Nagaland is known for its tribal culture. The mountainous state in Northeast India is home to a diverse range of indigenous tribes, many of which are still largely traditional. The most famous of these tribes is the Konyaks, living in the Mon district around the India-Myanmar border region. They have a fascinating history of headhunting and facial tattooing and the possibility of meeting with the last remaining headhunters of Nagaland is what brings most visitors to this far northeast corner of India.
Longwa is one of the largest villages in Mon district on the Myanmar border and one of the most accessible and friendly places to visit the Konyak tribe. Spending time in Longwa is one of Northeast India’s most incredible adventures. However, it’s far from an easy place to reach. If you’re interested in heading there, then this blog post explains how to get to Longwa in Nagaland and where to stay during your visit.
When is the best time to travel to Nagaland
You can travel to Nagaland all year round, with moderate temperatures for most of the year. However, it’s best to arrange a visit between October and May to avoid the wet rainy season during the months from June to September.
The winter months of December to February can be a little cold with temperatures dropping at night, but day time temperatures are still pretty moderate. I was there in January and the weather was fine, with clear days and just a bit cold in the mornings and night.
Kohima is the state capital of Nagaland. It’s situated in the rolling Naga hills and the sprawl of the city can be seen stretching far over the ridges. Still, it’s a relatively unassuming and quiet city for Indian standards and only has 100, 000 inhabitants.
There’s not a whole lot of things to do in Kohima, except to use it as a base for exploring Nagaland. However, if you do find yourself with some time in the city I suggest the following Kohima attractions:
- Nagaland State Museum: This museum is meant to be very interesting with a number of important artefacts from various Naga tribes. Unfortunately, I tried to visit but found it closed even on a day it was meant to be open, so try your luck.
- Kohima War Cemetery: WWII memorial and burial site for the soldiers who died in the Battle of Kohima in April-June 1944.
- Naga Bazaar: Take a stroll around this bustling market where you’ll find all sorts of interesting foods and local products.
The Nagaland State Transport bus station is right in the middle of the main bazaar area of the city, on the Kohima-Mokokchung Rd. This is where you’ll find the bus ticket counter and parking lot and some shared jeeps also congregate on the road around the station. It’s best to book your tickets in advance and check the latest timetable for departures. This is the main transport hub for the state.
If you want to read about my experience in Nagaland including Longwa village: Nagaland: the land of fierce warriors, bumpy roads and opium addiction
Morung Lodge | This hostel and lodge is in a perfect location just off the main road in the middle of the city and within a five-minute walk to the bus station. It’s a little overpriced at 1000 rupees (AU$20) for a dorm bed, but it’s a nice homely place that I quite enjoyed. You can pay for home-cooked meals or use the kitchen yourself. The balcony has unbeatable views over the city and the lounge has a great library of interesting books on Nagaland. It has excellent Wi-Fi.
Hotel Pine | This was my back up option if Morung Lodge was full when I arrived. It’s a popular option for travellers and is right next to Morung Lodge, so the location is great. It has basic private rooms but I’ve heard good things about the friendly staff. Prices start from around 1500 rupees for a room, check the availability here.
How to get to Longwa village
Mon is the main town in Mon District and the main base for exploring the Konyak villages, including Longwa. You need to reach Mon first in order to travel onto Longwa. Mon town is in the far north of Nagaland and is not the easiest place to reach. The roads in Nagaland are some of the worst I’ve ever experienced which makes journey times extremely long and arduous. Reaching Longwa is certainly an adventure!
Getting to Mon is actually easiest via Assam state. The roads in northern Nagaland are actually so bad that public transport doesn’t use them. So no matter where you begin your journey to get to Mon and Longwa, you will most likely go through Assam. Assam surrounds the west and north of Nagaland.
This means that it’s just as easy to travel to Longwa from Guwahati, the capital of Assam, as it is from Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. So I will explain here how to get to Longwa village from both Guwahati and Kohima. No matter which way you choose, allow 3 days to get from Guwahati or Kohima to Longwa village.
From Guwahati, Assam
Guwahati is the major transport hub of Northeast India. It’s the region’s biggest airport and train station and has transport links with most states across the Northeast.
Guwahati to Sibsagar
If you’re beginning your journey from Guwahati to Longwa, you will first need to reach either Jorhat or Sibsagar. Both towns are northeast of Guwahati along the Brahmaputra River in Assam. Allow a full day to reach either town from Guwahati.
There are both trains and bus options to reach Jorhat and Sibsagar from Guwahati. Jorhat is the larger town and only a 3-hour bus trip away from Sibsagar, so no matter which one you reach on the first day, you will still get to Mon within two days of leaving Guwahati.
You can check the latest train schedule here.
You can check the bus times, company options and prices here.
Hotel Jonata Paradise | This hotel is one of the most popular budget places with a convenient location just a minute’s walk from the ASTC bus station in Jorhat. A basic room starts from 600 rupees (AU$12) and their restaurant has some of the best food I had in Assam.
Hotel Raj Palace | This is a popular hotel for travellers stopping in Sibsagar. I didn’t stay here but I’ve heard decent things, with basic rooms and nice food available. Perhaps its best feature is that its located just near the ASTC bus station making it convenient for a quick stopover.
Sibsagar to Mon
If you stayed in Jorhat overnight, you’ll need to take one of the frequent local buses to Sibsagar which is a 3-hour journey.
Otherwise, from Sibsagar take a local bus to Sonari, a town close to the Nagaland border. These buses tend to leave regularly whenever full and the trip takes 2 hours. When you arrive in Sonari, ask for transport on to Mon. There are shared sumos and jeeps heading to Mon that pass through Sonari and you should be able to find a spare seat. The trip from Sonari to Mon is about 3 hours.
Many people helped me along the way for this leg. These small towns can be difficult to navigate with indiscriminate bus stations and stops. Ask people, especially bus conductors and drivers, and they will be able to point you in the right direction (usually).
From Kohima, Nagaland
Kohima to Mokokchung
If you’re starting your journey to Longwa from Kohima, the first place you’ll want to reach is Mokokchung, a major town in the middle of Nagaland.
I took a public bus from Kohima to Mokokchung at 6am from the Nagaland State Transport Corporation station, in the main bazaar area of the city. I didn’t pre-purchase my ticket the day before and I didn’t need to worry, there was only a handful of people on the bus. The trip took 6 hours in total and cost 200 rupees (AU$4).
Whispering Winds | Although it’s a bit of a steep 2km walk from the town centre, this is a great place to stay in Mokokchung. It’s by far the most popular place and is often full, with limited accommodation options in town. I paid 1000 rupees (AU$20) for a nice private room. The staff were very helpful and friendly and they offer room service too.
Circuit House | This is a government-run hotel next to Whispering Winds. It’s popular for travellers and government officials, but don’t expect any sort of luxury, it offers basic rooms. They were full when I was in town, but I’ve heard rooms can be around 700 rupees or more.
Mokokchung to Mon
From Mokokchung, the transport options to Mon are limited to shared sumos/jeeps. They travel outside of Nagaland into Assam and then come back into Nagaland to reach Mon, because of the terrible road conditions of northern Nagaland.
I pre-booked my ticket from Mokokchung to Mon from the sumo/jeep counter underneath the MMC Shopping Complex in Mokokchung the day before.
Link Transport jeeps/sumos have a couple of jeeps per day running to Mon. All the ticket counters and departures leave from the parking lot underneath the same shopping complex.
My departure was for 6am, although we left closer to 7am. The journey was a long 10 hours via Assam to Mon.
Despite being the main town in the district, Mon is a very quiet town with hardly any tourist infrastructure or basic amenities. There are only a few unreliable accommodation options and only one ATM that accepts foreign cards, although don’t expect it to always be working. You’ll find small snack shops and market stalls selling fresh produce along the main road. I did manage to find a decent cafe in Mon town, just down from the traffic roundabout, where I could get a meal though.
Helsa’s Cottage | This is definitely the most popular place for travellers to stay, however, it can be a little unreliable as to whether it’s open. I stayed there before travelling to Longwa and I got a large basic room for 1000 rupees (AU$20). They also serve dinner and breakfast for an extra fee, which was very good and served on the balcony. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the middle of town. No Wi-Fi.
Paramount Guesthouse | When I returned from Longwa, Helsa’s Cottage was closed so I went in search of another place. I found this guesthouse which is closer to town above the SBI Bank. It was closed but the guy who runs the little shop nearby told me to call the phone number on the door. A woman came and showed me a basic room and I paid 1000 rupees for it (seems it was the standard price throughout Nagaland). She also cooked and brought me dinner. No Wi-Fi.
Mon to Longwa
The final leg of your journey to Longwa is to take local transport from Mon.
A shared sumo/jeep leaves Mon town at 7.30am from a small shop down towards the Mon-Longwa road turnoff. Ask around because there’s no sign or any indication, but it’s not too far of a walk from the centre of Mon. People are generally pretty helpful. It’s best to book the day before but it wasn’t full on the morning I left.
The journey from Mon to Longwa took 2 hours and cost 150 rupees (AU$1.50).
Longwa is one of the most accessible and friendly villages to explore the Konyak tribe. This village sits uniquely straddling the border with Myanmar and has a very welcoming vibe compared to some of the other Konyak villages around Mon.
I recommend staying in Longwa for at least two nights. There are a number of great homestays that have popped up in Longwa over the last couple of years. These homestays are run by local families who open their houses to travellers and offer a bed and food for a certain agreed price. I highly recommend this experience in Nagaland. There is simply no other way to really get to know the unique and fascinating Nagaland people.
Your homestay host usually doubles as a guide as well and can offer a real insight into the local culture. Longwa is particularly interesting, as you’ll hear about the fascinating history of headhunting and you may even get to meet with the Angh, village chief, as well as, former headhunter warriors.
Be aware, however, that opium and other drug use is common in the area. It’s normal to find the men sitting around a fire and smoking. Do NOT take photos without asking permission and respect people’s response if they decline a photo. It’s become an expected gift to give some money if you want to take a photo of a headhunter. Unfortunately, this has been encouraged by tourists and now it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take any photos without paying for them.
I stayed in a local homestay with Longsha’s family. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the first home when you come into Longwa village.
Longsha’s Homestay | Longsha charges 1000 rupees for the room per night and around 150 rupees per meal, as well as 1500 rupees per day if you take him or his brother as a guide around the village. I paid this guide fee for one day that I was there, as his brother took me around and spent a few hours explaining the history and culture with me. Longsha’s number is +91 8974390751, it’s highly recommended you make contact at least a day before arriving.
Many shared sumos/jeep leave Longwa every morning heading back to Mon. Longsha can secure a ticket for you by making a phone call. Otherwise, you can stand on the road and wave them down as they pass.
Once your back in Mon, you’ll find all the bus and jeep counters clustered in the main street. You’ll probably have to spend a night in Mon, as most of the transport leaves early in the morning from around 6am.
You can follow my above routes to leave Longwa back to Kohima or Guwahati.
If you want to travel around the Northeast a bit more, I suggest going to Jorhat from Mon and then jumping over to Majuli Island in Assam.