Is Nagaland safe? Or is Nagaland dangerous? Should you visit there as a tourist? Let’s find it all in this travel blog.
All suggestions are based on personal experiences…
“Though it’s totally peaceful at the moment and the local rebellion groups have agreed to a ceasefire, Nagaland is safe for outsiders. Ye log, vaise bhi, tourist ko kkuch nahi karta (these people mean no harm to tourists)” I clearly remember how brief and assuring the answer was as I inquired about the safety of tourists traveling in Nagaland.
And as I later repeated the question, every time I saw army personnel I got the same answer. “For a tourist, Nagaland is safe.”
To tell you the truth, I wanted to believe that too — with all the goodness and faith in me. But given what we keep hearing about northeast India, it was a little hard for me to reconsider, at least without having any first-hand experience.
So yea, during my one-month backpacking trip in Nagaland, I asked almost anyone wearing camouflage pants the same question, “is Nagaland safe for tourists?”
My first experience of Nagaland took place in Pfutsero, a small town (in the Kohima district) inhabited by the dominating Chakesang tribe. The journey to Pfutsero was undeniably unusual too and happened all of a sudden when a cab driver in Kohima spoke about his home in Pfutsero and left me with a choice of accompanying him to a place I had never heard of before.
My biggest inspiration was the fact that Pfutsero was Nagaland’s highest inhabited town, and with that, the coldest too. The next thing I knew, I was in a shared taxi accompanied by three other locals, with one of them holding on to his 12-inch machete.
The town of Pfutsero revealed itself as a little eccentric, but undeniably friendly. Despite half of the locals being alien to the idea of tourism, all I had in store for us was smiles and friendship. I trespassed on people’s property, offered candies to kids, drank rice beer in somebody’s house, and explored the town as confidently as we would explore any other part of the country. In less than a few hours, Pfutsero felt at home. So yea, on the basis of my first experience, I felt, Nagaland is safe for outsiders, especially tourists.
To me, people in Nagaland appeared to be just as friendly and kind as you generally expect people to be. They would treat you as guest, tell you directions if you’re lost and invite you to their house if shared a smile.
Though it’s true that Nagaland was once dangerous since the introduction of Christianity the entire state has transformed into a humble shadow of its once fierce self. Today, Nagaland is a place where people would want to live beautifully, eat well, make friends, and be merry.
But let’s not believe me so soon, and ask ourselves again…
Is Nagaland Safe?
Nagaland has always been known for its headhunting tribes — the fierce indigenous groups who would chop off an intruder’s head that seemed a threat.
What made the entire idea of safety and travel in Nagaland worse is that they took pride in doing that. They would ostentatiously hang the head they had claimed on the entrance of their house and talk about it — with a simple belief that the more head one would claim the better will be his reputation. Men would claim the heads and their wives would tattoo their bodies as a reward and for showing affection.
Head-hunting was prevalent in Nagaland until the late 70s before the British missionaries entered the region and gave the people of Nagaland a reason not to do so. They introduced Christianity and taught indigenous tribes to “Love Thy Neighbour”.
Since the early 80s headhunting and clan-killing have totally stopped in Nagaland with many proud headhunters now feeling guilty about their brutal practices. They buried their heads in the ground, stopped talking about it, and moved forward to a harmonized society.
Though headhunting practices are only a dying myth today, tourists still find the age-old practice just too fearful to travel to Nagaland. And to tell you the truth, so was the case with me, as I landed in Dimapur, and with that, in Nagaland, for the first time ever.
Traveling In A Pair
When an invitation to attend the Hornbill Festival in Kohima landed in my inbox, I decided not to return to Delhi after its completion in three days, and rather stay back and explore a bit of Nagaland.
The only problem was, no part of me wanted to do it on its own — and this was for two reasons. One, because traveling solo can be costly and sticking together helps in saving money. And two, because of the obvious reason of personal safety. Just like you, I also asked myself if Nagaland was safe to travel to or not.
So for the first time ever, since my two-plus years of solo traveling stint, I considered not being on my own and rather tagging with another blogger from Kerala. For the next 15 days (out of my 20-day travel period in Nagaland) we stuck together, acting as each other’s helpless guardians before I slowly gained confidence and parted to travel on my own for a few days.
What Am I Actually Trying To Convey
Traveling in Nagaland is just as safe as traveling in any other part of the country, with the local insurgency groups being totally inactive at the moment, and hopefully going to stay that way. But even if not, and from what I’ve experienced, people in Nagaland understand what value tourism brings to their state, and can never harm tourists for coming all the way to their neighbourhood only to spend money.
During my 20-day backpacking trip in Nagaland, I hitchhiked about 6 times, twice on my own; camped once, again on my own; blindly trusted locals and ended up sipping hot tea or a glass of rice beer in their house, and in the end, it all went well.
So just be aware of what’s going on around you and don’t feel afraid. Take necessary steps to minimize risk wherever needed and you will see that people in Nagaland are just as friendly, hospitable and kind as you expect people in general.
More on Nagaland: Khonoma Village: In Pictures | The Village Of Longwa, Mon
What other Indian states near Nagaland are worth visiting in your experience?
A Thrilling Trip to Mon, Nagaland
Naga people are believed to be hunters, many people talk that they eat dogs. Let me clear this not every Naga eat dogs and even if they eat and you ask for vegetarian food they will serve you with extra care and precaution.This adventurous trip was highly loaded with thrill and fear as well initially, And fear is only fear till you haven’t faced them.
Very Informative Blog… Thanks for sharing the valuable information with us.
Wow so beautifully explained Dev. Seems as if no fear is in me now and would like to plan soon to Nagaland. Thank you for making us clear.
If i can correct a few things, if you won’t mind.
Pfutsero is in Phek District and first missionaries were the Americans.
Thank you Dev for this article – I am the mother of an intrepid female traveller and her boyfriend who are just about to enter Nagaland – You have put my mind at rest!
Glad to know Philippa 🙂
Your article was a big encouraging factor before I took then journey from retour to dimapur.
Adding a few facts from my trip in jul 2018 on my thunderbird.
Two routs exist from tezpur.. both are equidistant…
One Via kaziranga -numaligarh-. Bokajan
Other via nagaon- kacharipara – Manja
The last 30 km stretch towards dimapur on both routes is pretty bad.
The road through the dense forest is the bad part (after numaligarh) . So if ur vehicle breaksdown …U had it….
But I found the route via nagaon a bit better and safe for ppl travelling single
Frequent markets and junctions don’t give a fear of loneliness.
From dimapur to manja , approx 40 kms, the road is bad and you won’t be able to get ur vehicles in 3 or 4 gear.
The road after manja upto tezpur/ is good. Open landscapes and intermittent markets make the drive enjoyable and safe.
After kacharipara. The 2 lane highway starts… Towards nagaon and further to to guwahati or tezpur
I did 225 kms in 5 hours.
Good enough I guess.
Driving down to dimapur alone this weekend. My apprehensions have been laid to rest by this travelogue
Hoping to have a good trip on my Royal Enfield
Hi Nanda, Naga people are some of the friendliest you may find in India. I am sure you will see a great hospitality.
Those pictures really capture the town. Great post.
What a great post, I love your writing. More people need to get informed about Nagaland, it’s a beautiful place with amazing cultural history,
Great writing Dev
If first-hand info like this is provided by backpackers who have been to places which normal traveller is a bit anxious to travel to, then its very good and useful information for all. True journalism.
Very informative post.. loved reading it..
Thanks. Glad you like it and found informative.