30 Travel Gems and Must-Have Experiences in Assam

12 travel gems and must-have experiences in Assam

Explore Assam like a local on these offbeat trails, take part in activities that are truly Assamese and experience the slow life of its people! We bring you this massive post straight from our heart and a passion for this beloved land.

1. Go on a thrilling self drive trip to Mathangudi Lodge inside Manas National Park.

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Wild Asian Elephant herds, seen grazing in the grasslands at Manas N.P.  Photo contributed by our client @hsrurs who traveled with us on a wildlife tour of Assam.

The road leading to the Mathangudi Lodge is the only road inside the park which is open to private vehicles. The road is bumpy and takes one deep into the Mother Forest. Along the way, spot the one- horned rhinoceros, Asian elephant, Asian wild buffalo, wild boars, swamp dear, monitor lizards and a wide variety of the langoor species. The birds in the forest are equally magnificent and if you’re a bird watcher, this trip will not fall short of your expectations. Take your time on the drive, absorbing the natural beauty of the forest and carry a packed lunch that you can relish at a picnic spot by the river near the Mathangudi Lodge, which offers a beautiful view of the river Manas and the Himalayas rising in the background.

How to get there: Take your own vehicle or hire a self drive vehicle from Guwahati and drive to Manas National Park (3 to 4 hours).

Best time: October to April

Join our tour: Wildlife in the Assam Plains (7D/6N)

 

2. Take a boat ride upon the mighty Brahmaputra to visit the Umananda Temple.

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The Peacock Island at the center of the Brahmaputra River is both a place for worship and natural beauty.

Take a boat ride on the mighty Brahmaputra – the lifeline of Assam, to reach the tiny Peacock Island; floating high with is greenery and mysticism. Visit the Umananda Temple, a temple dedicated to Shiva and his consort Uma, built in 1690, under the auspices of the grand Ahom dynasty. Sit by the bank to watch the sun set, turning the river a hue of orange as local fishermen in wooden canoes pass you by and soft hymns fill the air.

How to get there: Catch the local ferry from the ferry point at Uzan Bazar – Guwahati, for a minimal fare.

Best time: All year round.

 

3. Pluck delicious lychees from Lychu Bagaan in Tezpur.

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Fresh lychees hang in bunches at the Lychu Bagaan.

Visiting the Lychu Bagaan in Tezpur is quite the treat! One can walk around and explore the orchard, pluck ripe fruit from trees, taste different varieties, converse with the workers about the process of growing and harvesting and before leaving buy bunches and bunches full of lychees freshly plucked for the road. The local variety costing four rupees a piece and the hybrid variety going at sixteen a piece.

How to get there: Take a local bus or drive to Tezpur (4 hours from Guwahati).

Best time: May and June.

 

4. Explore the historical trail in Sivasagar. 

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The Rang Ghar at Sivasagar, once used by the Ahom Kings as the ‘house of entertainment’.

For those who love history and architecture and are keen to explore the bygone days, Sivasagar is truly worth the visit. It is the erstwhile capital of the Ahom Kingdom who ruled Assam for a period of 600 years. The place is dotted with ancient temples and ruins that take one back in time. Stroll around the place, learn about the glorious Ahom kingdom, enjoy the architecture and delve in its history.

How to get there: Take a bus or drive in your vehicle from Dibrugarh (1.5 hours).

Best Time: All year round. Especially during the celebrations of Shivratri.

stories from our blog: Call of the ancestors – At Sivasagar, Assam.

 

5. Escape to the less touristic Eastern Range at Kaziranga National Park.  

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A Bengal Tiger on the prowl at Kaziranga National Park.

One of the best national parks in the region, Kaziranga National Park offers a spectacular wild life adventure. During peak season, the Western and Central Ranges can get crowded with a lot of safaris running morning and afternoon. Thus taking a safari to the less visited Eastern Range can give one a better chance of spotting wild animals including the elusive Bengal Tiger. The other animals that can be spotted are the one horned rhino, Asian wild buffalo, Asian elephant, otters, turtles and other exotic creatures. The Eastern range also has large lakes which host a huge variety of migratory birds in the winter season besides the resident species of the area.

