Majuli Island is one of the most beautiful destinations in Northeast India. The large river island in Assam is home to important cultural and religious centres, as well as, the fascinating indigenous Mishing tribe. If you’re planning a trip to Northeast India and would like to visit this island in Assam, then here is a guide for how to get to Majuli Island. It details all the transport information that you’ll need to know, as well as, recommendations on accommodation and things to do on the island.
I spent a few days exploring Majuli Island during one of my trips to the region and it’s a place that I think everyone should add to their Northeast India itinerary.
Why should you go to Majuli Island in Assam?
Majuli Island has for a long time been considered the largest inhabited river island in the world. The island sits on the mighty Brahmaputra River in Assam in Northeast India. However, due to constant erosion and flooding of the river, the island is dramatically shrinking in size. It’s reported to have lost more than half of its landmass in just the last 100 years. In fact, many experts believe that within the next 20 years the island may not even exist at all.
Despite, the environmental issues surrounding the island, it shouldn’t dissuade you from going. A lot of the residents are actively trying to promote tourism in a bid to raise awareness of the erosion and try to raise funds to support their livelihoods once the island becomes uninhabitable.
Still, the island is incredibly beautiful and a culturally important place in Assam. It is home to temples and cultural centres of the unique Neo-Vaishnavite sect of Hinduism. These centres, known as satras, have been on the island since the 15th century and there are still around 20 of them remaining on the island. This is one of the main drawcards for domestic tourists who come to visit these ancient places of unique rituals.
The island is also home to the Mishing tribe, an indigenous community who have lived on the island for generations after migrating across from Mongolia centuries ago. Their unique bamboo houses stand on stilts in more rural parts of the island.
Read next: The Ultimate Travel Guide to Northeast India
When is the best time to travel to Majuli Island?
The best time to travel to Majuli Island is during the dry, mild months from October to March. This is definitely the most enjoyable time to visit the island.
In the rainy months from around May to September, the island can be difficult to reach and not a safe place due to frequent flooding of the river.
How to get to Majuli Island
If you’re wondering how to get to Majuli Island then you first need to reach Jorhat. Jorhat is a major city and transport hub in the centre of Assam. From there, you can easily reach Majuli Island by crossing the river by ferry. This is a breakdown of how to get to Majuli Island:
From Guwahati to Jorhat
Most people travelling in Northeast India will base themselves in Guwahati. This city is the capital of Assam and the main transport hub for the entire region. If you’re going from Guwahati to Jorhat, there are frequent buses from the bus station in Paltan Bazar heading to Jorhat. The journey takes around 8 hours and buses begin from around 6.30am.
You could also try to find shared jeeps doing the Guwahati to Jorhat route. These will also be around Paltan Bazar near the train station. They usually leave whenever full and take a bit less time than the bus.
If you prefer train travel, then you can try to get a ticket on the Jan Shatabdi Express that leaves Guwahati at 6.30am and reaches Jorhat at 1.30pm. It runs six days a week with Sunday being the only day it doesn’t run.
From Nagaland to Jorhat
If you find yourself in another part of the Northeast, then travelling back to Guwahati is not necessary. You can reach Jorhat from other cities in the Northeast quite easily, particularly in Nagaland which surrounds the eastern part of Assam.
If you’re coming from Dimapur in Nagaland, you can jump onto the Jan Shatabdi Express train that I mentioned above. It begins its journey in Guwahati and travels to Jorhat via Dimapur six days a week.
There is no direct bus that I know of that runs from Dimapur to Jorhat and the train is certainly the best option for this journey.
If you’re coming from Mon in Nagaland then it’s possible with a few changes to make it to Jorhat in a day. I did this after spending time in Mon and Longwa village. From Mon, I took the first shared jeep at 6am to Sonari which took 3 hours. From there I took a local bus to Sibsagar which leave frequently and take around 2 hours. Finally, I took a bus from Sibsagar to Jorhat which took 3 hours and also leave frequently throughout the day.
Read next: How to get to Longwa in Nagaland
Jorhat is really just a transport hub and there’s not much to do in the city itself. Accommodation options are pretty limited to some standard hotels. There are a cluster of hotels down beside the ASTC bus station in the middle of the city and your best bet is to walk in and ask for availability and pricing there.
Hotel Jonata Paradise | This budget hotel is beside the bus station and is where I stayed. I paid 600 rupees (AU$12) per night for a single room. Their restaurant downstairs makes incredible thalis for 100 rupees so it’s worth staying just for that.
