The Last Frontiers of India - Nagaland Hornbill Festival

The Last Frontiers of India - Nagaland Hornbill Festival

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 13 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Far away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi, the deserts and palaces of Rajasthan, or the tropical shores of Kerala, lies an India that few people know exists. India’s north east region could not be more different from commonly held preconceptions about the world’s largest democracy. We visit tribal cultures that are only now just beginning to move into the 21st century as we meet and interact with the Naga people, once feared headhunters. We are privileged to spend time in their villages and learn more about their very distinct customs, still maintained in the face of the onslaught of Hinduism. We travel to the jaw-droppingly beautiful region of Assam perched on the edge of the Himalayas, and search for rhino and tiger in the remote Kaziranga National Park. The highlight of this trip is the opportunity to learn more about the kaleidoscope of diverse cultures that make up India’s north east and experience the Hornbill Festival. This is a region more akin to South East Asia than to the subcontinent – and we spend as much time as possible exploring villages and meeting local people.

Nagaland and Assam are wonderful states to visit but it must be emphasised that Tourism is still relatively new to the region, so lags behind many other parts of India. The infrastructure is inadequate with some very poor road surfaces adding to journey times and contributing to traffic congestion in places. The region is attracting more visitors but facilities and services for tourists are still limited. However, you will see a very different side of the country- this truly is undiscovered India.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●○○

Tour Pace


Tour Highlights

  • Experience the tribal culture of the Naga people at the Hornbill Festival
  • Travel to the beautiful setting of Majuli Island with its traditional Assamese architecture
  • Take the ferry on the fabled Brahmaputra River
  • Track rare wildlife in Kaziranga National Park

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mix of Comfortable hotels throughout. Basic accommodation at Majuli Island
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum 12
Start Point: Kolkata
End Point: Kolkata
Transport: Private cars or buses, domestic flights
Countries: India

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.


Day 1 - Kolkata

Arrive in Kolkata, India’s second largest city, which encapsulates modern India –hectic, vibrant and teeming with life. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Overnight at Lytton Hotel or similar.


Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) burst into life with the arrival of the British East India Company, who bought land containing the small village of Kalikata in the late 17th century. Kolkata grew in importance over the years of the British Raj, and was its seat of government until 1911. This legacy has left a wealth of colonial architecture remaining in the city today, although many buildings are now starting to suffer from lack of upkeep and general wear and tear. Kolkata over the years has had a rather bad reputation, fuelled by its slums and the story of the infamous ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’, where during the siege of the city in 1756, 64 British residents were imprisoned in a guard room, with only 24 surviving the experience. However, it has always thrived as a centre for arts and culture, and its inhabitants are rightly proud of the many artistic and literary achievements that have come forth from the city. Kolkata has of course moved on from the days of the Raj, but the overwhelming impression is still of a colonial city, with bowling and golf clubs, the marble memorial to Queen Victoria and green parks reminiscent more of England than India.

Day 2 – Kolkata – Kohima (70 kms, approx. 4 hours due to the very poor condition of the roads)

After checking out of our hotel we will transfer to the airport for a flight to Dimapur (15kg checked bag allowance and 7kg hand baggage), and on arrival transfer to Kohima. Overnight at a local hotel. (B)


This British-built town lies in the valley surrounded by hills, alongside the immaculately kept war cemetery, and is the state capital of Nagaland. Kohima attracted world attention during the Second World War because it was here that the Japanese advance was halted by the British and Indian forces.

Day 3 – Kohima –Hornbill Festival Opening Ceremony

Today we will spend the day at the site of the Hornbill Festival, which takes place at Kisama Heritage Village, and join in the opening ceremony. This open-air museum has a representative selection of traditional Naga houses and morungs (bachelor dormitories) with full-sized log drums. The festival is attended by all of Nagaland’s major tribes, and features traditional arts, dances, folk songs and games. All this takes place amidst immaculate replicas of tribal hutments complete with wood carvings and hollow log drums, which are beaten in haunting symphony at the end of the day. The opening speeches begin at 2pm and are followed by the performances. There are many handicraft and food stalls as well as heady palm beer and wine to sample. In the evening the main attraction is the Hornbill National Rock Concert, where bands from all over the country come to compete. This is followed by a night market in town. Overnight at a local hotel.

Please note that when the sun goes down it can be very cold, so you should bring warm outdoor clothing with you.

Day 4 – Kohima – Hornbill Festival

Today we will attend Day 2 of the festival. Overnight at a local hotel. (B)

Day 5 – Kohima- War Cemetery (24 kms, approx. 1.5 hours due to poor road conditions). Kohima to Khonoma village (48 kms, approx. 3 hour return trip due to the poor state of the roads).    

