Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters


Culture | Tribal | Festivals

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

15 days £3,665 pp This is the price per person for a private tour (based on 2 people travelling) excluding international flights. Contact us for pricing for other group sizes including individuals.
Intro, Dates & Prices


Experience wildlife and indigenous cultures in remote North East India. Come face to face with the one-horned rhino and other wildlife in Assam's Kaziranga National Park. Cross the Brahmaputra river to Majuli Island, one of the largest river islands in the world. Enter the frontier state of Nagaland and meet the tattooed Konyak tribe, once the most feared tribe and the last of Asia's headhunters. Witness ancient Konyak rituals at the little-visited Aoling Festival in Mon. Visit more tribal villages around Kohima before ending your trip in neighbouring Manipur, home to the largest women-run bazaar in Asia and the serene Loktak Lake.


  • One-horned rhino & wildlife in Kaziranga
  • Satras and village life on Majuli island
  • Nagaland's tattooed Konyak tribe
  • Aoling Festival in Mon
  • Ruins of Ahom Dynasty in Sibsagar
  • Visit Imphal's women-run bazaar

Places Visited

Kaziranga National Park - Jorhat - Majuli - Mon District - Sibsagar - Dimapur - Kohima - Imphal - Loktak Lake

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Meals (refer to itinerary)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks

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Please confirm your humanity

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Day 1 : Jorhat - Kaziranga

On arrival in Jorhat your guide and driver will escort you to Kaziranga National Park. Check into the lodge and rest of the day free to relax. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Overnight in Wild Grass Lodge, Kaziranga National Park

Meal plan: Dinner

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Day 2 : Kaziranga

Early morning game drive in Kaziranga. Return to the lodge for breakfast. Free time to rest or visit the nearby Orchid Sanctuary. After lunch proceed for afternoon game drive. Return to lodge for dinner. Evening to relax. The evening is free to relax. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Overnight in Wild Grass Lodge, Kaziranga National Park

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Kaziranga National Park is home to two-thirds of the world's population of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros at just under 2000. A few centuries ago, the Indian one-horned rhino ranged across the north Indian plains in the wetlands of the rivers Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra. Today it is found only in pockets of Assam and in Nepal. Kaziranga also boasts a range of other wildlife and harbours about 15 species of India's threatened mammals including the most dense population of Royal Bengal tigers, Indian elephants, sloth bears, Gangetic dolphins and an extraordinary bird population. Kaziranga National Park is located partly in Golaghat District and partly in the Nagaon District of Assam and covers an area of 430km2. It lies in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra and annual flooding and burning has maintained the grasslands predominant in the west. It became an official national park in 1974, but was established as a reserved forest in 1908, a game sanctuary in 1916, a wildlife sanctuary in 1950, and as a World Heritage site in 1985.

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Day 3 : Kaziranga - Jorhat

Early wake up with a hot cup of chai and biscuits. A jeep will take you to the Central Sector for your elephant safari [optional]. Return to the jungle lodge for breakfast. The rest of the morning is free at your leisure. In the afternoon, leave for a jeep safari in the western sector. Afterwards leave for Jorhat. On arrival check into your accommodation. Evening free to rest. Overnight in Jorhat.

Overnight in Kaziranga Golf Resort, Jorhat

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Jorhat is the second largest city in Assam and is situated by the Brahmaputra river. Jorhat is renowned for its tea and for being the last capital of the Ahom Kingdom, meaning it is now home to many historical monuments of Assamese culture. Tea is part of the agriculture-based industries and occupies an important place in Assam culture, especially as plants have always grown naturally in the Upper Brahmaputra valley. The entire Jorhat district is surrounded by tea plantations and has tea factories. There are about 135 tea gardens in the surrounding areas. 

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Day 4 : Jorhat - Majuli - Jorhat

Get an early morning private boat and spend the day exploring one of the largest river islands in the world. Visit the island's ancient satras (rare Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries worshipping Lord Vishnu) and pop into the local mask shops and pottery workshops to watch master craftsmen at work. In the afternoon, take the boat back to Jorhat. The evening is free at your leisure. Overnight in Jorhat.

Overnight in Kaziranga Golf Resort, Jorhat

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

One of the world's largest river islands, Majuli Island is located in the Brahmaputra River and runs for 80km from east to west, 15km north to south, and has a total area of 875km2. It used to be much bigger than this but has decreased as a result of erosion from the river. The island has a population of 150,000 and there are 243 villages. As a natural and cultural heritage site with water bodies covering most of the areas, Majuli attracts a wide range of birds. Aside from the rice field landscapes, fish traps and water meadows, the local Mising people and Satras make the island a fascinating place.

