As a gateway to northeast India, Guwahati is an essential pit stop on many travellers’ itineraries. Many whizz by en-route the hills of Meghalaya or the surrounding wildlife reserves of Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park. The bustling city on the banks of the Brahmaputra, however, offers a unique glimpse into Assamese culture, cuisine, and tradition. Here are the most interesting things to do in 24 hours in Guwahati.
Kick-start your day with the region’s most famed export – a cup of Assamese tea. Step into the trendy 11th Avenue Café Bistro for a morning cuppa, a range of coffees and continental breakfast options. Intricately designed temples are scattered across Guwahati. Start at the ancient Kamakhya Temple, with a dome and gilded spires, sitting high on a hill over the river. Dedicated to goddess Kali (or Kamakhya), thousands descend on the temple annually in June during the famous Ambubachi Mela.
The Assam State Museum serves as a good introduction to Assamese culture and history. Browse through the large collections of weapons and jewellery, tribal arts and sculpture, utensils and tools used through the ages. They document the way of life of various ethnic groups in the region and it’s a great place to better understand Assam’s unique culture.
For lunch, head to Gam’s Delicacy for a typical Assamese meal. With an extensive menu of traditional dishes like fish tenga, joha rice, smoked meats, and various types of fish, it’s a great place to sample the unique local cuisine.
Spend the afternoon shopping for local products. Fancy Bazaar, crammed with all kinds of shops, is a good place to start. Tea isn’t the only thing you’ll be taking back from here. Delicate Assamese muga silks, bamboo products and ethnic handicrafts will have you stuffing your bags.
Visit the silk emporiums and stores to browse through gorgeous weaves. Pick up a ‘mekhela chador’, the traditional garment worn by Assamese women. At first glance, the ensemble resembles a sari, but actually consists of two pieces of fabric.
Stop by at the Pragjyotika Assam Emporium to pick up handicrafts like carved wooden rhinos and indigenous musical instruments made by local artisans. Bamboo products such as weaved baskets and lampshades make great souvenirs, while the typical red-and-white embroidered Assamese gamcha or gamusa is a must-buy.
A busy city with heaving markets and crowded streets, Guwahati reveals pockets of calm along the river. As the sun begins to lower, fishing boats lazily drift back to shore and the sky paints itself in hues of pink and orange. The best way to take in these magnificent sights is from a boat or cruise liner on the mighty Brahmaputra. Ferries from Kachari Ghat depart to riverine islands such as Peacock Island.
Hop aboard and head to the Umananda Temple, situated atop a hill on the island. Surrounded by trees, the trail surrounding the temple is an ideal vantage point to take in the gorgeous views. If you’re pressed for time, sunset cruises on the Brahmaputra depart from MG Road and typically last for two hours, with on board food and music accompanying great views. Make sure to grab a spot on the open deck.
For dinner, head to Khorikaa, a fuss-free, cheerful eatery with plenty of hearty Assamese options. Khorika, the Assamese delicacy for which the restaurant is named, is a skewer dish with flavourful chunks of smoky meat. With rice, dal, plenty of local-style vegetables, fish in mustard gravy, and chicken or meat preparations, the thali is great bang for your buck. End the night with a drink at Café Hendrix, a lively bar that hosts live bands some evenings.