On this unique itinerary of Assam and Nagaland, the two most diverse and intriguing of northeast India’s states, discover not only the natural wonders — the forests interwoven with rivers, and the animals and birds which live there — but also the indigenous tribes whose cultures have developed in harmony with their environment and, even today, are relatively untouched by the outside world, who follow their indigenous ways of subsistence living and cultural practices.
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Depart from London Heathrow this afternoon on the Emirates flight to Kolkata, via Dubai.
Starting at dawn, you will visit Kolkata’s glorious flower market, then embark on a full day of sightseeing, focused on the city’s colonial heritage. Architectural highlights will include Dalhousie Square, with its High Court, Town Hall, Writers’ Building, and General Post Office; the Anglican St. Paul’s Cathedral, noted for its imposing gothic design; and the superb Victoria Memorial, in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style. In the evening you will have the chance to compare what you’ve seen with indigenous development on Kolkata’s ghats, visible from the deck as you sail out on the Hooghly River. B,D
A morning flight will bring you from Kolkata, across Bangladesh, to the Assamese city of Jorhat. Jorhat is a prosperous place, and has been chosen as one of two cities in the state to be developed as a sunshine city, one which is powered by solar energy. It is a two-hour drive from Jorhat to the boundary of the Kaziranga National Park, where you will check in at the Diphlu River Lodge, your home for the next two nights.
Diphlu River Lodge is widely considered amongst the finest wildlife resorts in India. Built in 2008, the lodge centres on a jungle platform, surrounded by an organic farm and bamboo groves. Guests stay in individual cottages, each one made from natural materials and decorated with local artworks and artefacts. The en-suite bathrooms have both baths and showers. B, L, D.
Indus Experiences works in partnership with David Shephered Wildlife Trust (DSWF) to help conservation projects at various National Parks. An expert from DSWF supported Assamese NGO, Aaranyak will join our guests to provide expert background information on the flora and fauna of Kaziranga. DSWF has been working with Aaranyak since 1994 and has been instrumental in supporting their work to protect the rich biodiversity of North Eastern India through a series of anti-poaching, park protection, education, outreach and wildlife crime investigation programmes. Their key funding focus is the protection of Assam’s critically endangered one-horned Indian rhinos and Bengal tiger.
The Kaziranga National Park, which covers 430 sq km of hills, grassland, and forest, is the oldest national park in Assam. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it is one of the last areas in eastern India undisturbed by a human presence.
The importance of Kaziranga is indisputably in its biodiversity. The park is home to a remarkable 80% of the world’s greater one-horned rhinoceros (approximately 1,800 of them), the largest species of rhino, which was once common across India, but was hunted almost to extinction. Identified by a single black horn up to 60 cm in length, and with an armour-plated appearance, these rhinos are solitary creatures, and thus require a large and undisturbed habitat if they are to thrive and breed. Their growing numbers in Kaziranga are a testament to the park’s conservation efforts.
Elsewhere in the park, you can expect to see significant numbers of Asian elephants, wild buffalos, swamp deer, water buffalos, langurs, gibbons, and civets. A tiger reserve was established here in 2006, and according to the latest census there are around 120 of these big cats. The population density is one of the highest in India, and the number of tigers is steadily increasing, the steady population of herbivores serving as an adequate prey base.
Bird watchers will be impressed by Kaziranga, too. Some 400 species, both resident and migratory, have been recorded in the park. Pelicans, storks, and darters live alongside the water bodies, and you can also expect to see the lesser white-fronted goose, ferruginous duck, and Baer's pochard. The Asian openbill migrates here in the winter months, so you might well see them too.
Today you will have two different means of transport available to you for exploring the park. In the early morning, you will ride into Kaziranga on the back of an elephant, an experienced mahout driving the elephant whilst you take advantage of your increased height to look at creatures staring back at you from the tree canopy. Later in the day, you will travel by jeep to reach the park’s western ranges, further away from the lodge, and there is also the chance to visit a neighbouring tea plantation, tasting some of the delicious Assam tea grown there. B, L, D.
With a packed breakfast to enjoy on the way, you will depart from the Diphlu River Lodge towards Neemati Ghat, a three-hour drive away. The ghat is on the banks of the life-giving Brahmaputra River, and here you will board a ferry to take you to the largest inhabited river island in the world: Majuli.