There are just under 30 Satras in Majuli and each Satra acts as a cultural activity centre for its region in festivals and occasions. Formed by the Assamese philosopher, Sankardev, the religion is based on the caste system and idol worship. Dance and play-acting of scenes from the holy Hindu scripture (Bhagavad Gita) have an important role. Pottery in Majuli is also very famous because it is made from beaten clay that is burnt in ovens fired with driftwood.

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Day 5 : Jorhat - Mon

After breakfast, drive to Mon District, home to the Konyak Naga tribe. Once one of the most elaborate and fierce head-hunting tribes of Nagaland, the tribal elders still exhibit signs of their ancient customs including tattooed faces, elaborate head dresses, and many of their homes still display animal skulls. Overnight in Mon.

Overnight in Helsa Cottage and Resort, Mon District

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Konyak tribe are amongst the most decorated tribes of Nagaland. All Konyaks carry a ‘dao’ - a machete traditionally used for head-hunting up until to 50 years ago. The older villagers still tend to wear traditional clothing. The majority of Nagas are Christian, which bonds the numerous tribe communities.

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Day 6 : Mon

Full day exploring more of Mon, including a visit to the village of Longwa which straddles both India and Myanmar. Take a look inside a typical tribal bamboo hut and learn about their way of life. The evening is free at your leisure. Overnight in Mon.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Naga tribes:  there are 16 officially recognised tribes in Nagaland. Nagas are traditionally known as warriors and one of the most striking characteristics of their culture was the tradition of head-hunting. Most villages had a skull house and each man in the village was expected to add to the collection. This is now outlawed, but there are still plenty of remnants of this tradition. Up until the British rule of India, they had no real contact with the outside world and were left to manage themselves autonomously. They were instrumental in helping the British defeat the Japanese invasion of India during World War II. 

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Day 7 : Mon

Join the decorated Konyak tribe for a full day of festivities and rituals at the Aoling Festival, which heralds the start of the Konyak New Year.

Overnight in Helsa Cottage and Resort, Mon District

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Aoling Festival takes place in Mon District each year and is only celebrated by the tattooed Konyak tribe, once known as Nagaland's most fearsome headhunters. The celebrations typically take place in the first week of April and the festival marks the arrival of spring and the Konyak new year where the tribe prays for a good harvest. During the Aoling Festival the Konyak tribe dress in traditional attire and jewellery and rituals include: dancing, feasting and animal sacrifices which are meant to appease the divine spirits in order to bless the land with a good harvest.

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Day 8 : Mon - Sibsagar

After breakfast, leave for Sibsagar, the former capital of the Ahom Dynasty. The road will be bumpy so the rest of the day will be free to rest. Ovenight in Sibsagar.

Overnight in Hotel Piccolo, Sibsagar

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 9 : Sibsagar

Spend the day visiting the ruins of the Ahom dynasty in Sibsagar. Later also visit the nearby Mising tribal village to get an insight into rural village life in Assam. Overnight in Sibsagar.

Overnight in Hotel Piccolo, Sibsagar

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The former capital of the Ahom Dynasty for some 600 years, Sibsagar is now a multi-cultural city in the Assam district of India. The area boasts the spectacular ruins of the Ahom Dynasty, including the old temples of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. Also of interest is the 18th century Rang Ghar, or 'Amusement House', which once served as the royal sports pavillion. The Ahom kings and nobles would sit on the balcony and watch traditional games such as buffalo fights in what is considered the largest amphitheatre in Asia. On the roof of this two-storey building is the design of an Ahom royal long boat and two stone crocodiles. A mixture of rice and egg paste was used as the mortar in construction. The Palace of Tatal, with its winding stone passages, is another masterpiece of the Ahom dynasty.

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Day 10 : Sibsagar - Dimapur

Leave for Dimapur, the second largest town in Nagaland which borders Assam. Check in to your comfortable cottage and enjoy lunch. Afterwards, visit the Dimasa Kachari ruins. The evening is free to relax. Overnight in Dimapur.

Overnight in Niathu Resort, Dimapur

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 11 : Dimapur - Kohima

Drive to Kohima and visit the famous World War II cemetery in Kohima, commemorating the British and Nagas who fought side-by-side to defeat the Japanese. Check into hotel and later in the evening, visit the local street food carnival where numerous food stalls serve local snacks. Overnight in Kohima.

Overnight in Classic Aradura Inn, Kohima

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 12 : Kohima

Spend the day exploring the Angami tribal villages around Kohima. Evening free at leisure. Overnight in Kohima.

