hornbill festival

Hornbill Festival Travel Blog: Kohima To Kishama, Places To Visit In Kohima & More

Looking for a Hornbill Festival travel blog? Thinking what are the best places to visit in Kohima? How to travel from Kohima to Kishama? This travel guide is all you need…

The land of colourful festivals, indigenous tribes, intricate art and craft, and strange food, Nagaland has always been a place of mystery and attraction for Indian tourists. And the Hornbill festival offers a great venue. Visit from Kohima to Kishama other than exploring some of the best places to visit in Kohima and coming closer to life in Nagaland.

Where the stories of Nagaland’s immersive culture are unfortunately slowly dying today, the best way, at least for tourists, to get closer to its people and their culture, is by attending the 10-day carnival of the Hornbill Festival. Celebrated every year, between 1 and 10 December, Hornbill Festival is where all Naga tribes come together to exhibit their wear and re-create their energetic festivals in one place.

Imagine spending a year travelling through rural Nagaland, witnessing their way of life and celebrations, and then thinking about bringing it all together in one go… that’s Hornbill Festival for you. So pack your bags, and get ready for a cultural visit to Nagaland. As I said, this travel blog will help you explore some of the best places to visit in Kohima, other than finding out how to travel from Kohima to Kishama.

kohima to kishama road

My Visit To Hornbill Festival

My visit to the Hornbill Festival happened more out of luck than an immediate desire. It all started when a 3-day blog trip invites with Datsun India, and three other travel-bloggers, landed in my inbox, and I couldn’t be happier because attending this festival was on my bucket list ever since I heard about it. However, due to one reason or the other, I could not make it.

What made the invite even better was the fact that other than the Hornbill Festival, we had some of the best places to visit in Kohima in our itinerary. For 2 days we travelled from Kohima to Kishama to explore Hornbill Festival And for one day, we explored Kohima. In short, there was more for us in store than just the cultural overdose at the Hornbill Festival.

hornbill festival

Hornbill Festival Travel Blog

Dimapur To Kohima

Dimapur has the only airport and the train station in Nagaland, making it inevitable for anyone to start their journey from anywhere else but here. It is moreover the best way to travel to the Hornbill Festival. Fly to Dimapur and then Dimapur to Kohima by road.

There is nothing to see in Dimapur so you can skip it. The only place to see in Dimapur for me was the miniature Eiffel Tower. But no problem as we are next going to Kohima, and there are enough places to see in Kohima.

dimapur to kohima to kishama

Tip: If you arrive late in Dimapur, it’s well worth spending a night in the town, as Dimapur to Kohima road isn’t very good in shape and can take 3 to 5 hours for just a 70km distance. During winter, daylight in this part of India is moreover very limited and often gets dark before 5 pm. If you plan on staying in Dimapur, I can recommend Hotel Lake Shilloi which offers good views of the city and the landmark city tower, with Christmas carols playing loud and a few Santas dancing to its tunes. The only thing that may make you reconsider is their high prices (particularly for backpackers!) but then again, in Nagaland, nothing is cheaper.

Since we arrived in Dimapur before lunch, we decided to travel from Dimapur to Kohima the same day. Despite having a brand new Datsun Redi-Go, driving from Dimapur to Kohima turned out to be a nightmare, because of the poor road condition. The road was under construction (and in the very initial stage, during Hornbill 2017) transforming a seemingly narrow dirt track into a four-lane highway, and with that, changing everything bit of a beautiful green into a dusty yellow.

kohima to kishama

Though only a 70 km stretch, it can take anywhere between 3 to 5 hours to drive from Dimapur to Kohima, and if you end up driving during monsoon the same journey can take up to 7-8 hours due to landslides. [Read More About The Road Trip From Dimapur To Kohima]

Kohima To Kishama | Hornbill Festival

The actual site of the Hornbill festival is located about a half an hour’s drive from Kohima to Kohima. The Naga heritage village of Kisama, Naga Heritage Village, which hosts the main festival, is well maintained and the scenic beauty around the area is breathtaking.

Starting early in the morning, we left our hotel in Kohima around 8 am and completed our Kohima to Kisama journey by 9.30. If you’re wondering what about places to visit in Kohima, don’t sweat already, we are doing that next.

Though only a 12 km journey, Kohima to Kisama, thanks to traffic congestion in Kohima during Hornbill Hornbill Festival can take about an hour. But the atmosphere inside the Hornbill festival will make it up to you.

With different stalls offering “Zothu” and “Thutse” (local alcoholic beverages made of rice) and the authentic food of all the sixteen major tribes of Nagaland, Kisama offers a plethora of options for foodies and of course to bibulous like me to start with.

rice beer in nagaland

hornbill festival kishamaDifferent tribes have different dedicated stalls for showcasing their cultural & tribal festivities and selling local food, art, and craft. The stalls in Kisama close their affair by 6 in the evening; however, the night does not get over so soon.

