10 must have experiences in Meghalaya!



“Your land is the land for Gods to live in. It’s air, it’s natural scenery, it’s pure atmosphere, it’s sweet water would attract even the gods!” 

- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Meghalaya 

Literally meaning – “The abode of the clouds” in Sanskrit, Meghalaya is one of the seven sister states situated in northeast India. Bordering Bangladesh (in the south & west) and Assam (in the north & east), Meghalaya is home to the majestic Garo, Khasi & Jaintia hills which receive the maximum rainfall in India making it one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the country. Following are the 10 must have experiences when in Meghalaya- 

1. Experience tranquility at Umiam (Barapani) Lake 

Umiam Lake. (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

Located 15 km north of Shillong on the Shillong-Guwahati Highway, Umiam Lake is a vast and scenic reservoir surrounded by lush and lofty East Khasi Hills, that add to its picturesque beauty. Small islands surrounded by pristine water, enveloped with lush greenery make this a must visit when. The reservoir looks surreal from the highway which overlooks the lake. Besides enjoying the serenity, one can also undertake watersport activities like Jet Ski and Speed Boating. 


2. Witness the transparent & crystal clear waters of Dawki 

The transparent waters of Umngot River. 

A day trip to Dawki is an absolute must on one’s bucket list while traveling to Meghalaya. Situated 75 km from Shillong, Dawki is a small village along the Indo-Bangladesh border, famous for the crystal clear waters of River Umngot which marks the natural separation between the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills. The river can be crossed by a cable suspension bridge that connects India to Bangladesh and facilitates trade between the two nations.

The cable suspension bridge on Umngot, Dawki

Witnessing this crystal clear river dotted with small boats treading its way through the hills is a sight to behold. The Umngot river is so clean that on any clear day this otherwise deep green waterbody turns completely transparent exposing the rocky riverbed where tiny fishes can be seen swimming. An hour long boat-ride (for 4 passengers) costs Rs. 700/- is a must for all travelers to this natural wonder. (Psst: Don’t forget to ask your boatman to ferry you to the Bangladesh side of the river as well!) 

3. Stand on the “No Man’s land” on the Indo-Bangladesh Border 

Friendship Gate on the Indo Bangladesh Border
Barring a Friendship gate, a small stream and some stone pillars, there is nothing to suggest that Dawki-Tamabil is one of the few road border crossings between India and Bangladesh. With no border fencing in sight coupled with light security presence, this stretch connecting Meghalaya with Bangladesh is indeed a friendly border. Locals in both sides intermingle daily to sell their wares making it a unique marketplace to witness. 


4. Take a stroll in the cleanest village of Asia 

Mawlynnong Village. (Credits: The Travel Triangle)

Located 90kms from Shillong, Mawlynnong Village is also known as God’s Own Garden and for all the right reasons. The travel magazine Discover India declared the village as the cleanest in Asia in 2003, and the cleanest in India in 2005. The village waste is collected in the dustbins made of bamboo which are then directed to a pit and then used as manure. As is the tradition, the Khasi are a Matrilineal Society, i.e. in Mawlynnong property and wealth are passed from the mother to the youngest of her daughters, who also keeps the mother's surname. On the outskirts of the village lies a balancing rock, a must see nature's wonder for science freaks. Enclosed within a wired fence, the spot has two stones, a huge boulder resting on a smaller stone. The structure has remained like that for ages and no cyclone or storm has been able to disturb the formation. The place, which is surrounded by bamboo plantations, is called Nature's Balancing Rock or Maw Ryngkew Sharatia, locally. 

5. Walk over the “Living Root Bridge” of Mawlynnong 

The awe inspiring "Living Root Bridge"

In the Wahthyllong hamlet, 10 minutes drive away from Mawlynnong, hangs a large living root bridge over a gurgling stream. Only found in this part of the country, the living root bridge is the result of innovation by the Khasi tribals. Locals say the bridge was constructed to cross the overflowing stream during monsoon. One has to take a fleet of nearly 300 steps downwards to reach the living root bridge. The thick roots of a variety of rubber tree (Ficus elastica), grown on either side of the stream, have been intertwined together by villagers and flat rocks and mud placed on them to make a path. The roots have grown for several years making the living root bridge stronger by each year. No one knows the age of the bridge, but villagers vouch for its longevity and strength. Interestingly, even today if the villagers witness a new root they weave it into the bridge structure. While this root bridge is a single-decker root bridge, a double-decker root bridge can be seen in Cherrapunji which requires the traveller to undertake an extremely difficult trek of 2500 steps. 


6. Soak in the rains in the (2nd most) wettest place on earth! 

Sohra Hills
High above misty valleys and foaming rivers, ensconced in swirling clouds and perched on an escarpment, lies Sohra, better known as Cherrapunjee at an altitude of 4,500 feet above sea level. This is a stunning location and the year-round rain earned Cherrapunjee coveted entry long ago into the Guinness Book of World Records as the wettest place on earth, the place where the rainfall can be recorded in feet rather than in millimeters.

Cloud play in Sohra

Today, climatic changes have edged Cherrapunjee out of the topmost 'wet' slot, but it still retains its pristine beauty, its unusual facets, the perpetual clouds, and the perpetual mists. Appropriately, Cherrapunjee lies in the heart of the State of Meghalaya-the abode of clouds. While in Cherrapunjee, do visit the beautiful waterfalls (Seven Sister falls, Dainthlen falls, Wah-Kaba falls), Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge (in Nongriat) and Thangkrang park. Gushing waterfalls, foggy mountains add to the beauty of this place. A visit to Sohra is like a walk in the clouds, a place where clouds and rain play in their own time wrap. 

