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Experience the Hornbill Festival Nagaland

Hornbill Festival Nagaland


Nagaland is host to one of the grandest festivals in the country, in December of every year.  Started in the year 2000, the Hornbill Festival was initially drawn up as a grand event to promote tourism in the state.  The festival, now in its 15th year, draws tourists from around the world – especially explorers, photographers, anthropologists, ornithologists and naturalists.


The Nagas, the people of the 16 tribes native to Nagaland, have as many similarities as they do dissimilarities.  The Hornbill Festival serves as a great platform for the traveler  to experience the lifestyle of each tribe with a focus on traditional wear, customs, food, drink, song and dance.  Since many of the tribes are geographically far apart from each other and as the traditional Naga way of life is deeply rooted in their village and around their fields, it wasn’t very common for them to travel to other villages.  This festival helps bind the traveling troupes to bring about a better understanding of each other’s customs and foster mutual respect.


The Hornbill Festival is hosted in Kisama Heritage Village.  The village is located on land donated by two nearby villages – Phesama and Kigwema. The name Kisama is a combination of the names of the two host villages.  Interestingly the structures [‘Morungs’] that have been built on this hill for each tribe match the geographic location of each village in Nagaland.  [A morung is a dormitory meant for the youth of the village where they are taught the traditions and customs of the tribe by the elders].  It is at these morungs and through dance and song performances that each tribe presents to visitors and other tribe members their traditions and customs.


At the festival, you will experience the dances and songs of each tribe through performances over the course of the ten days.  You will experience the cuisines of the tribe and the traditional drinks [often variants of rice beer] at each tribe’s morung.  Contemporary events that complement the festival include a half marathon, a rock contest, a musical performance, a dirt rally, a World War II rally and others.  We will update you on the event calendar through this website when the schedule is released.


Getting there:

Nagaland is connected to the rest of India by rail, bus and air services.  The closest railway station and airport is at Dimapur.  Dimapur is approximately 75 km away from Kohima [~2.5 hours away].  There is only one air link to Dimapur and that is through Kolkata.  The flight operates on all days except Mondays and Fridays.  Almost all trains and buses come through Guwahati while some come through Dibrugarh and Jorhat.

Alternatively, you can fly to Imphal in Manipur which is approximately 4 hours away by road from Kohima.  Imphal is well connected to both Kolkata and Guwahati.


Staying in Kohima

Accommodation during the ten days of the Hornbill festival requires some planning.  There are home stays that operate during this time, details of which you will find on the official Hornbill website [Click Here].  You could either stay in the villages that are near the venue such as Viswema, Kigwema, Phesama and Mima or in Kohima town itself.  However, Kisama, the Hornbill venue is approximately 10 – 12 km away from Kohima .  We can help you find a place to stay during the festival days. 


Inner Line Permits

Citizens of India will need an Inner Line Permit to enter the hill regions of Nagaland.  You can contact us for your permits or apply for a permit in Dimapur once you arrive at the Deputy Commissioner’s office.  If there is a Nagaland House in your state of residence, you can obtain one there as well.  Permits are not required for foreigners. Foreigners, however, need to register themselves at the nearest local Police station in Dimapur after entering the state.


What do you do next? Connect with us

You can connect with us at rohan.abraham@indiatrail.org ordavid.angami@indiatrail.org for more information about the festival.  You can review our on-going road trips here.  Alternatively you can visit the official site for the Hornbill Festival



About Rohan K. Abraham

A simple attempt to document my travels, observations and experiences in this fantastic region of the world - The North East of India. Words cannot fully describe the beauty and diversity of this region, so click on the Instagram button here for the picture story.

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