How to get there: Drive to Kaziranga National Park form Guwahati (4 hours).

Best time: October to april

join our Tour: Wildlife of Kaziranga National Park (4D/3N)

 

6. Visit the Sapoi Tea Farms in Dekhiajuli for a true tea planter’s experience.

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Splendid tea gardens at the Sapoi Tea Farm. Photo courtesy: Sapoi Tea Farm

Stay at the erstwhile tea bungalow of the Kanoi family. You can take a tour of the Sapoi tea plantation, partake in a tea tasting session, learn to pick tea leaves and interact with the plantation workers. One can also learn to make green tea from scratch. You can visit the organic vegetable and fruit farm, cook a dish with the fresh produce if you like or enjoy a barbecue. There are various sports and entertainment activities for adults and children alike. Give yourself the much needed break and enjoy the relaxing Bagaan life!

How to get there: Drive from Guwahati (4 hours).

Best time: All year round.

To visit Sapoi Tea Farms you can book a room through AirBnb. Rates starting at INR 1750 per person per night.

 

7. Celebrate as the Assamese do by taking part in the Rongali Bihu in April.

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Assamese ladies perform the traditional Bihu dance.

This is the main festival of the Assamese people which celebrates the coming of spring and also marks the beginning of a new year. Delight yourself to some delicious local sweets and sumptuous meals, take part in the Bihu dance, dress colorful and be carried away in the joyful vibe of the festival.

Celebrated in Mid April all over the state.

stories from our blog: Bihu Festival of Assam: A Season of Zest

 

8. Spend evenings listening to hymns sung at Namghars across Assam.

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A monk plays the traditional cymbal in accompaniment. Photo Courtesy: Bornov Raychaudhury

Namghars or prayer houses were set up all across the state as a part of the Neo Vaishnavite Bhakti movement propagated by Srimanta Sankerdeva in the 17th Century.  Today, Namghars dot the landscape and one can hear melodious hymns sung to the beat of cymbals from where ever one may be. It seems as if the songs are coming from faraway, as if carried to you by the wind. Listening to these sweet hymns fills one with a sense of gratitude and peace.

 

9. Hit the road to experience the country life of Assam.

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Rice fields sprawl for miles in Assam’s verdant villages.

The best way to really discover a place is to drive through its countryside. Travelers are often amazed at how sustainable the villages in Assam are. Each house has a bamboo and mud house built of stills with a thatched roof of palm leaves and within the compound there also lies a small vegetable patch, a little pond for fish, a tiny bamboo grove and a shed for livestock. Across the road one can find rice fields growing for miles. In spring they are a bright green and by harvest turn a golden hue. Just driving around the villages, interacting with the simple people and getting to know about their lifestyle and culture is an interesting way to discover Assam.

best time: The rainy summer months when the farms are at the lushest green.

join our Tour: Simple Life in Rural Assam (8D/7N)

 

10. Spend a joyful evening with the Assamese over rice beer.

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Home made rice beer, an Assamese delicacy.

Across Assam, you will find local beer brewed in homes of the villagers. It is prepared by fermenting rice with a variety of herbs. It is locally known as Apong, Laupani and Haaz. This ancient recipe has been passed down for generations and the beer is actually considered good for health. It is prepared and offered during various important family occasions and festivals.

 

11. Camp on a river island in the Brahmaputra during winter time.

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Campers all set for a night on a river island.

Though many of the islands are subject to flooding during summer, winter is a safe season to bring out the islander in you. Take a country boat to one of the numerous islands, set camp, barbecue and enjoy the serenity of being surrounded by waters at night while stargazing in pitch darkness. It is an adventure that will be remembered for years to come.

