Places To Visit In Guwahati: A Travel Guide To The Gateway Of Northeast India
After spending six days in Meghalaya, it was time for me to bid farewell to the state. I spent six memorable days in Meghalaya, and barring the last day, the trip to Meghalaya was fantastic. I visited some of the famous places of Meghalaya and covered many more, which were in my bucket list form a long time. Today, I was in Shillong and in my last leg of the journey in Meghalaya, where I planned to ride from Shillong to Guwahati. As per my itinerary, I should have been in Guwahati by now, but yesterday’s break down forced me to stay in Shillong and start for Guwahati the next day. Yesterday’s breakdown has both advantages and disadvantages as now I could visit the Laitlum Grand Canyon in Shillong though my plan got derailed a bit. I would have missed the Laitlum Canyon if break down hadn’t happened, but now as I was in Shillong and had plenty of time to visit Laitlum Canyon and then ride to Guwahati. After visiting the Laitlum Canyon, I rode to Guwahati and spent my next two days in the state capital of Assam. For the last six days, my daily routine was riding and walking, and therefore, I thought of giving rest to my body as well as the bike. It will be the tenth article of my ride to North-East India. In this article, I will be sharing my trip to Laitlum Canyon of Meghalaya, My journey from Shillong to Guwahati, and the two days I spent exploring the Guwahati City. I will also share how to effectively explore the city of Guwahati and important places to visit in Guwahati. I hope this article will be beneficial for people visiting Guwahati, and they can effectively use their money and time to explore this city.
Start of The Day and Drive to Laitlum Grand Canyon
If you have read my first-day ride from Guwahati to Cherrapunjee, you would be aware that I was in a dilemma after reaching Shillong. I had to choose between Elephant Waterfall and Laitlum Canyon as both were on the opposite route. Eventually, I decided to visit the Elephant Falls and planned to visit the Laitlum Canyon while returning. On the last day of my ride in Meghalaya, I was recommended to visit the Krang Shuri Waterfall, and therefore visiting the Laitlum Canyon was nearly impossible. But now I had plenty of time to visit the Laitlum Canyon, and I was in no mood to miss this opportunity. After last night’s disaster, I woke up by seven in the morning and was ready to drive to Laitlum Canyon by 8:00 AM. Before leaving Shillong, I went again to the mechanic’s shop to cross verify the bike’s condition, and once I had a go-ahead, I started riding for Laitlum Canyon.
The Laitlum Grand Canyon lies some 25 kilometers from Police Bazar in Shillong, and an hour-long ride will take you there. The National Highway 6 connects Laitlum to Shillong, and the road is excellent, barring the last few kilometers. Once I had my breakfast, I started for Laitlum and found the famous Meghalaya fog engulfing the route. The fog was so dense that it hindered my visibility and forced me to drive slow. After riding for some ten kilometers, I reached Kynton, where one road leads to Jowai and another to Laitlum. I continued my ride on NH6 and took the exit after reaching Laitkyrhong. From there, the ride is a bit bumpy, and after another 15 minutes of the ride, I reached the Laitlum Canyon.
Laitlum Canyon & Ride to Guwahati From Shillong
The Laitlum Canyon is opposite the Grand Canyon of the USA, and I was a bit surprised by seeing so much greenery. I always pictured Canyon as a rugged barren mountain or plateau devoid of vegetation, and Laitlum was the opposite of it. The view was amazing, and so were the hills covered under dense fog. Meghalaya always lives up to its name and always has something unique to offer. After spending a considerable amount of time and clicking photos, I decided to return. While returning, I rode fast and reached Shillong by 11. Guwahati was still 100 kilometers to go from Shillong, but the traffic and single lane road hindered speed. After crossing the busy streets of Shillong, I reached the Umiam Lake and picked pace.
After crossing Shillong, I felt an increase in temperature due to a decline in elevation, but the ride on the highway was amazing. I was still able to recognize a few places I noticed while coming to Cherrapunjee. As the Guwahati-Shillong Highway is four-leaned, I was clocking a good speed and took two hours to reach Jorabat. From Jorabat, there was a sudden increase in traffic, and I knew I am officially in the city. I took a 30 minutes break after reaching Khanapara and booked a room via OYO by the time my meal arrived. My hotel was situated in Paltan Bazar, which is the primary market of the city, and all the tourist places lie in the vicinity, saving my time. Once I finished my lunch, I was back on my riding seat and reached my hotel in Paltan Bazar in the next 30 minutes. I checked in, ordered a tea and two pieces of Samosas and unloaded the luggage from the bike, and dumped it in the room. Initially, I planned to visit the famous Kamakhya Temple and then to explore the other places but later dropped my plan as I was all soaked in dust after a 150-kilometer highway ride. Therefore I planned to visit the historical places on the first day and religious sites on the second day.
