Dibrugarh Insider's Guide: History, Recommendations, Tips

Nestled alongside the Brahmaputra River, Dibrugarh, founded in 1842, often flies under the radar as a tourist destination. Yet, this town serves as the perfect launchpad for exploring the enchanting northeastern expanse of Assam, alongside its neighboring states of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

Growing up in Dibrugarh was like living in a serene oasis, tucked away from the bustling pace of the world. As children, our days were filled with simple joys—a bicycle ride, a walk by the river, tennis at the club, and a morning movie show on Sundays because it was the only time Aurora and Rangghar theaters played English movies. We rode our bicycles to eat puris [light deep-fried bread] at the hotel by a large tree. We frequented Jai Gobind Sweets for delicious eats and doi [sweet yogurt], adding a touch of sweetness to our childhood memories.

Dibrugarh's urbanization brought its challenges—unplanned construction, traffic congestion, worsening water quality, air and noise pollution, lack of waste management—and the struggle to maintain its unique past. Efforts are being made by the current administration to take on those challenges faced by the town.

Amidst those initiatives, you will find an authentic Pxley story here, urging you to explore Dibrugarh's original township. I offer genuine insights that enrich readers' understanding of the locale. Additionally, discover a selection of side trips that promise to enhance your visit and create an exceptional experience.

Note: I don't receive kickbacks from any of the businesses mentioned in this story, ensuring unbiased recommendations.

Map of India by Sir William W. Hunter [1893]

Source: The Indian Empire, Sir William W. Hunter [1893]


Historically, Dibrugarh was an important administrative, strategic, and unique educational town. For example:

Here are a few interesting facts about Dibrugarh:

View of Dibrugarh in the background from a flight about to land at the local airport.

Transport and Accommodation

Planes and trains connect Dibrugarh to and from several Indian cities. The closest cities are Guwahati and Kolkata. The airport in Dibrugarh has taxis for hire, which you can prepay, but don't expect the same level of organization and oversight as in Delhi or Bangalore. Your hotel can arrange for a taxi from the airport.

There are various options for hotels in Dibrugarh, but not all might meet the requirements of a high-end traveler. A list of hotels are not included since other portals specialize in that information. However, read both positive and negative reviews to form a comprehensive understanding of a hotel.

Homestays are another option, in addition to specialized accommodations in a tea estate.

Winter is cold and summer is hot and humid. The monsoon falls between June and September. My recommendation is to visit Dibrugarh between December and February. During these three months, nighttime temperatures range between 10˚C to 15˚C and daytime temperatures are pleasant, hovering around 21˚C.

The Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra

If you fly into Dibrugarh, the Brahmaputra River comes into view as your aircraft begins its descent. The Brahmaputra can average between 3 to 8 kilometers in width near Dibrugarh, depending upon the time of the year. Several agencies [Government of India, state government, USAID] have made attempts since 1934 to stabilize the river due to the continued erosion of its banks that impacts the lives of many. There are several stone and timber posts along with dikes that have been put in place to protect the town of Dibrugarh, a portion of which was submerged under the river due to erosion of the river banks.

The Brahmaputra River served as a vital transportation route for the Allied forces during World War II. It allowed for the movement of troops, equipment, and supplies in the region. The river facilitated the movement of goods from the ports in India to the front lines in eastern India and Burma. Read more about Dinjan, an extraordinary chapter of World War II.

Tea estate in Dibrugarh

Tea Estates

Dibrugarh is surrounded by rice paddies and tea estates. I highly recommend a visit to a tea estate.

Tea estates are owned by private companies or individuals. Depending on the location of these estates, tea is grown on flat land or on slopes. Tea estates vary in size. Some tea estates grow, harvest and sell their leaves, while others have a tea factory within their premises to process their leaves. If you are visiting Dibrugarh during the months of December through February, most tea estates are in maintenance mode. This means you won’t see a tea factory in operation. Read a bit about a cup of black tea.

