Assam, India

Assam is dominated by the mighty River Brahmaputra. Its vast, lush valley sandwiched between the Himalayan foothills to the north and the Meghalayan hills and plateau to the south. An attractive state carpeted by plantations, forests and paddy fields, Assam is one of India’s few oil regions and produces around sixty percent of the nation’s tea. However, the industry is not as profitable as it once was, and for the marginalised baganiyas (tea workers), mainly adivasis – tribal people brought in from central India by the British to work as indentured labourers on the plantations – depressingly little has changed since colonial times.

The best travel tips for visiting Assam

More and more visitors are enjoying the delights of the local wildlife and tea plantations, as tourists are rarely embroiled in the strife that underlies the social fabric of Assam. Social divisions and ethnic strife have lead to long-term instability in the state.

The separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) began an armed struggle for independence in 1985. In the early 1990s Assamese nationalism sparked opposition from Bodos, Cachars and other ethnic minorities. Bangladeshi migration into Assam has been a bone of contention for indigenous Assamese, resulting in the deadly clashes of 2012 between migrant Bangladeshis and Bodos that left several dead in the western districts of the state.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable ethnic tensions, occasional violence reported in the press, bandhs and political in-fighting, the situation has vastly improved, as has the infrastructure. Thus more and more visitors are enjoying the delights of the local wildlife and tea plantations, as tourists are rarely embroiled in the strife that underlies the social fabric of Assam.

Rough Guides tip: Planning a trip to India? Perhaps our local experts in India can help you!

Kamakhya Temple a sacred Hindu Shrine in Assam, India © Shutterstock

Kamakhya Temple a sacred Hindu Shrine in Assam, India © Shutterstock

What to do in Assam

From exploring the state capital, Guwahati, to trying to spot one-horned rhinos at Kaziranga National Park, here are the best things to do in Assam.

#1 Head to the Kamakhya, Navagraha and Umananda temples of Guwahati

The state capital, Guwahati (or Gauhati), lies on the banks of the mighty Brahmaputra. Although some of the old town still retains its character, Guwahati is a rapidly expanding city of shopping malls. As the main gateway to the region you may well need to stay here briefly.

Guwahati’s main attractions are the Kamakhya, Navagraha and Umananda temples. Northwest of the city are the silk village of Sualkuchi, the pilgrimage site of Hajo and Manas National Park. As the primary hub for the region’s lucrative tea industry, Guwahati’s Assam Tea Auction Centre at Dispur is the largest trade centre in the world for the CTC (crush, tear and curl) tea so characteristic of Assam.

Elsewhere, the bustling markets of Paltan Bazaar, Pan Bazaar and Fancy Bazaar, Guwahati’s main shopping areas, are bunched in the centre on either side of the railway, with the older residential areas north of the tracks spread along the riverside. Assamese silk, wooden rhinos and other crafts are sold at several shops on GNB Road.

#2 Try to spot one-horned rhinos at Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park is a World Heritage Site covering 430 square kilometres on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, 217km east of Guwahati. It occupies a vast valley floor against a backdrop of the Karbi Anglong Hills.

The Park's rivulets, shallow lakes and semi-evergreen forested highlands blend into marshes and flood plains covered with tall elephant grass teeming with deer and wild buffalo. However, the big draw, is the park’s famous yet highly endangered one-horned rhinos, best observed from the back of an elephant first thing on a winter’s morning. Jeeps take you deeper into the forest than elephants, but cannot get nearly as close to the rhinos and buffalo

Tiger sightings are relatively rare, despite the park’s official claim to have the highest density of tigers of any park in the world. The abundant birdlife includes also egrets, herons, storks, fish eagles, kingfishers and a grey pelican colony.

#3 Hit up Majuli, one of the largest inhabited river islands in the world

Within striking distance of Jorhat, Majuli is often described as one of the largest inhabited river islands in the world, but erosion in recent years is threatening its claim and, indeed in the long run, its future.

