Assam Explorer - Hornbill Festival

15 days
from
£2,949
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Trip code: 
AKN8
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture
Group size:
5–16
Min age:
16

Discover one of the most beautiful and fascinating regions of India

Tucked away in northeast India lies a wild land of pristine forests, rugged mountains and beautiful lakes, inhabited by some of Asia's last surviving former headhunting tribes. It is arguably one of the most beautiful and fascinating regions of India, sharing borders with Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar and Bangladesh, yet it remains the least explored. Journey through Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland on this adventurous tour, starting with the living root bridges in Cherrapunjee and the capital city of Meghalaya, Shillong. We then continue to Assam, searching for the one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park before moving on to Kohima to celebrate Nagaland's annual Hornbill Festival. A trip to Nagaland isn't complete without a visit to Majuli Island, where we visit the village of the Mishing tribe. 

Highlights

  • Living root bridges in Cherrapunjee
  • Wildlife in Kaziranga National Park
  • Meet the tribes of Nagaland

Key information

  • 9 nights standard hotels, 4 nights lodges
  • Group normally 5 to 16, plus local leader and driver. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by private air-conditioned minibus, Jeep and 1 internal flight
  • Countries visited: India

What's included

  • All breakfasts and 9 dinners 
  • All accommodation
  • Transfer for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas and vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

London
to
London
  • Day 1

    Depart London; fly to Guwahati.

    Depart London the evening before day 1 of the trip.  On arrival on day 1 you will be transferred to the domestic terminal for the onward flight to Guwahati, Assam. 

  • Day 2

    Start Guwahati, Assam

    Trip starts in Guwahati, the state capital of Assam. The group flight usually arrives mid to late morning however this depends on domestic flight schedules which can change. You will be advised of when the welcome meeting for your group will be held. During free time today you may like to visit the 17th Century Shiva Umananda temple and explore Guwahati. The temple is a ferry ride across the Brahmaputra River to Peacock Island and is located at the top of a series of steep steps. This is also a nice resting place for rare golden langurs (leaf-eating monkeys and one of India's most endangered primates). If you are making your own way to the start hotel in Guwahati and would like more time to explore the city our sales team can arrange pre-tour accommodation prior to day 1 of the trip.
    Hotel D Courtyard or similar

  • Day 3

    Drive to Cherrapunjee; en route visit Nakikhai Falls and Mawsmi Cave

    Today we drive to Cherrapunjee, also known as Sohra, in the state of Meghalaya. Cherrapunjee is one of the wettest places on the planet and the only place in India to receive rain throughout the year. The heavy monsoon rains over these mountains, create one of the rarest bio-diverse vegetation in the world. On route we have a view stop at Umiam Lake (also known as Barapani Lake). This picturesque reservoir was created by damming the Umiam River in the early 1960s. En route we also visit Nokikhai falls one of the top ten in Meghalaya and the stunning underground Mawsmai caves. Please note the floor in the caves can sometimes be wet so it is best to wear shoes with a good grip. Drive on to Cherrapunjee where we check in to the hotel.
    Drive approx. 148km, 7-8 hrs

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Walk through the Khasi hills to the double-decker living root bridge

    An exciting day as we enjoy an optional scenic walk through the beautiful Khasi hills to the 250-year-old double-decker living root bridge, spanning between two grand old rubber trees in the remote village of Norgriat. This bridge can only be reached on foot but it's a very beautiful and interesting walk. The first part of the trail takes you down a series of steep stone steps, passing small remote villages. It will take approx. 2 hours (depending upon one’s physical fitness) of walking down the steps to reach the bridge. On arrival at the bridge we will have a packed lunch (not included) and enjoy resting in the area. It is then a steep climb following the same steps back to the coach. The ascent usually takes longer and it is challenging in the heat. It is a moderate/challenging trek and we recommend wearing walking shoes with good grip. Using a walking pole or finding a sturdy stick locally will help you navigate the steps especially if you have knee problems. The round trip including the trek is approx.6-7 hrs. Later return to hotel and relax. If you prefer not to do the bridge hike you can relax at our hotel or enjoy exploring Laitkynswe village which is within walking distance.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 5

    Visit Mawphlang village for the Sacred Forest; drive to Shillong

    Today we will make our way to the Mawphlang Sacred Forest, with its plentiful flowering trees, orchids and butterflies (approx. 3hrs drive). From here it is just a 1 hr drive to Shillong where we will check in to our hotel. This afternoon we take a walk through the streets of Shillong, the capital city of the state of Meghalaya, as well as the headquarters of the East Khasi Hill district. Reputable educational institutions were established by various missionary groups, making Shillong the hub of education for the entire north-east. It is also home to several waterfalls and is referred to as 'the Scotland of the East'. British influence is still visible in the architecture and cuisine.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Drive to Kaziranga National Park in Assam via the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures.