The following is an excerpt pertaining to travel to Tea Plantations in Dibrugarh from "A Handbook for Travellers in India, Ceylon, and Burma" by John Murray, 1894.

An excerpt pertaining to travel to tea plantations in Dibrugarh.
An old flour mill in Dibrugarh

Historic Buildings

Driving by the defunct flour mill in Dibrugarh always brings back a wave of nostalgia. The familiar smell of freshly ground flour filled the air, a comforting scent that connected me to the heritage of the town and its past. The flour mill, once the tallest building in its prime, now stands as a silent witness to the changing landscape of Dibrugarh, serving as a poignant reminder of the pivotal role it played in shaping the community's livelihood.

A few historic buildings and site in Dibrugarh should be on your must-see list. Some of these are: a) Assam Medical College [formerly Berry White Medical School; established 1900]; b) Bar Library [formerly McWilliam Hall]; and c) British Cemetery [built in 1862 and final resting ground of 103 British nationals]. Lower your expectations regarding these historic buildings and site as their former splendor has not been adequately maintained for a variety of reasons. However, even in their current state, these structures still hold immense cultural significance and are worthy of appreciation.

A home with a yard and bamboo fence on its boundary.

Home Visit

If you have the opportunity to visit an Assamese home in a nearby village, do so. Traditionally, houses were constructed of mud-plastered bamboo for walls and a thatched roof. Given the prevailing geological and topographical settings, Assam-type architecture is meant to be earthquake-proof. Homes in villages had a loom and a dheki, a foot pounder for husking grains.

A homestay in Dibrugarh I can recommend is Bhaskar Home Stay. They won't have a loom or dheki at their modern premises but your stay will be secure and pleasant, and they might be able to recommend a home visit in a nearby village.

Gayan bayan in Dibrugarh


Traditional Assamese ceremonies, unlike any seen in other parts of India, provide a glimpse into the particular culture of the region. There are two primary cultural and religious institutions that influence the fabric of Assamese culture: satras and nāmghar

Satras started in Assam during the 15th-16th centuries and propagated a form of Vaishnavism. Vaishnavism [a set of traditions that adheres to the worship of god Vishnu] emphasizes equality for all people instead of the system that divides society into hierarchical classes.

A nāmghar is the central structure of a satra. In the Assamese language, nāmghar means nām [prayer] and ghar [house]. A nāmghar is also a community hall and an arts and crafts learning center.

If your schedule permits, I highly recommend a visit to Majuli. It is one of the last bastions that preserve Assamese traditions in their original form.

Fruits and gram on banana leaves.


You can always fall back on a KFC or Domino’s Pizza but discovering the local foods of a region is a huge part of travel and exploration. With a bit of planning and foresight, you can learn to truly appreciate the authentic cuisine. Ask the personnel at your hotel’s front desk to recommend a place to eat.

I recommend Fill in the Blank, a cafe run by a mother-daughter duo. Let them know where you're visiting from and what dishes they may recommend. Supporting a women-led initiative like this is a great way to contribute to the community.

A unique opportunity would be to attend a traditional ceremony that offers maah prokhad—green gram [a green kind of bean], black chickpea, coconut, sugarcane, ginger, etc. A few unique items are: poita bhat—cooked rice kept overnight in cold water; cira—dried pounded rice; akhoi—parched husk-free rice; hurum—a type of puffed rice; sandoh guri—coarse powder of parched rice; khar—ashes of dried bark and root of plantain tree.

Assamese textiles


It used to be common to find a loom in an Assamese house in a village. Three prominent Assamese items made on a loom are a gamusa, mekhela-sador, and a riha.

A gamusa is rectangular in shape, woven on a traditional Assamese loom with white and red cotton thread. A mekhela-sador is a two-piece dress worn by women. The woven designs on a mekhela-sador generally depict traditional Assamese musical instruments, flowers, birds, etc. A riha is also worn along with a mekhela-sador on particular occasions.