Best time: November to March

 

12. Feast like the Assamese do.

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Enjoy a delicious Mishing thali. Photo Courtesy: Bornav Raychaudhury

Feast like the Assamese do. The people of Assam live the ‘laye’ or slow and easy life. Though, a hardworking lot, their attitude to life is to live for the day and celebrate at every occasion that presents itself. They are humorous and find a way to smile even in hard times. They love to eat, sing and make merry. When in Assam, it is a must that you try out all the different types of cuisine from authentic Assamese, to Singpho and Mishing. Each has a distinct flavor and is a treat one should not miss out on!

join our Tour: Exotic Cuisines and Northeast India Bliss (8D/7N)

 

13. Catch a glimpse of feral horses at Dibru Saikhowa National Park 

500px Photo ID: 108755519 - abandoned by the British army, during the WW-II, these horses are adapted to the wilderness of the river islands of the river Brahmapura within the area of Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Assam, India.
Feral Horses run wild in the deep grasslands of the island.

These horses are the third generation of British Cavalry horses that were left behind by war weary British soldiers after World War 2. With no one to care for them and their maters gone, the horses began to live in the wild, feeding in the abundant grasslands and today roam free amongst the rest of the wildlife.

How to get there: 1.5 hours drive from Dibrugarh Airport or Railways.

Best time: June to september when floodwaters make the island accessible by boat.

 

14. Learn about Assam’s rich history of oil exploration and production at the Digboi Oil Centenary Museum. 

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Historical scenes depicted at the Museum. Photo courtesy : Mirroring Truth

Assam is rich in its oil deposits, the first oil well in India being set up here in 1889 and hosting the first oil refinery in the country as well Digboi has a long history of oil production. The museum has old machinery and photographs on display and a visit there can be informative for those interested in the history of oil and natural gas, its exploration and methods of production.

How to get there: 1.5 hours drive from Dibrugarh Airport or railways.

stories from our blog: Photo Of The Day ~ Dig Boi Dig!

 

15. Catch a glimpse of the elusive Hoolock Gibbons at Hoollongapar Gibbon Sanctuary. 

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A Hoolock Gibbon spotted in the high branches.

Hoolock Gibbons are the only apes found in India and are endangered, with only a few of them remaining in the wild. It is a spectacular sight to see these large apes high up in the canopy jumping from one tree to the other or just hanging out. Other primate species that can be spotted in the sanctuary include the stump tailed macaque, northern pig- tailed macaque, eastern Assamese macaque, rhesus macaque and capped langur.

How to get there: Located nearby to the town of Jorhat which is well connected by air, road and railways.

Best time: All year around

 

16. Learn mask making and pottery at Majuli Island.  

4. Mask making

The hub of Assamese culture, Majuli Island has much to offer the traveler. Besides its tranquility, warm- hearted people and history, one can indulge in acquiring a couple of indigenous skills. The Chamaguri Satra teaches mask making to those so inclined. The masks are made of bamboo, cane, cloth, jute, mud and cow dung and painted with vibrant natural colors. These masks are used in elaborate theatrics that depict scenes for Hindu mythology. There is also a pottery village in Majuli where one can learn to pottery. Here an indigenous method is used where the pots are made without the use of a potter’s wheel.

how to get there: arrive at the airport at jorhat and take a 2 hours ferry ride across the brahmaputra river.

Best time: November to April

join our Tour: Simple Life in Rural Assam (8D/7N)

 

17. Go fishing in this land of rivers, lakes and ponds. 

A man fishing on the bank of Brahmaputra at Sukreswar Mandir, Guwahati at the time of Sunset on Saturday.
A man waits patiently for his catch!

Assam is known for its fish and is sure to please any fish lover. As you travel through the towns and villages, you can see both young and old passing their time in fishing. Some sit with a fishing rod, while others lure their catch into a specially designed trap made of bamboo. While still others fish with nets. You can try your hand and might just be lucky to land yourself a good catch of catla, rohu, chital or borali. The cat fish called Ari is also quite the treat and so are the small fish found in ponds that are fried to taste like chips.

