The oval-shaped Imphal valley holds not only the capital city but the beautiful Loktak Lake as well. Imphal, with the Kangla Fort at its centre, continues to be the seat of power as it has been for centuries. When it comes to Manipur, all roads do lead to Imphal. The city connects with every other district, making getting away from the hustle-bustle easy.
The largest freshwater lake in the Northeast, Loktak Lake into which the five major rivers of Manipur and their tributaries flow, is a beautiful aquatic ecosystem, where the lives of the people are not unlike the Hollywood blockbuster, Waterworld. Loktak itself means ‘stream’s end’ in Meitei and is spread across a catchment area of nearly 1,000 sq km. With newly coming up eco-stays and spectacular views of night fishing, a night out at Loktak is a must-do while at Manipur. The sunrise over the lake is a sight to behold.
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Manipur’s valleys and hills provide an ideal landscape for a range of adventure sports. From rock climbing to long treks, adventure activities are aplenty. With a potential influx of tourists and a growing number of Manipuris attracted by the great outdoors, the variety of adventure activities and facilities available are only getting better. From rock climbing and rafting at the Lamtan Adventure Leadership Park to trekking through Shirui lilies in Ukhrul, there are a range of options available not too far from Imphal. The best season for adventure activities in Manipur is between the months of October to May. The Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association is your best bet for adventure escapes.
Ukhrul is a beautiful hill district lying at a distance of 80km from Imphal. The prominent inhabitants of these hills are the Tangkhul Nagas who trace their ancestry back to China. Ukhrul is famous for its scenic beauty and delicious Naga cuisine and culture. Despite the bumpy roads to Ukhrul the possibility of sighting a Shirui lily makes the ride more than worthwhile. At Ukhrul the arts and crafts on offer, such as the Longpi Pot, and visiting the Shirui village, and if you’re lucky, catching a glimpse of the famed Shirui lily are some of the delights on offer. While in Ukhrul you can also visit the Khangkhui Caves and if you have the luxury of time, the Khayang waterfalls which lies on Myanmar’s border.
A state steeped in a rich culture and longstanding history- there are many sights in and around Imphal which keep its past legacy alive. The Mutua Bahadur Museum and Culture Complex in Andro preserves and promotes the traditional architecture and customs of the various Manipuri people. At Andro, the Panam Ningthou Temple, where a sacred fire is kept alive, is one of the holiest sites for the Meitei people as well. In Imphal itself the Kangla Fort, the state museum and the Shree Govindajee Temple are a must-visit on any heritage-seeker’s list.
While World War II is largely seen as a battle that did not touch India, Manipur’s history says otherwise and is a grim reminder of the ravages of the deadly 20th Century world war. The Battle of Imphal raged for three months from March to July 1944. The three-hour Battle of Imphal tour takes you to the major sites of the battle, where the losses incurred during the war are still a living memory. The tour covers the sites of the war in this region. This includes the Koirengei airfield, one of six airfields constructed during the war at Imphal, Nungshigum, the closest the Japanese army got to Imphal city, and the Imphal War Cemetery, home to the graves of Commonwealth soldiers, including Britons, Australians, Canadians, Indians, East and West Africans and Burmese.
This excerpt has been taken from Lonely Planet’s Short Escapes from Imphal.