A shop I can recommend for a traditional mekhela-sador is Assam Fancy Silk House. My late mother was a loyal patron of this store, and my sisters still frequent it. Though not large in size, the store offers authentic mekhela-sadors at reasonable prices. Moreover, supporting this local establishment contributes to the community's economy.


The market area in Dibrugarh is a mix of commercial and residential spaces. Amidst the hustle and bustle, you will find the bustling vegetable and fruit market, the lively fish and poultry market, and an array of stores offering everything from clothing to utensils to groceries. Exploring these markets offers more than just shopping; it provides a glimpse into the daily lives and traditions of the residents, fostering a deeper connection to the community and its culture. I always encourage a visit to the local market as it not only supports the local economy but also enriches one's understanding of the town's dynamics and its people.

Dutta Brothers [shop in the above photo] has been serving generations with textiles and clothing, ingrained in the fabric of the community's history. However, the emergence of big-brand stores poses a threat, siphoning funds away from the local economy. Hence, supporting local establishments like Dutta Brothers is essential to preserving community identity and fostering economic resilience.

A village road

Side Trips

Dibrugarh is an excellent gateway destination to its neighboring towns. Here are four that can be a part of your visit to Dibrugarh:

1) Namphake: A visit to the Namphake village illustrates how the Tai-Phake, an offshoot of the Tai race, found its place in Assam. The community worships Lord Buddha. In addition to a monastery, pagoda, and Ashoka pillar, a water tank has a statue of a meditating Buddha protected by a snake with its hood. The monastery is run by Buddhist monks and local villagers help in any manner possible.

2) Digboi: The first crude oil well in Asia was drilled in Digboi. As a child I remember hearing the fable of how Digboi got its name — “Dig boy, dig.” — which is how the British engineers encouraged laborers as they dug for crude oil. The town has several unique bungalows that catered to the British professionals working for the Assam Oil Company. The Digboi War Cemetery is the resting ground for the fallen Indian and British soldiers during World War II. Several of the marked graves date soldiers that died between 1939 and 1945. Approximately 24 kilometers from Digboi brings you to a small town called Ledo, which is the starting point of Ledo Road [aka Stilwell Road] that was built by American and British troops during World War II as a supply route to China through Burma.

3) Sivasagar: Located 80 kilometers southwest of Dibrugarh is the town of Sivasagar, the capital of the Ahom Kingdom from 1699 to 1788. Visit some of the monuments from the Ahom Kingdom in and around Sivasagar, including Charaideo that has a collection of maidams [tumuli or burial mounds] of the Ahom kings and royalty. I highly recommend a visit to Sivasagar because without a background or visit to this  understated town in Assam, your knowledge of and experience in northeast India will be fragmented. Read more about Sivasagar.

4) Majuli: Surrounded by the Brahmaputra River and its tributaries, Majuli is the largest riverine island in the world. Life in Majuli appears idyllic, but the hardships faced by its inhabitants due to the monsoon floods and silt deposits are demanding. Majuli is home to 22 satras, while some others have relocated off the island due to soil erosion. When you visit a satra, attend a gayan-bayan session, a devotional performance by the Vaishnavite Assamese. Read more about Majuli.

Other opportunities to explore the region are a visit to the Kaziranga National Park, a 7-10 day river cruise on the Brahmaputra River, Hornbill Festival in the state of Nagaland, and a hidden gem—the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Check my resource on Northeast India for additional information.

A photo collage of Indian sweets and water buffaloes.


For guests, while I work from home, or as I enjoy a cup of tea, I always keep a selection of goodies from Jai Gobind Sweets. Renowned for its unwavering commitment to purity, Jai Gobind Sweets is a gem that offers an array of delectable treats, each crafted with authentic ingredients, including milk sourced directly from their own herd of water buffaloes.

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