Start in Guwahati and end in Kolkata (Calcutta)! With the in-depth cultural tour Assam Explorer - Hornbill Festival, you have a 14 day tour package taking you through Guwahati, India and 12 other destinations in India. Assam Explorer - Hornbill Festival includes accommodation in a hotel as well as an expert guide, meals, transport and more.
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. *Hotel D Courtyard 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 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*
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 its 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*
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*
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*
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*
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*
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*
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*
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*
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 Majulis unique traditions. We then make our way to the village of the Mishing tribe, which comprises of 45% of Majulis 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 todays 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*
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*
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. Well visit the Victoria Memorial and Kali Temple, driving past colonial buildings at the Dalhousie Square area. *Standard Hotel*
Those on the flight inclusive package will transfer to Kolkata airport. Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.