Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival

India

Culture | Festivals | Tribal

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam and Nagaland

15 days £2,995 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.
Intro, Dates & Prices

Intro

When is India not India? When it's the Northeastern states you're exploring.

This perennially popular tour aims for variety, and not limited to the ethnic. We go undercover of day to bring you travel by multiple means. Game drives in pursuit of one-horned rhinos, elephants and Sambar deer at Kaziranga National Park. Float by boat down the utterly epic Brahmaputra River to the inhabited island of Majuli to see Hindu satras and masks being made. In Nagaland wander on foot through villages, older than some countries, to learn of the old ways.

Bordering Myanmar, Nagaland is steeped in history and tribal tradition. If you were to pick one from this highlight-strewn tour, it might be the culmination of the Hornbill Festival, where regional tribes gather in an Olympic Games of war cries and fantastical stomping and posturing, bringing this little-known corner of India to life in song & dance and colourful costume. To be India, or not to be: that is the question?

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • One-horned rhino & wildlife in Kaziranga
  • Satras and village life on Majuli island
  • Ruins of Ahom Dynasty in Sibsagar
  • Song and dance at the Hornbill Festival
  • Tribal culture of Nagaland

Places Visited

Guwahati - Kaziranga National Park - Mon District - Sibsagar - Kohima - Dimapur

What's Included

Airport transfers
Domestic flight (Dimapur-Kolkata)
Ground transport with driver
Accommodation
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Activity fees (safari)
Most meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Escorted English-speaking guide

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Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Guwahati

Arrive into Guwahati airport where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel in Guwahati. Rest of the day is to rest.

Overnight in The Guwahati Address, Guwahati

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Guwahati - Kaziranga

In the morning, you will be taken on a half-day sightseeing tour of Guwahati. Visit the Kamakhya Temple and Peacock Island. After lunch, you will proceed on to Kaziranga National Park. Check into the lodge and rest of the evening free to relax. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Overnight in Infinity Resort, Kaziranga National Park

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Guwahati is popularly known as ‘the city of eastern light’, and is situated on the banks of the Brahmaputa River and the foothills of the Shillong plateau. Many Hindu temples are found in the area, including the Kamakyha Temple. Nearby on an island is the quaint Umananda Temple.

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Day 3 : Kaziranga

Early morning game drive in Kaziranga, looking out for one-horned rhino, barking deer, sambar deer, elephants. buffalo, gaur and the diverse birdlife. Return to the lodge for breakfast. In the afternoon, enjoy an afternoon game drive. Return to lodge for dinner. The evening is free to relax. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Overnight in Infinity Resort, 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 4 : Kaziranga

Early wake up with a hot cup of chai and biscuits, a jeep will take you to the Central Sector for your morning safari. Return to the jungle lodge for breakfast. The rest of the day is free at your leisure. Optional visit to the local tribal village or explore the lodge surroundings. 

Overnight in Infinity Resort, Kaziranga National Park

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 5 : Kaziranga - Majuli Island

Leave after breakfast for the jetty to catch the boat to Majuli Island, one of the world's largest river islands. Arrive around lunchtime and after lunch, visit some of the island's ancient satras (rare Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries worshipping Lord Vishnu). The evening is free at your leisure. Overnight in Majuli.

Overnight in Dekasang Resort, Majuli

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 6 : Majuli Island

Spend the day exploring more of Majuli Island. Visit more satras, learn about traditional mask making, and visit fishing villages. 

Overnight in Dekasang Resort, Majuli

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 7 : Majuli - 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



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Day 8 : 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.

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 9 : 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 Brahmaputra, Sibsagar

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 10 : 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 Brahmaputra, 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 11 : Sibsagar - 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

After breakfast, set off for the village of Kisama on the outskirts of Kohima. Stop at the viewpoint en-route for excellent views of the valley. On arrival in Kisama, take your seat in the amphitheatre where the main tribal performances will take place. This day of the festival typically sees tribes from all over North East India's 'Seven Sister' states perform traditional dances depicting war cries or customs relating to their interaction with nature and agriculture. During the day visit the many 'morungs' (communal tribal hut) set up around the venue. Each tribe has its own unique morung. After the festival finishes, return to the hotel. The evening is free at your 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.