Overnight in Classic Aradura Inn, Kohima

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Nagaland's capital, Kohima, sits atop ridges and hilltops among forests. There are 16 tribes in Nagaland, each having their own dialect, customs and traditional costumes, but all love music, dance and pageantry. The social position of a Naga is defined by the number of bone necklaces he wears. The Nagas are said to belong to the Indo-Mongoloid stock, a race whose presence was first noted ten centuries before Christ, are mostly Christians and are fluent in English.

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Day 13 : Kohima - Imphal

Set off for Imphal, the capital of Manipur. On arrival, check into hotel and after refreshing have lunch then proceed to Khwairamband Bazaar (also known as Ima Keithel market), which is predominantly run by women and the largest of its kind in India. Evening free and overnight in Imphal.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Situated in the Manipur River Valley 2500 ft above sea level, Imphal is the capital of the Manipur state and an important trade market in the weaving and metalware industries. It is well known for its picturesque landscapes, traditional handlooms and authentic handicrafts, as well as the music and dance of the Tibeto-Burman inhabitants. As the centre of all cultural and political activities of the state, Imphal is a melting pot of cultures and customs, though one which still prides itself on its rich traditional heritage. It is also known for Khwairamband Bazaar, which is run only by women. Split into two sections on either side of the road, it has tribal women clad in colourful, traditional attire, selling everything from hand-woven shawls, skirts, vessels, mugs and mats to fish, lotus, oranges and orange-flavored honey.

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Day 14 : Imphal - Loktak Lake - Imphal

Day trip to Loktak Lake, the largest 'floating national park' in the world, and one of the most picturesque lakes in India. Stop at the viewpoint for tea/coffee and take in panoramic vistas of the lake before driving to the shore where you will board traditional wooden boats for a tranquil ride on the lake against the stunning backdrop of the Sendra Hills. Watch your boatsman navigate the moving phumdis and how fishermen catch their haul. Afterwards take a short village walk to get an insight into local life. Enjoy a traditional Manipuri lunch and cultural show depicting local dance forms. Late afternoon return to Imphal. Evening free. Overnight in Imphal.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in North East India and home to Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating national park in the world. It is also the only place where 'phumdis' can be found - floating islands made of masses of vegetation, soil and organic matter at different stages of decomposition. Loktak Lake is a life-source for the local people: it is used for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water. It is also a major source of income for fishermen, and the enclosures for fish farming made of artificially-placed circular phumdis (known as 'athapums') have become an iconic image of the lake. However, following the increase of siltation and pollution, as well as the thinning of the phumdis, Loktak Lake is now an endangered area, not only affecting the livelihood of the people reliant on it, but also putting its 233 species of aquatic plants, over 100 species of birds and 425 species of animals at risk.

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Day 15 : Departure

Morning free at leisure. Optional visit to Kangla Fort (closed on Wed, opens at 10am) before transfer to airport for flight to Kolkata. 

Note:  extensions to other parts of the region or India can be organised. Contact us for more information.

Meal plan: Breakfast



All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Wild Grass Lodge

Kaziranga National Park (2 nights)

Wild Grass Lodge is situated on the fringes of Kaziranga National Park, amidst a traditional rural Assamese landscape. The colonial-style lodge sits within large grounds, which has more than 40 species of full-grown trees and over 200 species of tropical climbers, creepers and shrubs. It is the ideal place to relax whilst exploring Kaziranga. The interior of the lodge has a simple and rustic decor, which complements its remote location. Each bedroom in the jungle lodge features an ensuite bathroom and modern amenities required for a comfortable stay. 

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Kaziranga Golf Resort

Jorhat (2 nights)

Kaziranga Golf Resort is situated in Jorhat and offers heritage accommodation to visitors of the region. It is located on the site of a tea garden, just 75km from Kaziranga National Park, and is an ideal base for day trips by boat to Majuli Island due to its location by Brahmaputra River. The colonial exterior of the resort contrasts the contemporary interior of the bedrooms. Guests can access the many facilities on site at the resort, which include a lounge area, swimming pool, fitness centre and golf course. 

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Helsa Cottage and Resort

Mon District (2 nights)

Helsa Cottage and Resort is a basic but comfortable property in the rural town of Mon. Rooms are simple, yet clean and spacious, providing a comfortable stay for visitors to the region. The on-site kitchen serves a variety of local dishes. NOTE: There can be frequent power cuts, however this should be expected because of the remoteness of Mon. 