 

18. Meet the birds of Assam at Nameri National Park.

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A birdwatchers paradise, Nameri National Park is home to more than 300 bird species. A boat across the Bhoroli River takes you into the deep forest. There nature walks are organized with birding experts in in the thicket and by the riverside. The birds spotted are the White Winged Duck, Great, Wreathed and Rufous- necked Hornbills, White-cheeked Partridge, Ruddy, Blue-eared and Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers, Amur Falcon, Palla’s, Grey- headed and Lesser Fish Eagles, Ibisbill, Sultan Tit, White-crowned Forktail and many more. The Potasali Eco Camp at Nameri also runs a conservation program for the endangered Golden Mahaseer and Pygmy Hog, which one can visit to get a look into the efforts carried out by conversationalists in that area.

How to get there: 6 hours drive from Guwahati Airport or Railways.

best time: November to March

sTories from our blog: Photo Of The Day ~ Coming Of The Fall

 

19. Visit Samparidisa eco village in Dima Hasao.

 

An eco tourism initiative, started by the community in collaboration the NGO Spectrum, has seen much success over the years. One can visit the remote Dimasa tribe, live with them and learn about their culture. There are hikes organized to the Bendao Baiglai waterfalls and other adventure activities to take part in. These villages were not all accessible to travelers until recently and this intiative has opened a door to travelers to explore these parts while at the same time generating income for the villagers. It is a nice place to visit for its rustic villages, tribal culture and astounding natural beauty.

 

20. Hit the road to Chandubi Lake.

The serene scene at Chadubi Lake.
The serene scene at Chadubi Lake.

A nice drive on the outskirts of Guwahati through tea plantations, traditional villages and forests can take you to the Chandubi Lake, a nice place to relax and unwind away from the city. It is surrounded by the Garo Hills, which add to its beauty. There are country boats for those who would like a tour of the lake and lagoon there is quite impressive. During winter it becomes the home of many migratory birds and a good spot for bird watching. The Chandubi Lakeis a natural lake formed during the 1897 earthquake due to tectonic activity.

How to get there : 64 kms form Guwahati.

Best time: october to april

 

21. Visit the Ambubashi Mela at Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati.

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Mystics and holy men gather at the Kamakhya Temple.

One of the most important Hindu festivals of Assam, the Ambubachi Mela, is celebrated annually around mid June. It is believed that the Goddess Kamakhya, undergoes her yearly menstrual cycle in these days and this event is held in high regards as a symbol of fertility. Thousands throng to the Mela, sadhus, tantriks, aghoris, householders, intellectuals, folk singers, devotees form farfetched villages, and foreign tourists to seek the blessing of the mother Kamakhya. Though it can get very crowded, the religious and cultural significance of the festival promises more visitors every year.

celebrated around mid june at kamakhya temple, guwahati.

stories from our blog: Photo Of The Day ~ Ambubachi Gathering

 

22. Visit ancient satras at Majuli.

Vaishnava priests

The Majuli Island, the hub of Assamese culture, has much to offer a traveler. The satras are monasteries of a Neo Vaishnavite sect started by Srimanta Sankera Deva, which besides being monasteries also act centers for performing arts, fine arts and crafts of the region. Here the various art forms are taught and preserved. At present there are twenty two satras in Majuli, the rest having been moved out of the island to higher grounds due to soil erosion and flooding. Some of the notable satras one can visit include the Kamalbari Satra which is a centre of art, culture, literature and classical studies and also specializes in boat making; the Chamaguri Satra which is a centre of mask making, the Uniati Satra which specializes in dance and Bengenaati Satra which is an advanced centre of performing arts.

Best time: November to April

How to get there: 2 hours ferry ride across the Brahmaputra River, starting from the town of Jorhat.

stories form our blog: A Glimpse of Majuli | A photo essay

 

23. Choose to stay in home-stays instead of hotels.

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The very charming Ann’s Homestay at Digboi.

A new trend developing amongst travelers now a days is to opt to stay in home stays with the locals instead of in a fancy hotels. People around the world too are becoming more open to having travelers as guests in their homes, adding an extra income for the family. By staying in homestays one can get a good feel about the life and culture of the locals, listen to their stories, develop friendships and get a true experience of the place as a whole. There are quite a few excellent homestays scattered across Assam that focus on different styles and budgets.

Best place to book your perfect homestay in assam is Airbnb.