The Hornbill Festival happens in the small village of Kisama (10km from Kohima) and various Naga groups come for a cultural, dancing and sporting week dressed in warrior costume. As most of the region is dependent on agriculture, all their festivals are based around this. The Government of Nagaland organises the Hornbill Festival every year in the first week of December to encourage intertribal interaction and cultural heritage. The Festival is named after the hornbill, the state bird of Nagaland. 

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Day 13 : Kohima

Arrive around 9am at the festival ground. This gives ample time to wander around the morungs again and take photos of the various tribes. This day usually sees each of the Naga tribes performing dances or enacting scenes relating to war and their way of life. The Nagas are the most elaborately dressed of the tribes in North East India, so this is perhaps the most important day of the festival. There are various food stalls serving Naga specialities, which includes smoked pork - the aroma can be smelt all around the venue! Visit the handicraft and textile shops where you can pick up some Naga souvenirs. Return to the hotel, where the evening is free to rest. Overnight in Kohima.

Overnight in Classic Aradura Inn, Kohima

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 14 : Kohima - Dimapur

After breakfast, leave for Dimapur, close to the Assam-Nagaland border. In the afternoon visit the Kachari ruins, dating back to the 10th century. Evening is free to relax and reflect on your trip in this unique part of India.

Overnight in Niathu Resort, Dimapur

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 15 : Departure

After breakfast, depart at the appropriate time for your flight to Kolkata from Dimapur. Extend your stay in Kolkata or elsewhere in India, or connect with your onward flight home.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Accommodation

Accommodation

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

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The Guwahati Address

Guwahati (1 night)

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Infinity Resort

Kaziranga National Park (3 nights)

The resort is set in a thick bamboo grove, the architectural design is reminiscent of old Assamese houses. The resort has a swimming pool, and a variety of evening entertainment performed around the campfire during the winter months. The rooms are equipped with all the basic amenities, and a distinctive triangular private balcony.  

Visit hotel's site
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Dekasang Resort

Majuli (2 nights)

Set on the banks of the River Luit and not far from the mighty Brahmaputra River, Dekasang Majuli offers comfortable and spacious rooms with amazing views of the lushious green surroundings. Savour the taste of traditional Assamese cuisine, cooked with fresh, organic vegetables picked the same day. 

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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 Brahmaputra

Sibsagar (2 nights)

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Classic Aradura Inn

Kohima (3 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. 

Visit hotel's site
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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.   

Visit hotel's site
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Reviews

Travel The Unknown`s North East India tours have zoned in on the absolute prime attractions, visiting a string of culturally unique, scenically stunning places - and maximising every moment spent there. They`re also to be commended for their integrity, having established excellent relations with local tour operators, sympathetic to the remote communities they visit. Their outstanding guides take great care to respect and protect indigenous lifestyles in these delicate regions.

Vanessa Betts, Author, Footprint Guide to Northeast India , Tailormade North East India

I`m very pleased with the way the trip was arranged for me, it was well organised and went very well. The itinerary was just the right pace to enjoy everything without rushing too much. It was never going to be cheap for 1 person travelling alone but I thought it was very reasonably priced.

Dewi Evans , Tailormade North East 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

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

Lori Martin , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

I have been on 3 tailor made trips with Travel The Unknown and have found them to be knowledgeable and reliable. We`ve stayed in some wonderful places and have had some unusual and satisfying experiences that go beyond the standard tours.

Joan Edmunds (USA) , Tailormade India

The personal service provided enabled us to create our ideal itinerary, combining tailor made and group tours. Rahul's knowledge of the area was invaluable, and his suggestions added hugely to our overall experience. Through Travel the Unknown, we were able to visit the more challenging destination of Nagaland in safety and relative comfort, enjoy experiences as diverse as bathing elephants and mountain biking, and even spend our final few days in a sublime yoga retreat. Overall, an amazing experience.

Maureen James , Tailormade North East 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

The Hornbill Festival was an experience if a lifetime to see the traditional dances, music and games the tribes use in their own village festivals, hence they were so natural and perfect. Even when they left the arena, they never stopped singing, dancing and playing their drums. I was really impressed with the diversity of the costumes, individually owned and cared for. For what I got out of the whole experience, I really thought the tour was exceptional value for money.

Stephen Price , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

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

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

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 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
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