Northeast India's second largest city, Imphal is an underrated tourist destination. It serves as the gateway to a rich set of experiences in Manipur, but the town itself is worth checking out. For tourists, the city’s big attractions are its location, in the heart of a lush valley, and the ruins of the Palace of Kangla.
Best time to visit: September to April is the best time to explore the city as the weather remains pleasant offering the best holiday experience.
How to reach
By Air: The nearest airport in Imphal is Imphal International Airport, 8km away from the city center. IndiGo operates non-stop flights between Imphal and Kolkata, Guwahati and Agartala.
By Train: There is no railway station in Imphal. The nearest railway junction to Imphal is Dimapur (215km away from the city). Few of the famous trains from Dimapur includes Guwahati Rajdhani and New Delhi Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express, but the trains do not run on a daily basis, so it is advised to check the schedule before booking.
By Bus: Imphal is equipped with several state-run buses from Nagaland and buses from Manipur Bus Corporation connects neighbouring towns with the city.
Getting around: Taxis and auto-rickshaws are the standard modes of transportation in the city. While there is a new mode of transport known as TATA magic (small vans) that runs of shared basis.
A favourite with the locals, this is where to stop for an authentic Manipuri thali (they serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian variants) which features sticky black rice with vegetables, an accompanying juice and more.
Serving just dal, rice and 4-5 chicken dishes, OK Hotel is known for its quick turnaround of orders and its consistency. Our recommendation? Get the OK chicken curry with the rice and dal—it’s what the regulars order.
For that craving Chinese food, the momos and steamed fish are what to order at this eatery located close to RIMS Institute. If you happen to stop by in the rains, get the hot and sour soup, which will warm you as you wait out the weather.
With everything from coffee to noodles to grilled prawns on the menu, this is an eatery that has something for everyone. Known for its chicken wings, you can come back to try something new at every meal.
Keithel market: Your best bet when it comes to shopping in the city is to visit the Ima Keithel market, a market that sees only women vendors selling everything from meat and fish to local handicrafts. Among the goods you’ll find for sale are phaneks (sarongs), innephis (stoles) and more. It is also known as Khwairamband Bazaar and is a must-visit.
Tera Bazaar: It is another market worth checking out for traditional handicrafts like woven textiles and mats made of water reeds. While wandering around the city, it’s also worth keeping your eyes peeled for stone carvings and local hand embroidery.
The Classic Hotel, North AOC The unanimous winner for the best hotel in the city is this three-star property that overlooks Kangla Fort. The 55 rooms feature modern amenities like televisions (though you should ask for those that have to air-condition, as some don’t). The in-house Classic Café and Rita Café are great places to grab a bite before heading out for a day of sightseeing.
Hotel Imphal, North AOC Clean, well-decorated and spacious rooms, complemented by staff that is polite and professional. Managed by the company behind The Classic Hotel, this is another reasonable option in the city. Don’t forget to take some time out and wander around the garden full of roses and other flowers.
Hotel Anand Continental, Khoyathong Road Within walking distance of Ima Market, this hotel is a great budget option for those that prize location. There is a spa on the premises, and everyone from the receptionist to the housekeeping team makes you feel at home for the duration of the trip, making it a functional property at which to bed down for the night.
Youth Hostel, Khuman Lampak Sports Complex You may have to wait for hot water every morning, and there’s no Wi-fi or any provision for Internet at all since this is the most basic accommodation in Imphal. Best for those looking to rough it out.
Loktak Lake: Imphal Tourism offers picturesque views to all its tourists. Those seeking out natural beauty should drive further down from the INA Museum to the banks of Loktak Lake, where there is an array of adventure sports available for the brave, boating, windsurfing... take your pick. Loktak Lake has many "floating islands", some of which make for excellent picnic spots.
Shri Govindji Temple and ISKCON temple: For the devout, Imphal has the Shri Govindji Temple, and the beautiful ISKCON Temple, which has an architecture that brings together local elements with traditional temple layouts.
Kohima, the capital of the neighbouring state of Nagaland, is an excellent option for those looking for a weekend getaway—it’s about five hours or 140km away from Imphal. While there, make sure to explore the rolling hills and get to know the culture of the local Angami tribe. Within the state, Tamenglong is a district that is well known for its flora and fauna—home to wild orchids, lush forests and indigenous wildlife. Wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers will enjoy visiting the area. Ukhrul is another option for those looking to reconnect with nature, though getting to Ukhrul is harder than Tamenglong. If you do go, remember to come back with a bag of the local Nilai Tea.
It comes as no surprise that Imphal is a haven for nature lovers, especially those that want to explore the neighbouring topography to discover the local wildlife. Visit the Khonghampat Orchidarium to see a variety of exotic flowers, while Sirohi National Park is an excellent option for wildlife aficionados as you get to look at leopards and tigers which are both said to roam in the forest. Popular, especially with Japanese tourists, is Red Hill—the site of a peace memorial that commemorates a Second World War battle. Also, worth visiting is the Mapal Kangjeibung ground, which is said to be one of the oldest polo grounds in the world. In fact, local says that the British saw Sagol Kangei (as the game called in Manipur) and adopted the game before exporting it to their colonies all over the world. And of course, how can you not visit Heingang village, which has seven shrines dedicated to Lord Marjing, the god of polo!