    This morning we explore Shillong, the capital city of the state of Meghalaya, as well as the headquarters of the East Khasi Hill district. Reputable educational institutions were established by various missionary groups, making Shillong the hub of education for the entire north-east. It is also home to several waterfalls, and referred to as 'the Scotland of the East'. British influence is still visible in the architecture and cuisine. We visit the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, a famous museum which preserves the culture of various tribes and communities of northeast India. We then drive to Kaziranga National Park in Assam, with time to relax upon arrival.
    Drive approx. 252km, time 5-6 hrs.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 7

    Morning and afternoon jeep safaris in search of the one-horned rhino.

    Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for the one-horned rhino. The landscape consists of pristine forest, tall elephant grass, reeds, marshes and shallow pools. The park also has a small number of tiger, and is home to a large breeding population of elephants, buffalo and swamp deer. Today we enjoy two jeep safaris in search of the one-horned rhino; the first drive is early in the morning, before breakfast, and the second is in the afternoon.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 8

    Drive to the picturesque town of Kohima.

    Leaving Kaziranga National Park, we have a long drive to Kohima (approx. 7-8 hrs). Lapped in the eastern frontiers of the Himalayan mountain range, the picturesque town of Kohima is marked by a relaxed pace of life; calm and serene, with fresh air. A typical Naga town, it depicts the exotic tribal culture of the northeast and offers panoramic views of the neighbouring hills. On the way to Kohima we will cross Dimapur, the site of the old capital of the Dimasa Kachari Kingdom who ruled these lands during the Middle Ages. The hills and valleys of this independent and little visited region are the traditional homeland of the Nagas, fiercely proud warrior clans who still revere their ancestral beliefs. Upon arrival in Kohima, we have free time to relax and unwind.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 9

    Celebrate the annual Hornbill Festival at Kohima.

    Today we will join the locals as they come together and celebrate the annual Hornbill Festival. Taking place in the first week of December each year, the festival is a celebration of the rich heritage of Nagaland. Tribes from all over the state come together and perform traditional dances and folk songs, and display their ornate clothing, jewellery and hunting spears. The festival is named after the state bird, the Hornbill, which is admired by the tribes for the grandeur of its plumage. The headdresses worn by many of the tribes reflect the birds colourful feathers. You will have a closer understanding of the people and the diverse culture of Nagaland, and an opportunity to experience the varied Naga food. Tourists are wwarmly welcomed at the traiditonal huts of each tribe, which showcase respective traditions. For those who are interested, you have the opprtunity to seat with the young and elerderly members of the tribes and interact with them.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 10

    Hornbill Festival at Kohima.

    Our second day celebrating the Hornbill Festival and soaking up the atmosphere. We enjoy the traditional dance performances and admire the traditional artwork and sculptures. There are also souvenirs available to buy at various handicraft stalls. Food is a big part of the culture and there are stalls selling plenty of treats throughout the day, including dishes containing spicy Naga chilli. In the afternoon we return to our hotel, with time to explore the town on your own if you wish.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 11

    Morning to explore Kohima; drive to Jorhat

    After breakfast we will explore Kohima and visit the war cemetery which is a memorial dedicated to soldiers of the 2nd British Division of the Allied Forces who lost their lives in World War II in April 1944.  We will then drive to Jorhat (5 - 6 hour drive) and upon arrival we will check into our hotel.  This evening is free to relax.

    Standard hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 12

    Ferry to Majuli Island; visit the village of the Mishing tribe

    We will have an early breakfast and then drive to Nimati Ghat to board our ferry crossing the mighty Brahmaputra River to Majuli Island.  This large island is renowned for migratory birds and the Mishing tribal culture. It has been the principle place of pilgrimage for Vaishnavites since the age of the Ahom rulers. On arrival we will visit one of these holy places before checking into our Lodge. This afternoon we visit more satras, where we will meet priests and learn about Majuli's unique traditions. We then make our way to the village of the Mishing tribe, which comprises of 45% of Majuli's population, and whose ethnic culture has remained unchanged for centuries. We see the community pillar houses, which are generally stilted and have a thatched roof. We finish today's sightseeing with a visit to Chamaguri satra, famous for making masks that are used for religious dance and theatre. There is an optional cultural show this evening for those who would like to experience traditional dance and music.

