Tribes of North East India

India

Culture | Tribal

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

14 days £2,095 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


Head into India's remote North East, and stumble upon a way of life and a diversity of tribal culture few have witnessed. Starting in the former Ahom capital, Sibsagar, you will cross into Nagaland and come face-to-face with the proud Konyak tribe of Mon. Visit the unique Vaishnavite Satras of Majuli, one of the world's largest river islands situated in the mighty Brahmaputra. Take the ferry and cross the border into the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh, where you will meet the Apatani tribe of Ziro, recognisable by their nose-plugs and facial tattoos. Finally, pass through tribal villages and stunning scenery to Dumporijo and Basar, home to the Tagin and Galo tribes.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ruins of Ahom Dynasty in Sibsagar
  • Nagaland's tattooed Konyak tribe
  • Satras and village life on Majuli island
  • Apatani tribal life in Ziro Valley
  • Tagin and Galo tribes of Arunachal Pradesh

Places Visited

Sibsagar - Mon District - Majuli - Ziro - Daporijo - Basar - Dibrugarh

What's Included

Airport transfers
Ground transport and driver
Escorted guide
Accommodation
Restricted area permit for Arunachal Pradesh
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Most meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Dibrugarh - Sibsagar

Arrive into Dibrugarh. Your guide and driver will escort you to Sibsagar, the former capital of the Ahom Dynasty. Evening free to rest. Overnight in Sibsagar.

Meal plan: 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 2 : Sibsagar - Mon (Nagaland)

Visit the temples of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, as well as some of the Ahom ruins. The Ahom kings ruled Assam for 600 years. Afterwards, cross the border into Nagaland, the land of the last head-hunters, and head to Mon. This is home to the tattooed and decorated Konyak tribe. Evening free. 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.

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 3 : Mon District

Spend the next two days visiting the tribal villages of Mon district. This includes a visit to the village of Longwa which straddles the border with Myanmar. Half of the village is in Nagaland and the rest in Myanmar. Here you will see a way of life untouched for centuries. Meet the village Angh (chief) and take a look inside the homes of these otherwise little-seen people. There will also be time for exploring the rugged terrain of Nagaland by foot. Overnight in Mon District.

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 4 : Mon District

More visits to tribal villages. Overnight in Mon District.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner



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Day 5 : Mon - Majuli

Early start for journey to Majuli, the world's largest river island, with its unique culture, increasingly threatened by climate change. Short ferry ride across the mighty Brahmaputra River to Majuli. Arrive late afternoon. After settling into your comfortable bamboo hut, stroll around and savour the atmosphere of this unique island. Overnight in 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 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.

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Day 6 : Majuli

Explore Majuli. Visit the island's ancient satras (rare Hindu Vaishnavite monasteries where Lord Vishnu is worshipped). Pop into the local mask shops and watch master craftsmen at work. Alternatively hop into a boat and take in the local surroundings. Overnight in Majuli.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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 7 : Majuli - Ziro

Early breakfast, then leave for Ziro, home of the little-known Apatani tribe, whose older women bear distinctive nose-plugs and tattoos. Visit nearby Hong village, the largest tribal village in Asia, where you will get a rare and privileged insight into an almost medieval world. Overnight in hotel.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 8 : Ziro

Full day to explore Ziro. Take a walk out to the paddy fields and visit the craftshop in Ziro, run by Future Generations Arunachal, a worthy NGO supported by Travel The Unknown. Overnight in Ziro.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Ziro is the home of the little-known Apatani tribe, whose elder women bear distinctive nose-plugs and tattoos. The area is surrounded by paddy fields where you can learn about the ingenious system of ‘pisci-culture’ where villagers breed fish and grow fish on the same plot of land. Ziro also boasts a craftshop run by Future Generations Arunachal (a worthy NGO supported by Travel The Unknown.) Nearby tribal villages include Hong Village, the largest tribal village in Asia, where you will feel you have entered an almost medieval world.

