Arrive in Johrat, Assam by flights and trains. Cabs will be sent according to flight or train arrival timings. Flights into Johrat are available from all major cities. Most of them have a short lay-over at Kolkata. Drive straight from the airport to Kaziranga (approx 110km/ 2.5 hours) and check-in. We’ve reserved this day just for arrival and check-ins, so every one can group up on this day. Cabs to be arranged by the hotel/guesthouse in Kaziranga.
A morning elephant safari into the famous Kaziranga National Park kick-starts the trip. Spot the famous one horned rhino amongst tall elephant grass, along with wild buffalos, deer and more animals. If you are lucky, a tiger may be on the prowl that morning. Back at the hotel, we take some time to rest and get to know each other better. Late afternoon, there is another safari in store- this time, it’s in a jeep. If you’re here, might as well step into the jungle as many times as possible. This time,we take a different route so you get to see a variety of landscapes within the vast Kaziranga National Park. At night, it’s time for a bonfire and an early dinner, so we can start the journey into Nagaland in the early hours of the morning.
Today we start traversing through the diverse landscapes and districts of Nagaland. The first stop is at Mopungnchuket Village of the Ao tribals, after an early start from Kaziranga. It takes almost 6 hours, but we stop plenty of times for photographs and snacks. Typical Naga cottages become our home for the day. Don’t expect many a comfort but plenty of hospitality from this small, cut-off village. Here, people open their homes for us. Guests may be fragmented into different homestays – which means, that you would get time to interact with locals. Most of the people speak English, Nagamese (a common dialect) and their own tribal language. The day closes early in Nagaland – you’re in the far east. This means things start to wind down at 4pm and everyone huddles in the kitchen. The largest section of homes, the central fire is used to cook, smoke meat and corn as well as makes for a comfy pad for the resident cat or dog.
Our next stop, Tuophema Village is only 127 km from Mopongchuket, but the drive can take upto 4 hours. More hours on the roads means more time with the rolling green hills, small hamlets on the way and a chance to see more locals. The Touphema Tourist Village is an initiative of the local community in partnership with the Tourism Department of Nagaland. We check into locally styled and themed Naga huts, though well furnished. In the day, we visit a well-kept museum stands testimony to the World War II events & gives us an insight into the foregone struggle even for a place which was so removed from the political centres. In the evening, a cultural programme and relaxing by the bonfire closes the day. From here on, we step out of village life and start moving towards the capital, Kohima, where the Hornbill Festival is underway.
About 50km south of Tuophema lies the capital city of Kohima. Expect, bustling streets on this day as we are in the thick of the Hornbill Festival – the biggest annual festival for the local tribes. We check in to our hotel/guesthouse and reserve Kisama Heritage Village for the next day. Today, it’s time for the WWII cemetery where many a revered British army officers lie. This was the exact spot where the Japanese invasion was obstructed by the British army. The UK government still provides aid for the cemetery to be run. The neat manicured grounds of the cemetry hold in them a very integral part of the Naga history. The evening is free to roam the markets but we retire early to be in time for the festival the next morning.
We spend the entire day, including meals at the festival venue, where in a large amphitheatre, different tribes perform songs and dances. The venue is a burst of colour with ample photo opportunities. You can walk into the morungs (dormitories) of the local tribes, taste local cuisine (the rice beer is recommended) and even shop for souvenirs at the sprawling stalls in the grounds.
One day is not enough to see the wrestling, chilli-eating competition and the different dances at the Hornbill Festival. Day 2 holds a special allure at the Kisama Heritage Village, where the festival is held.
After two days of revelry, it’s time to sober up. We head to the village of Khonoma, only 30km from Kohima. Khonoma, also known as Khwunoria, is an Angami Village that is well-known as the first ‘green’ village of India. A refreshing way to end the trip, we drive early to Khonoma and check-in at a homestay. Khonoma is famous for its forests and a unique form of agriculture, including some of the oldest terraced cultivation in the region. We walk through the village on this day to the local morung and to the cane weaving units. The last evening is a mellow one. A last musical performance with local food at the homestay closes the cultural experience.
This day is reserved for a hike to the lush Dzukou Valley. We drive 40km south of Khonoma to the base, Viswema Village. The hike amidst rolling hills is a moderate one of 2-3 hours, depending on your stamina. A carpet of flowers on the undulating hills is a relief for the eyes and the soul. One can return on the same day or stay the night in a basic guesthouse on the peak. Start back in the afternoon if you plan to return on the same day. At night, stay in the company of silence of the hills and co-hikers in the guesthouse. Expect basic facilities/ even a dorm like scenario.
We drive to Dimapur (75km/2.5 hours) on this day, to catch our departure flights.
