India as a country boasts of a gamut of terrains- the arid desserts,the mighty snow-capped mountains , vast plateaus , dense forest and and alluvial plains. The list is unending, thus choices are aplenty while planning a trip in India.
After some researching and planning we decided to hit the gem of north East in mid September.
The receding monsoon doesn’t bring frequent downpours during this period, but the occasional showers sprinkle dash of freshness and liveliness in the splendid natural beauty of Meghalaya.
Meghalaya literally means the abode of clouds.The hilly state of Meghalaya is nested between the neighbouring country of Bangladesh and Indian state of Assam.
The Nearest Airport is Shillong. But most tourists and travellers prefer Guwahati airport, as the airfares are considerably low, and the highway connecting Assam and Meghalaya is in very good condition. (Plus there is always lack of confidence of flight take off and landing from and to Shillong airport due to Cloud conditions).The unmatched scenic beauty of the surrounding adds to charm of the journey.
On the way one should obviously drop by, for a view of the Umiam lake.
Umiam dam was made on Umiam River. The dam is the source of hydro electric energy since 1950s. The lake stretches over a vast area, more than 200sq kms and supports multiple ecosystems.
Next stop on the way to Meghalaya can be the Don Bosco museum that showcase the northeast culture . The museum is closed on Sunday. So it should be planned accordingly if you are a cultural afficianado.
Ward’s lake or Lady Hydari park is another touristy favorite at Shillong. A little zoo, a children’s park and a little museum is present in house.
Huge population of Meghalaya follows Christianity. So there are numerous churches and convents across the city. The cathedral church of Shillong is among the oldest churches, built on huge area.. the place is Serene and obviously provides good selfies with the blue church backdrop, especially on those rare sunny days.
Meghalaya, because of its geographical location receives highest rainfall on Earth. As a result there are numerous waterfalls and water bodies. Krang Shuri waterfalls near Shillong is one of the highly recommended places. A short trek amidst lush greens lead to the beautiful waterfall. The water of the river leading to the falls is very clean and transparent.
It goes without saying it’s one of the most beautiful places in Shillong.
An offbeat location in the vicinity of Shillong is Nartiang monoliths. Monolithic rocks placed across the ground in remembrance of the win of an erstwhile Jaintia King’s win. Each stone was placed in remembrance of the martyrs of the war.
Laitlum also know as the Grand canyon resembling the one at Arizona is around 11kms from Nartiang. The view from the place is breath taking, but you really need to be lucky to catch a glimpse from the valley. As the altitude of the place is considerably high, chances are very high that you end up amidst dense opaque clouds! Though we proved to be unlucky on this particular day, on one of the consecutive days we did have the glimpse of the Grand canyon from the other side,while coming back from Cherrapunji. The lanes going to Laitlum village from main road is in quite unmaintained state, perhaps one of the worst we have faced in the whole of our Meghalaya trip.
Seven sister falls,Nohkalikai falls,Wah Kaba falls, elephant falls,Dainthelen falls are to name a few of the gorgeous waterfalls that are in and around Shillong or on the way to Cherrapunji.
Elephant falls flows over a number of steps. You need to cover a few 200/300 steps to savour the beauty of the three stepped falls.
The falls has recently become more popular after PM NaMo visited the falls.
Nohkalikai falls carries a legendary story behind it, of a lady named Kalikai who committed suicide jumping from the top, after getting to know she ate her own baby from 1st husband(cooked and served by her 2nd husband).[Idle talk: In case you are a Netflix freak– The Hungry’s story seems to take cues from Kalikai’s story.. By the way it is to be adopted from Shakespear’s Titus Andronicus]
The fall plunges from a steep mountain of approx 1110ft making the view breathtaking.
Being situated at Cherrapunji clouds do often spoil the show. But in case that happens, ensure you wait for some time, as, many a times including during our visit, the view was obstructed by cottony clouds multiple times which got cleared in some time.
Another famous fall is the Seven sister falls near Cherrapunji. The viewpoint not only gives breathtaking view of the lofty falls, but also gives a distant dreamy view of Bangladesh on the other side of a river!
But again the clouds often poses barrier between you and the picturesque backdrop.
Wah Kaba falls nested in the hills, too give a majestic view.
The wah Kaba,seven sister waterfalls and Nohkalikai falls can be enjoyed without covering much steps as they are visible from the roadside.
Heavy and regular downpours throughout the year has carved out caves in many areas. Meghalaya houses one the longest caves in India. Arwah caves located in the vicinity of Shillong is a relatively recent finding by archaeological survey team. The caves formed by natural abrasion of water and limestone carries fossils of gastropods and other creatures. Walkways have been formed inside the caves,but at all locations lighting is not sufficient. And at places ceiling is quite low.
Mawsmai is another natural cave, comparatively more popular, located very close to seven sister falls, Cherrapunji,with prominent natural stalactites and stalagmites formstions seen. The caves kind of transports you back to the primitive ages, with water seeping from top, low ceilings at places and water logs at some places.
At certain places the passages are quite narrow and short in height. This will obviously need lot of flexibility and bending for going and coming out of the caves.
Another interesting place is the Garden of caves,which falls between Shillong and cherrapunji. A pleasant walkway through the greens takes one through a number of falls,caves and rock formations. The short trek accompanied by the variety of sounds of nature, chirp of birds, flow of a waterfalls is nothing short of divine. Don’t miss the bamboo bridge that leads to ‘umdawai’ the water that heals all diseases.