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Day 9 : Ziro

Free day to explore Ziro and nearby tribal villages. Hiking possibilities. Overnight in Ziro.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 10 : Ziro - Daporijo

After breakfast, leave Ziro and head northeast towards Daporijo. This stretch passes through other tribal villages, including the Hill Miri tribe of Raga. Have lunch en route in local restaurant, then continue on to Daporijo. This Is a picturesque village where you will stay in the Circuit House located at the top of a hill with fantastic views of the village and the river. Overnight in Daporijo.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

This region is inhabited by the Tagin tribe. They are believers in the animist religion of Donyi Polo – sun and moon worship. The Tagin people are of Mongoloid origin and have migrated over the centuries from Tibet and settled in and around Dumporijo, in the Subansiri valley.

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Day 11 : Daporijo - Basar

Spend the morning wandering through the village. Wander down to the river and watch Tagin life in action. Later, leave for the village of Basar, close to the Assam border. Arrive in the evening and check in to your accommodation. Evening free at leisure. Overnight in Basar.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner



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Day 12 : Basar

Day free to explore the neighbouring tribal villages. This region is home to the Galo tribe. Overnight in Basar. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Galo tribal people traditionally practise shift cultivation, although this is somewhat less now given the introduction of wet rice and terrace cultivation. All Galo children are taught Galo as their first language. They use a unique method in naming their children. The last syllable of the father’s name is used as the first syllable of the child’s name. For example, if the father is called Komkar, his daughter’s name would begin with ‘kar’. This method of naming has also remained in practice as they Galo people had no written language of their own, and this helped them remember their origins.

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Day 13 : Basar - Dibrugarh

Leave in the morning for Dibrugarh in Assam. Rest of the day free. An optional visit to a tea estate could be arranged but cannot always be guaranteed. Overnight in Dibrugarh.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Located in Assam, Dibrugarh is the largest tea-exporting town in India and popularly known as the 'Tea City of India'. One of the more affluent areas of Assam, the area was a former military base during WWII and was also used as a transit camp for evacuees from Burma. Today Dibrugarh has an important University, several colleges and a significant medical research centre. The most important site is the Koli Aai Thaan - a religious place dedicated to the daughter of the priest Dibara Satra of Assam, Koli Aai, whose spiritual teachings have inspired the villagers long after she mysteriously disappeared from the area. Important nearby sites include the Namphake Village, Saikhowa National Park and several wildlife sanctuaries.

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Day 14 : Departure

Transfer to airport for return flight to Delhi/Kolkata.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Reviews

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

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

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

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

Thanks for organising such a great trip to NE India Rahul - everything went seamlessly! We loved the fact that we could book an individual tour but still have flexibility with our itinerary once we were there, enabling us to take in the Si Donyi Festival at Daporijo and also be the first guests to stay overnight in a local village hut with our hosts in Papi, which was fantastic. Our guide was super. He had a wealth of knowledge and a great sense of humour! It’s hard to pick a highlight as the whole trip was both fascinating and at times, humbling. We’ll never forget the amazing people, scenery & culture we experienced whilst there and are glad we had the opportunity to visit such an intriguing part of the world. We would certainly consider travelling with you again in the future.

Hazel Fairall , Tribes of North East India, 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

It was not easy to organise a trip to North East India because of lack of information. Travel The Unknown has been the solution. We trust on them and they proved they deserved this trust. It has been an incredible and wonderful trip!

Begona Gomez , Tailormade North East India

NE India is so different from other parts of India and not many tourists go there so it is really adventurous travel but safe in the knowledge that the places have been checked out before hand by TTU staff or their reps. We had already enjoyed a 3 week group tour in this part of the world with TTU and were keen to explore more without going back to places we had already visited. So, the tailormade tour allowed us to see more and even get to places that you don't find in the guidebooks - yet! We stayed in a tribal village that had never hosted western tourists before; we were the first tourists that TTU had arranged to visit a remote valley (Meshuka) in Arunachal Pradesh that was reminiscent of Tibet or Ladakh. We were treated like celebrities in some places and the locals wanted photos taken with us as much as we did! Take the opportunity now to go to a part of India with TTU that is not yet found in the brochures of most other adventure travel companies.....

Julie Crank , Tailormade North East India

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 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

Outstanding trip, custom made to our desires. Once again, Travel The Unknown did not disappoint, exceeding our expectations. The in-country coordination worked with clock-work precision.

Vladimir Lange & Amy Opfell (USA) , Tailormade India

The animal experience at Tadoba, Pench and Satpura was just wonderful, especially for tiger, jackal and sloth bear interaction.

Mervyn Cooke , Tailormade Wildlife, India
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