While Myanmar's been back on the traveller map for a few years now, most itineraries follow a fairly common route: Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and a bit of time spent by Inle Lake. By comparison, this trip veers right off the trail and up into the northernmost reaches of Kachin state. This is the land of the Naga hilltribes, a collection of 62 clans, largely semi-nomadic, who follow their own customs, practise their traditional beliefs and speak the Jingpho language. Each year, the clans of the Naga tribe converge to celebrate the year that's been and welcome in the year to come, through a two-day celebration of singing, dancing, socialising, thanks-giving and praying. Meet the Naga people in their traditional dress, dance around a bonfire, visit local villages and traverse a tract of land rarely visited on this one-off trip into the remote tribal lands of northern Myanmar.
This is a rare opportunity to become part of the traditions of the Naga people in their annual New Year celebration – a festival that brings together the 64 clans that make up the Naga tribes. Not only is the festival an annual reunion of people, but a time for prayer, the giving of thanks and preparing for the season ahead.
Parties don’t get more exclusive than this! Strict restrictions govern travel through this region of Myanmar, with outsiders needing to be invited by local people. The restrictions are relaxed a bit during the Naga Festival, but even then only a small number of visitors are able to attend. You'll be one of them.
At the festival grounds, watch the raising of the Ceremonial Pole, observe locals participating in traditional sports and join in a joyous dance around a huge bonfire.
Trek through local villages and witness the fascinating contrasts of a country both transitioning through modernity, and steeped in rituals that hark back centuries.