Regardless of its precise status, Majuli is a fascinating place and a true gem of the Northeast, largely because of its unique Vaishnavite satras (Hindu monasteries), though it is also a haven for birdwatchers. There are 22 satras – institutions that contain elements of a temple, monastery, school and centre for the arts – on Majuli: each consists of a prayer hall (namghar), surrounded by living quarters for devotees, and ghats for bathing.

Music, song and dance are essential elements of the devotional life of the satras, and you may be lucky enough to catch one of the performances which are sometimes arranged for large parties of visitors.

Mishing village family home, Majuli Island, Assam, India © Shutterstock

Mishing village family home, Majuli Island, Assam, India © Shutterstock

#4 Find more rhinos at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary

Though much smaller than Kaziranga, at just 39 square kilometres, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary on the flood plains of the Brahmaputra has a high density of rhinos and possibilities of multiple sightings. The best time to visit is between November to February, and a visit can be done as a day-trip from Guwahati.

#5 Seek out the varied natural beauty of Manas National Park

Manas National Park, 80km west of Guwahati on the border with Bhutan, has been on UNESCO’s list of endangered World Heritage Sites since 1992. Consisting of two ranges, Bansbari and Koklabari, Manas is well worth visiting for its varied natural beauty, with buffalo and rhino grazing on expansive stretches of sand and grass, and sal forests flanking the Manas River.

Troubled by insurgency and poachers and plagued by development, the park’s population of large mammals had sadly declined – sightings of tigers and elephants are now relatively rare. However, several rhinos have been relocated successfully from Kaziranga and a recent photographic audit between India and Bhutan counted fourteen tigers.

#6 Have your fortune told at Navagraha

On a wooded hill popular with monkeys, the single-domed Navagraha temple – the “temple of the nine planets”, an ancient seat of astrology and astronomy – has wonderful acoustics, especially in the mornings when priests chant prayers for clients in search of solace. Housed in a single red dome, the central lingam is encircled by a further eight representing the planets.

Outside the temple, fortune-tellers (jyotish) will read your future.

#7 Spot the rare golden langur monkeys at Umananda

The Shiva temple of Umananda stands on Peacock Island in the middle of the Brahmaputra. Its location atop a steep flight of steps is more dramatic than the temple itself, but you may get to see some rare golden langur monkeys.

Gee's Golden Langur Taken at the smallest inhabited river island of Umananda in Assam,India © Shutterstock

Gee's Golden Langur taken at the smallest inhabited river island of Umananda in Assam,India © Shutterstock

#8 Check out the Assamese-style Kamakhya temple

On the commanding Nilachal Hill, overlooking the river, the important Kali temple of Kamakhya, with its beehive-shaped shikhara, is a good example of the distinctive Assamese style of architecture. As one of the shakti pithas, it marks the place where Sati’s yoni (vulva) landed when her body fell to earth in 51 pieces. Kamakhya maintains a strong tradition of bali (animal sacrifice) which usually takes place around noon.

Warnings and travel advice for Assam

Sporadic violence does plague Assam. In 2014, a curfew was imposed after violent clashes between a Bodo faction and adivasi tribes around the Kokrajar, Sontipur and Chirang districts.

The region is prone to strikes known as bandhs (lockouts) when shops, restaurants and public transport shut down – check the news and ask travel agencies in the Northeast for advice before and while travelling.

Rough Guides tip: Avoid driving any distance at night, even through Assam, due to the threat of banditry often in the guise of insurgency.

Best places to stay in Assam

Most visitors to Assam will bed down for at least a night in Guwahati, but there are plenty of high-quality budget hotels and eco-camps within the national parks here too. Here’s where to stay.


From luxurious riverside guesthouses with roof terraces to opulent hotel stays, there are loads of accommodation available in Guwahati. The further from the river, the cheaper it gets.

Manas National Park

Manas has a handful of lodges including at Mathanguri – the area of the park on the banks of the Manas River and the last point up to which you can take personal vehicles – and some in Barpeta Road.

Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga has a large selection of places to stay with numerous “resorts” cropping up south of the main highway. Accommodation is now reaching saturation point; an alternative is to seek out one of several homestays around Bogorijuri. There is a selection of restaurants along the highway but most of the lodges and resorts have their own catering.


Some 174km northeast of Guwahati, Tezpuris a busy administrative and commercial hub on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. It is a convenient and sometimes essential stop en route to Arunachal Pradesh and provides good road links to Kaziranga National Park (83km) on the south bank across the 3km long Kolia Bhomora Bridge. Eco-camp Ugroshore, set on an empty river island facing Ganesh Ghat, is a new reason to linger longer.

Browse the places to stay in Assam.

Elephant Family at Manas National Park, Assam © Shutterstock

Elephant Family at Manas National Park, Assam © Shutterstock

How to get around

Roads in the Assam valley are well-maintained along the Brahmaputra up to Pasighat and Roing, and there is a good stretch from Tezpur to Tawang. Elsewhere, especially in the hills of Nagaland and the interior of Arunachal Pradesh, roads are generally in a terrible state and journeys can prove tedious and painfully slow. If arranging car rental, ensure you rent a large vehicle such as a Sumo or Bolero for the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh.

By taxi

Shared taxis and Sumos will get you between destinations in the state. Sumos will only tend to depart when full.

By train

There are good rail links fanning out from Guwahati with many of the major destinations connected.

By bus

State and private buses whizz between destinations in Assam, but sometimes travellers will have to take once or more to reach their destination or hire an auto-rickshaw for the last push.

How many days do you need in Assam?

You will need around 5 to 7 days to explore the main highlights of Assam. This is enough time to see Guwahati, Kaziranga National Park, Majuli Island, and the tea gardens of Jorhat. It would also provide enough time to try some traditional Assamese cuisine, and participate in activities like river cruises on the Brahmaputra River.

However, if you wish to delve deeper into Assam's attractions and venture off the beaten path, you may consider extending your stay for 10 to 12 days. As Assam offers opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those interested in exploring offbeat destinations like Tawang and Haflong, there can be a lot of uncover.

Looking for inspiration for your trip? Check our India Itineraries.

What is the best time to visit Assam?

Weather conditions are best from November to April, although the high-altitude areas of Arunachal, Meghalaya and Nagaland are extremely cold by December, and winter fog can disrupt road journeys.

It rains heavily from May to the end of September, particularly in Meghalaya, but travel during this period has its own charm. In major cities such as Guwahati, Tezpur and Shillong, accommodation rates are not affected by the low season, but the remote parts of Assam do offer off-season discounts.

Find out more about the best time to visit India.

Big endangered indian rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India © Shutterstock

Big endangered indian rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India © Shutterstock

How to get here

Flights are the most convenient mode of travel, with major airports at Guwahati, Agartala (Mizoram), Dibrugarh, Silchar, Dimapur and Imphal. Here’s how to get to Assam.

By plane

Guwahati’s Lok-Priya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport is 20 km southwest of the city centre.

By train

The main station is in Guwahati city centre; trains travelling west also stop at Kamakhya Junction, 8 km west. Along the valley from Guwahati to Upper Assam and Dimapur are reasonable, and there is a rail-link to Naharlagun in central Arunachal.

By bus

The Interstate Bus Terminus (ISBT) is inconveniently located on NH-37, 9 km east of Guwahati. Private and public buses leave from here to destinations throughout the Northeast. A handful of private bus companies are based in hectic and chaotic Paltan Bazaar to the south of the station.

By ferry

Some of the ferries along the Brahmaputra are useful, especially those connecting Majuli Island with the north and south shores of the Brahmaputra. Upmarket cruises also provide a languid and leisurely way of discovering the river and surrounding areas.

Find out the best ways to get to India.

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Andy Turner

written by
Andy Turner

updated 06.07.2023

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