Important places to visit in Guwahati:
Guwahati is the biggest metropolitan area in North-East India and known as the Gateway to Northeast India. Most of the people traveling to North-East India, especially from central India, have time constraints and, therefore, uncertain which place to visit and which one to leave. Before reaching Guwahati, I did some research on places to visit in Guwahati, and google suggested a lot of websites. The problem with most of the travel websites is that they glorify all the sites and creates confusion among travelers visiting for the first time. While in Guwahati, I experienced the same, and as one website suggested, 35 places to visit in Guwahati while the other suggested 27. After a lot of hard work and reviews reading, I finalized places I need to visit in Guwahati, and I will share the same here.
Also known as Kamakhya Devalaya, Kamakhya Temple is the most famous Hindu temple in North-East India. The temple is situated on Nilachal Hill and dedicated to Goddess Shakti and her incarnations. A full day is required to visit the inner sanctum while a few hours to visit the temple from outside and pray.
Probably the second most famous temple in Guwahati after Kamakhya temple, the Umananda Temple is on the Peacock Island in the middle of Brahmaputra River. The peacock island is the smallest riverine island in the world, and the deity in the temple is known as Umananda. Situated on a hill called Bhasmachal, the temple is a must-visit place in Guwahati and can be reached by taking a ferry.
The Saraighat Bridge is a railway cum road bridge spanning over the mighty Brahmaputra river in Guwahati. The old and new bridges are parallel to each other they were the only bridge of its kind before the inauguration of Bogibeel Bridge in Assam. Though not a major attraction of the town, I wanted to see the bridge because of its association with the Battle of Saraighat and Lachit Bhorphukan. There is a statue of Lachit Bhorphukan on the banks of Brahmaputra near Machkhowa, and it is also a must-visit place if you know about the Ahom Kingdom of Assam. At the end of my north-east India ride, I also visited the Lachit Bhorphukan Museum in Jorhat.
Assam State Museum
Located in Paltan Bazar, the state museum is a must place to visit and enhance your knowledge of North-East India. The museum showcases the history of North-East India, its geography, culture, flora, and fauna. Throughout my ride to the seven sisters states, I visited the state museums barring the Meghalaya State Museum. For Geography lovers, this museum is a must-visit place.
Located 15 kilometers from the Assam State Museum, the Dipor Bill lake is a freshwater lake in Guwahati and a must-visit place for bird lovers and photographers. A 30 minutes ride from the railway station, or Paltan Bazar will take you to the lake. The best time to visit the lake is in the morning or evening and to see a different species of birds.
Saraighat War Memorial
The Saraighat War Memorial was built to pay tribute to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Battle of Saraighat. The memorial also portrays the Ahom’s military techniques, their courage, and preparation before the battle of Saraighat. The famous quote, “Dexot koi Mumai Dangor Nohoi.” (My uncle is not more precious than my Country) by Lachit Bhorphukan is an excellent example of the preparation of the Battle of Saraighat.
Hajo Group Of Temples
Hajo is famous for its ancient temples and as a center of three religions, i.e., Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The word Hajo is a Bodo word meaning Hill as the place lies on the banks of Puthimari river, a tributary of Brahmaputra. The famous temple in Hajo is the Hayagriva Madhava Mandir, Kedareswara Temple, and Powa Mecca, along with many smaller ancient temples.
Madan Kamdev is an archaeological site in Guwahati. Spread in an area of 500 meters, the temple and idols dates back to 9th-10th century AD and provide an idea of ancient north-east India. The site has statues of many Hindu god and goddess, but the prominent one is Sun, Ganesha, and Vidyadhara. Madan Kamdev lies 40 kilometers from Guwahati and can be reached after a ride of one hour from central Guwahati.
