Things to Do in Kohima: The Cultural and Historical Capital of Nagaland
Beautiful Kohima is the capital of Nagaland and is well worth a visit during your trip to India, even if you only have one day to spend in Kohima.
Nagaland is a land of diverse ethnic cultures and festivals. It is a state nestled in the northeastern part of India, and visiting Kohima is a great way to discover it.
How to Reach Kohima?
The nearest airport and railway station are in Dimapur, Nagaland. Nagaland State Transport Buses as well as shared-taxis are commonly how people get to Kohima upon arrival in Nagaland.
First, some history and interesting facts about Kohima, before I get to the Kohima itinerary.
Kohima is located in the south of Kohima district. Dimapur, Kohima, and Mokokchung are the only three cities with municipal councils in the state.
The land of the Angami Nagas, Kohima was originally known as Kewhima or Kewhira – an Angami word referring to a wild flower found in the mountains of Nagaland. Unable to pronounce, the British officially named it as Kohima.
The town stands at the top of a hill range, providing beautiful view its surrounding hills and mountains.
Nagaland shares an international border with Myanmar. To its north lies Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur to the south and Assam in the west.
It is home to 16 ethnic groups, namely Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Kuki, Konyak, Lotha, Phom, Pochury, Rengma, Sangtam, Sumi, Yimchungru, and Zeliang. Each of these groups has unique cultural attributes, distinct from each other. They speak different languages which sometimes can be observed within adjacent villages.
One Day in Kohima Itinerary
And now for the tops things to do if you only have a day to spend in Kohima.
Visit the Kohima WWII Cemetery
Signifying the history of World War II, Kohima War Cemetery is dedicated to the soldiers who died fighting against the Japanese Army in Kohima in the year 1944. Representing the Indian, Australian, British, and Canadian nationalities, a total of 1,420 burials were erected. The Japanese retreated after getting defeated here.
Look for the epitaph enshrined on the War Memorial that says: “When you go home, tell them of us, and say we gave our today for your tomorrow.”
Located at the center of the city, the cemetery is in walking distance from the nearby hotels.
Apart from the historical significance, the Kohima WWII Cemetery also presents a panoramic view of Kohima city.
Attend Hornbill Festival at Kisama Heritage Village
The Kisama Heritage Village was constructed in order to preserve and depict the distinct identity, customs, and traditions of the region for tourists.
Situated about 10 km from Kohima town, Kisama serves as the location for the Hornbill Festival organized every year from the 1st of December to 10th of December. The festival allows the tourists to have a glimpse and experience the cultural rituals, dances, food, languages of the entire 16 ethnic groups of the state.
Morung (the youth dormitory indigenous tribal houses of the tribes) are also built in Kisama.
One can reach Kisama by hiring shared-taxis and private cars from Kohima.
Go Bird Watching in Khonoma Village
Named as the first green village by the government of India in 2005, Khonoma’s sustainable agricultural practices and nature conservation has recently made it a favorite destination of travelers.
Birdwatchers, researchers, journalists, and tourists who commonly visit Khonoma enjoy the peaceful ambience surrounded by green forests, hills and terrace fields.
Located about 20 km from Kohima town, Khonoma is a must visit during your trip to Nagaland.
Explore Nagaland State Museum
To understand the cultural composition of the state, visit the Nagaland State Museum.
The Nagaland State Museum provides informative and visual representation of the traditional attires, their weapons, sculptures, jewelry, artifacts, house patterns, and other cultural aspects of all the 16 tribes of state.
The museum is about 2 km from the main town of Kohima.
Also known as Bara Basti translating to ‘big village’, Kohima Village is an old Angami Settlement, which eventually expanded to Kohima town. It is the second largest village in Asia.
Famous for its unique carvings on the village gates which include guns, warriors, and marks of prosperity, Bara Basti is also known for their colorful handicrafts.
The village is located at a top of a hill facing the Kohima town. You may opt for buying a Naga shawl, which is a popular souvenir to get from the village.
Visit the Kohima Cathedral Church
Known for its architectural magnificence, the Kohima Cathedral Church is one of the main Church of the Diocese of Nagaland. It is located at Aradurah hill in Kohima.
The use of wood and indigenous structural design of the Naga houses is what makes the church more special to see than the rest. It reflects the combination of ethnic oneness and religion.
There are a number of such attractive churches in Kohima. If your day in Kohima falls on a Sunday, it is soothing to walk around and listen to the songs and choirs coming from the churches.
Dzulekie is a quaint remote village about 40 km from Kohima. An Angami Village of 40 houses, the village with its ethnic hospitality and homestays gives the rural life experience to tourists.
Popular as picnic spots among the locals, one can also go fishing in the crystal-clear waters of Dzulekie.
You’ll also find shops selling organic vegetables without a shopkeeper – a self-payment shopping counter is another attraction of the village.
There is no public transport to Dzulekie. One can hire private vehicles to visit the village. Covering the above locations, staying in Dzulekie amidst the chirping of birds, clouds and peaceful homestays will soothe the mind.
Where and What to Eat in Kohima?
Here are some of my top recommendations for where to eat in Kohima:
- Morung Kitchen: Opposite to Oking Hospital, Kohima, the Morung Kitchen provides both traditional naga cuisine and North-Indian dishes. Axone and smoked pork are my favorite. It has an attached homestay, with a beautiful view of Kohima town.
- The Bamboo Shoot Restaurant: It has been serving authentic ethnic cuisines such as Naga Lotha Dish since 1994.The restaurant is located at the Old NST road in Kohima opposite to Japfu Store.
- Ozone Café: The Café situated at the main market junction of Kohima. Apart from Naga dishes, it also has Chinese and continental food on their menu.
- Dream Café: A roof top café with the bird’s eye view of the entire Kohima town, it is a popular spot among the locals. Dream Café is a coffee, fast food, and mocktail hub that celebrates people, music, culture/counter culture, ideas, creativity, and the arts. It is located opposite to the Kohima War Cemetery.
One More Tip For How to Plan Out Your Day in Kohima
Start with the locations in Kohima town, head to Kisama followed by Khonoma and eventually Dzulekie for staying at night.
About the Author: Joydeep Phukan (The Gypsy Chiring) is a travel blogger based in Assam of North-East India. He writes about travel, adventure, mountaineering, nature and cultures. He intends to promote the less-explored and off-beat destinations of northeast India through his writings. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.