills of Manipur, then Ukhrul is a must-visit place. Ukhrul is one of the sixteen districts of Manipur and famous for its hills and picturesque view. The hills are also renowned for Shirui lily, the state flower of Manipur, and grows in abundance. A trek to Shirui Peak covered will Lilly flower is all a traveler wants while visiting any destination. Shirui Festival is celebrated in Ukhrul in the month of September-October, and if you are visiting Ukhrul, you can see the Shirui Lily blooming atop Shirui Hills. The road leading to Ukhrul is not in good shape and requires four hours to cover a mear distance of 80 kilometers. Yet all the pain endured during the drive is worths the town has a lot to offer to travelers, especially to the nature lovers. There are limited accommodations available in Ukhrul, and mostly homestay facilities are available. Therefore, if one is planning to visit Ukhrul, make a reservation before visiting the town. Although the hospitality sector is catching speed, and when I visited Ukhrul, I saw two hotels providing accommodation; still, it is better to confirm the reservation.
Rice is the main diet of Manipuri people, and it is extensively grown in the area surrounding Imphal Valley. Yet the rice fields of Senapati are more popular due to the use of terrace farming. The Senapati district lies at an elevation of 2500 meters above the sea level, and it is known for two things. One for the rice cultivation on step farming method and second the Dzukou Valley. The Dzukou Valley is the most popular trek circuit in north-east India. Although most of the valley lies in Manipur, its entrance is in Nagaland, 16 kilometers from the Manipur-Nagaland Border. The valley is famous for a wide range of flora, and thousands of visitors visit and trek the Dzukou Valley every year. Mon Gate in Senapati district acts as the border between Manipur and Nagaland. If one is visiting Senapati, he/she can also visit the city of Kohima, capital of Nagaland.
There are a few more places to visit in Manipur, but those places are too far from the state capital, making it difficult for visitors to cover them. When I visited the state of Manipur, I was on my sixty days of a solo bike ride to northeast India and covered most of the places in Manipur. For example, the Churachandpur district is famous for the Khuga Dam, but after visiting the Loktak Lake visiting the Khuga Dam reservoir hardly holds importance. Similarly, the Tamenglong district is renowned for its caves like Tharon cave and Tharon Waterfall, but they lie 150 kilometers from the state capital. Moreover, the condition of the road is not excellent, and it might cause unwanted trouble. If someone is visiting Manipur for ten days or more, then visiting these places can be fruitful, but if you are visiting for a lesser number of days, it is better to stick with the sites mentioned in the article.
About Me: A History & Geography Lover and part-time travel enthusiast. An IT professional by job and in free time love to explore India on a motorcycle or watch documentaries. I manage my blog Knowledge of India, where I blog whenever I get free time.