Journey date : 2nd April 2017 – 6th April 2017
Caution : It’s a very long post but I’ve added everything possible in this post, all the information you may require from places to see, places to stay or eat or the very important “commute within Meghalaya.”
About Meghalaya –
The name – Megh means cloud and alay means home.(I think I’m gonna nickname my daughter alay in the future :P)
Where should I begin to describe this place – I’m at a loss of words.
Abode of the clouds, the Scotland of the east, the land of waterfalls, the queen of hills
– all these names start to make sense as you embark on a three hour road journey from Guwahati Airport, maneuvering your way up the pine covered hills, dotted with pretty lakes and picturisque landscapes, treating your eyes to a green sight that will remain with you for the most part of your life.
Beautiful and breathtaking! But that’s an understatement.
For anyone who hasn’t even heard of this name before, Meghalaya is in the far, far north-eastern part of India and is one of the Seven Sisters, the seven states of India sandwiched between Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma.
The sisters are linked to the rest of India by a 14 mile width sliver of land.
The place, as the name suggests, has the highest average rainfall on the planet and if you read more on it, you’ll come to know that two of the world’s wettest places on earth – Cherrapunji and Mawsynram are located in this corner of India.
If I could use a word or two to describe Meghalaya, I would say “Green” and “White”.
The lush green rolling hills dotted with pine trees, the thick waves of mists that appear out of nowhere leaving you spell bound, the clouds, the rains, the beautiful roads, the numerous waterfalls you see as you drive through the roads, those old Khasi villages, the kind and warm hearted smiles of the Khasi villagers – what’s there to dislike this place?
An interesting culture here in Meghalaya –
The majority of population and the major tribal groups in Meghalaya follow a matrilineal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women.
The youngest daughter inherits all the property and she is the caretaker of aged parents and any unmarried siblings.
In some cases, such as when there is no daughter in the family or other reasons,
the parents may nominate another girl such as a daughter in law as the heir of house and all other property they may own.
Isn’t that something unique especially in India, where women fight so hard for the rights bestowed upon them.
So much to these women here!
Why this journey was important for me-
Being a girl that hails from the north east, I really wanted to do this – explore my own part of the country.
I’ve been to quite a number of places down south in India, whether travelling alone or with a company or two or a bunch of strangers but I had never set out on a journey to my part of the country. The only two occasions I ever visited Guwahati and Shillong in Assam were when I was a kid and when I went to stay with my sister for my Durga Puja vacation while still in college.
This was important for me because I hail from this region of India and being a wanderlust soul, I was ashamed and sad of not having explored my own region.
This was a start. Something that is going to continue in the future.
And though I had only 4 days in hand owing to my busy corporate leave schedule and a vacation at home after the trip, I still saw a very beautiful Meghalaya through my eyes.
I had initially planned this as a solo journey after my best friend Princess withdrew from this trip owing to her hectic schedule, but later on two of my friends joined me. Sometimes, it’s good to have company. So, this was three of us exploring Meghalaya in 3 whole days excluding the travel days.
If you’re like me and you need a quick guide for a three – four day visit to this state, read on.
Places to see in Meghalaya :
Since I was in Mylliem for a night, I would also suggest you to explore the village only if you have a flexible budget and time. It’s a quieter part of Meghalaya and defintely colder than Shillong but very peaceful.
Shillong is the capital and hill station of Meghalaya and is one of the smallest states in India. It will also be the base for either a halt or a gateway to your Meghalaya journey.
The journey to Shillong is about 3-4 hours from Guwahati Airport by road and though we didn’t spend much time there, we made sure we halted a night at Mylliem, some 9.4 kms from Shillong.
I wish we had some more time to explore Mylliem or Shillong but it was only a night’s halt before our journey the next day early morning.
If you have time, you can explore some beautiful lakes and waterfalls in and around Shillong.
Laitlum – Perched in the ridge of the East Khasi Hills of Shillong, Laitlum is a hidden gem and was high on my list of places to visit during my trip but due to shortage of time, and a few bad decisions, I missed out on this place. But that shouldn’t stop me from including this on this list. I’ll explore it my way the next time.
My two friends had a late evening flight so they did visit the place the morning I left for the airport.
Located only a few kms away from Shillong, it could well be a day trip. Go early in the morning by 7 am for the best views.
It will only cost you a few hundred bucks.
How to reach Shillong from Guwahati Airport – (About 128 kms)
Typically small cars from the airport, and larger Tata Sumos from Guwahati town center are available just outside the airport. The rate is 500 INR (shared cabs) per passenger from Guwahati Airport to Shillong.
The cab drops you off at Police Bazaar from where you can get a ride to almost any part of Shillong.