7. Witness the Tallest plunge waterfall in India (and the painful story behind it!) 

The Nohkalikai Falls

Situated around 5 km from Cherrapunjee, Nohkalikai is the tallest plunge waterfall in India and is the fourth highest waterfall in the world, falling from a height of 1,100 ft,. The drive to Nohkalikai Falls is through an elevated tableland that leads to the cliff from where one can witness the enchanting sight of the beautiful waterfall plunging down into ultramarine pool hundreds of feet below. However, the waterfall is associated with a very sad story. According to legends, in a village called Rangjyrteh which is situated in the upstream from Nohkalikai Falls, a woman named Ka Likai had to remarry after her husband died. Ka Likai was left with her infant girl with no means of income, so she had to become a porter herself. Her work required her to leave her daughter unattended for long intervals but when she would be at home she would spend most of her time taking care of her infant making her second husband jealous. In a fit of rage, her husband killed the infant one day and cooked her meat. When Ka Likai returned home, she ate the meal and was horrified when she realized what had happened in her absence. In her agony, she jumped off the cliff and the waterfall where she jumped from was named Nohkalikai (the “leap of Ka Likai”) Falls after her. 

8. Explore the mysterious Maysmai Caves. 

Interiors of the Mawsmai caves

Situated around 6 Kms from Cherrapunjee, the Mawsmai Caves have the distinction of being the only caves in Meghalaya that are lit enough to enable tourists to enjoy the natural formations in awe. Though the caves are long, only a distance of 150 meters is open for tourists, while the other section is closed. The stalactites and stalagmites caves have innumerable forms, shapes and sizes inside leaving one to imagine as many life forms as possible. While at some places, the openings are big enough for a person to just crawl, whereas at other places the roofs are as high as 40 feet! This magnificent natural wonder is the handiwork of years of natural abrasion and underground water. 

9. Soak in the glory of Elephant falls 


Elephant Falls

Named after an Elephant like stone at its foot (which got disintegrated due to an earthquake in 1897), the Elephant Falls are amongst the most popular falls in the North-East, situated 12 kms from Shillong. It is a paradise with three layers of the falls accessible from different vantage points. These breathtaking falls were referred to as 'Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew' by the local Khasi people, which means 'The Three Step Waterfalls', as these falls consist of three falls in succession. The first of the three waterfalls is tucked between the dense trees and is very broad. The second waterfall is reduced to thin strands of water and is almost negligible in winters due to the receding water levels. The third and the most visible waterfall is the tallest with clear water flowing like a sheet of milk on the dark rocks in the backdrop. 


10. Visit the “Scotland of the East” 

View of Shillong from Shillong Peak

The capital city of Meghalaya, Shillong derives its name from U-Shyllong, a peak situated nearly 2000 mts above the sea level overlooking the city. It is said that the rolling hills around the town reminded the European settlers of Scotland. Hence, they would also refer to it as the "Scotland of the East". Famous for its beautiful architecture, educational institutions and rock bands, some of the must visit spots in Shillong include Shillong peak, Wards Lake, Golf Course and Churches.

Wards Lake, Shillong

While Shillong peak (altitude of 6449 ft above the sea level) offers majestic views of the city, the surrounding forests of Pine trees make it lush with greenery. This location also serves as a radar station for the Indian Air Force, so the visitors have to submit their identification and their luggage is screened before entry is allowed within the premises. 

Pine Trees on Shillong Peak

Apart from these 10 places, there are many-many wonderful locales hidden within this north-east state which should be visited if time permits. I would suggest that the best time to visit this dreamland in monsoons where one can truly experience the abode of the clouds! 

How to reach 

By Air - Shillong Airport is located in Umroi, about 40km from Shillong is a small airport where a few flights ply on certain days of the week. Guwahati Airport, which is approx.. 3 hours from Shillong, is a much better option. As it is connected to rest of India with regular flights. Shared cabs (costing Rs. 500/- per head) are available from outside airport connecting to Shillong. 

By Rail – The nearest railhead is Guwahati as Shillong is not connected through railway network. 

By Road – Cars/ Shared vehicles and Bikes are available for rent from Guwahati which can be used throughout the trip. While an SUV with a seating capacity for 7 can be hired @ Rs. 4k per day (for 250 kms), a small car will set you back by 2.5-3k. Self-Driven cars and bikes can be hired from www.awerides.com

Country roads, take me home!

Where to stay 

While Shillong offers Hotels for all range of budgets, lodging in Cherrapunjee is a bit on the higher side. If you are a budget traveler, head off towards Police Bazar in Shillong were many budget friendly options are available. If you are travelling in a group, opt of homestays on AirBnb. There are beautiful offbeat options on the website which provide budget friendly as well as well as luxurious homestays. We stayed in a beautiful bungalow 20 kms from Shillong named Latngenlang Homestay (booked through www.AirBnb.co.in). Camping facilities are available in Dawki as well.

Our beautiful homestay in Upper Shillong

Typical Costs - Excluding airfare/ railfare, Budget travelers can expect costs between 6-8k per head for a 4-day trip. 

To sum up, as quoted by Benjamin Disraeli, memories of this beautiful land are never going to fade – “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen

Beautiful Meghalaya!

Comments

  1. Supup....near to nature = near to god

    ReplyDelete
  2. Worth to visit this nature beauty as described by you.

    ReplyDelete

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