Manipur Tourism generally does not ring a bell, except probably for the Loktak Lake, which is reasonably famous. However, make no mistake! With a big infrastructure push going on and with the India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway gradually connecting it to the rest of South East Asia, big changes are coming.
Jawaharlal Nehru once called Manipur the “Jewel of India”. He might have been inspired by the name of the place (Mani=Jewel) but in general, he was not wrong. Manipur is remote, barely explored, and not always easy to explore. But the natural, cultural, and historical riches are beyond comparison. It is the land of an ancient civilization, set amidst a setting as picturesque as you can imagine.
The history of Manipur dates back to 1500 BC according to local scriptures. While one can debate the historicity of the same, that itself makes it worth a few dozen research papers. Evidence of caves with pre-historic human-settlements has also been found. Manipur is the birthplace of polo, it has its own version of rugby, martial arts, and classical dance forms. It also has its own mythology and religion. Although most of the Meiteis have gradually become Hindus, various elements of their original customs still remain. The most prominent example of the same is Pakhangba, the deity that appears as a heraldic dragon almost everywhere in Manipur.
The present state of Manipur, which came into existence in 1971, covers a smaller area compared to the glory days of the kingdom and is a combination of plains as well as hills. The valley around Imphal and Loktak Lake is primarily inhabited by the Meiteis or the Manipuri people who lends the name to this state. The hilly regions are inhabited by Kukis, as well as many Naga clans such as the Tangkhuls of Ukhrul and Zeliangrongs of Tamenglong District.
Manipur has huge potential for tourism although, as is the case in the Northeast, a lot of regions, especially in the hills, have not been fully explored and lacks proper infrastructure. As of now, the area around Imphal and Moirang, including the famous Loktak Lake remains the most popular and easily accessible destination followed by the border town of Moreh and the hill town of Ukhrul.
Unlike most other states in the NE, Manipur does not require any permits to visit as of now. You can fly directly to Imphal, or in case you take the road, you will have to go through Assam and Nagaland to reach Manipur. Major tourist areas including Imphal, Loktak, Ukhrul, and Moreh have good tourist facilities including hotels, homestays, and restaurants.
Manipur Tourism Map
While the possibilities are endless for Manipur Tourism, bulk of the state, especially the remote hill areas, are yet to have the infrastructure conducive for the same. Some of these areas are so remote and psychologically disconnected with the rest of the country that only serious explorers venture into them.
Imphal is the capital of Manipur. It is not only the current capital but a historical capital with thousands of years of history. The Kangla Fort Complex is the heart of the city is a treasure trove of history lovers. It also has two major World War II cemeteries, the iconic mother’s market, and scores of other attractions in and around the city.
Moirang Loktak Lake
The Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the region with its unique ecology and landscape. You can stay here in a floating homestay on the lake, which also encompasses the Keibul Lamjao Floating National Park.
Out of all the hill districts of Manipur, Ukhrul is the most developed in terms of tourism. There are decent hotels and service providers and a bona fide tourism scene, which is absent in other hill districts in spite of their population. The Shirui Hills here is a famous trek, known for the annual Shirui Lily blossoms.
Moreh is the frontier town, the gateway to Myanmar, and a major point in the aforementioned Trans Asian Highway. You can cross over the border and visit the Burmese town of Tamu too. It is a busy marketplace where you can find exotic stuff that you will not see otherwise.