Where we halted at Shillong – Silver Brook Hotel, Mylliem (the night we arrived in Shillong and the last night before we left for Guwahati Airport the next day)
The hotel owner Wanti is very kind and attends to all your needs. They have a restaurant in the hotel too and the food was good, though price wise, maybe a little more than I expected. The rooms were very comfortable and they give you extra blankets too. It was really cold when we were there.
Price – For a double bedded hills and garden view room 2000 INR, which according to the rooms was quite okay. They do have dormitory beds which may be suitable for solo travelers.
2. Nongriat Village – THE LIVING ROOT BRIDGES – A UNESCO world heritage site (PS. The very popular double decker root bridge of Meghalaya! Duh!)
This clearly tops the list of places (though few) I’m about to suggest you. Words cannot describe what I experienced in my one night stay at this village.
The double decker root bridge is a trek. If you are a desk jockey who doesn’t quite like moving around, this one’s not for you.
I wouldn’t say it was a hard trek since I’ve done quite a few treks and moderately difficult ones (thank god for those – every other trek seems easy after those difficult ones)
but it requires a certain level of fitness, stamina, determination and an adventurous soul in you (emphasis on adventure) to finish this trek. Also not for people with knee injuries or weak knees.
Want to treat your wanderlust soul to the most adventurous journey you can have here?
Then please travel to this village during the full monsoon season when it’ll be raining cats and dogs.
I witnessed the village and the running rivers and waterfalls in all it’s pristine beauty ( a different kind of beauty) in the heavy rain.
It rained so much that all three of us girls had no dry clothes to wear by the end of the second day. My rain cover was of no use as the water had penetrated through it and made its way into my backpack leaving all my clothes wet, which reminds me to mention to take enough waterproof pouches, rain jackets, rain covers, etc as you can while travelling to Meghalaya anytime of the year esp April through September.
There are a total of 7000 steps (both ways) to be covered on this trek. You need all the energy for the ascend up the steps to the start of the trek on your return. Don’t let that discourage you, because I assure you that you’ll have the best experiences if you complete this trek and stay there for some time (days) in the village.
There are numerous root bridges, suspension steel/ iron bridges and waterfalls to explore apart from the mandatory ones that you see when you do this trek. The sight of the village in itself is beautiful.
Crossing the hanging iron bridges, the single root bridges across the raging river (during monsoon) is quite an adventure.
I swear there were a few times at certain points in the bridges when I skipped a beat as I slowly crossed all those bridges, times when I had to calm myself down and not think of the what ifs “what if I fell down in that river?”
Even for people who aren’t scared of heights, this will surely make your head spin a little. What I can promise you though is that it’s totally worth it, every sight you treat your eyes throughout the journey.
How to reach Nongriat Village : Start very early for your journey to Nongriat so you have enough time to soak in the beauty of this place.
You don’t want to miss out on all those amazing views throughout the trek because of shortage of time or a badly planned day.
Please remember that you don’t get shared cabs to travel to and fro in Meghalaya.
Most of your expenditure will be on the commute between places of interest to visit within the state. So, if you’re someone like me who is there for a few days and have time limit and a fixed itinerary, I strongly suggest you to hire a cab for all your days there in Meghalaya.
There are quite a few places where the probability of getting a cab is almost nil. We made the mistake of not doing that due to differences in opinions and that led us to some trouble but having said that, we all learn through mistakes and everything happens for a reason.
For a day’s travel anywhere in Meghalaya, a cab will charge you anywhere between 1500 – 3500 INR.
How we traveled to Nongriat : Tell your cab driver to drop you at Tyrna Village, the last motorable road before the start of the trek. We booked the cab that dropped us off to Mylliem the previous night from Guwahati Airport for a price of 1500 INR to Tyrna village, the last motorable road to Nongriat village, from where you start the trek. Had a hard time with the cab driver charging us more than the promised price the day before but we ended up paying 1500 INR for the cab journey to Tyrna village.
Where to Stay:
Suggestions – Stay at Byron’s Guest house also called Serene Homestay, which you’ll come across just a minute before reaching the double decker root bridge. Price : 300 INR per bed.
If you’re someone who is bothered with hygiene and food, these home-stays in the village are not for you.
I have always been a budget traveler and I never mind staying in basic conditions for a lifetime experience.
If you don’t mind, I promise you’ll have a wonderful experience at such home-stays. The home-stay i was told cannot be pre booked. On asking Byron about this, he said there are three rooms which can be prebooked. I have included the number below for reference.
The rest are all on first come first serve basis.
There are also quite a few home-stays at Tyrna village (start of trek) and near the double root bridge. I checked out a few of them but Byron’s was the best, clearly.
