Guwahati Tourism

Guwahati Tourism

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At a distance, the Himalayas stood in dusk like a giant the reclining Buddha. Birds returning home in trees were making noise in otherwise silent jungles of the Manas National Park. Women at Maozzigendri village were busy preparing food for men folk who either had returned from rice field or yet to return with guests who were still out in the National Park viewing wildlife and prolific birdlife. That was the Manas National Park that evening of November 2009. The eastern states of India were getting dark fast.

Along with Marcus Buer, I had reached that evening to Manas Jungle Camp at the fringe of the core area of the protected rainforest. We had reached late for making a trip into the National Park. Once, the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was a premier wildlife habitat with more than 100 species of mammals and 42 species of reptiles. Birdlife was prolific. And the poachers were the villagers as agriculture did not really give much to the Bodos who are inhabitants of the Manas region.

The Maozzigendri Jungle Camp is a group of bamboo-cane huts, comfortable, clean but with running water and modern toilets but rustic. We were sipping tea sitting in front of our room when Gogol (name changed) Bodo joined us. He is a forest guard. His story is typical of Bodo youth of the region. Gogol grew in an impoverished agriculturist family. When he was a youngster in early teens, he learnt to make his own guns and bullets. He also learnt that a tiger skin or a rhino horn fetched much more money to the family than toiling in fields. He became a poacher. Life of a poacher was difficult. Forest guards hunted Gogol as he hunted rhino or tiger or deer. Yet he was bringing in cash to family. One day a wild bore attack left him with one hand. His poaching days were over practically.

Then it was ‘Bodo Homeland’ agitation that turned into militancy. Many like Gogol thought the solution to their poverty lay in having an independent homeland out of Indian republic. But Indian government retaliated with state powers and as the struggle continued, Manas with its wilderness became a sanctuary for Bodo militants. They killed animals for food and getting money by selling coats of tigers and leopard and rhino horns besides many other articles. Tourists stopped coming to Manas and the spectacular wildlife sanctuary was on the verge of destruction when Bodos sat with Indian government and achieved autonomous status within India. Peace returned to the region. People resumed normal life but Manas rotted while UNESCO listed it as “Heritage Site in danger”. Eco-lovers and NGOs believed that the Manas can be given back the lost glory and the tag “in danger” could be removed.

Along with the authorities, poachers like Gogol were turned into protectors by appointing them forest guards. One organization came up with a novel idea of creating a jungle camp for the tourists to come and stay but the camp would be run by the local Bodos with hospitality training imparted by specialists of that tourism outfit. Women to cook, clean and even baby sit when parents go out for animal safaris. Once implemented, income of Bodos around increased. Being once poachers now turned guards, security for the animals to roam free increased. The Manas National Park was looking up. So, social tourism started at Manas. Gogol got up and offered to take us around the village.

Along with the authorities, poachers like Gogol were turned into protectors by appointing them forest guards. One organization came up with a novel idea of creating a jungle camp for the tourists to come and stay but the camp would be run by the local Bodos with hospitality training imparted by specialists of that tourism outfit. Women to cook, clean and even baby sit when parents go out for animal safaris. Once implemented, income of Bodos around increased. Being once poachers now turned guards, security for the animals to roam free increased. The Manas National Park was looking up. So, social tourism started at Manas. Gogol got up and offered to take us around the village.

We saw the beautiful Bodo girls making clay pots. There were women going about family chores. Boys were tending banana rafts made of the banana plants to take us on rafting aboard these rafts. Before moving in for dinner we saw a dance performance by village belles. Coloufully attired in ethnic dresses called dokhna. I saw a young girl baby sitting for a European couple who had gone on safari. Social tourism at its best is visible today around the Manas National Park.

Food, sight-seeing and shopping: Food at Jungle Camp was simple; rice, roti, vegetables, chicken/fish curry and dal with fresh salad. Cooking was ethnic yet most of us including my people German friend enjoyed it.

