Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters

India

Culture | Tribal | Festivals

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

15 days £2,595 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

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.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • 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
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary
Image 3

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.

Meal plan: Dinner

Image 3

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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

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.

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. 

Read more
Image 3

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.

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 and 15km north to south and 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. With 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.

Read more
Image 3

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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

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. 

Read more
Image 3

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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

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.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Image 3

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.

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.

Read more
Image 3

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.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner



Read more
Image 3

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.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Image 3

Day 12 : Kohima

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

Read more
Image 3

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.

Read more
Image 3

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.

Read more
Image 3

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

Accommodation

Accommodation

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

Image 3

Wild Grass Lodge

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. 

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Kaziranga Golf Resort

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. 

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Helsa Cottage and Resort

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. 

Image 3

Hotel Piccolo

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.

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Niathu Resort

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.   

Visit hotel's site
Image 3

Classic Aradura Inn

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. 

Visit hotel's site
Extensions

The Golden Triangle (5 days)

Marvel at India's most incredible forts and palaces

Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

Discover colonial Kolkata and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Indian Odyssey (29 days)

Experience the best of North and South India

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

Get under the skin of Asia's two best wildlife spots.

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills to Ladakh

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Rajasthan Explorer (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

Diverse wildlife in Assam and the Sunderbans

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

An intoxicating immersion into India's diversity

Karnataka Odyssey (14 days)

Coffee farms, wildlife and stone temples

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Treasures of Gujarat (14 days)

Villages, temples, salt flats & the world's last Asiatic lions

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Kashmir and Ladakh Explorer (14 days)

Houseboats, Himalayas & Hemis Festival

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Hidden Rajasthan (13 days)

Rural villages, grand forts & wildlife

Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Glimpse of India (11 days)

Golden Triangle, tigers & exotic Goa

Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

Waterfalls, hills and living bridges in North East India

Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed my tailor made tour of northwestern and central India. Guides and accommodations were excellent and we saw as much of the area as could be packed into two weeks. I look forward to another tour with Travel the Unknown.

Mary Trubek (USA) , Tailormade 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

Another fantastic trip with this company. WE really managed to get off the beaten track and have seen some amazing sights. Well put together. We will travel again with Travel the Unknown

Hazel & James Frost , Tailormade India

This is our second fabulous trip with Travel The Unknown and we were not disappointed. Rajasthan's vibrant colours of turbans and saris, the noise, the spicy aromas, the silence in the hot air balloon over rural Jaipur, the majestic forts and palaces of ancient times, sighting leopards in the wild, all far exceeded our expectations and the heritage homes and hotels we stayed in, whilst being of high standard in every way, still had a friendly family touch. Thanks so much to Rahul and the team for such a memorable trip. Six weeks on and we still can't stop talking about it. I can't wait for the next one!

John & Christine Gregory , Tailormade 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

Travel the Unknown put together an Itinerary in North East India - Living Root Bridges for me and a travelling companion. The accommodations, transportation, promptness of drivers, and knowledge of our guide was excellent. Easy booking from office and good pre trip information. Thanks TTU!

Christina Taft , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Wow, India is incredible and Travel The Unknown put together a trip that really showed the diverse nature of the country and cultures, from the busy capital Delhi to the splendour of the Taj Mahal and then off the main tourist trek with an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi on the Ganges, the Hindu religious capital with bathing , washing and cremations alongside the river - an astonishing experience. We then moved to the forgotten North East corner where there is a tribal culture in an area seemingly cut off from the rest of India. Our destination was the Living Root Bridges which are unique and remote. Just want to go back to India for more...

Ken Sankey , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Gotta say thanks to Travel The Unknown for organising my fascinating trip to a little-known area of the world. The scenery was fantastic, food was amazing, the guide was great and the living bridges were inspiring. An India not many get to see. Thanks again.

Stephen , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

I had been studying the Apatani Tribe for quite some time… I’m talking roughly 7 years! Travel The Unknown made my dreams come entirely true. They organized every aspect of my experience in the most minute detail. I have never felt such confidence in an agency nor worked with one more knowledgeable about their destination. Because of them and their kind efforts, I will continue to travel with Travel The Unknown for all future expeditions to this or similar regions. Thanks, Travel The Unknown, for everything!

Christian Noni , Tailormade North East India

As always Travel The Unknown were exceptional in organising my trip to India. The guides for Meghalaya and the Golden Triangle were friendly, extremely helpful and very informative. The tour was busy but never felt rushed; the combination of Meghalaya and Golden Triangle giving quite a varied perspective of India.

Terry Cooper , Living Bridges of Meghalaya

The Living Root Bridges trip was our first time with Travel the Unknown and we would have no hesitation from booking with them again.

Andria & John Palmer , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

This trip was my first time travelling with Travel The Unknown, but definitely not my last!

Lori Martin , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India
More reviews