This morning, we will visit the Kohima World War 2 cemetery, a tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives during the Japanese invasion of the Second World War. In the afternoon visit the picturesque Khonoma Village outside of Kohima and home to the Angami tribe. Overnight at a local hotel. (B)

Day 6 –Kohima - Jorhat (195 kms, approx. 7 hours in total due to very poor condition of the roads)

Today we travel to Jorhat, a major tea centre, conveniently located for visiting nearby Majuli Island. Overnight at Thengal Manor Hotel or similar (B)

Day 7- Jorhat – Majuli

Take the local ferry on the mighty Brahmaputra River to Majuli Island, noted for its beautiful rural setting and the traditional Assamese architecture. It is also famous for its monastic retreats where the worship of Lord Vishnu is through dance, music and poetry. Overnight at a local guesthouse. (B)

Majuli Island

Majuli Island is the largest riverine island in the world and has been a key pilgrimage site for Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu) for centuries. The island has several monasteries, for the Vaishnavite community, some of which contain ancient artefacts, handicrafts and jewellery – the island has been the traditional centre of Assamese culture for many centuries.

Day 8 – Majuli Island- Kaziranga (155 kms, approx. 6 hours)

Take the ferry across to the mainland and then drive to Kaziranga, which was declared a game reserve in 1926, with the aim of saving the Indian One- Horned Rhino from extinction. Overland at Landmark Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Day 9 – Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is a World Heritage Site offering great opportunities to spot the iconic Indian One Horned Rhino– more than 75% of the world’s population reside within the park boundaries. Other wildlife is also plentiful and includes water buffalo, elephants, tigers, swamp deer, barking deer and hog deer along with some 400 species of birds. In the morning we will take a safari through the park, sometimes on elephants which will be confirmed the day before, looking for rhino and other animals. Return to your hotel for lunch and in the afternoon return to the park for a jeep safari. Overnight at Landmark Hotel or similar (BLD)

The use of elephants for the safari is currently under review

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is one of only two places where the Indian One Horned Rhino can be found; their numbers currently stand at 2,401.  Although they once roamed freely across India, Kaziranga and Manas National Park, also in Assam, represent their only habitats today. The park covers a wide diversity of habitats, from grassland to swamps and forest and this ensures a good mix of flora and fauna. In particular, the birdlife is excellent, with numerous birds of prey circling the skies.

Day 10 – Kaziranga – Shillong (252 kms, approx. 5.5 hours)

Drive from Kaziranga to Shillong the capital of Meghalaya state. This evening you can stroll around the busy Police Bazaar with its stalls and restaurants. Overnight at Poinisuk Hotel. (B)


Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya, one of north-east India’s most attractive states, and known as the “Scotland of the East”. It has a wealth of green, thickly forested hills with an amazing ecological diversity, and is populated by tribal groups who follow a matrilineal system of inheritance. With no significant monuments, the attractions here lie in the scenic beauty, parks, waterfalls and panoramic views.

Day 11- Shillong- Mawlynnong Village (100 kms, approx. 3 hours) - Shillong

Take an excursion to the attractive village of Mawlynnong, known as the cleanest in Asia. While there you will have the opportunity to see a living root bridge, formed from the roots of rubber trees, before returning to Shillong. Overnight at Poinisuk Hotel. (B)  

Day 12– Shillong

Today we take a city tour of Shillong and the best way to enjoy its sights is on foot. With no significant monuments, the attractions here lie in the scenic beauty, parks, waterfalls and panoramic views. Places worth visiting include the Don Bosco Museum, decorative Ward Lake in the heart of Shillong and the Bara Bazaar where you can see local and hill-people, mostly women, trading their wares including interesting jewellery and handicrafts. Overnight at Poinisuk Hotel or similar (B)

Day 13 – Shillong – Guwahati (120 kms, approx. 3 hours) - Kolkata – Departure

After checking out of your hotel we will transfer to the airport in Guwahati for a short flight to Kolkata (15kg checked bag allowance and 7kg hand baggage).to connect with your onward flight or further accommodation can be arranged in Kolkata (B

Arrival and departure transfers
Overland transport in private vehicle
Domestic flights Kolkata – Dimpur / Gwahati – Kolkata (15kg checked bag allowance and 7kg hand baggage)
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide / tour leader
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
Local ferry

International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance

Camera fees for Kaziranga National Park - 200 Rupees per person per visit for a camera and 1,000 Rupees per person per visit for a video camera

Updated 19/02/2019

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