Activities & things to do: The Elephant Safari
Our elephant ride began vary early in the morning when heavy fog had made the Manas National Park mysterious. The ride begins from Maozigendri viilage and continues for about 90 minutes. Elephant began taking us through tall grass into the Manas Tiger Reserve’s gentle slopes at the foothills of the Himalayas. Located in the north-eastern state of Assam, it is the only tiger reserve of its kind in the entire northeast. Our mahout took us close to the crystal waters of the Manas River demarcating the Kingdom of Bhutan with India. We saw two vultures and an eagle circling overhead. A few swamp deer ran away. Tigers had come to drink water at the Manas River and our guide picked up fresh pug marks of tigers. This made our heart race in anticipation of sighting tiger, ferocious yet shy and elusive biggest cat of the jungle.
Sighting a tiger in wilderness is difficult and sheer luck. But if you are lucky you might view the most splendid sight of the animal world. We had that luck. There was a low growl from a thicket. Our elephant stopped on the track. The mahout’s trained easy picked up the well camouflaged but shining skin. He pointed the spot out and we, too, picked up the yellow and black stripes. Then the most dramatically, the tiger emerged out of the thicket and in a flash jumped across the track and disappeared into denser bush. Marcus’s camera had picked up the dramatic moment.
The morning was very pleasant. We were enjoying the scenic beauty of the mixed deciduous vegetation found in the park. Broken tree branches signaled elephant territory and we saw elephant families. Sambhar, the largest Asiatic was observing us from a distance. A herd of hog deer came closer. The two rare simian, Golden Langur with its long tail, sat on a tree.
Through the swamp, elephant took us to close one-horned rhinos. Generally un-perturbed, mother rhinos with baby showed restlessness. Mahout took the elephant away from them. We saw a rhino bleeding from its back. Conclusively, it had a fight with a tiger. Mahout told us that it was female rhino and when the tiger had attacked its baby, it had charged the tiger and the tiger had charged back commencing a fight. No full grown rhino is ever attacked by tiger. But where was the baby rhino? We tried to locate it and failed till we saw four vultures devouring a carcass of small rhino. The female rhino was at a 100 meter distance and looked sad. We saw many rhinos.
In the mist, couple shadowy buffalos were moving away from us. A few rare Hispid Hare run on the turf seeing our elephant. Pigmy Hog and Wild Boar sneaked in and out from bush.

Birding was great, too. We saw a huge Indian Hornbill flying over our head and Pied Hornbill resting on a dried up branch of a tall tree. Water bodies had the Riverchats, Forktails, Cormorants and Ducks like the Ruddy. Elephant ride was over in 90 minutes.

Boat safari:
After breakfast we took to a boat safari to see animals from our boat but lesser number animal are visible from the River Manas, which was compensated by grand views of the Himalaya that we saw from the river. We saw a herd of elephant close to the Manas River. Multi-coloured pebbles of the River are an added attraction. We saw a few Gangetic Dolphins. We also saw deer herd drinking water. Egrets were trying to fish. A Secretary Bird flew away seeing us.

Returning to the Jungle Camp, we planned to skip the road safari and attended busied us in completing writing of our trip. Marcus was busy compiling his ecological studies of the Manas. He had with him a smokeless incinerator, a small yet effective item to burn forest and human refuge without smoke being emitted, that he demonstrated to the villagers.

There was a tribal dance in the evening and little later we joined a puja where a bodo family worshipped the family god. The night was again mysterious and mystic. Some where a hyena laughed or a leopard coughed. A tusker trumpeted. Night birds often broke the silence.

