Guwahati is the Gateway to North-East India. It is very well connected with other parts of India. Guwahati is also the biggest city among the 7 states of Northeast which are popularly known as 7 sisters. Though Assam’s capital is Dispur still most people think it is Guwahati. Guwahati was my entry and exit city when I traveled to the northeast. I stayed there for 3 nights and I enjoyed my stay. During my stay, I visited some interesting places in Guwahati and also traveled to Shillong & Cherrapunji.
There is very limited knowledge about Guwahati & other states of northeast of India. There is a misconception that Guwahati is a small town or it is unsafe. Guwahati is like any other busy city in India, there are stores of all the popular Indian as well as international fashion brands. Most of the international food chains like Dominos, KFC, Mcdonalds etc have multiple outlets in Guwahati. The popular app-based cab service like Ola and Uber also operate in Guwahati.
A brief history of Guwahati city
Guwahati is situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra river. It was established in ancient times though there is no written record. It was a popular business center centuries ago. In ancient timings, traders used the Brahmaputra river to travel and move the goods to different parts of this region.
According to the records, the Kamarupa kingdom existed in Guwahati Assam from 350 CE to 1140 CE. The kings of Kamarupa kingdom were Hindu and they built many temples in the region, thus Guwahati is also known as the city of temples.
Ahom dynasty ruled Assam from 1228–1826. Ahom kingdom expended fast and this expansion made it multi-ethnic and inclusive. Hinduism became the predominant religion in 16th – 17th century when Ahom kings adapted it. Even with Hinduism Ahom kings followed their traditional beliefs after adopting Hinduism. These kings also contributed to the developments of temples. Ahom kingdom becomes weaker in the 18th -19th century. Burmese defeated them and took control of the state. In 1838 British East India company defeated Burmese and they ruled Assam till 1947.
How to travel to Guwahati
Guwahati is very well connected with all major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Banglore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Amritsar, Kolkata, Varanasi, and Ahmedabad.
There are direct flights to and from Bangkok, Singapore, Dhaka, and Paro (Bhutan) for Guwahati.
By Indian Railways
It is very well connected by train with all major cities in India.
Guwahati is approximately 2000 to 3000 Km from all major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai.
Must do things to do in Guwahati
Visit temples of Guwahati
Temples are the most popular places to visit in Guwahati and due to this, it is also known as the city of temples. Kamakhya temple, Umananda Temple, Basista Ashram & temple, Navagrah temple, Bhubaneswari temple, and Tirupati Bala Ji temples are some of the prominent temples in Guwahati.
There are some interesting things to do in Guwahati other than visiting the temples. Guwahati is like any other city in India but it has a unique culture.
Visit Sankardev Kalakshetra
This is a cultural institution in the city of Guwahati. In Sankardev Kalakshetra, they have displayed the Assamese cultural heritage. The paintings, photographs exhibit the rich history of this region and tribes. There is a good collection of artifacts and items used by locals tribes of Assam.
There is a science museum in the compound, which has many educational models on display. It is a very interesting place for children.
The park and garden in Sankardev Kalakshetra are very nicely maintained. The song and dance performances are organized on special occasions in the open air theater in the complex.
There is an entry ticket of 30 INR for adults, 10 for children and 100 INR for foreign tourists. Still camera ticket is 10 INR while for video camera you have to pay 100 INR.
Take a Brahmaputra river boat ride
I enjoy boat rides and never miss a chance whenever there is an opportunity for it. Guwahati is situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra river, which is the biggest river of India. There are plenty of options for taking boat rides in Bharamputra. It was an amazing experience to sail/cruise in the mighty Brahmaputra river. This was among my favorite thing to do in Guwahati.
There are a few options for boat rides.
1. If you are in a tight budget then take the most economical boat, which is operated by Inland water transport. Their boats are basic and mostly crowded with local people who cross the Brahmaputra by boats instead of the bridge which is a little far from the city.
2. You can hire a boat from the jetty at Sukleshwar ghat for Peacock island during the day or maybe just for a trip in Brahmaputra river. This boat cost between 300 to 500 INR for 30 minutes to 1-hour trip depending upon the distance. You have to bargain for a good price. Price also varies depending upon the season and water flow. If the water flow is strong then the price for boats are higher.
3. Take a boat cruise in the evening. There are few evening boat cruise in Bhramputra and Alfresco Grand is one of the most popular among them. They have 3-time slots for cruises.
Sunset cruise, Sundown cruises are for 1 hour and cost approx 350 INR. The dinner cruise is for 2 hours and cost 1200 INR which include soft drinks, dinner, and cultural programs.
Visit markets of Guwahati
Fancy Bazaar is the most happening market of Guwahati. In this market, you can buy almost everything from traditional Assamese clothing like Mekhla saree, woven fabrics & designs of different tribes from Assam, handicrafts of bamboo as well as other modern fashion stuff.
Fancy bazaar is a busy market and due to crowds, it feels very messy & chaotic. For the local experience, it is the best market to visit in Guwahati. This market is also a good example of religious harmony in the area as there are a church, a gurudwara and a mosque on the same crossing.
My driver told a very heart touching story about the name of Fancy Bazaar market. He showed me the Jail, which is very close to the market. It is said that during British rule in India, they use to hang people in this market. So people started calling it Phaansi Bazaar, in Hindi Hanging, is known as “Phaansi”. After the Independence of India, this practice stopped. Then people started calling it Fancy bazaar to forget the past associated with this market.
There are some good restaurants and street vendors in this market.
Paltan bazaar is another good market in Guwahati to buy traditional things. It is a comparatively smaller market and also remains very crowded.
Eat traditional Assamese Cuisine
There are three important things about Assamese cuisine.
1. Very few spices are used in it that’s why food is very mild.
2. Rice is a staple food.
3. It has a good mix of vegetable, fish, birds like pigeon & duck.
Most of the Assamese dishes are cooked in mustard oil and preparation methods are very simple in comparison to North Indian vegetarian food.
There are many restaurants, which serve Assamese food dishes. I love to eat a Thali because in it I can taste most of the dishes in one meal. In Assamese thali, you will get rice, dry & wet vegetables, dal, fish, chicken/meat/duck/pigeon, a mesh potato dish and some pickles. My favorite places for Assamese cuisine in Guwahati are Culina kitchen and Paradise.
Best time to visit Guwahati
October to April is the best time to visit Guwahati as the temperature is moderate to cooler but not cold.
May is the hottest month of the year.
From June to September is the monsoon season and sometimes it rains very heavily. There can be flooding in Bhramputra river, which can disturb the travel plans.
If you want to experience festivals in Guwahati Assam then visit in January for Bhogali Bihu, end September – October for Kangali Bihu and April for Bahag Bihu.
Also check the Must experience festivals of India
Few things to know before visiting Guwahati
* It is in the eastern part of India and due to this sunrises very early. In summer months sunrises around 4.30 AM and set by 6.30 PM. The daylight timings are different so plan your day accordingly.
* Weather is moderate throughout the day so one pullover and shawl is enough even in winter months.
* If you don’t have time to visit Kaziranga then visit Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, which is 55 km from Guwahati.
* If there is a strike or “Bandh” in the area then all markets, transport, and other things remain closed.
* Eat local food as they use locally procures vegetables, fish and meats, which taste better.
* Most people speak Hindi and English in Guwahati.
* Cabs, autorickshaws, and cycle rickshaws are the most popular mode of transport.