(pic: Dzükou Valley, Kohima)
Ever dreamt of escaping to a mystical land of exotic culture with lush scenery nestled in some faraway mountains?
Head to the Land of Festivals - Nagaland, the hidden gem located in India’s hilly Northeastern region.
The most striking feature of Nagaland is its rich cultural heritage. With 16 recognised tribes, the state is a cultural haven where each tribe has its own unique cultural identity, dialect, festivals and practices, and exotic cuisines.
1. Hornbill Festival, Kohima, Nagaland
(Date: December 1-10, 2023)
If you are in the capital city of Kohima looking for a truly exotic experience of the diverse Naga culture, the Hornbill Festival, aka, the Festival of festivals is a must on your bucket list. This festival is a grand 10-day celebration of ethnic Naga culture held annually from December 1 to 10 at the Naga Heritage Village of Kisama.
The Land of the Warriors once again come to live in the reenactment of myriad dances and songs, and ancient war-cries and rituals. Visitors can indulge in merry-making the Naga way, participate in indigenous games and contests, taste the exotic delicacies of each Naga tribe, and enjoy the ethos of a community-centric lifestyle. Tourists can also partake in the most popular Naga King Chilli and pork fat eating competitions. Hornbill Festival is the only time you will see all the Naga tribes together in one festival in all their ethnic glory – an absolute feast for the eyes and belly!
What’s even more interesting is that you can also witness the essence of multiculturalism as the festival over the years has become more inclusive inviting other cultures from both neighbouring and distant lands.
2. Naga Food
A visit to Kohima is incomplete without indulging in the local rice beer, or zutho. This fermented rice beer is one of the specialties of the Angami tribe, including the famous pork cooked in bamboo shoot and galho (savoury porridge). Other famous Naga dishes include smoked pork cooked in axone (fermented soyabean) specialized by the Sumi Nagas, pork prepared with anishi (dried paste of fermented yam leaves) and a dish called pongsen (fish/meat cooked in bamboo) by the Ao Nagas.
Nagas enjoy exotic delicacies that include bee larvae and hornets, ants, snails, edible worms and insects. Aside from a meat-rich diet, traditional Naga cuisine makes use of zero oil with a variety of indigenous greens and locally sourced herbs. The world famous Ghost Pepper or the Naga King Chilli is a major ingredient found in Naga homes aside from fermented soyabean, yam leaves, crab paste, bamboo shoot and mustard leaves, etc. You can also sizzle your palate to an assortment of pickled foods and chutneys which are a rage in Nagaland.
3. Naga Villages: One of the best ways to experience the essence of Nagaland is by visiting its villages. Here are some of the most popular villages in Nagaland that you must explore:
Khonoma Tourist Village:
Khonoma is a historic village located in the Kohima district of Nagaland. The village is known for its rich culture, traditional architecture, and the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary. Khonoma is also famous for its role in the Angami Naga tribe's rebellion against British colonialism in the late 19th century.
Longwa is a unique village located on the Nagaland-Myanmar border. The village is inhabited by the Konyak tribe, known for their headhunting traditions and distinctive facial tattoos. Longwa is a fascinating place to explore the Konyak culture, with several traditional houses, woodcarvings, and handicrafts on display.
Chizami is a charming village located in the Phek district of Nagaland. The village is known for its community-based conservation initiatives, with several local organizations working to preserve the environment and promote sustainable tourism. Chizami is also famous for its annual Hornbill Festival, which showcases Nagaland's diverse cultures and traditions.
4. Trekking & Adventure:
Dzukou Valley Trek: Dzukou Valley, also known as the 'Valley of Flowers of the North-East,' is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Nagaland. This trek takes you through lush green forests, sparkling streams, and stunning valleys, all surrounded by the majestic Himalayas. The trek is moderately challenging and can be completed in 2-3 days. The best time to do this trek is from June to September when the valley is in full bloom.
Japfu Peak Trek: Japfu Peak, located near Kohima, is the second-highest peak in Nagaland and offers a challenging trekking experience for adventure enthusiasts. The trek takes you through dense forests, rocky terrain, and steep slopes, culminating in a breathtaking view of the surrounding valleys and hills. The trek is challenging and takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
Mount Saramati Trek: Mount Saramati, located on the India-Myanmar border, is the highest peak in Nagaland and offers a thrilling trekking experience for adventure enthusiasts. The trek takes you through dense forests, remote villages, and challenging terrain, culminating in a stunning view of the surrounding valleys and hills. The trek is challenging and takes around 5-6 days to complete.
There’s more to Naga culture than just songs and dances, and tribal attires. The social scene of Kohima stands out for its street fashion. One can also indulge in shopping from age-old Tibetan shops to small boutiques and thrift markets given the growing craze for thrift fashion.
Whatever your style of travel is, you're going to experience a unique adventure in Nagaland, for sure.
Discover an unforgettable experience of tribal hospitality in the Naga Hills.