Covering some 1,243 sq km, and home to around 150,000 people, the island is accessible only by water: there are no bridges linking it to the river bank. It is shrinking year on year due to soil erosion, and though flood gates up stream would offer Majuli some protection, their construction is still some way off. Most of the land here is a wetland, harbouring numerous rare species of flora and fauna. There are large flocks of geese and ducks, as well as whistling teals, pelicans, Siberian cranes, and the greater adjutant stork. Bird watching is best between November and March, and hence your visit is timely.
Widely considered to be the heart of Assamese culture, two very different human populations exist here. The great 15th century Assamese reformer and saint, Srimanta Shankardeva, came here and established satras, or Vaishnavite monasteries, to motivate the local people towards culture and religion. Having met on Majuli with another notable saint, Mahadeva, Shankardeva founded no fewer than 65 satras on the island, of which 22 are still operational.
These satras are thriving communities, active places of study and of worship. The monks carefully preserve their ancient traditions of mask making, and also devotional dancing. The jumora, chali, notua, nande vrigee, and apsara dances, all thought to have been promulgated by Shankardeva, are local specialities, and you can see them nowhere else. You will have the chance to interact with the monks, to talk to them about their faith, and also to meet with pilgrims, who have often come long distances on foot, and then by boat, to pray to the god Vishnu on Majuli.
On Majuli you will meet the Mishing, or Miris, an ethnic tribal group and the second-largest ethnic group in Assam after the Bodos. They have linguistic, cultural, and ritual similarities with other Tibeto-Burman groups, and though they have no recorded history, they are thought to have migrated to the Assam plain from Arunachal Pradesh.
The Mishing believe that their ancestor, Abotani, is the son of the sun (his mother) and the moon (his father). The community is patrilineal and patrilocal, there are strong blood ties between the different clans, and each village has a council and a chief. The Mishing on Majuli are fishermen, and their villages are therefore dotted around the coastline of the island. Their carpentry skills are well-developed, with wooden fish traps and canoes being particular specialties, and you might well see wood carvers at work when you visit. Look out also for the brightly coloured textiles which are prevalent in traditional Mishing costume; their sophisticated use of looms and natural dyes; and the obvious division of labour between the different craftsmen.
Your home for the night will be the Mepo Okum Bamboo Huts in Majuli. B, L, D.
A five-hour drive away from Jorhat is Mon, and on the leisurely and scenic drive, comfortably air-conditioned, you will wind your way through a succession of fascinating villages and ever-changing scenery. Moriani, on the border of Assam and Nagaland states, is famed for its protected evergreen forests and the Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary; Sonari is a centre of tea and timber production; and we will stop too at Sibsagar, the ancient capital of the Ahom Kingdom.
The Ahom kingdom (1228–1826) was centred on the Brahmaputra River valley, and although it took its name from the Ahom tribe, it was a multi-ethnic dynasty. The first Ahom king, Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha, came from Yunnan in China, crossed the mountains with an entourage of some 9,000 people, and occupied the area between the Burhidihing and Dikhau River. Having built successful alliances with the local Barahi and Maran tribes, he founded the first Ahom capital at Charaideo.
Sibsagar, meaning "the ocean of Lord Shiva” was the capital of the Ahom dynasty from 1699 to 1788. It was established by Rudra Singha, the 30th Ahom ruler, who called it Che-mon. A number of important buildings survive in the palace complex, including temples to the Hindu goddess Durga and the god Vishnu; the beautiful Rang Ghar, which is a two-storey amphitheatre, its roof the shape of an inverted royal long boat; and the Rangpur Palace, which has four storeys above ground, and three below. The palace is thought to originally have had two secret underground tunnels, one leading to the river, and the other to the other royal city of Garhgaon, 16 km away. The subterranean levels of the palace have had to be sealed off for safety and conservation reasons, but you can still explore the upper parts.
In the afternoon, the Patkai Range of hills will come into view. These hills are the homeland of the Konyka Nagas, an ethnic warrior Tibeto-Burman speaking people known for their facial and body tattoos and past head hunting tradition, though there are significant populations of modern Nagas across northeast India, and in Burma too.
With the exception of their neighbours, the Ahoms, the Nagas had little contact with the rest of the world until the 19th century. Early attempts by the British to annexe their lands were met with effective guerrilla resistance: the Nagas ignored the non-aggression pact their chiefs had signed, and they mounted regular raids on British army camps.