Advice – Start the trek early so you can reserve a place to stay for the night as soon as you reach there. There maybe a few foreign tourists put up there for quite a long time but other than that, if you resolve to leave Shillong as early as 5.30 am or 6 am, I’m sure you’ll just about get a room there with no trouble. I made sure we left early just to get a room there and being a rainy day, we were told we were the only tourists that day, though later on, we were joined by some more at the double decker root bridge by lunch time.
You don’t need a guide for this trek. The route is pretty straight forward but do so if you feel you are helping someone in need. The little boys who offer to guide you could teach you a thing or two about the culture there and give your more insights into their culture.
Also it’s always good to travel with a local. Our little guide, Haban who charged us 300 INR for the help he offered was a delight and a sweetheart. They speak good English.
Guide fare : 300 – 500 INR
If you have time, definitely stay for a few days exploring the other root bridges and waterfalls in and around the double root bridge. I’m sure I’ll stay for longer days the next time. Two three days could be good enough time for a flexible traveler.
MUST SEE : Trek to Rainbow falls – (for best views, visit during a dry Meghalaya season as I didn’t get to see the falls due to the heavy rains)
It’s about 30- 40 mins walk from the double root bridge. Cross the root bridge and follow the direction to the Mawsaw Bridge and ahead.
What to eat : Enjoy the Khasi meal served out for dinner at Byron’s. For the price, the food was quite good.
We had fried rice and noodles, tried the coffee and the Khasi meal for dinner and they were quite good.
What to pack how to pack : If you are someone like me who came from somewhere and have heavy luggage with you, keep your luggage at a hotel in Shillong (most will offer hotel lockers) and backpack all your essentials for the number of days to set out in Meghalaya. Coming back to Shillong each time will be cumbersome and a complete waste of time. We all packed our bags for three days and went out exploring the state.
Good shoes for the trek is recommended, a pair of track pants, rain jackets or ponchos, rain covers for your bags or better still waterproof bags and waterproof pouches for your cameras, phones, sd cards, hard drives and travel appliances like chargers, power banks and laptops (if you must carry one)
Carry a lot of small polythene bags. They will come in handy when you discard your wet clothes or used stuffs. They don’t take much space.
Mostly travel light but also sufficiently so you don’t run out of clothes in case they get all drenched. Stuff all your clothes in a big polythene bag.
In that way, they don’t get wet even if the water gets through your rain covers or backpacks.
3. Cherrapunji – Sohra
How can you miss this place – the second wettest place on earth? And the roads?
They are so pretty and just amazing! Just driving through those winding roads gives you such a good feeling.
After a stay at Nongriat, you can head to Cherrapunji for some of the highest waterfalls and some of the most beautiful falls in the country.
You can spend a day or two exploring the caves in Cherrapunji and breath taking waterfalls. We did it in one day. It’s very much doable in one day.
MUST SEE :
(i).Nohkilikai Falls -( named after Likai who jumped off the cliff after her husband killed her baby and cooked the infant’s meat.)
The view of the falls is breath taking. Falling from a height of 1,115 ft the Nohkalikai Falls have the tallest plunge in India.
(ii).The Seven Sisters Falls – Also known as Nohsngithiang Falls, they form a seven-segmented waterfall, which plunges over the top of limestone cliffs of the Khasi Hills.
The falls only flow during the rainy season.
Caves : I wasn’t so interested in the caves but Mawsmai caves and Arwah caves are a few caves you can visit which are all in the vicinity separated by hardly a few kms.
Combine all these caves and falls for a day trip to Cherrapunji.
Where to stay : There are a lot of options to stay in Cherrpaunji. Don’t worry about finding an accomodation online. There are plenty of home-stays and hotels once you get there.
Only a few options are available on the internet.
Won’t be able to recommend any place in particular as we didnt stay there though we checked in at a hotel for a few hours to change our wet clothes.
Places to eat : Plenty of options, small eateries to big restaurants.
Cab fare : 1200 INR for a day trip to Cherrapunji from Nongriat (only sightseeing. You will be charged more for a drop elsewhere like we were charged an extra 1700 for a drop to Mawlynnong from Cherrapunji) which included a visit to the Nohkilikai Falls and the seven sisters falls and the caves.
Also check the entry time for the caves as we missed out on Arwah caves.
Cab options are available from Tyrna Village. You can ask the guides there.
5. Umngot River (Dawki) –
Yes, the much hyped and suggestive place in Meghalaya – Dawki, where every picture in google shows you how crystal clear the water there is, so much so that you see the river bed right through it.
For best views go early in the morning during a dry Meghalaya season.
Boat ride fare : Take the boat ride for 500 INR (charge for a single boat) and enjoy the scenic ride through the emerald green colors of the river.
They drop you off at an island where you can have some time for photography or relaxation.