My Visit to the Important Paces In Guwahati
As mentioned, I reached Guwahati by 2 PM and decided to visit the temples the next day due to the dust I was carrying. As I planned to stay for two days in Guwahati, I had plenty of time to cover the important places in Guwahati. For today I planned two sites, one The Assam State Museum and second the Dipor Bill Lake. I had the advantage of easily commuting in the city as I was riding a motorcycle, saving some precious time. After tea and Samosa, I went straight to the Assam State Museum, paid entry fees, and started exploring the museum. The museum is vast and spread into two buildings, displaying the rich culture of the state. After visiting the museum, I had a better understanding of the state in terms of its flora and fauna. I got to know about the state bird, animal, flower, dance, cuisine, and many more things. The archeological sections depict the rich history of state dating back to ancient times and how the state evolved to its present state. After spending two hours in the museum, it was time to visit the Dipor Bill lake. Since it was already evening time, I faced immense traffic on-road, and it looked like I am riding on a busy street in Delhi and not in Guwahati. I rode parallel to the Bharamaputra river for some time and then took a left turn from the Saraighat bridge towards Dipor Bill lake. By the time I arrived there, it had started getting dark, but after entering the lake area, I got a feeling that this is the right time to visit the lake. From the entrance gate, it looked like there is no end of the lake, and I could see the hills surrounding Guwahati City. The Dipor Bill lake looked like more of a family destination, and I was amazed at how such a big lake can survive near a concentrated human settlement. Though the presence of water hyacinth was a concern, yet my primary concern was to get a good shot of the lake in the fading light. A railway line passes nearby to the lake, and I saw a railway bridge constructed over the lake and people taking photos from there. I also went there and clicked a few more pictures and then decided to return. It was already 6:30 in the evening, and I knew I would take another hour to reach the hotel. Once I reached my hotel, I took rest for some time and decided to eat something outside at Paltan Bazar. From last week, I was mostly eating whatever I used to get en route my riding schedule, and now was the time to experiment with local cuisine. After an excellent vegetarian meal at Paltan Bazar, it was time to hug my bed, and I went straight for sleep.
After riding for a whole day, proper sleep is all a person needs, and lucky I got one. Initially, I planned to wake up early and visit Kamakhya Temple but dropped the plan. After bath and light breakfast, I started my day, and my first destination was Kamakhya Temple. As my hotel was close to the temple, I took 15 minutes to reach the parking lot of the temple, parked my bike, and went straight to the temple premises. To my surprise, there was already a long queue of devotees, and when I enquired how much time it will take to get darshan, locals said it would take the whole day as already thousands of devotees were in the queue. I had to drop my plan of visiting the sanctum and decided to visit the temple from the outside and offer my prayers. After visiting the temple and praying, I decided to move to my next destination, which was the Umananda temple. While reaching Kamakhya Temple was easy, the same was not true for the Umananda temple as I had to take a ferry to reach the island where the temple is situated. Luckily I got one ship which was going to Umanada temple and boarded it. Once I reached the island, I had to climb stairs to enter the main temple premises, and I prayed there to make my trip successful. After exploring the place for 30 minutes, it was time to return as I had a few more places to cover by the end of the day. Once I reached the bank of the Bharamapurta river, I went straight to the parking lot, picked my bike, and headed to the Saraighat Bridge. Now I was left with places which were on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river, and the Saraighat bridge was first of them. The bridge is simple, and I just rode over it and crossed the mighty Brahmaputra. The Brahmaputra river looked wider to me in Guwhati as compared to the Ganges when I visited the Ghats of Varanasi.
Initially, I planned to visit the Saraighat War memorial first but skipped it and went straight to Madan Kamdev. The reason was that ASI maintained the site with opening and closing time. It was already afternoon, and I didn’t want to take any risk of the site getting closed in the evening for visitors. After a 45 minutes ride, I reached the entrance gate of Madan Kamdev and started exploring the place. The sculptures looked similar to any other ASI maintained sites and reminded me of my trip to the Bhojeshwar Temple and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh. I felt sad for the condition of the sculptures though I sensed some restoration work in progress. The Madan Kamdev is spread in a vast area and proves that even the north-east India flourished in ancient times though our history books never mentioned the civilization of the eastern part of the country. After visiting Madan Kamdev, it was time to visit another temple or say the cluster of the temples called Hajo. Hajo is situated 35 kilometers from Madan Kamdev, and I took another hour to reach there. Since I was visiting temples from the morning, therefore my primary purpose of visiting Hajo was to see the architectural beauty rather than devotion. To reach the main temple in Hajo, I had to ascend stairs again and finally reached the Hayagriva Madhava Mandir. I prayed to Lord Shiva for the successful journey.
By this time, it was already 3:30 in the afternoon, and I had to visit one more place before it gets dark. I quickly climbed down and started riding for the Saraighat War Memorial. The Saraighat War Memorial lies on the northern bank of Brahmaputra river and is a well-maintained place. It looked to me that the reason for better maintenance is its recent inauguration. Since I had already read a lot about the Battle of Sarighat and Lachit Bhorphukan, for me, it was a dream coming true to read the story at the same place where the events took place 400 years ago. I was felt proud by the tactics used by Ahom General despite being suffering from the wound. The battle of Saraighat is a sheer example of human determination and proves that nothing is impossible if planned well, no matter how hard the circumstances are. After spending an hour reading and clicking photos, finally, I decided to ride back to my hotel. I had a big ride planned for tomorrow. My next day’s target was the Kaziranga National Park, and therefore, I wanted to take proper rest. I also had to make a detailed itinerary for the next leg of my journey as I planned to enter Mizoram via Silchar. Keeping these things in mind, I returned to my hotel, and after dinner and doing homework for future ride decided to sleep.