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 Majuli Island, where we visit the village of the Mishing tribe. Finishing in Nagaland, we explore Lungwa village, which straddles the India-Myanmar border. A trip to Nagaland isn't complete without a visit to Hongphoi village, to meet one of the last surviving former headhunting Konyak tribes in this region.
All breakfasts and 8 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.
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.
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. 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. *Cygnett in Repose or similar*
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 stop for views of Nokikhai falls one of the top ten in Meghalaya. You cannot walk to the bottom of the falls but the view from the top of the cliff is stunning. From here we head to the underground Mawsmai caves. The caves are full of stalactites and stalagmites and provide for easy acess. The height of the roof varies and the floor in the caves can sometimes be wet so it is best to wear shoes with a good grip. After our cave exploration we drive on to Cherrapunjee where we check in to the hotel. Drive approx. 148km, 7-8 hrs *Cherrapunjee Holiday resort or similar*
An exciting day as we enjoy an optional scenic walk through the beautiful Khasi hills to the 200-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. *Cherrapunjee Holiday resort or similar*
Today we make our way to the Mawphlang Sacred Forest, with its plentiful flowering trees, orchids and butterflies. (approx 3 hrs drive). En route we will visite Elephant Falls. These are amongst the most popular falls in the North-East and are so named for a stone that used to stand at the bottom of the falls and resembled an Elephant. The stone was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1800s but the name stuck. From here we continue on to Shillong where we check in to our hotel. 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. This afternoon we take a walk through the city's fascinating streets including a bustling bazaar where most of the stalls are run by women from outlying local villages. Here you will find fruit and vegetables, spices and handicrafts. T Drive Approx. 65Kms, time 4-5Hrs *The Loft Executive Inn or similar*
This morning we leave Shillong and drive to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. En route, subject to it being open (opening & closing times can change with little or no notice) we visit the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures. This museum preserves the culture of various tribes and communities of northeast India. Your tour leader will check if it is open or not and advise you accordingly. On arrival at Kaziranga National Park there is time to relax at our resort. Drive approx. 252km, time 7-8 hrs *Dhanshree Resort or similar*
Today we have two jeep safaris in search of the one-horned rhino. We have an early morning then an afternoon safari and each take up to 3 hours. Kaziranga National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site,where two-thirds of the world's population of the one-horned rhino live. Located on the southside of the Brahmaputra river, the park landscape consists of pristine forest, tall elephant grass, reeds, marshes and shallow pools. In addition to the rhinos round 100 tigers live here though the dense jungle means this elusive creature is very difficult if not impossible to spot. (Good luck!) The park is also home to a large population of elephants, wild buffalo and the endangered swamp deer. This full day of wildlife spotting is definitely one of the highlights of the trip. *Dhanshree Resort or similar* * *
Leaving Kaziranga National Park, we drive to Nimati Ghat to board a ferry crossing the mighty Brahmaputra river to Majuli Island. This is the second largest river island in the world has been the principle place of pilgrimage for Hindu Vaishnavites since the age of the Ahom rulers. Several satras (monasteries and hermitages) resembling those of mediaeval times are headed by Satradhikars, teaching Vaishnavism. Upon arrival at Majuli Island, we'll have some time to visit these satras before making our way to the hotel. Each satra, the centre of learning, art and culture, has an unknown wealth of Vaishnavite scriptures and extensive revenue-free lands cultivated by the Bhakats (celebrated monks) of the satras. The Island is a serene haven with little traffic, peaceful woodlands and small villages of houses on stilts. Drive approx 150km, time 3-4 hours (includes ferry trip) *Me-Po Okum Eco (homestay) or similar*
