Aizawl the capital of Mizoram, is situated at about 1132 meters above sea level. It is a beautiful and bustling 112 years old city set on ridges of steep hills. Flanked on the north by the craggy peaks of Durtlang, the hill city overlooks the valley of the river Tlawng and ranges of blue hill beyond.It is airlinked by daily flights from Kolkata and Guwahati. It is connected to Imphal by air and it accessible from Shillong, Guwahati and Silchar by road.
As of 2001 India census, Aizawl had a population of 228,280. Males constitute 50.80% of the population and females made up the remaining 49.20%. Mizos from various tribes make up the majority of the population. Christianity is the dominant religion in the city.Other religions include Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Lunglei is the second largest city of Mizoram and is also the headquarters of Lunglei district in Southern Mizoram. It is an ideal base for nature lovers for exploring the surrounding areas which are rich in flora and fauna, hamlets and landmarks linked with folklores and legends. A 175 kms drive from Aizawl, Lunglei is loftier than Aizawl, perched at an altitude of 1222 metres. An engraved image of Buddha found near Mualcheng village, about 50 kms from the town remains an enigma till date since no other Buddhist relics has been found elsewhere in the state.
As of 2001 India census, Lunglei had a population of 47,355. Males constitute 52% of the population and females 48%. Lunglei has an average literacy rate of 84%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 84%, and female literacy is 83%. In Lunglei, 14% of the population is under 6 years of age.
Champhai is a commercial town located near Myanmar border, 194 kms from Aizawl. Set on an altitude of 1678 metres, the town overlooks a patch of flat land which happens to be the largest plain area in the state and also commands a good view of the adjoining hill ranges of Myanmar from which the forefathers of the Mizos immigrated ages ago. The breezy hills around here are lush and strewn with beautiful rhododendron blossoms. Within a few kilometers away are some villages of historical significance where the age-old Mizo way of life is still preserved.
The town is 27 kms from Zokhawthar, the border township through which the Indo-Myanmar trade is being conducted and hence Champhai is an ideal shopping place for various imported goods. The town is also a convenient base for trekking and visiting landmarks and historical places in the vicinity including Rih Dil, the legendary lake located 5 kms within Myanmar which is associated with the Mizo Animist religion of yore.
Thenzawl is a village located at a distance of 43 kms from Aizawl. It was initially a dense forest with lots of wild animals before it was cultivated and inhabited in 1961. The Tropic of Cancer runs through this picturesque village. It is an important center of traditional Mizo handloom industry. The looms at Thenzawl produce rich and colorful varieties of handlooms. One can also observe the indigenous weaving techniques of the Mizos here and obtain Mizo handlooms at bargain prices.
Other tourist attractions at Thenzawl include Vantawng Waterfall which is located at a distance of 5 kms south of Thenzawl, Thenzawl Deer park which has several deer in its natural environment and Chawngchilhi Cave.
Hnahlan is a small village in Champhai district famous for its production of grapes and grape wine called Zawlaidi, meaning "Love Potion". About 80% of the families at Hnahlan are grape growers. Owing to this, it has become one of the most well-to-do villages in Mizoram and is aspiring to be the largest grape producer in India.Grape growers of Hnahlan village in Mizoram earn about Rs 150 lakhs annually. This was informed by leaders of Hnahlan Grape Growers Society to the journos who paid a visit to the village recently.
Of the total 560 families in Hnahlan village, around 400 families are grape growers, Hnahlan Grape Growers Society leaders said, adding that owing to the small winery, the grape growers are unable to sell all their produce. The Society leaders said that Hnahlan village produced 6600 quintals of grape this year, of which only 1400 quintals have been marketed. They said that they are waiting for the government to upgrade the winery, which will very much help the cultivators. At present, 1,20,000 litres of grape juice have been prepared for Zawlaidi, the Society leaders said, adding that due to inconstant power supply, work cannot progress as it ought to be, and further added that while there is more demand as Christmas is coming near, however, they could not meet the demand, the Society leaders informed the visiting journalists.
