For a tiny state, Meghalaya is full of otherworldly scenery.
India is often frequented by travelers from around the globe, but its Northeastern regions are hardly featured in any travel guide. Meghalaya is one such destination. Meghalaya is a North East Indian state which separates the North East Indian state of Assam from Bangladesh. Inhabited by tribal communities, the little state is also a brimming pot of culture. Home to rugged mountains, lush subtropical jungles, some 1650 explored and partly explored caves, it’s also one of the best destinations for a nature lover or an adrenaline seeker.
Cross a Double-Decker Living Root Bridge
Meghalaya is one of the few places in the world to see living root bridges. The root bridge that connects the banks of River Umshiang has two spans. It is named the Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge. You can reach the root bridge after climbing some 3,500 steps from nearby Tyrna. It’s doable in one day. But staying in one of the homestays in a little village named Nongriat will give you plenty of time to rest your knees and of course, soak up in the lush green atmosphere. This will also allow you to swim in the blue waters of nearby Rainbow Falls.
Go Caving in Krem Puri, the World’s Longest Sandstone Cave
Krem Puri is 24.5 kilometers in length and located in Mawsynram. It is the world’s longest sandstone cave and India’s second longest natural cave system. The sandstone cave network holds fascinating corridors and mysterious twists while covering a wide area of 13 square kilometers.
Apart from Krem Puri, India’s longest cave is also located in Meghalaya, tucked inside the lesser known East Jaintia Hills region. A limestone cave, the Krem Liat Prah complex is India’s longest cave system. It is 34 kilometers in length. However, caving should be avoided during the monsoon season which runs from May to August. When November nears, the climate is drier and caving expeditions run until March.
Kayak in Umngot River
A village named Shnongpdeng is one of the popular water sports destinations in Meghalaya. During the period from October to April, the river water turns blue and is crystal clear, transparent just like glass. Shnongpdeng also has a lively atmosphere, especially during the winters. Frequented by local Indian travelers and day-outers, you will find yourself singing along with locals and kayaking with fishmongers in the village.
Stay With a Khasi Family in Meghalaya
Khasi people are the main tribe in Meghalaya. While they call Khasi Hills their home, they are scattered throughout the state. The state of Meghalaya has three regions: Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills (home to Jaintia tribe), and Garo Hills (home to Garo tribe).
Khasis are one of the world’s last few matrilineal societies. You will often see butcher women at local markets and men taking their little kids to school. Foreign travelers are a rare sight in the whole of Meghalaya. However, you will be welcomed with nothing but plenty of smiles, chai (tea), and Jadoh, the signature dish for Khasis.
Visit the Lesser-Known Arwah Caves
Arwah Caves is located in Sohra, which is popularly known as Cherrapunji, Meghalaya’s most popular tourist destination. In Sohra, crowds flock to Mawsmai, but Arwah caves are tucked away in the jungle and are fascinating places with fossils, stalagmites, and stalactites. It’s a limestone cave and can be easily explored within one to two hours. The pathway to the Arwah caves is carefully maintained and takes you through the mossy jungle frequented by birdsong.
Explore the World’s Tallest Monoliths
In Nartiang, there is a tree-clad park with a cluster of megalithic stones, erected by the Jaintia kings in the past. It’s located in Jaintia Hills, near the region’s capital Jowai. The region is home to Jaintia people: one of Meghalaya’s main tribal groups. Moo Iong Syiem is eight meters tall and believed to be the world’s tallest monolith. The monoliths are also linked to a wealth of rich, fascinating folktales of the region. A small village, Nartiang is a one to two-hour drive from Shillong. The history of the monolith park runs back to 1500s. And in the past, it was the summer destination of Jaintia kings.
Check out Asia’s Cleanest Village
Mawlynnong is a little village in Meghalaya located near the Bangladeshi border. The village won the status of being the cleanest village in Asia in 2003. It’s a well-organized resort-like village but the local life is still well preserved here. The narrow alleys that lead to village houses are spotlessly clean. There are plenty of bamboo-made dustbins located in every corner and the village advises you to take back all your plastic.
While it’s frequented by day visitors, an overnight stay gives you a more culturally-immersive experience. The best part is you can climb one of the tiny bamboo huts to see sunset colors appearing over the Sylhet plains in Bangladesh. And when dusk falls, slow down at the village tea shop for a masala chai. It’s Mawlynnong’s version of Starbucks but rest assured that it’s better than any Starbucks you’ve been to.
Camp Under the Stars in Asia’s Second-Largest River Island
Majuli Island in Assam is Asia’s largest river island. Nongkhnum Island comes second. It’s located in the West Khasi Hills near Nongstoin. The journey to Nongkhnum is quite bumpy but with views of lush green paddy fields nestled between sheltering mountain guardians, you won’t regret the journey.
The island also has a stunning waterfall named Weinia Falls, which is full of life during the monsoons. Nongkhnum is sometimes visited by local groups for kayaking and fishing activities. With crystal clear skies far from city smoke, it makes for an incredible place for stargazing.
Visit India’s Tallest Plunge Waterfall
Nohkalikai Falls is located in Sohra (Cherrapunji) and tumbles down from a height of 1,115 feet. There’s a large observation area where you can view the falls from afar. The area is often crowded. However, if you are adventurous enough, you can actually climb down to the bottom pool of the falls, and from there, a strenuous trek takes you to the double-decker bridge in Nongriat.
Sohra is home to many popular and lesser-known waterfalls such as the Seven Sisters Falls, Dainthlen Falls and Wei Sawdong Falls. The Seven Sisters Falls are stunning streams, seven in number, which stumble down to nearby Bangladeshi plains. Dainthlen is a popular picnic spot, from where a steep 20-minute walk takes you to the three-tier Wei Sawdong Falls.
Listen to the Whistling Village
Kongthong is a small village inside the subtropical jungle in the East Khasi Hills. The village has about 750 inhabitants and each of them has a unique lullaby, which serves as their identification. This does not mean that they don’t have a writable name. Like all of us, residents have given names, but pregnant mothers also give their babies a tune unique to them. When dusk falls and bedtime arrives, the caring mothers call their little kids by their melodious tune.
Visit the Wettest Place on Earth
With an annual rainfall of 11,872 millimeters, Mawsynram is the wettest place on Earth. Clear days are rare in Mawsynram as it’s always covered in mist and clouds. In monsoons, it usually rains every night. However, due to climate change, often in winters, Mawsynram suffers from water scarcity. The neighboring Sohra (Cherrapunji) is also the second rainiest place on Earth.
Climb Inside a Strangler Fig Tree
The walk through the green jungle of Mawpdai with whistling insects, vibrant wildflowers, and an occasional villager in sight is quite blissful. Mawpdai is a little village located close to Mawsynram, and here, a strangler fig tree uses his host plant to support its growth. The host tree has now been dead and the hollow inside it, is, all that remains, allowing one to climb inside the tree and come out from the top. It’s about 30 meters tall and once you come out from the top, you would get a clear view of the marshlands of Bangladesh.