If you are a waterfall lover Meghalaya is heaven.
Meghalaya trip is incomplete without paying visit to the nature’s miracle, double decker root bridge. Nongriat village at Sohra houses the longest living root bridge that is a single bridge,beside the very well known Double decker root bridge.
The longest single root bridge is a around 1.5kms from the starting point. This is a detour from the route to double decker root bridge.
Most tourists prefer to venture till here and go back.
The trek to the double decker bridge is not recommended for people with acute back or knee ache. Reaching is not a great deal as most the stairs go downhill. But coming up on the contrary is indeed a huge task as the huge number of steep steps take you uphill tends to tire and drain one super fast.
We consider ourselves individuals with low to medium physical fitness. We took around 6 hours to cover the full journey from and to the start point covering double decker root bridge,including the single root bridge. We did not venture till the rainbow falls.
A strenuous trek of around 2500feet amidst the forest through a flight of steep steps, a few picturesque suspension bridges leads to the double decker root bridge. The roots of the rubber trees tied over ages by the villagers for commuting from one side to the other side of the river has lead to the formation of these super strong bridges. The surrounding is ethereal. The waterfall, the transparent pool of water, and bridges, together creates a fairytale backdrop.
A quick bath or swim in the serenely cool water refreshes the tired souls.
Rainbow falls is situated 4kms further. There are multiple homestay options available at very nominal rates in the village(Nongriat) in the double decker bridge area. In case you wish to venture till the rainbow falls it’s recommended to have a night stay at the village and start uphill trek next morning.
A word of caution here for the ones who are not avid trekkers or fitness freaks. Reaching and coming back on the same day is a comparatively easy deal. The cramps and muscle pains on the following morning makes life miserable. In that condition coming up through those 3500uneven steep steps is a huge deal.
I thanked myself for not stopping there for the night. On the way down you will meet both the variant of people: the fit and enthusiast ones showing no signs of tiredness, and the ones flushed with cramps and pains. Don’t get flown with what others say. You know yourself best. Keep up with yourself, and your progress however and whatever it may be.
The route will test your mettle throughout,be it the swinging suspension bridges ,the railing less steps.
At the end it’s your will, how strongly you want it. If you really want to do it ,you can.
I am person of considerably low fitness, nerve compression issue on the right side of my waist and encounter frequent knee and waist pains. I did it. And I am very happy about it . So decide your priority, whether you want to be happy accomplishing the trek or stay happy without going till there.
Physical strength no doubt adds to the benefit of the individual but never consider the lack of it as one’s limitation.
The distance of Dawki/Bangladesh border from Cherrapunji is around 90kms. The journey proved to be lengthier than our expectation. And as you are coming down to the flat area fro the altitude expect to be hit by the sudden flush of heat. The Bangladesh border is just a post indicating end of a country and entry of Bangladesh,nothing scenic or beautiful.
The route is very gorgeous though with opulence of nature throughout. If the haze is less and sun God is pleased with you, be ready with your camera at every turn, you never know what gem of sight may turn up next!
The river Dawki,which formally flows between India and Bangladesh is every instagrammers’ and photographers’ dream destination for reasons more than 1.
The clear blue green water, the colouful fishing boats, the multiple shades of greenery on either side cannot be be justified enough in my words. September, according to locals and many is not the best season though, to witness the impeccable clear water of the Umgot river, as monsoon is still on it’s way back. During winter the river claims an even clearer complexion.
Boating under the scorching September sun in the afternoon proved to be little less enjoyable.
Mawlynong has claimed a number of accolades over the last few years as the cleanest village of Asia. The place indeed is impeccably neat and tidy, the clean roads leading to the village, every house having it’s own garden boasting of blooming flowers or bearing fruits. The place looks as hunky dory in reality as it looks in the photos and videos. The sincererity and the urge of the people to keep their own area and neighborhood so clean is really commendable!
Mawsynram, situated 10miles away from Cherrapunji is known to be the wettest place on Earth , with Colombia, Hawaii and other contenders being quite behind!
On an average the place receives 10,000ml of rainfall annually.
Naturally the place is blessed with abundance of greenery and water falls.
If you have sufficient time in hand and you planning to visit anytime between October –
April you can merge the Assam-kaziranga national park with Meghalaya. The elephant safari starts from the month of November. Request to get the information and reservations done accordingly, as the safari tickets get booked well in advance.
In Assam another very famous place of interest is Maa Kamakhya Mandir on the Nilachal hills at Guwahati. It’s among the 108 Shakti peeths as per hindu mythology.
Though Meghalaya houses a number of gems and provides visual treats to the nature lovers still it is slightly underrated as a travel destination, As Meghalaya is known as the wettest place on earth and receives rainfall almost through out the year, most of the travel enthusiasts are worried about the road conditions. We were also having the same misconception regarding the roads and its conditions. The roads throughout our journey was excellent (except the road leading to Laitlum).
Kolkata to Guwahati Flight: Rs. 2000-2500 / – per person (One way) – 1:15 hrs. There is a flight going to Shillong directly but cost is much higher and most of the time it gets cancelled due to bad weather condition.
Guwahati to Shillong : By car 3:00 -4:00 hrs with sight seeing at Umium lake and lady hydari park.
Shillong to Cherrapunjee: By car about 3:00 – 3:30 hrs including sight seeing.
Almost all the places are having entry fees (Rs.10/–20/- plus the Parking fees) even the ones which are on the road sides.