We always wanted to experience the monsoons in the land of the clouds – Meghalaya. It was a beautiful experience and we took away so many memories from the trip. We spent ten days in Meghalaya and visited many places including – Shillong, Cherrapunji, Mawlynnong (Asia’s cleanest village), Nartiang Monoliths, Dawki (Bangladesh border), Jowai and Mawphlang Sacred Grove.
We saw some of the most magnificent waterfalls we have ever laid eyes on. Tyrshi Falls was our favorite because we could get really close to the falls.
The trip to living root bridges in Cherrapunji was probably the most wonderful experience for us. My wife and I love trekking and this was the first time we trekked in the rains in such a scenic setting. After reaching the double decker living root bridges we also went further ahead to the rainbow waterfalls. This is also an amazing waterfalls and was worth the additional couple of hours trek.
Overall the trip to Meghalaya was amazing and I would surely suggest visiting in monsoons if you enjoy the rains and have a good sense of adventure.
Arrive in Guwahati
Take an early morning flight or just make sure your arrival time is latest around noon. The Gopinath Bordoloi airport in Guwahati is located on NH-40 and is bang on the highway to Shillong. A right turn on the main road outside the airport will take you to Shillong and the left one will take you to Guwahati. Distance of Shillong from Guwahati airport is 120 kms. This way one doesn’t necessarily have to go to Guwahati and can end up saving valuable time. Also, unlike many other states in the North East, Indian tourists don’t require a permit to visit Meghalaya.
There are shared taxis available all the time just after you walk out of Guwahati airport (look for ML numbered – yellow number plate cars and SUVs). Some of them have come to drop tourists from Shillong and are most likely to ask passengers where they want to go. Rates can be negotiated and are around 200-300 Rupees per person. Meghalaya Tourism buses also ply between Guwahati airport and Shillong twice a day, ask at the MTDC tourism counter. If both these options don’t work, one can always wait on the main road and sit in one of the shared sumos that ply all day between Guwahati and Shillong (these charge 170/- per person) – from Khanapara in Guwahati.
Cherrapunjee (Also called Sohra)
The distance from Shillong to Cherrapunjee is hardly 55 kms and usually takes less than two hours to cover. There are cute yellow coloured shared taxis (charge Rs. 70/-) and buses (charge Rs. 50/-) that ply all day from near Bada Bazaar in Shillong. The Bada Bazaar is a market place to buy all sorts of produce and fruits.
Buses and taxis drop passengers to the main market in Upper Cherrapunjee (locally called Sohra) near the Sumo taxi stand. There are a few homestays near the main market where local products can be bought. There’s a popular hostel for backpackers in lower Sohra and another dormitory option too for budget travellers.
Attractions and places to see in Cherrapunjee : There’s a weekly market in upper Sohra held on a different day every week, ask the locals for the same when you are there. Dympep viewpoint has fabulous landscapes of the canyons en-route Cherrapunjee. Rama Krishna Mission Ashram is in upper Sohra and is a must visit for its Tribal Khasi Museum.
Nohkalikhai waterfalls are the fourth highest in the world. They make for a grand sight and lie only 4 kms from Cherrapunjee. One can walk to the top of the waterfalls via a 40 minute path and experience other waterfalls and strange rock formations on the way to the top. Mawsmai caves is also a must visit place with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites. Mawsynram is the wettest place on earth (Cherrapunjee’s claim to fame!). Among other places to visit are Dainthlen falls, Khasi Monoliths and the 1846 built First Presbyterian Church.
Other information :
English is widely spoken by Khasi people across Meghalaya but in remote towns it is possible for someone to not know both Hindi and English. Do not fret, sign language works best when there is a language barrier.
Meghalaya and most States in the north east practice a matrilineal system, where women take the family name and are dominant in the household affairs. Most shops are managed by women. Observe this welcome change while you are in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya takes its holidays seriously and Sunday mass is widely attended by everyone. There is singing in the church and all men and women are smartly dressed while all shops and local taxis are on holiday.
Kwai is local betelnut that everyone seems to enjoy all the time everywhere in Meghalaya (and the entire northeast). You can try it too, remember to ask the locals to give you kwai with as little of the white accompaniment as possible.