Duration : 10 Days | Season: Oct-Feb | Moderate | Max Alt (2438m) Dzukou Valley
Day 1 : Arrival in Johrat – Kaziranga ( Drive/ 112 km/ 2-3 hrs)
Day 2 : Kaziranga – elephant safari- jeep safari
Day 3 : Kaziranga- Mopungnchket Village ( Drive /130km/ 6-7hrs)
Day 4 : Mopongchuket- Tuophema Village ( Drive /127 km / 4 hrs)
Day 5 : Tuophema – Kohima ( Drive/ 50 km 2-3 hrs)
Day 6 : Kohima – Kisama Heritage Village
Day 7 : Kohima – Kisma Heritage Village
Day 8 : Kohima- Khonoma ( Drive/ 30 km/ 1- 2 hrs)
Day 9 : Khonoma – Dzukou Valley (2438m) - Khonoma ( Drive/ 1-2 ) (Trek / 2-3 hrs)
Day 10 : Dzukou Valley - Dimapur ( Drive/ 75km/ 2.5 hrs)
The northeastern states of India form the fiinal frontier on the eastern edge of the country. Amongst these, Nagaland holds sway in offering a peek into the culturally rich tribal life – there are 16 major tribes that are firmly rooted in their tradtions. Startling natural beauty of hills stacked one behind the year, and tribal villages fragmented by their distinct heritage propped within them, make for an intriguing adventure for the off-beat traveller. The state is wedged between Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, and even Burma across the border – in fact, a couple of villages lie non-chalantly on both sides of the Indian and Burmese sides. If India was to have its very own Shangri-la, Nagaland would lie on top of the list. The state is the intriguing home to animism, where head-hunting was practiced till the late 60s. Finding tribals decked in feathered, beaded and horned headgears is not uncommon. Proud locals occupy magnificent hilltop villages that might have looked the same many hundreds of years ago.
As the uncontested untamed part of the northestern states, Nagaland offers a peek into the traditional lifestyle of the tribes. While the southern part of the state is relatively better developed, the northern parts are still a shadow of how life used to be eons ago. For the traveller, the annual Hornbill Festival in December is a veritable hook to see all the tribes on one cultural platform. Apart from tribal history, modern events shift your gaze to the World War II, during which, British and Indian troops in Nagaland successfully stopped the Japanese soldiers in the Battle of Kohima. A war cemetry and museum house poignant remnants of the British soldiers and Angami warriors who fought at their side.
For the wildlife enthusiasts, the green cover and humid climate of the state is ideal for tropical extravaganza. The ‘Great Indian Hornbill’ is mentioned repeatedly in the state – a fascination for it’s interesting plummage perhaps - though numbers have dwindled over the years. The evergreen forests host a formidable number of fauna, amongst which, the Blyth's tragopan is the most striking. It is a species of pheasant and the state bird of Nagaland. A hike in the Dzuko Valley is likely to award a sighting.When talking of sightings, also keep your eyes peeled for the amur falcons. When talking green, you cannot miss the first ‘Green Village’ of the country, Khonoma, also known as Khwunoria. The signature terraced fields and lush forested lands are the legit introduction to this village. The moniker comes from the community conservation efforts made by the village. Since the Nagas are hunters, the early part of the 20th century saw rapid killings of birds and animals for meat. In 1998, the Khonoma village council declared 20 sq km of the village as the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (KNCTS), thus starting a revolution to safeguard its natural wonders.
A trip to Nagaland does not promise the razor sharp edged mountains of the Himalayas or dramatic cloudy views of Meghalaya, but it has a prodigious amount of cultural wealth that will keep bringing you back to the state.
We start the trip with a glimpse into the wild ways of Kaziranga, a World Heritage site. Even though the national park lies in Assam, it is an ideal gateway into Nagaland, and great add-on to kick-start the trip.While the first two days give you sighting opportunities of the one-horned rhinoceros amongst other animals, the rest of the days are spent exploring different villages of Nagaland, and seeing tribal life at close quarters. Think cosy kitchen fires, homestays, exclusive songs and dances for the group and copious amount of local cuisine. The trip ends with the annual Hornbill Festival, where all the tribes converge to showcase their culture. Local music, dances, martial arts, cuisines and living quarters (Morungs), offer a vivid account of the life in the Nagaland.
The idea is to get intimate with the local culture, unfamiliar terrains, people and all things ‘Nagaland’ instead of a ‘touristy’ trip. Note that this trip will include ample road travel, sleeping in non AC accommodations and maybe even camps. There is a fair amount of flexibility required, as invitations to local homes are dependent on the availability of the people. But be assured that there will be enough to do – simple hikes, far-flung local churches on hill tops and countless photography opportunities.