Kohima, the capital of Nagaland is a unique hill station with its combination of natural beauty and unique local people and their culture. In fact, nature is as much a tourist attraction here as are the people.
Your best bet to travel to Kohima is to fly into Dimapur (Alternatively take a train till here) and then take a car to Kohima.
Dimapur in Assam is the main communication hub for traveling anywhere in Nagaland. It has its own Airport and rail station. There are direct flights connecting Dimapur to Kolkata daily. It is even better connected by train with about a dozen trains passing through Dimapur every day to different parts of the country. Many of the trains, including the Rajdhani Express, connect Delhi with Nagaland. Although Dimapur is in Assam, the Nagaland Boarder is just 15 minutes drive away. From Dimapur to Kohima is a beautiful journey of about 2.5 hours (65 km).
If you are arriving at Guwahati, which is better connected to the rest of the country, you have to drive to Kohima via Dimapur. This is a long 350 km journey which may take as long as 9 hours. We do not recommend this drive if you have other options.
The small hill station is at an altitude of about 4200 feet. The town has a population of about a lakh. The roads can be quite crowded during peak business hours, there has been rampant urbanization in the recent past and the streets have not grown in proportion to the population or the buildings here. The city is dominated by the Angamis and Aos who are among the largest of the 16 tribes who live in Nagaland.
The Hornbill Festival
The Hornbill Festival has been started to promote the unique culture, traditions, music, dance, and craft of the tribes of Nagaland. It was started by a voluntary organization but was soon taken over by the Nagaland government. Ever since the festival has been growing in popularity and today is probably the most important cultural tourism event in North East India. Many other festivals have started in the region, but none have acquired the prominence of the Hornbill Festival.
The festival normally starts on the first day of December and continues for about a week or more. The festival is a photographers delight as colorfully dressed ethnic people from the 16 different tribes of Nagaland all gather together and join the festivity that includes Dance, Music, Food, Handicraft, Sports etc. The venue for the festival is held at Kisama Heritage Village, on the outskirts of Kohima town.
Insurgency and Security
The Naga people are a fierce warrior and Independent in nature. Since 1834 when the British tried to annex the region, they have been fighting for their independent status. After the Independence of India from British rule, the Naga people wanted their separate country. Today they have broadly assimilated in the national mainstream. However, insurgency and call for independence are still not very uncommon. The Naga people are generally quite hospitable. For your safety, you should avoid venturing too far beyond the city limits and especially during the dark. If you are traveling with us, we will provide you with the latest updates through our guide or co-ordinator regarding the dos and don'ts of traveling to Nagaland.
Nagaland is a dry state and has remained so for close to three decades now. Kohima being close to the Assam boarder, gets its regular supply of grey market liquor which is apparently not very difficult to come by. However officially possession, sale, consumption & manufacture of alcohol is banned in Nagaland.
What to See
Kohima War Cemetary
The 2nd world war cemetery of Kohima is located not far from the city centre yet it is quite peaceful and secluded. This historical place is also famous for the Kohima Epitaph, which reads
"When you go home tell them of us and say
for your tomorrow we gave our today"
Nagaland State Museum
Visit the state museum for the artefacts of the local people and an idea about their history and culture. The museum is located at the centre of the city
World War II Museum
This museum is located in the Kisama village where Hornbill festival is held. It is a good place to understand the history of the WWII and the role Nagaland played in the war.
A village walk is a must walk activity if you are visiting Nagaland. The Khonoma village is just half an hours drive from Kohima. Hire the service of a local guide who will explain you about the village and many wars it fought. The unique culture of the people of Nagaland can be seen in the village, unhindered by tourist activity.
Where to Stay
Accommodation options are limited in Kohima, there is a dearth of tourist accommodation especially in the high end category. During the Hornbill festival, most hotels remain sold out months in advance. Homestay are mostly basic, but there are many home stay accommodations available around Kohima which is an excellent way to interact with the local people and learn about their culture.
naturebeyond organises regular tours to Kohima and its surrounding area. If you are planning a trip during the Hornbill festival we highly recommend that you contact us early enough to avoid disappointment. During the rest of the year also all our tour programs are customised according to guest requirement. We will organise a tour for you according to your interest, budget and time constrain. Feel free to get in touch with our team for suggestions and a tour plan for you.