Road safari:
Next morning, we were out for a long drive into the Manas National Park. We moved along the Manas River. Near the river, we met off duty Gogol carrying only a 6 feet bamboo stick. He asked if we wanted, he call a herd of elephants close to us. We did not believe him. Our driver, Asgar Khan explained that the former poachers and even the new forest guards had astonishing relationship with wildlife and if Gogol wanted, he could shepherd an elephant herd to us from jungle. We declined his offer. Since the area covered by driving around is much more, we were better introduced to Manas’s stunning pristine landscapes at the foot hills of the Himalayas. The semi-evergreen forest’s Terrestrial Eco region stands out in the Bramhaputra Valley. We could see efforts to remove UNESCO’s stigma “a heritage wild if in danger” by the government and NGOs bearing fruits.

Elephant safari is a novelty though some animals are visible as elephants walk through elephant grass but to me a vehicle is more interesting as it covers each nook and corner of the wilderness. We saw large number of rhinos and deer including sambar. Birding close to the river was satisfying. When we were close to Bhutan Himalayas, stunning natural scenery greeted us. We knew nothing so beautiful can be ‘in danger’ list. “The Manas National Lives” is the motto.

Pied Piper and the Elephants
Now came the climax of our Manas Visit and result of our organization’s effort of rehabilitating poachers turned militant to forest guard. What we experienced next 30 minutes was stunning. We were near Bhutan Himalayas; we saw a herd of elephant of about 37 approaching us. And to our horror, we found Gogol, armed with his 6-ft bamboo stick and loud noise from his mouth, driving the wild herd from wilderness to me and Marcus. He had really got a herd for us! It is amazing when we see such equation between man and animal in wilderness and wonder why men turn into poachers! The pied piper took his elephants across a stream and into the forest.

Back at the Jungle Camp, we saw ethnic products like designed clay pots, cane and bamboo products and visited a home where worshipping was on. Again we were entertained with a dance that evening. A visit to Bodo museum gave us better understanding of their history and culture.

Next day we were to leave for Kaziranga. So early morning we went for banana raft ride. Each raft carried one rider and a boat man. It was fun for some and scary for others. But no doubt it is a must at the Manas and definitely enjoyable.

Travel tips, How to reach, travel warnings etc: Getting There

By Air: The nearest airport is Borjhar airport, Guwahati, connected by Indian Airlines to Delhi (8:00, Tue, Thu, Sat), (10:25, Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun), Calcutta (6:30, 9:50 & 16:00, Daily). Mumbai is connected through a Jet Airways flight (7:50, except Thu & Sun).

By Rail: The nearest railhead, Barpeta Road (32 km N), is connected with Delhi, Kolkata Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore.

By Road: The Park is well connected with other parts of Assam through a network of well built roads. State transport buses ply regularly connecting various cities in and around the park. To reach the park from Guwahati, take the NH31 to Shimlaguri via Rangia, Nalbari and Howli. From there take the link road to Barpeta road.
Where to Stay: Manas Jungle Camp at Maozigendri, Barapeta, Manas National Park, Barpeta, Assam. Manas Jungle Camp that spreads out in a rubber plantation has five ethnic cottages with attached toilets and a guest house with common toilet. Services at jungle camp are very personal with typical tribal hospitality.
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Guwahati Traveller Reviews

Read 47 destination reviews
with average rating of 5.4/7, 1
out of 894 Guwahati reviews 894
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Kshemasundar Debchoudhury
  • Kshemasundar Debchoudhury
  • Lives in Guwahati
  • 3 Reviews

"Such a beautiful place!" new review

  • 4.5/7
  • Posted 2 weeks ago
We are aware of the pathetic condition of the highway, the frequent traffic jams between Jowai and Ladrymbai, the practice of inflicting night curfews by the local groups, robbery of the passengers, etc. Still we collectively decided to make....... More
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A z Ranjit
  • A z Ranjit
  • Lives in Chennai
  • 4 Reviews

"Heaven made dirty"

  • 4.5/7
  • Posted 2 months ago
If you keep looking at people and the natural surroundings, you are in a wonderful place. But if you look down at the roads and pavements, you would want to go back to your room. There are some amazing sightseeing places no doubt, but the city....... More
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Nawal Sethi
  • Nawal Sethi
  • Lives in Pune
  • 5 Reviews