    Basic Lodge

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 13

    Early morning walk in the wetlands; on to Dibrugarh via Sivasagar

    Today we have an early morning walk through the wetlands to catch the sunrise, look-out for birds, and enjoy the natural peace of the area. We may also see villagers as they start their day. After our walk we return to the Lodge for breakfast before checking out. Leaving Majuli Island, we board the ferry back to Nimati Ghat and then drive to Sivasagar, which was once the capital of the Ahom Kings. The Shans, who came from Thailand through northern Myanmar in the early 13th Century, ruled for 600 years. The Siva Temple, built by the Ahoms, is believed to be one of the largest Hindu temples. The ruins of Ahom palaces and monuments dot the landscape surrounding this town. Centuries before the arrival of the British, this part of the world was controlled by a number of tribal chieftains. We continue to Dibrugarh, the gateway to the 'Hidden Land' of eastern Arunchal Pradesh. It is also known as the 'Camelia' town of Assam, with its rich tea gardens resembling a lush green carpet.

    Drive approx. 135km, time 4-5 hrs.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Fly to Kolkata; afternoon sightseeing including Victoria Memorial and Kali Temple.

    This morning we catch a morning flight to Kolkata, previously known as Calcutta. It is the capital city of the state of West Bengal and the cultural capital of India, serving as the capital of India during the British Raj until 1912. We arrive in Kolkata in the morning and proceed for city sightseeing after check-in at the hotel. We'll visit the Victoria Memorial and Kali Temple, driving past colonial buildings at the Dalhousie Square area.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    End Kolkata; fly to London.

    Those on the flight inclusive package will transfer to Kolkata airport. Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

India

Visas are required if you are British and for most other nationalities. For UK residents full details of the visa process can be found here. Other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies.

If your trip visits Ladakh, in the very north of India, or Sikkim in the northeast, do not mention this on your Indian visa application. This can sometimes slow down or even cause the embassy to reject your visa.

When you reach immigration, you are required to pick up an immigration form. If you have an e-visa, ensure you stand in the correct queue - please follow the signs to the e-visa booth (in Delhi this is at the back of the immigration hall). You will need to fill out an additional form at the booth - please make sure that you have the details of your start hotel ready (these details can be found on your Final Joining Instructions).

 

Vaccinations

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. In Assam there is a risk of Malaria.  So Malaria prophylaxis is essential on this trip, and we suggest that you seek advice from your GP or travel health clinic about which malaria tablets to take. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. 

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and 9 dinners included. 

You should allow at least £13-15 (approx. US$17-20) per day for lunch and dinner where they are not included. You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants most of the time, you will spend more than the suggested amount. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try local restaurants and street food vendors. They can make recommendations which will help boost small businesses and celebrate local specialties. In most of the towns there is a good choice of restaurants. If you are a vegetarian, India is probably one of the best destinations to travel to. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A (large!) bottle of beer is approximately £3 (approx. US$4). Mineral water is provided in the vehicle in a 20 ltr container, so please bring a water bottle with you so that you can refill it during the day. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.

Weather

Is this trip for you?

Activity Level: 2 (Leisurely/Moderate)

This trip provides an excellent introduction to the northeast of the country and includes a great range of experiences and sights, from walking in the Khasi hills to visiting the bustling city of Kolkata. 

On day 3 the optional hike to the living root-bridge, though a very rewarding experience, is very challanging as there are 2,500 steep steps to negotiate going down to and returning from the bridge. It will take approx. 2 hours (or longer depending on your physical fitness) to reach the bridge.  We then return via the same steps which can be strenuous in the heat and it will most likely take longer than the descent.  Walking shoes with a good grip are essential and it is adviseable to bring walking poles or get hold of a stick locally if you have problems with your knees but you intend doing this option.

Please note that hotel facilities in northeast India tend to be simpler than other regions, but most of the hotels we use meet local 2-3-star standards. 

The road quality varies throughout this trip and are obviously very different from those in the west.  Local traffic and/or road damage after the monsoon can sometimes slow us down. Although we attempt to minimise journey times, you must be prepared for some longer or bumpy drives. The real draw of travelling in the North East of India is that it is a less trodden tourist path however that does mean standards should not be compared with other countries or even other areas of India.  Suspending expectations is often the best way to approach this adventure.

Please note that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are responsible for the conservation of many monuments and very occasionally this may mean that work is taking place at sites visited on this trip. The ASI’s schedule is never published so it is not possible to forewarn our clients of when work will be taking place.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels and Lodges

9 nights standard hotels and 4 nights basic lodges. The hotels we stay in are classed as standard 2/3-star hotels (local rating), where properties are chosen for their location and value. Some areas are not geared up to western tourism and facilities are generally simpler than other parts of India. All hotel rooms have en suite facilities but plumbing can be erratic.

In Cherrapunjee we stay in a family-run nature resort, surrounded by beautiful scenery. A Mishing tribal family runs our accommodation at Majuli Island. It is built in traditional style with basic bamboo and thatch cottages on stilts (each with a veranda and bathroom). In Kolkata, our hotel is located in the heart of the city and only a 5 minute walk from bustling Park Street. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Be the first to post your review! If you have recently returned from an Exodus adventure and want to help other travellers with your feedback then simply use the link below to post your holiday review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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