Zawlaidi is a local grape wine in Mizoram. In recent times, cut in tax on grape wine has helped boost the locally brewed grape wine Zawlaidi in sales in Mizoram.
So far during this year, Hnahlan Grape Growers Society had purchased 1350 quintals of grapes from the cultivators for brewing in the winery, while Champhai Winery also purchased 1200 quintals, leaders of Grape Growers Society informed.
Hnahlan Grape Growers Society leaders said that from this year onward Oak wood is included in the grape brewing which purifies the smell and lessened its sourness. And as it is brewed longer time than in other years, it is expected to be tastier and even healthier than that of the wine brewed in other years. After the government
has decreased the tax levied from grape wine (Zawlaidi) there has also been a good market so much so that the demand is not even met; therefore, by hiring more labourers, we have to work day and night continuously, leaders of the Grape Growers Society said.
Since there's a good sale, they could also clear up all the debts during last year, which amounts to Rs. 67 lakhs, and now, there is stock of canned 55,000 litres of grape juice, Grape Growers Society leaders said, and expressed their gratitude towards the government for its good support. They also informed that this year they have manufactured 750 ml bottle of grape wine; and even the government also allowed their request to permit manufacturing of 650 ml bottle, however this will not be manufactured by Hnahlan Winery, they informed. 650ml capacity bottle of grape wine will be sold from winery at wholesale rate Rs 95.
Champhai Winery also plans to manufacture 650ml bottle of grape wine from this year, and also will change its name to 'Zo Wine'; the change in the quantity- 650ml, owes to the decrease in the purchased rate, and the bottle becoming more handy now because of its light weight, and due to the expectation for easier purchase from Zokhawthar. Champhai Winery has 70,000 litres of unsold grape wine in stock now, and still could not pay its debt to the farmers from whom the grapes had been bought, sources informed.
It can be mentioned here that in the beginning of this year, Mizoram's Hnahlan and Champhai Grape Growers Society had expressed grave concern over their low sellings of the locally brewed grape wine, ‘Zawlaidi'.
Members of Hnahlan Grape Grower Society said, they have so far sold 37 thousand 8 hundred bottles out of 2 lakh bottles produced by them in this season. They also said, they cannot make payment to the farmers for procurement of their grape in the last harvest season.
During the year 2010, Mizoram after 13 years of prohibiting grape cultivators from producing wine has brought out Zawlaidi, a locally manufactured grape wine, thanks to the amendment of MLTP Act 1997 in 2007. The enthusiasm of the grape farmers has been fuelled by the amendment of the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition (MLTP) Act. The Act had earlier prevented them from large-scale commercialisation of their products and wine-making from grapes.
About 10 kms to the West of Aizawl sprawls a prominent mountain on which Reiek village is located. This is one destination that one should not miss visiting. The mountain itself, though appearing to be of gentle slopes on its eastern side,has spectacular rocky cliffs notched with caves and caverns with luxuriant natural forest preserved since the days of the Mizo chiefs. It is only an hour's drive from Aizawl for which taxis and private vehicles are available. The mountain road takes one through the lush green hills, crosses the Tlawng river as it gushes through a narrow rocky gorge, and then climbs up the hills winding up gradually to make a comfortable drive, during which one comes across a few cascades which are a photographer's delight.
Before reaching Reiek, one enters Ailawng, the village of Khuangchera, the great Mizo warrior of the 19th Century who was known for his unsurpassed heroic deeds and stubborn resistance to the early British army expedition that cost him his life. There still exists a cave here that named after him for only he had the courage to explore it fully in those days of taboos and superstitions. At Reiek, a typical Mizo village consisting of the distinctive traditional huts of different Mizo sub-tribes, Mizo chieftain's house, a bachelor dormitory,etc has been created and maintained by the Department of Tourism. This gives the visitors a peek into the glorious past of the valiant highlanders. A few modern houses have also been constructed nearby to show the changes that have taken place in the Mizo way of life in keeping pace with the modern developments. The Department also maintained a resort with cafeteria providing decent accommodation and food.