Majuli Island is renowned for the Mishing tribe and today we will spend time learning about their culture. We have an early start to enjoy a sunrise walk through the wetlands, look-out for birds, and enjoy the natural peace of the area. We may also come across villagers as they start their day. We return to the hotel for breakfast before exploring more of the island. We continue our visit to satras where we will learn more about the impact the Hindu Vaishnavite culture has on the people of Majuli. We head 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 will see the community pillar houses, which are generally stilted and have a thatched roof. This is a great opportunity to spend time with the local population and learn about a culture so far removed from our own. We finish today's sightseeing with a visit to Chamaguri satra, famous for it's mask making, these are used for religious dance and theatre. There is an optional cultural show this evening for those who would like to experience traditional music and dance. This will be arranged either at our homestay or at one of the satras. *Me-Po Okum Eco Resort (Homestay) or similar* * *
Leaving Majuli Island, we board the ferry back to Nimati Ghat and then drive on to Sivasagar, which was once the capital of the Ahom Kings and the most historic town in the state. The Shans, who came from Thailand through northern Myanmar in the early 13th Century, ruled for 600 years. The ruins of Ahom palaces and monuments dot the landscape around Sivasagar. Centuries before the arrival of the British, this part of the world was controlled by several tribal chieftains. Today we visit Talatal Ghar and Rang Ghar before driving into the city centre. Talatal Ghar or the Rangpur palace is the one of the grandest examples of Tai Ahom architecture. Initially built as an army base this imposing structure was also used as a palace. From here we visit the Rang Ghar a double-story ampitheatre often referred to as 'the colosseum of the east'. Built as a royal sports pavilion it was used for entertaining Ahom kings and nobles. From here we head to the Sivasagar tank (lake) to see three typical Ahom temple towers. The tallest if the Shivadol which is dedicated to Shiva the third god in the Hindu triumvirate. We will end the day with a walk through the lively market area ending at our hotel where you can relax and unwind. Drive approx. 60km, time 2 hrs. drive (includes ferry trip) *Hotel Shiva Palace or similar*
Today we leave Assam and drive to Mon in the state of Nagaland. At 897m above sea level, Mon is one of the most mystic places in Nagaland and boasts a rich tribal heritage. It's a nature lovers' paradise, with some of the best views of the Assam plains viewed from here. In the afternoon we visit Hongphoi village to meet one of the last surviving former headhunting tribes in this region. At the Angh's house, we will meet some of the elders of the village. They are dressed in tribal clothing which signifies they belong to the Naomei Cult. After our visit we return to Mon. Please note the roads to and around Mon are in particular bad repair so please be prepared for the longer travel time and bumpy ride. Drive approx. 120 km, time 5-6 hrs. *Teihpha Cottage (Homestay) or similar* *Aoleang Spring Festival departure * This departure follows this standard itinerary but is scheduled so that we can experience the festival whilst staying in Mon.
Longwa village, located on the India-Myanmar border where villagers have dual citizenship, is our next point of call. One half of the Angh's house falls within Indian Territory, whereas the other half lies under Myanmar's control. The village chief or the Angh and the village council chairman control the whole village, and their jurisdiction extends up to Myanmar and Arunchal Pradesh. This was headhunting country but dont worry the practise was discontued in the 1960s. This is another fascinating day of learning about tribal practises and traditions. After sharing time with the headhunters we return to Mon for some free time to explore. Drive approx. 42km, time 2-3 hrs. *Teihpha Cottage (Homestay) or similar*
Today we drive to Dibrugarh which is the gateway to the 'Hidden Land' of eastern Arunchal Pradesh. It is surrounded by rich tea gardens resembling a lush green carpet. En-route, if it is running when we arrive, we will stop at a local village to see a farmer’s market. If open (hours of opening can change with little or no notice) we will also visit a tea garden to learn about the cultivation and production of this world-famous drink. On arrival in Dibrugarh we check into our hotel. Drive approx. 125km, time 5-6 hrs *Hotel Tea County or similar*
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. *Hotel Dee Empresa or similar*
Those on the flight inclusive package will transfer to Kolkata airport. Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.
You will have the option to book your own flights independently with the operator.
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