Options to stay near Dawki – There are home-stays and camping options by the river side.
4. Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest Village –
This is Asia’s cleanest village, a village where everyone including toddlers, follows the age old tradition of cleaning up, where tidying up is a ritual and is in their blood.
A few hours are enough to visit the village. This is a popular tourist spot and if you’re a person like me, you may end up pushing this down to your list of places to revisit since it may get a little too touristy.
A night stay as we did could be well worth it but apart from the village, there is not much to see.
If you are bound by time, do a quick tour of the village and combine this with a visit to the Single root bridge (not to be confused with the double decker root bridge in Sohra/Cherrapunji. They are miles apart.) and the river Dawki and Tamabil- Bangladesh border.
For the less adventurous and the lazy tourists, an alternate to the double root bridge is the single root bridge only about two kms from the village of Mawlynnong.
Also, Umngot river is only about an hour away by cab from Mawlynnong so you can combine all three places and head back to Shillong by the end of the day.
Places to stay at Mawlynnong : A number of homestays are available in the village. You do not need any pre bookings for a stay there. You will most likely find
a place to stay for a night or two.
What to eat : Maggi breakfast which we enjoyed everywhere and khasi meals with tomato chutneys for the spicy foodie freak in you.
NOTES : Please keep in mind to have a cab booked for you to go to Mawlynnong and drop you elsewhere. If you halt for a night at the village, make sure you ask the driver to stay back with you or else you would need to rely on the villagers to find you a cab amidst very bad network and uncertainties to go elsewhere. We lost a good amount of time searching for a cab to go to Dawki. We made the mistake of not asking the previous driver to stay back at Mawlynnong.
Or better still, book a cab driver for your entire duration of stay if it’s only two – three days. Bargain as much as you can and if they come down to a deal of 7000-7500 INR for three days (start and drop at Shillong), consider yourself very lucky as travelling within Meghalaya is expensive. Luckily, we were offered a lift by a very adventurous kind hearted couple from Mumbai to Dawki.
More on that in my other posts.
Approx cab fares :
Mawlynnong to Dawki – could cost about 1500 INR
Getting a transport at Dawki is easy. There are a lot of cabs and Sumo options there.
Dawki to Shillong – 1500 – 1800 INR.
We paid 1800 INR since we were dropped back to Mylliem.
Going back to Guwahati Airport : Shared cabs and Sumos from Shillong for 350 – 500 INR
If you made it to the end of this post, thank you so much for going through it. I understand it’s a very lengthy post but I tried to include every little detail that I was seeking for before embarking on this journey.
I hope the information was helpful.
Let me know if I missed out on anything.
- Entry fees : There are minimal entry fees to be paid at the double root bridge (twice – once at Nongriat village and once just before the double root bridge) and the falls and caves along with prices for cameras. Keep your cameras inside your bag so you don’t pay for them. They don’t check your bags.
- Cabs : Hire a cab in advance for all your travels within the state if you are bound by time. That is going to be the most important concern. You may get cabs at police bazaar or even cabs driving you to Shillong from Guwahati at decent rates.
Bargain but you need to know that commuting within Meghalaya is a little bit on the higher side.
- Network issues : If you must have network connectivity while you are in Meghalaya, first thing you should do is get a local sim once you reach there. Jio, aircel, airtel local network work fine but we hardly got any network connectivity anywhere else apart from Shillong, Mylliem, Cherrapunji and Dawki (among the list of places I’ve been to)
- Electricity : You are most unlikely to get any electricity (as well as network apart from local sims) in Nongriat Village but we all need a detox, don’t we? It’s a totally different experience staying in bare minimum conditions. The rest of the places we had no trouble getting electricity though you can expect power cuts once in while or often.
- Safety : I felt extremely safe in all the places we traveled to. And I would any day travel in any part of Meghalaya alone. I think it’s safe for female travelers too but always be on the lookout and have common sense. People were really nice and warm hearted.
- Clothing : While Shillong is a style hub and you’re least likely to have any trouble wearing any kind of clothes, I suggest you still dress yourself conservatively while travelling to far off villagers keeping in mind the respect for the people, culture and place.
- Try this out : Make sure you try the very famous KWAI. Here goes the popular Khasi saying – “Even in Heaven, people eat Kwai,” Kwai, which is nothing but a paan served with a generous dose of areca nut, betel leaf and lime. Khasi people love chewing on Kwai. You sure don’t want to miss out on this very important aspect of Khasi culture. Being a Manipuri, this wasn’t something new for me. We call it Kwa at home. What they eat there is something similar to what we call Kong Kwa at home. The taste may not be to everyone’s liking but hey “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” 😉
Hope you can now plan a trip to Meghalaya soon!
All pictures were captured on our cameras and phones.