Hornbill festival was one of the most magnificent, spectacular and downright formidable events I’ve ever attended to date. Its a 10-day display of spirit, culture, heritage, art, a medley of dance and songs, food, social bonding and a lot more than that. It imbibes a sense
Its a major calendar event for anyone traveling to Northeast India in December, you just cannot miss it. Or for that matter any of the festivals of the seven sisters of the east. I highly recommend you make Hornbill festival an addition to your travel bucket list right now if you haven’t already.
But, I feel there are some travel tips that you need to know before you visit, to prepare you for what you’re getting into.
If you want some context before reading these tips, please read my complete guide to Hornbill Festival here.
Here’s my list of
1. There is a showcase of 16 major tribes of Nagaland and their culture
The festival is to celebrate and to educate on the beautiful agricultural state of Nagaland. Here, you’ll be meeting the 16 major tribes. These are;
Angami – Ao – Chakhesang – Chang – Dimasa Kachari – Khiamniungan – Konyak – Kuki – Lotha – Phom – Pochury – Rengma – Sangtam – Sumi – Yimchungru – Zeliang
Each of them has a different heritage, culture, cuisine, and tribal dress. Make sure you take some time to meet them and learn about their amazing culture.
2. Reaching the venue: You can only get to Kohima(Capital of Nagaland) and Kisama Heritage Village by road, no other option.
Hornbill Festival is a celebration of Nagaland tribes and culture which takes place from the 1st December – 10th December each year. The festival grounds are based in Kisama Heritage Village which is around 16 km from the main city of Kohima.
Both of these places can only be accessed by road. The closest airport to Kohima is in Dimapur which is around 70 km and is supposed to be 3 to 4-hour drive away but currently, due to the construction of a six-lane highway, the road is in bad condition and can take you up to 6 hrs.
I would suggest you choose your vehicle wisely as the roads in Nagaland were some of the worst I have experienced. I personally traveled from Imphal to Kohima after seeing the Sangai Festival of Manipur(Link) in a personal vehicle.
3. Hotels and guest houses book up at lightning speed
By that I mean almost months in advance of the festival. So don’t expect to be able to book a place at the last minute. There aren’t really a lot of options to choose from in Kohima and also, the room rates here will be sky-high (because this is the only time they make the most money in the whole year).
If somehow you really wanna attend and it’s a last minute plan I would check out the temporary campsites set up around the area for the festival. These will not only be cheaper but will have some availability. But do come prepared for the weather.
4. Come prepared with warm clothes and lots of them
I couldn’t believe how cold it got in Nagaland. Coming from Manipur the temperature change was huge. In the morning from around 7 am – 10 am it was so hot that the whole time I struggled to roam around with all the layers of warm clothes which i was holding in my hand ,( I had removed them due to the warm
Make sure you bring or buy warm layers of clothing. Most of the festival ground is open air and so there is nowhere to get warm from the chill.
5. Kohima will be crowded, so expect widespread delays
Like any other hilly city even Kohima has narrow lanes and roads and
A tip, do not forget anything back in the room, as taking U-turn is absolutely not possible or be prepared to get late and miss out on all the fun
6. The festival is pretty much free, but you pay for a room, small surcharge for cameras/video cameras each day
If you were heading in from Kohima each day it’s only 20 rupees for entry, 30 rupees for a camera and 70 rupees for video. That’s a steal for this beautiful festival!
As for me, I reached the venue super early, as in around 7 a.m . There wasn’t anybody at the entrance so I had no idea about the ticket. But did get to know on my way outside and bought it the next day.
If you are staying near Kisama at the campsites you don’t have to pay for the festival
7. Nagaland is devout Christian.
A lot of the Naga youth are curious to learn about your religion and where you come from and what do you do. Basically inquisitive in a really nice way. Especially If you meet them at the Kohima night flea market.
8. Visit in the morning for the best lighting…and warmth!
Heading to the festival grounds in the morning time really brings this festival to life as the sunlight just makes all the bold and bright colors shine! that’s the best time to make most of the festival time and get a few memorable clicks with the tribes.
The contrasts with blue sky in the background, thatched huts, Red, Green, Yellow, Blue colored tribal clothes just brings the festival feel alive and leaves you in awe.
Plus the fact that it’s nice and warm.
9. If you’re a photographer, go early and beat the crowds and get the most unique shots.
Hornbill Festival is a photographers paradise, especially portraits. Just can’t stress enough how many opportunities you have. It’s like a thali full of unlimited options and you just want more and more. You’ve obviously come this far to experience the incredible and also take a few memorable clicks. For that, the only tip you’ll require is to get up early and beat the crowd. And you already must know that natural lighting is the perfect lighting.
The best time of day to take pictures is the time when the tribes are practicing at the festival just before the morning showcase in the huts as this. Perfect timing. You might just get a chance to dance with them. Like I did!!
10. This is
the time of the year is the biggest source income for Kohima and the tribes, try not to haggle too much and do respect their work and art.
Hornbill is a massive source of income for the tribes and Kohima itself. The masses of tourists ensure that the festival can keep running each year and the earnings during this time provides for the residents throughout the year when tourism is low. Just keep in mind that these guys don’t earn a lot throughout the year and these are handmade. Those pretty bright scarves, shawls, and necklaces took a long time to make, typically they can take weeks. And not the whole stock gets sold neither do many of them sell the products anywhere else. Don’t cut them too short. Give a little.
In one of the shop
11. Rice Beer is gonna be your jam
Rice beer is the local alcohol which is served at the festival. If you’re heading to the festival grounds at night you can drink some with the locals around the many campfires set up outside the
Nagaland has a (rather lax) alcohol ban that’s been in place since 1989 so make sure you bring your own booze if you don’t want to drink rice beer. But I would suggest do it as the locals do!!
It is hit and miss what you’ll get in terms of flavour and strength, but do not underestimate it!
12. Watch out for innards and dog meat on the menu
Nagaland definitely isn’t the place for vegans and vegetarians.
Innards of pigs and cows and dog delights are on the menu. So, if you are feeling brave go for it.
Of course there are vegetarian options like egg curries and Thali’s but it won’t be endless. Nagaland is predominantly a meat-eating state.
. There is Night flea market in the main city of Kohima.
While everybody is at the Heritage village there is another side to the festival where mostly the Naga youths put up stalls of food, art, jewelry, clothes and a lot of handmade things. Want to load up on warm clothes if you haven’t brought them along then this is exactly the place to do so. It has almost the same vibe like the festival grounds. But unlike the professional stalls there you’ll find college students, families, kids all working together to put up their work and earn something out of it! Their excitement is unmatchable!
14. The tribes are really really friendly
Despite the elaborate costumes, horns, the bold jewelry, the intimidating knives and the fact that the guys are dressed up in their native tribal dress; they’re super friendly. Everybody is kind and open for you to take photos of them and with them, some even dressing you in their clothes for the picture without even asking
It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about a culture so unfamiliar to my own, even though I stay in the same country. I was there just for a day but can
Just don’t miss this festival while you’re in North East India! It was honestly one of the most interesting and mindblowing festivals I have ever visited.
I fell in love with the culture, the tribes and the Naga ways of living while I was there. I guess I met few of the sweetest people there and all the festival vibe had that effect on me.
You honestly can’t miss this opportunity; make sure you book your ticket to attend Hornbill Festival in 2019!
Want to know more then checkout these posts
- Kohima: A land of culture and heritage like none other
- Hornbill Festival: The only guide you’ll ever need
Like it? Pin it.
Did you like this post or have any feedback? Please let me know in the comments section below! Or, if you have any further questions, feel free to ask. Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list by popping your email in the form below and follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest