A journey into the remote hills of Nagaland

Situated in the northeast of India, Nagaland is 'elixir for the soul'

Houses in the hills and valley of the state of Nagaland in India.
(Image credit: Udayan Borthakur / Getty Images)

Very few tour operators travel beyond its main towns, but with its beautiful forests and mountains and its fascinating culture, Nagaland is an "elixir for the soul", said Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent in the Financial Times. Situated in the northeast of India, on the border with Myanmar, it is home to 17 distinct ethnic groups, and boasts fascinating fauna including such rare mammals as the Himalayan black bear, the clouded leopard and the Asiatic golden cat. On my latest trip, I accompanied Peter Lobo of All India Birding Tours on a reconnaissance mission, during which he spotted 103 bird species, and devised useful new itineraries for other visitors wishing to explore the region.

The people of Yaongyimchen – a Phom Naga village perched on a mountain ridge in the east of the state – were animists who practised headhunting until the mid 1960s. Now the Baptist Church is a powerful presence in the area, and the head of the local Baptist association, Nuklu Phom, is also a conservationist who has spent years working with local village elders to minimise the logging and hunting that was devastating the environment here. Visitors can stay at the HQ of his organisation, Lemsachenlok, a "pretty" bungalow set among the village's "brightly painted" wooden houses, and go on guided walks in the jungle. In the autumn, you might see Amur falcons, en route from Mongolia to Africa. When Phom started his work, their numbers had dwindled to 50,000. Today, more than half-a-million arrive each year, stippling the sky "like gnats".

In nearby Yongphang, you can visit a morung, "a grand old building" with images of tigers and warriors, where young men used to prepare for battle. The views from the village are "stupendous" – on a clear day, you can see the Himalayas on the horizon, and the Brahmaputra "glinting on the plains below".

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Birding and cultural tours cost from $150 (£119) per person per day (allindiabirdingtours.com).

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