Located at a distance of 50 kms to the south of Aizawl, Hmuifang Mountain with an elevation of 1619 metres, is still covered with virgin forests reserved since the days of the Mizo chiefs. Hmuifang Tourist Resort, located at the scenic peak of the mountain, has been created and maintained by the Department of Tourism.
The resort was built on the former land of the erstwhile Mizo chief and offers an ideal getaway in the midst of nature. The resort has comfortable accommodation offering 6 double rooms and a cafeteria. The patches of grasslands on the peak are also ideal for picnics and outdoor camping. This is also the venue of the annual Anthurium Festival and Thalfavang Kut hosted by the Deparment of Tourism. From here, one may visit the Mizo villages situated on the hillsides – Hmuifang village, Sumsuih village, Lamchhip village and Chamring village to see the typical rural life of the Mizos.
The mountain also has beautiful cliffs and offers great views of the surrounding hills. To the nature lovers, the surrounding forests abound with fascinating varieties of flora including rare orchids and wildlife especially avifauna.
Located at a distance of about 137kms from Aizawl, Vantawng khawhthla or Vantawng Fall is the highest and most spectacular of all the waterfalls and cascades in the fast flowing rivers of Mizoram. It is located in Vanva river near Thenzawl and is named after Vantawnga who was said to be an excellent swimmer. So good a swimmer was Vantawnga that he could hover in the cascading water like a fish, but unfortunately during one of such performances, a drifting log fell from above and killed him.
The height of the fall is recorded as 750 ft and though it is difficult to get close to it because of the sheer forested hillsides surrounding it, a comfortable viewing tower has been constructed by the Tourism Department.
Literally "Lake of Mustard", Tam Dil is situated near Saitual Village, about 110 kms from Aizawl. Having been developed as an important pisciculture centre by the Fisheries Department and a holiday resort by the Tourism Department, this is one of the most frequented lakes in the state. The lake and the surrounding thick forest are home to wide species of trees, plants and animals.
According to folklore, a couple used to have a jhum cultivation in this small valley surrounded by hills, but the man died suddenly and left the woman to look after the crops alone. In the middle of the field, there was a mustard plant that was bigger than the others and one night the widow was told in her dreams by her dead husband to take special care of the mustard plant which would bring her great blessings. She did as she was told, and the plant thrived very well and grew bigger and bigger. After sometime, the widow remarried but her new husband did not like her to keep anything that would remind her of her former husband and so he pulled the plant up by roots and threw it away. Out of the hole thus left in the ground water flowed out immediately and filled the valley to become a large and beautiful lake.
Palak Dil or Palak Lake is the largest natural lake in Mizoram and is situated near Phura village which is about 391 kms to the south of Aizawl. Oval in shape, it covers about 1 sqkm and is surrounded by lush virgin forests rich in flora and fauna.
Legends abound the origin of the lake. One version says that before the lake was formed, there used to be a big village here and a large serpent lived in a cavern in the vicinity and occasionally stole the villager's livestock. When it started stealing their children, the villagers decided to kill the serpent. Using a huge fish hook and a dead goat for bait, they managed to catch and kill the serpent and distributed its meat to every household for dinner. That night strange things began to happen. A widow living with her two children got the serpent's head as her share and started cooking it in a big pot. After sometime, when she looked into the boiling pot, she found that the eyes of the serpent was blinking, rolling and watching her. Frightened and horrified, she threw out the pot with the serpent's head still inside it. Later on, she heard strange noises and ran out of the house to find her doorsteps being flooded with water which continued to rise. She took her children and ran away just before the water submerged the whole village. All the other inhabitants were drowned while they were sleeping and the water formed a wide lake that has come to be called Palak Dil.
