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The Complete Guide to the Dzukou Valley and Japfu Peak Trek

Known as one of the most charming valleys in all of Nagaland, Dzkou Valley is a spectacular visual treat of emerald green hills, lush forests, serpentine streams, and myriad colorful blooms that dot the vast caldera of the valley and its meadows. It is by far the best-known trekking route in Nagaland. After one has completed this unremittingly steep climb and subsequent 2-3 hours of walk through low bamboo scrub, one probably begins to understand why!

The topography indicates that the valley is the bottom of a large crater or caldera of a long extinct volcano, and one can look down upon it from the rim of the caldera. At ~2,400 meter, there is a special kind of beauty, almost desolate, especially in the long shadows of early morning or late afternoon.

Above the valley remains a huge mountain hut – almost like a shed! Behind the hut, there is a small cluster of oak and rhododendron forest. Beyond this, there are some steep hills – which really tempts one to climb for a better view. Half way up and any signs of tracks disappear and one is just left with fighting endless bamboo thickets.

No doubt that this valley presents a very good opportunity for young people, travelling independently, to gain some trekking experience.

➤ Highlights of the trek

  • Trek in the midst of emerald green hills and pristine valleys
  • Visit a valley that’s millions of years old and absolutely desolate
  • Trek through deep forests and endless bamboo thickets

➤ Trail Information

Day 1: Reach Kohima

Kohima, situated around 80 km from Dimapur, is the base to begin the Dzukou valley trek. Dimapur is the only city in Nagaland that has rail and air connectivity to other cities in the country. Private/shared cabs and bus are easily available from Dimapur to Kohima (See “Getting there” for details).

Day 2: Kohima to Dzukou Trekkers’ Hut

  • Altitude: 8,045 ft
  • Time taken: 6 hours, 9 km
  • Trek gradient: Moderate. Mostly ascending trails with some steep stretches.
  • Water sources: 1 tap around 3 km after starting the trek

Start early morning and follow NH 39 from Kohima to Zakhama Check Post (15 km by road / INR 80 for a shared cab / INR 500 for a private taxi), marked by a small tea stall. Here, you need to pay a small fee of Rs.80 to the North Kohima Students Union. They use the collection to keep the area clean.

From the Check Post, start walking along the stream (the water is there all the time of the year but is not advised to use this for drinking purposes). For 2 km, you walk on a jeepable road through forests of bamboo and deodar.

Where the road ends, the trail climbs steeply towards the left spur along the stream, for 1 km. Follow the left bank until the trail eventually meets a resting shed. This place has a government run water tap and you could replenish your water bottles at this point. This point is also known as the Crying Child Valley.

Continue walking along the left of the stream. From here onwards, the complete uphill trail becomes very steep, and at places, you need to get down on all fours. The trail would primarily be mossy here, with clearings offering you any mountain views. It is approximately 5 km from the rest spot to the nameless 2,550 meters pass, which offers breathtaking panoramic view into the Dzukou Valley.

From here on, you would be walking amidst a dwarf bamboo forest, which resembles tall grass from afar. Across the hairpin pass, the trail skirts below the ridge for ~200 meters before coming to a split. Take the right path, which is a pretty easy and short descent. After about half an hour, you would come across a tiny stream. Cross it to get to the Dzukou Trekkers’ Hut.

Dzukou Trekkers’ Hut: This is just a hut with vast concrete floor and a few wooden platforms that serve as beds. One can lay sleeping bags here in the night. You have the option of sleeping in a dormitory (INR 100 /per person/per night) or take a private room with beds (INR 300 per room). There is no advance booking procedure and only spot booking is the possibility. Local trekking clubs and school groups appear to be frequent visitors to this. You get basic food cooked by the Chowkidar of the property at a nominal price. You can buy some basic snacks (such as biscuits) from here as well, but the price is going to be the double of MRP.

Day 3: Explore Dzukou Valley (optional)

Camp at the Trekkers’ Hut and explore the wide and beautiful valley (recommended). Ahead of the Trekkers’ Hut, you can do a 15 minutes’ walk to the Ghost Caves or ‘Bhoot Gufa’, as they are called locally. Remember to carry a torch as the cave extends to almost 1 km. You would also consider the option to descend from the hut, to the bottom of the vast caldera of the valley. You can explore the vast stretch of grasslands and rolling meadows, blossomed with flowers in the monsoon months.

Day 4: Dzukou Valley to Viswema Village

  • Altitude: 8.045 ft to 5,351 ft
  • Time taken: 7-8 hours; 25 km
  • Trek gradient: Moderate. Mostly descending trail.
  • Water sources: 1 water source around half way into the trek

Take packed lunch and drinking water from Trekkers’ Hut for the day as nothing is available en-route till the pass. Retrace your steps back to the split in the trail. This time take the right trail (it would have been the left while coming from Zakhama). It is a fairly level and easy trail that goes along the left side ridges of the valley towards dwarf bamboo, which often have to be parted to be able to see the path in front. After a short series of zig-zags, you will reach another pass on the ridge from where you can see the highway to Imphal and the vast spread of Viswema Village. This is the point where you exit the Dzokou Valley.

