Assam, Nagaland & the Hornbill Festival

10 Days / 09 Nights

Assam and Nagaland are amongst the least explored destinations in India. On this journey we discover the highlights of Assam and explore the unique culture of Nagaland. We explore the tribal villages and tea gardens, take an elephant safari to view the one horned rhino and a boat cruise on the Brahmaputra River to Majuli Island, the largest inhabited river island in the world, where we visit famous Hindu monasteries. We then cross into the forbidden Nagaland where we encounter traditional Naga tribes. The highlight of our journey is our time spent at the Hornbill Festival where we witness the traditional dance and songs of the colourful Naga communities. There are great photographic opportunities on this journey as we immerse ourselves in a little known culture dating back to the early 13th Century when the Ahom Kings travelled from Thailand through northern Myanmar to settle in Assam.


Day 01 – Nov 24, 2013: Arrive in Kolkata (Calcutta).
Arriving in Kolkata this morning, we will transfer to Oberoi Grand where the rest of the day will be spent at leisure. You will be free to sample some of the many delights of Kolkata, or to just relax and recover from jet lag after your flight. Your leader will help you to arrange any sightseeing you may choose to do; perhaps a visit to one of the famous sights of Kolkata such as the Victoria Memorial or St Paul’s Cathedral, or to one of the excellent museums. We will overnight in Kolkata prior to our flight to Jorhat tomorrow morning.

Day 02 – Nov 25, 2013: Kolkata to Jorhat and drive to Amguri.
On arrival at Jorhat airport you will be transferred to Amguri (40km/1hr) and checked into Whispering Bamboo homestay situated near Haluwating Tea Estate alongside the river Janji. The houses, built on stilts, are made out of bamboo in the traditional style of the Mishing tribe. The rooms overlook Nagaland – the foothills of the eastern Himalaya and the river.

There is time to explore the nearby villages, tea gardens and weekly local markets. In the evening we enjoy garden fresh vegetables cooked in the traditional way in the fire hearth, and are treated to a dance near the river performed by Mishing girls in their eye-catching traditional dress. Overnight at Whispering Bamboo homestay.

Day 03 – Nov 26, 2013: Excursion to tea gardens & Sivasagar with Siva Temples.
We take a walk through one of the most beautiful tea gardens situated near the frontier of Nagaland and discover the secrets of Assam tea and why it is strongest tea in the world.

After breakfast we drive to Sivasagar to visit the monuments of medieval Assam. We will take lunch at Sivasagar and after explore the tallest Siva temple in the world. Sivasagar was once the capital of the Ahom Kings. They were known as Shans who came from Thailand through Northern Myanmar to this area in early 13th century, and ruled for 600 years.

The Siva Temple, built by the Ahoms, is believed to be the tallest of all existing Siva temples. The ruins of the Ahom palaces and monuments dot the landscape around this historical town. Centuries, before the arrival of the British, this part of the world was controlled by a number of tribal chieftains. In the town of Sivasagar, one can still see the remaining well preserved relics. One of the largest and the oldest amphitheaters of Asia (Rang Ghar) is another remarkable landmark in the history of Sivasagar. In the afternoon we visit a local market and then return to Whispering Bamboo for overnight stay.

Day 04 – Nov 27, 2013: Walking excursion to Mishing Tribal village & weekly market.
After breakfast walk through a Mishing village – a tibeto-burman linguistic tribe which migrated across the Himalaya during 9th century. The walk will take us to a local market through beautiful tea gardens. Traditional lunch at Whispering Bamboo. Afternoon enjoy a Mishing tribal dance performed by the village youth. Overnight at Whispering Bamboo.

Day 05 – Nov 28, 2013: Amguri to Majuli Island.
Today we will take a boat cruise on the Brahmaputra River to Majuli Island – the largest inhabited river island in the world. Majuli Island is an interesting walking destination, a combination of Hindu monasteries and mishing tribal villages. Overnight at monastery guest house.

Day 06 – Nov 29, 2013: Majuli to Kaziranga National Park.
After breakfast we transfer to Kaziranga National Park and check into a jungle lodge on arrival.

In the afternoon we will take a jeep ride through the park. Kaziranga is a World Heritage site and home to more than 75% of the World’s total population of Indian One-Horned Rhino. Also found in the park are Asiatic Water Buffalo – numbering up to 1200, over 1000 elephants, Swamp Deer, Barking Deer and Hog Deer. The park is also home to over 81 tigers. Kaziranga is also a bird watchers paradise with over 400 species in the park. Overnight in Kaziranga.

Day 07 – Nov 30, 2013: Kaziranga to Kohima.
This morning we will take an early elephant safari before transferring to Kohima in Nagaland. The drive will take approximately 4 hours, distance 140kms. On arrival you will be checked into Hotel Japfu for 3 night stay. Rest of the day is free to roam around the areas around the hotel.

Days 08 & 09 – Dec 01-02, 2013: Excursion to Kisama Village to witness the Hornbill Festival.
The vibrant and vivacious Hornbill Festival of Nagaland celebrates the cultural diversity of the Naga tribes. Celebrated every year from 1st to the 7th of December it brings all the tribes under one roof. With every tribe having festive dances at different times of the year it is usually a difficult proposition to witness the varied dances. This festival thus gives an opportunity not only to the outside world to witness the spectacle but also allows the other Naga tribes to experience the dances and customs of their counterparts from across the state.

Over a period of seven days the dances, rituals and traditional sports of the sixteen tribes are showcased in great pomp and glory. More significantly, dance troupes from all the other North Eastern states join the extravaganza, providing the onlooker with an exclusive glimpse into the cultural diversity of the entire North East.

Not surprisingly, in recent years the festival has gone truly global with dance troupes from South Korea, Thailand and Myanmar entering the fray to showcase their talents.

Day 10 – Dec 03, 2013: Kohima to Kolkata via Dimapur.
After an early breakfast, we will proceed to Dimapur to board our afternoon flight to Kolkata. Trip ends on arrival at Kolkata airport.

Date and price to suit individual arrangements based on 2 people sharing. Breakfast included. Private air-conditioned car and driver with English speaking guides for sightseeing