Legends aside, nature lovers are attracted by the surprisingly great variety of wildlife to be found in this remote area adjoining the Myanmar forests. It is a home to most of the common wetland birdsand hill birds, and is believed to be a winter stop-over for migrating Pintail Duck while a few elephants still roam the surrounding virgin forests.
Rih Lake is the largest lake in Mizoram, but is situated in Burma," goes the common saying. This is an awkward claim to make, but it is a fact due to arbitrary political boundaries. Rih lake is situated at a distance of about two miles from Tiau which is the boundary river between Mizoram (India) and Myanmar, and is within the village area of Rihkhawdar in Myanmar. The village itself is an establishment of adventure that lures the visitor to explore the mysterious and supposedly demon-haunted lake. It is 14 miles from Champhai in Mizoram and 63 miles from Falam, a town of Myanmar. Although there has been no exact measurement taken so far, it is approximately one mile long and half a mile wide with a circumference of about three miles. The south-west floor is supposedly deeper than that of the north-west. The peculiar characteristic of the lake is that it becomes abruptly deep immediately after the water's edge.
The legendary lake is believed to have been the inevitable passage that spirits of the dead crossed on their way to their future abode known as Mitthi Khua. Some even believed it was the final abode of the spirits. The many myths about this mysterious lake have been a source of inspiration for several Mizo writers and composers, and have immensely enriched their literary output. According to legend, there was a girl named Rihi who had a cruel stepmother. One day, the father took Rihi's younger sister deep into forest and killed her. Rihi eventually found her dead sister and was inconsolable. A good spirit known as Lasi to the Mizos found Rihi weeping and revealed to her the healing powers of a particular magical tree with whose leaf Rihi revived her sister back to life. In order to quench the thirst of her younger sister, Rihi turned herself into a small pool of water with the help of a leaf of the same magical tree. Later, Rihi was compelled to change herself into a white mithun, and wandered around in search of a permanent place where she could be safe. While she was roaming around looking for a safe haven, her urine formed rih note or small lakes wherever she went. It is believed that such lakes can still be found in the Vawmlu Range, Zur forest near the village Natchhawng; a place above Bochung village; the area of Khawthlir village, all of which are in Myanmar. She eventually surveyed Sanzawl village for her permanent settlement not far from which flowed the river "Run". But the demon spirit of the river threatened to suck her dry if she settled there permanently. It is
believed that Rihi then surveyed the valley of Champhai but found that unsuitable too. She finally settled in the present location in the form that she cherished the most – that of a lake. The name Rih retains the name of Rihi.
The highest peak in Mizoram, Phawngpui or the Blue Mountain is situated near the state's south-eastern border overlooking the bend of the mighty Chhimtuipui River and the hill ranges of Myanmar. Sangau village, which is about 229 kms from Aizawl, is the closest settlement to Phawngpui. With a height of 2157 metres at the peak, the ridge stretches nearly 10 kms in north-south direction. It is surrounded by sheer precipices and cliffs, of which Thlazuang Kham is the most spectacular one. This breezy ridge is a virtual garden of beautiful flowering trees like rhododendrons and orchids of various hues, and one can also get splendid views of blue hazed hills extending to the horizon all around.
Abounding with diverse flora and fauna, Phawngpui has been declared a National Park covering an area of about 50 sq km.Exploring the park requires trekking and one can get the most exciting views of Mizoram from the cliffs of Phawngpui. It is famous for its exotic species of flora and fauna especially the orchids and rhododendrons spread within the valleys surrounding on all sides. Here one has a good chance of sighting gorals grazing peacefully in the steep slopes, brightly plumed sunbirds hovering over colourful flowers, peregrine falcon swooping down on fleeting cliffs or hearing in the evening the sharp calls of barking deer . Phawngpui is also home to an amazing variety of birdlife including the rare Blyth's Tragopan, Dark Rumped Swift and Hume's pheasant, and endangered mammals like the Slow Loris, Tiger, Leopard, Leopard Cat, Seraw, Goral, Asiatic Black Bear, Stump-tailed Macaque and Capped Langur.