It was Christian missionaries, not the armed forces, who would pacify the Naga people. The first missionary, Rev. Miles Bronson, arrived in Namsang in 1839, and the first church, a Baptist church, was begun in Molungkimong in 1872 by Rev E.W. Clark. The missionaries promoted an English-style education, as well as Christian teachings, and consequently the Nagas discontined many of their tribal customs and traditions. Today, 95% of Nagas identify themselves as Christians. You will stay at the Khoiwang Lodge in Mon for two nights. B, L, D.
Evening dinner talk in Mon by Ms Phejin Konyak, author of the book, ‘Last of the Tattooed Warriors’. She has exhibited photos from the book and talked about her research in major ethnographic museums in India. She is the descendent of a well-known colonial time, Konyak chief. An entrepreneur, she runs her farm stay at Konyak tea plantation and orchard in Shiyong village , a short distance from Mon town
The border area between India and Myanmar (Burma) has only recently become accessible to foreigners, and so it is with good fortunate that you are now able to drive to Longwa, a village which straddles the international border line. The Angh, the hereditary village headman, has a house half in India and half in Myanmar, and is entitled to no fewer than 60 wives!
Longwa village and its surroundings are populated by the Konyak Nagas, whose modern culture is a fascinating blend of their pre-Christian traditions, and ideas they took from the missionaries. At first glance, things seem not to have changed for centuries: the older Konyak men have elaborate tattoos on their faces and bodies; older women wear just a short length of cloth wrapped around their waist; and men are dressed in a loin cloth, and wear earrings made from serow horn. Colourful shawls, feathered head dresses, and beaded jewellery are commonplace.
The Konyak are skilled artisans and craftsmen, making functional items as well as more decorative and ritual items. They keep alive their warrior heritage by making their traditional daos (machetes), guns and gun powder, and spears. No longer used for head hunting victims from other tribes, today these weapons are used for hunting animals in the forests, and for ceremonial purposes. You will have the chance to watch such items being made, alongside domestic items like wood carvings, brushes, brass and metal work, and kitchen implements. The traditional textiles, including designs handwoven into shawls, on backstrap looms are particularly fine and make lovely souvenirs. B, L, D.
Your early morning drive today brings you through the territories of a number of different tribes — the Chang, Yimchunger, Khaimniungan, Sangtam, and Phoms Naga — and as the journey progresses you will see and learn to identify the different architectural styles and building techniques in their respective villages, as well as their distinctive costumes.
On arrival at Tuensang, you will check-in for a night at the Tented Camp. Tuensang is the oldest and biggest settlement of the Chang Naga tribe, and in the afternoon you will have a guided tour of the Old Tuensang, nearby. A large part of Tuensang district of Nagaland remained outside the British India administrative unit and became part of Indepenedent India only in 1947!
The Chang Naga were known to colonial administrators as the Mazung. The origins of the name Chang are unknown, but it is possible that they migrated here from the east, chang meaning “eastern” in the local dialect. Other theories is that they came from Changsangmongko, settled at Changsang, or came from a place with a holy banyan tree (chognu being the local word for banyan). There are four main Chang clans, each of which has a distinctive religious function within the community, and a set place within the social hierarchy.
Prior to the arrival of the British, the Chang, like the Konyak, practiced head hunting. Whoever acquired the most heads became the lakbou (chief), and settled village disputes. Today, village leaders are informally elected by the community, and the village council fixes festival dates and decides which fields are to be planted. B, L, D.
Time permitting we will invite Iris Yinzin ( a naga artist and history lecturer in Tuensang college to tell us about her paintings on canvas made from hand woven nettle firbre.
Today is an easy day. After breakfast you will drive through hills inhabited by the Ao Nagas, reaching Mokokchung in time for lunch. You will check-in at Hotel Metsuben for two nights, and then have the afternoon at leisure.
Mokokchung is best described as a hill station as it is at an elevation of 1,325 m and has a mild climate throughout the year. The Assam Rifles had one of their first outposts here, in the 19th century, and that proved the catalyst for urban development and the growth of a settled population.
The Aos today are mostly Baptists, and they were the first tribe in Nagaland to embrace Christianity. Although they are part of the larger Naga tribal community, the Aos are a sub-group, with their own distinctive languages. The Ao languages are part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. B, L, D.