"Enjoy the warmth of North-East"

  • 6.5/7
  • Posted 3 months ago
Our first visit to the North-East was a good experience. We were able to visit Guwahati and Kaziranga and the mighty Brahamputra whose impressions left a life long mark in our minds. On future opportunity, we would love to visit more states in....... More
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  • Mahesh
  • 9 Reviews

"Great fun and enjoyment"

  • 6/7
  • Posted 3 months ago
The trip there was cool because we went together as a family. I must tell you that take mosquito repellent because when you go out in evening anywhere there are mosquitoes every where; so my suggestion is stay inside the hotel in the evenings....... More
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  • Devaraj
  • 9 Reviews

"Commercial and educational hub"

  • 5/7
  • Posted 4 months ago
It was a nice experience to visit Guwahati. Guwahati is the major commercial and educational hub of North-East India. There are many places to visit there specially Kamakhya Temple is very famous. The River Cruise on the Brahmaputra river is....... More
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Reoth Rajesh Rajesh Tula ram joshi Reoth, Rajesh, Rajesh and 1744 other people have been to Guwahati.
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Guwahati Info

  • State: Assam
  • Famous for/as: City
  • Altitude: 55 m
  • Pincode: 781001
  • District: Kamrup
  • Language: Assamese,Bengali
  • STD code: 0361
  • Weather: Summer 25 to 35°C, Winter 10 to 20°C
Formerly known as Pragjyotishpur, Guwahati, also called as Gauhati, is considered as the gateway to the north-east region of the country. Located on the bank of the Brahmaputra River, Guwahati is also the largest city of Assam. The largest metropolis in the north-east region of the country, this city is also the second largest metropolitan area in entire eastern India.

The history of the city dates back to the epic times. Guwahati has its first mention in the great epic Mahabharata as the capital of the demon king Narakasura of Pragjyotishpur. Due to this reason, the city came to be known as Pragjyotishpur, which means Light of the East. It is also believed that the city was the ancient land of Kamarupa. In this ancient land, the Hindu god of beauty, fertility and source of life was reborn.

The destination, till the invasions of Ahoms, had been the nerve-centre of all cultural activities. In addition, the city has also been a battleground and witnessed plenty of intense struggles between the Mughals and Ahoms. The Mughals tried to invade the state around 17 times, however every time they were defeated by the Ahoms. During the time of battle, the army of Ahoms was led by the great Ahom General, Bir Lachit Borphukan.

In 1897, the entire city was ruined due to a major earthquake. Most of the old city was wiped out because of this earthquake, which was followed by a series of devastating floods. 

The present capital of the State of Assam is Dispur, which is located within the city and is also the seat of the Government of Assam. With world class institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati is also a major commercial and educational centre of North-East India.

A hub for cultural activities and sports in the north-eastern region, the city is also the centre for political and administrative activities of Assam. Moreover, the destination is also an important transportation hub in the north-east region and is well connected to the rest of the country.

Guwahati airport is the main airport of the region and has flights to places like Aizawl, Agartala, Delhi, Kolkata etc. The closest international airports are at Kolkata and Delhi. The city is part of the North-East Frontier Railway and is a major railhead of the region. It is connected by quite a few train services to different parts of the country.

Buses also connect Guwahati to major destinations in and around the state. There are bus services to places like Darjeeling too which is in the state of West Bengal. These buses are operated by the state as well as private tour groups.

Guwahati attracts tourists due to its rich cultural mix and tribal traditions along with several colourful festivals. One of the most popular fairs that is held in this city is the Ambubachi Mela. This fair is organised every year during the monsoon season, which is attended by large number of devotees.

Some of the major festivals celebrated in the city are Bihu, which is the National Festival of the Assamese and the Bahag Bihu during April. The Kati or Kangali Bihu and the Magh or Bhogali Bihu are some of the other festivals of Guwahati. The best time to visit Guwahati is from the months of October to April.
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