The Last Frontiers of India - Nagaland Hornbill Festival
The Last Frontiers of India - Nagaland Hornbill Festival
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 than 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. See a different side of the country – this truly is undiscovered India.
Fitness ●●●○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●○○
- 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
Accommodation: Mix of Comfortable hotels throughout. Basic accomodation 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 flight
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.
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. Kolkata encapsulates modern India – a hectic and vibrant city teeming with life. Overnight at Lytton Hotel or similar.
Kolkata (also spelled 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
Transfer to the airport for a flight to Dimapur. On arrival transfer to Kohima, approx. 2hrs drive. Overnight at Greenwood Villa or similar (B)
This British-built town lies in the valley between higher 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
Today we visit the Hornbill Festival, which takes place at Kisama Heritage Village. This open-air museum has a representative selection of traditional Naga houses and morungs (bachelor dormitories) with full-sized log drums. Performances begin at 9am. The festival is attended by all of Nagaland’s major tribes. It 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. There is plenty of handicraft and food stalls as well as heady rice beer to indulge in. After sundown, 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 Greenwood villa or similar (B)
Day 4 - Kohima
This morning, 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. After the visit, attend day 3 of the Hornbill festival. Overnight at Greenwood Villa or similar (B)
Day 5 – Kohima
Today visit Khonoma Village, a picturesque village outside of Kohima and home to the Angami tribe. After visiting Khonoma village, attend day 4 of the festival. Overnight at Greenwood Villa or similar (B)
Day 6 – Kohima – Jorhat
Today we travel to Jorhat (approx. 6hr drive), a major tea centre conveniently located for visiting the nearby Majuli Island. Overnight at Thengal Manor or similar (B)
Day 7- Kaziranga – 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 Happy House or similar (B)
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
Today we take a walk around the village and visit one of Majuli’s unique monasteries, established in the 15th Century, where you will witness a special dance performance by some young monks. Overnight at Happy House or similar (B)
Day 9 – Majuli – Kaziranga National Park
Take the ferry back to Brahmaputra and drive to Kaziranga, which was declared a game reserve in 1926 to save the Indian one-horned rhino from extinction. Overnight at Wild Grass Resort or similar (BLD)
Day 10 – Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park is a World Heritage Site offering great opportunities to spot the iconic Indian Horned Rhinoceros – more than 75% of the world’s population reside within its boundaries. Other wildlife is also plentiful and includes water buffalo, elephants, tigers, swamp deer, barking deer and hog deer as well as 400 species of birds. We explore the park and hope for good game sightings. Overnight at Wild Grass Resort or similar (BLD)
Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park is one of only two places where the Indian One Horned Rhinoceros can now be found. Although they once roamed freely across India, Kaziranga and Manas National Park, also in Assam, represent their total habitat 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 here is excellent, with numerous birds of prey circling the skies.
Day 11 – Kaziranga – Shillong
Drive from Kaziranga to Shillong (approx. 7 hours), the capital of Meghalaya state. This evening you may want to stroll around the Police Bazaar, the ‘hip and happening’ area with fancy shops and restaurants, where local bands offer the latest in rock and rap. Overnight at Tripura Castle or similar (B)
Shillong is the capital city of Meghalaya, one of north-east India’s most attractive states. It has a wealth of green, thick 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 12 – Shillong
This morning we take a city tour of Shillong and the best way to enjoy its sights is on foot. Places worth visiting include the 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. The afternoon is at leisure. Overnight at Tripura Castle or similar (B)
Day 13 – Shillong – Kolkata - Departure
Transfer to the airport for a short flight to Kolkata to connect with your onward flight (after 1800 hours) or further accommodation can be arranged in Kolkata (B)
Arrival and departure transfers
Overland transport in private vehicle
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
Any airport taxes