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Hotel Piccolo

Sibsagar (2 nights)

Hotel Piccolo is centrally location in Sibsagar. The hotel has a rich cultural heritage, as one of the oldest hotels in Sibsagar. It offers comfortable accommodation, where the decor is influenced by the old and the new. Each bedroom is fitted with modern amenities, including air conditioning, satellite television, wifi and ensuite bathrooms. There is a fine dining restaurant and mocktail on-site, where guests can taste local dishes and relax in the evening.

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Niathu Resort

Dimapur (1 night)

Niathu Resort has 14 cottages that have been designed to showcase some traditional Naga architecture. Each bedroom is equipped with modern facilities to allow for a comfortable stay. Guests can access the other on site facilities, which include an outdoor swimming pool, spa, salon and fitness centre. The resort houses two cafes and a restaurant which offer a variety of cuisine options.   

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Classic Aradura Inn

Kohima (2 nights)

The Classic Aradura Inn is located in the hills of Kohima, a few kilometres from the town centre. The rooms offer spacious and basic accommodation with modern facilities, including an ensuite bathroom. The multi-cuisine restaurant offers a complimentary breakfast and also serves lunch and dinner. There is also a coffee shop, laundry facilities and a traditional hand loom and handicraft boutique in the hotel. 

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A really well planned trip. We experienced life in Northeast India in just the way we wanted to. We loved the game reserves and saw a rock python which thrilled our guides as it is even rarer than the tiger! We visited villages and were able to interact with local people and loved the busy markets in Delhi and Calcutta. A special highlight was the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland; shown to us by our very own Naga guide Kezo. Kezo accompanied us for 15 days of our trip and ensured that we had many very special experiences - even taking us to the home of one of his Aunts where we spent a couple of hours sitting by the bonfire chatting.

Ann Holgate , Tailormade India

Thank you for organising our holiday in Kerala. I certainly wouldn`t have had the time or the knowledge to put together such a trip. Munnar was my favourite and the accommodation throughout was excellent.

Vik , Kerala Calling, India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

The tour was an amazing experience for our first visit to India. The country, its people and its cuisine were friendly,delightful, colourful and exceeded all our expectations. Travel the Unknown have put together a superb unique package that we have no hesitation in recommending to anyone with an interest in food and culture.

Elaine & Neil Smith , Delicacies of North India, India

I`m sure I could not have found a better operator for the type of complicated Indian tour I wanted to undertake on a limited budget. India is an intimidating country to visit, and I suspect that some operators look down on the first time visitor, or disparage their requirements. Travel the Unknown, by contrast, helped me all the way, and their local guides were superb.

Andrew Martin , Tailormade North East India

This was a very varied and interesting trip to a forgotten part of India. If you like off the beaten track travel it is definitely worth the effort but go with an open mind and keep a smile on your face.

Richard Williams , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

This was my first experience of using Travel the Unknown having enjoyed small group adventure holidays for many years. I was attracted to the company because it seeks out the more unusual and lesser known areas of a country and I was not disappointed by my visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. There is a clear contrast between the people and the scenery of these two regions and we saw very few western tourists particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. The tour was well organised with plenty to see and do.

Keith Lewis , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

A fantastic trip to Arunachal Pradesh. Very well organised exactly to our requirements. Superb local guide. Would recommend this trip. Hazel and James.

Hazel Frost , Tailormade North East India

Another great trip from Travel the Unknown. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to move outside the boundaries of the usual tourist itinerary.

Catherine Crawford , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

This trip was very well put together and ticked all the boxes that we had requested. The accommodation throughout the tour was of a high standard and our experiences in the national parks was wonderful spotting many different animals including tigers, leopards, sloth bears, lions, jungle cat plus countless number of birds. Thank you Rahul for tailoring this trip to our requirements.

Nigel & Margaret Turner , Tailormade India Wildlife & Birding tour

We went on the Spirit of South India Tour and had a great time on our honeymoon. There was a good variety of places visited and the hotels, drivers and guides were all very good. We would definitely recommend this tour.

Rachel , Spirit of South India, India

I would highly recommend Travel the Unknown to anyone visiting India. The service we received both prior to, during and following our travels was always timely and excellent. We were able to customize our trip to our liking and to enjoy a wide variety of activities. The guides in every location were outstanding! Honestly. Having travelled through much of the world I can truly say that we have never been more impressed with the quality of the guides arranged for us in each location, as well as the service we received. Similarly, the hotels were excellent and allowed us to live very comfortably while, at the same time, enjoy an authentic Indian experience. If you haven`t already booked your trip with Travel the Unknown, then either do so now....or at least give them a chance to show you what they can offer.

Tracey & Gary , Tailormade India
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