On the pass, you will come across a water pipe line – the water source for Viswema Village. You could also replenish your water bottles here at this point. Follow this all the way down. The bamboo will come in useful as support for the initial bit of this downhill, which is extremely steep.

At the bottom of the hill, the trail meets a road marked ‘Trekkers’ Point’. From here unless you have arranged a vehicle to pick you up, walk the level 9-kilometer road which meets NH 61 at Viswema Village. You can spend the night at the Community Hall of the Village for free and procure food from the local shops. There are village taps here for your water requirements.

Day 5: Viswema Village to Japfu Peak Base

  • Altitude: Approximately 6,000 ft
  • Time taken: 5-6 hours; 10 km
  • Trek gradient: Moderate. Mostly ascending trail.
  • Water sources: None. Carry at lease 2 litres of water from Viswema

Carry water, tents and food supplies from Viswema. No water supply is available till the base of Japfu Peak.

From the village, head north-west for ~3 kilometers on the main road. This road is relatively quiet and you may encounter some local villagers here. The road morphs into a well-defined, relatively steep yet enjoyable trail surrounded by lush green forests over. After an initial steep climb, the trail becomes a gradual ascent.

This stretch is expected to be completely quiet, with only sound you hear would be birds’ chattering. Interestingly, this part of the trail is considered to be a bird watchers’ paradise. You may encounter some photo enthusiasts waiting for that perfect shot with their heavy camera gears! Do talk to them to increase your knowledge of Himalayan birds!

The trail gently skirts around the ridge, which is facing you, making it a gradual and easy ascent. You are inside a thick rhododendrons forests now! Here you would notice the campsite marked by ‘Japfu Peak’ signboard with small clearings and water spring. This makes for the perfect campsite for the .

Day 6: Japfu Base Camp to Japfu Peak (6 / 6 hours)

  • Altitude: Approximately 6,000 ft
  • Time taken: 6 hours; 6 km – both ways
  • Trek gradient: Moderate. Mostly ascending trail.
  • Water sources: None. Carry at lease 2 litres of water from Viswema

Try to set out by 2.00 am from the camp to get sunrise views from the peak, which is also the highest point on the ridge.

The single trail is well defined all the way to the top. The initial trail passed through dense forests and hence almost no views. The last 150 meters stretch of the trail opens up above the tree-line and ascends smoothly to the Japfu Peak (3,100 meter).

From here, you can see a vast spread of the valleys, hills, and villages. Interestingly, almost half of Nagaland is visible from this point, besides villages on Arunachal side and Dibrugarh in Assam.

Retrace your way back on the trail, return to Viswema Village and then head on to Kohima.

Points to note:

You need an Inner Line Permit to visit Nagaland. This can be obtained from Nagaland House in Kolkata, Guwahati or Dimapur. In addition to the fee to be paid for the Inner Line Permit, there is an entry fee of Rs.30 per person for entering the Dzukou Valley. This can be paid at the time of getting the ILP.

➤ How to Plan your travel

Dimapur is the largest city and main transportation hub in Nagaland. The economic and developmental activities of Nagaland are centered around Dimapur. It is an important commercial centre for the region, acting as a gateway to Nagaland and the neighbouring state of Manipur.

Dimapur is the only city in Nagaland that is connected by both rail and air. There are direct train services to cities like Guwahati, Kolkata, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Dibrugarh and Chennai from the Dimapur railway station. Dimapur Airport is the only civil airport in the state and has flights to Kolkata, Delhi and Dibrugarh.

If you are traveling from Delhi, Bangalore or Chandigarh, it is prudent to book your flights quite well in advance as the fares tend to get quite steep due to a demand supply mismatch in the region. Note that flights from these cities would be hopping through Kolkata, in all likelihood, and hence you would not be able to land in Dimapur before noon.

From Dimapur you need to travel to Kohima, which lies at a distance of about 80 kilometers. You would easily get a private taxi (INR 1,500 one way) or a shared cab (INR 150/person) either from the airport or the railway station. You can also opt for a bus (INR 75) which takes ~5-6 hours to reach Kohima from Dimapur.

Kohima offers many staying options – from budget hotels to guesthouses. You would be spending anywhere in the range of INR 1,200 a night if you opt for a hotel or ~INR 700 a night, if you prefer to stay in a guesthouse or homestay.

➤ Trek Contribution

Trek research and documentation by Nildari Mukherjee.