It’s the most easily accessed state in the Northeast, with an airport and railway station at its capital Guwahati which welcome flights and trains from all the metros. It’s also the best-known – but that doesn’t mean it can’t spring some surprises. The coming year’s treat: the Kaziranga Festival held in February every year, which celebrates 100 years of the National Park.
To fully savour tea country, make your holiday at a tea garden bungalow-turned-hotel. We can recommend three. The Mancotta Chang Bungalow, outside Dibrugarh, is set on stilts (‘changs’) and surrounded by gardens and tea estates. Contact: 0373-2301120, www.purviweb.com. Thengal Manor, in Jalukonibari, near Jorhat, offers interestingly mismatched decor, massive meals, four-poster beds, and a pond to fish in. The sprawling Raj-style bungalow at the Sangsua Tea Estate, also near Jorhat features Raj prints on the walls, picturesque paths and bridges, and a well-stocked library. Contact: 033-2320478, email@example.com.
Horse riding in Dibrugarh
Staying at a planter’s bungalow is one way to experience life at a tea garden. To live the life of a planter for a few days, you need to have a riding holiday at an estate. Equestrian tours are hosted by the Mancotta Chang Bungalow -- typical trails are around the plantation, along the banks of the Brahmaputra, or into an adjoining forest reserve. Previous horse-riding experience is necessary; participants need to bring breeches and riding boots. Costs range from Rs 6,000 per day for a single person to Rs 3,000 per person in a group of six; includes stay, meals, rides, and guide. Contact Mancotta Chang.
Kaziranga National Park
World’s heritage, Assam’s pride. The success story of the wildlife conservation efforts – especially of the endangered Rhinoceros unicornis -- at Kaziranga is remarkable. The first National Park in India to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, it covers an area of 860 sq km predominated by grasslands. Visitors to the Park can hope to see the ‘Big Five’: the one-horned rhinoceros, the Royal Bengal tiger, the Asiatic elephant, the Asiatic wild buffalo, and the swamp deer. Stay at any of Assam Tourism’s three lodges in the Park (03776-2662423, 2662429). Or at the lovely Wild Grass Resort (0361-2546827, www.oldassam.com). For details of the Kaziranga Festival, visit www.kaziranga100.com.
Less known but just as remarkable as Kaziranga is Majuli: the world’s largest river island with 800 sq kms of forest and beach situated in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra. The island of plenty boasts considerable natural and cultural wealth. Its satras or monasteries house valuable relics, and the island’s biodiversity creates an ideal homing ground for birds. Access is by ferry from Neemati Ghat, 14km from Jorhat. There are no accommodation facilities for tourists on the island, but it’s possible to stay at a satra. For details, visit www.majuli.org. Or take a Brahmaputra cruise, such as on the luxury Charaidew, which includes a day-trip to Majuli. Contact 0361-2602186, 2602223, www.assambengalnavigation.com.