The Rock Contest, the Music Festival, the Hornbill Festival Night Bazaar, and many other activities kept the nights alive and young. But it’s always a good idea to visit Kisama early in the day because there’s just so much to see and do.

hornbill festival

Other than a dedicated stall for each tribe, and a common performance area, there is a war museum, a massive horticulture display, and much more.

hornbill festival


We dedicated our entire day to the Hornbill Festival (keeping places to visit in Kohima for the next day) savoured our senses with lovely performances and exotic Naga food and left Kisama around 7 in the evening — as we were staying in Kohima. Again, a long drive back, thanks to the unrealistic traffic congestion, brought back the tiresome memory of the Kohima to Kishama morning ride.

The traffic at the entry & exit of Kohima (to Kisama) can be brutal during the Hornbill Festival. It can sometimes take as long as two hours to travel, so plan accordingly.

Tip: Contrary to what many people believe, the actual site of the Hornbill festival is located at about a 20-minute drive from Kohima (if the traffic isn’t brutal) in the Kisama Heritage Village. And those not bitten by the idea of staying in the capital city of Kohima should consider staying in the town of Kigwema (the next village at only a walking distance from Kisama) to avoid bleeding unnecessary time in the traffic. Compared to Kisama, which more or less offers a crowded and bustling city experience, Kigwema is, moreover, less-crowded, laid back and provides all the necessary comforts for a tourist. And one place I can particularly recommend in Kigwema — where I ended up staying after my blog trip — is Vicha Homestay (very suitable for budget travellers).

Places To See In Kohima

On day 3, we started our trip for best places to see in Kohima by stopping at the World War II cemetery in Kohima — a memorial which lies on the battleground of Garrison Hill.

Dedicated to soldiers of the 2nd British division of the Allied Forces who lost their lives at Kohima in the Second World War, the cemetery contains a total of 1420 Commonwealth burials in addition to 917 Indian soldiers — Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs who were cremated as per their faith.

places to see in kohima

It is a moving experience just walking there, and reading the tombstones. Many of these casualties were Nagas (mostly belonging to the Angami tribe) but there are no statistics for them, except for one — a 21-year-old Saliezhu Angami, the inscription on whose grave reads, “The big-minded warring youngest son of mine shall arise and shine like a star.”

Tip: The war cemetery is located on the main highway in Kohima and can be quickly visited in 10 to 15 minutes. Another place of interest in Kohima is the Catholic Cathedral popular for its architecture which incorporates various elements of traditional Naga houses.

Next on the list of best places to see in Kohima was the quaint little village of Khonoma. Also known as ‘Asia’s first green village’ Khonoma is located at 5,320 feet above sea level in Dzukou Valley. A loner’s paradise, Khonoma village surely deserves a couple of days than a few hours (as we ended up visiting it) but if short with time, a quick visit around the village is surely recommended to get an idea of the unrealistic beauty of rural Nagaland offers.

If you’re planning to visit Kohima to Khonoma, it’s worth seeing this photoblog on Khonoma.

kohima to khonoma trip kohima village

Inhabited by people from the Agami tribe, the Khonoma village offers a rustic village setting with mud flooring and bamboo walls. One can also visit the Ancestral home belonging to the Agami tribe. There’s a small tourist entry fee of 30 Rupees to visit the town.

Finishing the two brief, but memorable pit-stops on our way to Dimapur (from Kohima), we made it back to the dusty NH29 taking us back from Kohima to where our journey started — the town of Dimapur. Three days well spent; a global cultural event, well explored!

I hope you found this 3-Day Hornbill Festival travel blog useful. If you’ve more tips on the festival or places to see in Kohima please share them in the comments below. If you’ve visited Nagaland recently and have any recent news about Kohima to Kishama road please share that as well.

Disclaimer: This trip was sponsored by Datsun India. Though our trip was sponsored, all experiences and recommendations are solely mines. I only recommend what I personally try, and find worth appreciating.

Categories India


I am Dev, and I've been travelling full-time since 2016. I was a journalism student & started my corporate career as a documentary film-maker in England, before moving to India & becoming a full-time nomad. 25+countries. 50+ Brand Partnerships. And the adventure continues...

  1. It was nice reading about this festival I never heard of before. On the other hand, I’m fascinated by your photographic skills. Really nice!

  2. Hornbill festival seems to be unique one. night view of Kohima is amazing. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article.

  3. I haven’t heard the place and I’m not sure if I’ll the chance to visit it. Your photos are really amazing. You’ve captured the details perfectly!

  4. Alexander Popkov

    First of all, your photography is really cool! I love the colors and scenes.
    And the festival looks like something interesting and very unusual for my European eye.

  5. Bruce Schinkel

    What a great place to learn about the local history and interact with the traditional tribes-people. I’ll definitely not try to make that drive during the rainy season!

  6. The area looks amazing, but I can see your point that some places are perhaps not worth visiting outside of some special festival/event. I like your shots of the people, though.

  7. Denny George

    We spent two weeks in Nagaland February this year. However, we could have easily spent another month or more there. Hornbill would have been a good, encapsulated experience. Will try to get to the next Hornbill!!

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