You will spend the full day learning about the Ao Nagas, and visiting their villages. The day’s tour will start in Mokokchung with a visit to the bazaar, where you will see all manner of local produce, as well as handicrafts and household items. If you are interested, the Ao will enthusiastically show you their churches, and they will also regale you with stories of their community’s longevity: the average lifespan of a Mokokchung villager in 2014 was thought to be at least 85 years and the eldest member of the village is well over 100 years old!
You will also have the chance to visit the villages which surround Mokokchung, Chuchuyimlang, Mopungchuket, Ungma, and Impur. These settlements are far smaller and less developed than Mokokchung, and their inhabitants’ way of life is probably closer to how it would have been in the past. Impur was established by the American Baptist Missionaries where first church building was erected in Nagaland and first translation in Ao language were printed using Roman typeset.
One thing that has changed significantly, and for the better, is access to education. In 2007, Mokokchung District (which includes these small villages) was declared to be the first fully literate district in Nagaland. Access to education here, including at a college level, is better than almost anywhere else in India, and this has had a knock-on effect on other development indices. With 1,004 females for every 1,000 males, for example, the district has the 7th healthiest sex ratio of the 538 districts in India. B, L, D.
The morning drive will take you through the territories of three different Naga tribes, the Lotha Naga, Rengma Naga, and Angami Naga. Your destination is the small cultural village of Touphema, where the local government and community is making a concerted effort to preserve Naga traditions.
You will check-in for one night at the Touphema Village Resort, staying the night in an authentic Angami Naga hut. Each neatly-appointed hut is themed, with comfortable bedrooms and an attached bathroom with a toilet and hot water geyser. You will have the chance to try homemade Naga cooking, accompanied by local rice beer, and as darkness descends, there will be traditional music and dancing around the fire. You are welcome to join in with your host, or simply to enjoy the experience as a spectator.
There are spectacular views across the surrounding hills from the village, and in the afternoon you will be able to explore a few of the local sites on a short walk. Touphema Bawe, the old Touphema settlement, is especially interesting, and the local museum, which has an intriguing and extensive ethnographical collection of wood carvings, textiles, musical instruments, and jewellery, has recently been refurbished. It is a great way to learn about the Nagas’ material heritage and how it has developed over time. B, L, D.
After breakfast, it is a two-hour drive to Kohima, one of Nagaland’s municipal councils, and the state’s de facto capital. On the way, you will stop at Nagaland State Museum, just outside Kohima towncentre. There is a realistic diorama for each of the region’s main tribes, and well-curated displays on topics such as Naga architecture, social hierarchy and custom, and costume. Be sure to look at the ceremonial drum modelled on a dug-out war canoe, and, if you are interested in natural history, visit the collection of stuffed birds and animals housed in the museum’s basement which is often overlooked.
Kohima is perched at an altitude of 1,444 m above sea level. It is a pretty hill station, with panoramic views of the rugged Naga Hills. It is the land of the Angami Naga tribe, traditionally warriors, but now known for their terraced wet rice cultivation. You will visit the village of Khonoma, an hour outside Kohima, the last base of the Naga warriors who rebelled against the British in the 19th century. Their memorial gate, overlooking the village, is thought to be 700 years old, and it is decorated with traditional carvings.
The martial skills of the local people are not just something of the distant past, however. During WWII, Kohima witnessed the fiercest fighting in India: a 50-day slogging match between Allied forces and the Imperial Japanese Army. As many as 11,000 men were killed or injured, and though the Allied forces were ultimately saved by the arrival of reinforcements, it was a horrific period for both sides. Though little known outside India, the Battle of Kohima, a number of foreign military historians have referred to it as “the Stalingrad of the East”, and in 2013, the National Army Museum voted the Battle of Imphal and Kohima to be "Britain's Greatest Battle".
You will learn about the realities of warfare here, and why the victory was so key to the Allied war effort, during a visit to the Kohima War Cemetery, a symbolic memorial raised as citation for the supreme sacrifice made by the officers and men of the Allied forces. You will stay at the Hotel Vivor in Kohima for three nights. B, L, D.
This morning you will leave Kohima to visit the Kisama Naga Heritage Complex, where the annual Hornbill Festival is celebrated, and will be taking place during your visit. This striking pavilion serves as Window to Nagaland (WTN), and aims to showcase the state from a single platform.