Jorhat to Majuli Island
To get to Majuli Island from Jorhat you need to take the ferry across the river. The ferries leave from Nimati Ghat, 15km out of the city.
From Jorhat, you can catch shared rickshaws to Nimati Ghat from the road just down from the local bus station. Any of the transport touts will point you in the right direction and the rickshaws should have Nimatighat written on the front. It takes around half an hour and these rickshaws can get pretty crowded.
Ferries leave approximately every hour from 8am until 4pm but this seems to change frequently depending on the season. It costs 15 rupees (30 cents) per person and takes around 90 minutes. Don’t expect luxury on the ferries with most appearing pretty rundown. The ferries also have vehicles and motorcycles on board too. They can get extremely overcrowded at times but they manage to make it across nonetheless.
The ferries dock at the Kamalabari Terminal on Majuli Island. From there, you’re still a few kilometres away from the main towns of Garamur and Kamalabari. There are shared rickshaws waiting at the ferry terminal to take you to either of these two towns.
The two main towns on the island are Kamalabari and Garamur. They are just a couple of kilometres away from each other on the same road. This is also where most accommodation options are scattered around, as well as, a few restaurants, ATMs and market stalls.
The towns are very laid back with not much going on most of the time. It’s easy to explore the towns on foot, although to really explore the island it’s best to hire a scooter or bicycle from your accommodation.
Majuli Island accommodation
There are some great guesthouses on Majuli Island. Whether you’re a budget traveller or prefer to splurge a bit more for some extra comfort, there are options for everyone. They are generally built in the island’s typical bamboo style. My top picks include:
La Maison de Ananda | This was the first guesthouse on the island and is still a popular choice. They have elevated cottages which are clean and comfortable. The staff are friendly and helpful and can help with whatever you need for your stay. Check availability here.
Risong Family Guesthouse | Just across the road from La Maison de Ananda this is the best budget option on the island. The bamboo guesthouse has private rooms with ensuite bathrooms and a communal dining area where Monjit’s wife cooks delicious food. I stayed here during my time on the island and can’t speak highly enough of the hospitality, Monjit was extremely helpful. I paid around 600 rupees per night (AU$12). Check availability here.
Jyoti Home Bamboo Lodge | Another popular guesthouse in Garamur, this place offers a few basic bamboo cottages. Similar to the other guesthouses, the owners are lovely and can help with anything you need. Check prices here.
Things to do on Majuli Island
You can easily spend a few days on Majuli Island to explore the villages and sights. If you have a scooter or your own vehicle, then get around to some of these attractions.
Visit the satras
The Neo-Vaishnavite satras are what many people come to Majuli Island to enjoy. These unique cultural and worshipping centres are interesting places and there are a number of them still open to visitors on the island.
If you’re staying in Garamur, you can reach Garamur satra on foot but otherwise, most of them are best visited with either a bicycle or scooter. You can rent one from one of the guesthouses to explore more of the island and I highly recommend it. I paid around 500 rupees (AU$10) per day for a scooter.
My favourite satra was Dakhinpat. This is a large complex on the southeastern part of the island. The difference with this satra is that I managed to catch a part of a drumming and chanting session. There’s also a resident monk there, Depur, who speaks good English and is happy to show foreigners around.
Visit local artisans
Majuli Island is also well known for its artisans and handicrafts. In particular, the Kumar people are known for their clay pots which you can see drying if you head to a place called Salmora on the southeastern coast of the island.
Another famous craft on the island is mask making. Masks are used in some of the performances in the satras and you can visit the famous mask maker on the island, Mr Goswami. His workshop is at the Samaguri Satra where you can meet the man himself and see some of his work on display.
Explore the rural villages
If you have rented your own bicycle or scooter then part of the fun is getting lost amongst the back roads on the island. The local people on Majuli are some of the nicest I’ve ever met and although little English is spoken, you’ll usually be invited for chai or food somewhere.
You can also explore some of the Mishing villages, which are to the southwest of the island. You’ll likely see some of the women weaving traditional clothing and scarves. Just be careful not to get seriously lost, as this can be easy to do. Monjit from Risong Guesthouse can provide a hand-drawn map if you hire a scooter from him and he can outline all the best places to visit on the island.
Leaving Majuli Island
Once you’r ready to leave the island behind, you can basically follow what I’ve said above on how to get to Majuli Island but in reverse. The ferries leave every hour or so from Kamalabari Terminal back to Namati Ghat near Jorhat. From Jorhat, you can head somewhere else in the Northeast region like Longwa village or Tawang Monastery.