2017 Nagaland Hornbill Festival Guide

Naga tribesman at the Hornbill Festival.
••• Naga tribesman at the Hornbill Festival. NurPhoto/Getty Images

The renowned Hornbill Festival, named after the bird, is one of the largest celebrations of the indigenous warrior tribes of Nagaland, in India's far north east region. The hornbill is particularly revered by the Nagas and is reflected in tribal folklore, dances and songs.

When is the Hornbill Festival?

The festival is usually on every year from December 1-7. However, in 2013 it was extended for a few extra days.

It now concludes on December 10.

Where is it Held?

Most of the festival takes place at Kisama Heritage Village, around 10 kilometers from Kohima (the capital of Nagaland). Performances begin by 9 a.m. each day. You can easily book a taxi to get there, but do ensure that the vehicle has a pass to park at the venue.

The Hornbill Rock Concert, which is held in the evenings after sundown, will be happening in Dimapur again this year. Around 20 bands take part and compete. The travel time between Dimapur and Kohima is about 2 hours.

What Happens at the Hornbill Festival?

The festival is organized by the state government and is attended by all of Nagaland's major tribes. It features traditional arts, dances, folk songs, and games. All this takes place amid immaculate replicas of tribal huts, complete with wood carvings and hollow log drum instruments, which are beat in haunting symphony at the end of the day.

There are plenty of handicraft stalls, food stalls, and heady rice beer to enjoy as well.

However, the hottest event (literally!) at the festival is undoubtedly the Naga chilli eating competition!

A daily program of events for the 2017 Hornbill festival can be downloaded here.

Where to Stay

The Hornbill Festival is one of the top tourist draws in Nagaland, so if you're planning to attend, do book accommodations well in advance.

The best place to stay in Kohima is the Hotel Japfu, Government Tourism hotel. Rooms cost upwards of 3,500 rupees for a double. Advance bookings are imperative. Email: hoteljapfu@yahoo.co.in

Alternatively, there are homestays in Kigwema village within walking distance of the festival venue. Expect to pay 2,500-3,000 rupees per night for a double. Try Lalhou's Homestay or Greenwood Villa.

Another option is to camp. Kite Manja provides the only campsite inside the festival gate, just 100 meters from the main festival arena. Camping starts from November 30, for those who want to catch the opening ceremony the next morning. Facilities include tents, sleeping bags, eco-toilets, water, common area, phone charging points, and kitchen. It's the "happiest campsite" with bonfire, jamming, and other activities. Packages start from 1,365 rupees per person, per day.

Tours to the Festival

Kipepeo is running a recommended eight day tour to the Hornbill Festival. Greener Pastures also conducts an eight day tour to the Hornbill Festival every year. Check out this seven day Nagaland and Hornbill Festival tour offered by The Holiday Scout as well. All are reputable organizations.

Those wanting to photograph the festival may be interested in this photography tour offered by Darter Photography in partnership with local travel company Gypsy Feet.

It includes visits to neighboring villages of the Angami tribe, Kaziranga National Park, and Majuli Island.

If you'd like to stay in style (think glamping!), don't miss the luxurious Ultimate Traveling Camp. They offer itineraries of various durations.

Travel Tips

  • There's a very handy Information Center next to the festival venue, which provides brochures listing the events at the festival and other attractions in Nagaland.
  • Make sure you bargain at the souvenir shops.
  • Entry permits are no longer necessary for foreigners visiting Nagaland. However, foreigners will need to register themselves with the Foreigner's Registration Office (District Superintendent of Police) within 24 hours of entry into the state. Indian tourists need an Innner Line Permit. This is available from any Nagaland House.
  • Kohima doesn't have an airport. The nearest one is in Dimapur, with flights to and from Kolkata and Guwahati.