The Hornbill Festival is a vibrant celebration of Nagaland’s people and their many diverse traditions. It is organized by the State Tourism and Art and Culture Departments, but it is an extravaganza as much for the local communities to enjoy themselves as it is an unforgettable experience for the tourists who are, in any case, in the minority of attendees.
The festival takes its name from the hornbill bird, a monogamous omnivore which lives in the natural cavities of trees and, occasionally, in crevices in cliff faces. Hornbills feature prominently in Naga folklore and art — you will often see them depicted in wood carvings and paintings — so the bird is a fitting namesake for the festival. Hornbill symbolizes wealth and the tail feathers of the bird are used for decorating the Naga ceremonial head dress.
The Kisama Naga Heritage Complex is made of 16 main buildings, each one created in the indigenous architectural style of a particular tribe. Other features of the complex include a World War II Museum, the Bamboo Heritage Hall and Bamboo Pavilion, and a stadium where beauty pageants and fashion shows take place. This is also the location for the Naga Idol competition, the most fiercely contested singing competition in the state.
You will spend the whole day at the festival, and then in the late afternoon will visit local market and emporium selling souvenirs and ethnic crafts. B, L, D.
Returning to the Hornbill Festival for a second day, having already got your bearings, you will be able to learn more about the cultures and traditions of the different tribes in Nagaland, and surely take some incredible photographs.
In addition to the staged cultural performances of music and dance, you can expect to see a wide range of different ceremonies, and competitors fighting it out in bouts of Naga wrestling and archery, the Hornbill National Rock Contest, a chilli eating contest, and a motor rally. Who knows, you might even be tempted to compete yourself!
At the traditional Naga Morungs exhibition, you will see (and can buy) the most beautiful arts and crafts. The food stalls and herbal medicine stands are a feast for all your senses, as are the flower shows and sales. Artisans specialising in paintings, wood carvings, and sculptures will be giving demonstrations at the festival, and also selling their work. B, L, D.
On one of the evenings in Kohima we can also invite Ms Easterine Kire, Naga author for a reading from her latest book, ‘When the River Sleeps’ which won the The Hindu Literary prize for 2015, and dinner with the group. She is a well-known Angami Naga writer who has also participated in Jaipur lit festival.
On arrival in Kolkata, you will be met by a representative of Indus Experiences, and transfer to The Viceroy Hotel. The remains of the afternoon and the evening will be free time to do with as you wish. B,D
On this, your final morning in India, you will transfer to the airport in the morning to board your Emirates flight to Dubai, with an onward connection to London, reaching London Heathrow at 20.15 the same day. B.
- Tour Leader
- How to Book this Tour
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D R . V I B H A J O S H I P A R K I N
Dr Vibha Joshi Parkin is professorial Research Fellow at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Tuebingen University and Research Associate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford from where she also obtained her doctorate. Working with the Nagas since 1 985, Dr Vibha Joshi Parkin has conducted extensive fieldwork on their religion and material cultures and will impart her intimate knowledge of the tribes. Her research interests focus on two inter-related themes, traditional religion, conversion to Christianity, healers and healing practices and ethnographic museum collections, history of colonial collecting (especially textiles), cultural history of the Naga peoples and their self-presentation. She is the author of research monograph, A Matter of Belief: Christian Conversion and Healing in North East India (Berghahn, 2012), co-author of, The Land of the Nagas (Mapin, 2004), co-curator of the international exhibition on the Naga at the Basel Museum of World Cultures and co-editor of the book, Naga: A Forgotten Mountain Region Rediscovered (2008).She has authored several articles based on her research among Naga in edited books and journals.
International flights in economy class on Emirate Airlines via Dubai. Supplement costs for club class are available on request.
Internal flights in economy class.
Air-conditioned accommodation with private facilities on twin, double sharing and single room occupancy in Kolkata. Please note accommodation in Majuli, Mon, Tuensang, Mokokchung and Touphema is basic and non-air-conditioned.
Meal Plan: All meals throughout the tour except in Kolkata where breakfast nd dinner is included.
All sightseeing arrangements including wildlife safaris in Kazirangha as per itinerary
Services of an experienced local English speaking guide.
Services of Dr Vibha Joshi Parkin as tour lecturer.
Complimentary mineral water while travelling and on sightseeing.
Full ATOL Bonding.
Cost does not include:
Visa fee for India. (E-Tourist visa facility is now available for India, we will send relevant information how to apply to all participants.
Any expenses of a personal nature.
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £400.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.