 

24. Visit the Kakochang falls near Kaziranga National Park.

Kakochang-Waterfall

While at Kaziranga, it is good idea to take a day trip to Kakochang falls. It is a spectacular waterfall with gushing water and scenic surroundings of forest cover. While one is doing the regular wild life safaris at the park, an evening or day at the falls can be a good add on.

How to get there: 23 kms from Kaziranga National Park

Best Time: June to October when the waters are gushing.

 

25. Dare to try the Ghost Chilly.

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Assam along with most of the Northeast region is famous for the spiciest chilly in the world. It is known as Bhut Jholokia which literally translates to ghost chilly. For those with a stomach for pungency, it is a must try. Besides being extremely hot, it has a nice sour taste to it and is used in food, eaten raw or pickled.

Buy Ghost Chilly and other specialities from the region online at The NorthEast Store.

 

26. Visit the Navagraha Temple.

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Built atop a hillock, the temple of nine planets is of important astronomical value. It is said that in ancient times, Assam was home to many highly reputed scholars of astronomy and did much progress in the field. The Navagraha Temple, built in the 18th century by the Ahoms, houses nine Shivlings, each representing a planet with the sun in the centre. The temple has a very beautiful feel about it and good positive energy and is a must visit when in Guwahati.

Best time: All year around.

How to get there: Situated on a hill named Chitrachal in the south eastern part of the city of Guwahati

 

27. Meet Jadhav Payeng, the forest man of India.

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This beautiful portrait of Jadav make it easy to observe his humble and simple life.

A unique personality and environmental activist, Jadhav is responsible for turning large areas of desolate sandbars near Jorhat into healthy living forests. He now takes care of the forest he has planted which measures about 550 hectors and is now home to many species of animals like various types of deer, rabbits and monkeys and is known to give shelter to Bengal tigers, Asian elephants and One horned Rhinoceros in the area. Many birds too take advantage of Jadhav’s efforts, finding solace in his forest including the endangered vultures found in the region. A meeting with Jadav can be very inspiring, to many people who love the environment and often dream of doing something in order to protect it.

How to get there: Jadhav lives in a humble hut with his family in the Molai forest near Kokilamukh in Jorhat, Assam.

stories from our blog: Responsible Tourism Project Report: Tree Planting with Jadav Payeng in Assam

 

22. Visit the Jonbeel Mela, a village fair that still runs on the barter system.

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Villagers sit with various items on display for exchange at Jonbeel Mela.  Photo Courtesy : India Water Portal 

The Jonbeel Mela celebrated annually in late January soon after the Magh Bihu (the harvest festival) is a one of a kind. Here, various tribes of the region gather and barter their produce. Hill tribes exchange forest produce for dried fish with the tribes from the plains. Turmeric, wild ginger, black pepper, rice, vegetables, fruits, bamboo products and hand woven fabrics are some of the items on offer. Organized by the Tiwa community, it is also frequented by other tribes such as the Khasi, Karbi and Jaintia communities. It is spectacle to see how the barter system exists here even today and is a must visit when traveling these parts. 

How to get there: 50 km from Guwahati – Dayang Belguri in Morigaon district.

Time : Late January

 

29. Visit Saulkuchi Silk Village near Guwahati.

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A lady weaves the finest silk at Saulkuchi. Photo Courtesy: Northeast Now

Located about 30 kms from Guwahati, the Saulkuchi village is an ancient weaving village famous for its silk sarees. One can visit the village to learn how silk is procured and woven and interact with the Tanti community. And on your way home, pick up some excellent silk fabric that is soft, durable and comes with artistic designs especially the Muga & Eri silk, which are native to Assam.

How to get there: Located an hour away from Guwahati City.

Best time: All year around.

 

30. Relax by the riverside.

Brahmaputra River - A spectacular sunset
Sunrises and sunsets are the best time of the day when local folk enjoy leisurely walks, games and gossips by the riverside.

The Brahmaputra River is at the heart of Assamese culture. One can just sit for hours by the riverside watching it flow, fishermen busy striving for their catch, people ferrying from one bank to another, birds diving in to catch a meal, days and nights passing by the river as it watches and shapes the landscape that is Assam!

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