Meghalaya Tourism and Travel Guide

North East India is largely unexplored but slowly this beautiful region is coming into its own. And why not? Home to beautiful states, untouched natural beauty and culture that is unlike any other, the North East is a region that offers an unparalleled experience. Among the eight states in the region, Meghalaya is an integral part of the North East. The name Meghalaya directly translates to ‘abode of clouds’ and if this isn’t indication enough of the untouched beauty that awaits you, a description of the stunning places in the state will certainly help. Home to two of the wettest regions in the world, Cherrapunji and Mawsynram, the sacred forest of Mawphlang, the bustling city of Shillong and the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong – Meghalaya packs in a bundle of experiences that will be etched in your memory. Exploring Meghalaya tourism will take you four to ten days and anything less than this will not do justice to the sites of this spectacular state. Lakes, caves, waterfalls, idyllic villages, lush forests and cascading hills come together to offer you a memorable vacation. The beauty of Meghalaya ignites curiosity about the other stunning states in the region and chances are that you will extend your trip to explore the entire North East. Meghalaya’s Jaintia, Khasi and Garo tribal groups live in the eastern, central and western parts of the state respectively and their cultures are vastly different. All the tribal groups in the state follow a matrilineal system where the property and names are passed down from mother to daughter. The men move in with their maternal in-laws after marriage and women take on a more prominent role in everyday life. Most villages have a hundred percent literacy rate and have applied their education to promote tourism in the region. Examples of this can be seen in the numerous small chai stalls in the middle of nowhere and delicious home-cooked food when you are busy trekking – all managed by the women of the family. Since there are numerous places to see in the state and tons of things to do, this Meghalaya travel guide will help you prepare your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. Our Meghalaya travel guide lists down the best places to stay and popular restaurants to visit along with things to do that should be part of your experience.
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Best Time To Visit Meghalaya

Meghalaya enjoys the best of all seasons in India. April to June is marked by summer and this is a wonderful time to explore Meghalaya tourism. The days are pleasant and warm while the evenings are comfortable. Most tourists choose to plan their Meghalaya tourism itinerary around the summer months to avoid chilly days in winter. Summer is when you can participate in two important festivals in the region – the three-day festival of Shad Suk Mynsiem and the festival of Chad Sukra.

 

Monsoon, on the other hand, is not a favourable season to explore Meghalaya tourism. The state witnesses heavy rains and since it’s home to two of the wettest regions, Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram, it’s best to avoid planning your Meghalaya tourism trip during this time. However, budget travellers can plan their trip to explore Meghalaya tourism towards the end of monsoon. The weather is pleasant and the rainfall is considerably less.

 

Winter is among the best seasons to explore Meghalaya tourism. September to February is marked by a sudden inflow of tourists and you can expect customised tour itineraries, numerous packages and great hotel deals during this time. During the winter, days are chilly and nights can be extremely cold. You should be prepared with warm clothes and sturdy shoes if you plan to explore Meghalaya tourism in this season.

Top Attractions In Meghalaya

Shillong

As a capital city, Shillong is an integral part of Meghalaya tourism. Often referred to as the gateway to the state, Shillong will be an unmissable part of your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. Shillong is gradually accepting the modern way of life but you can still find traces of an old-world vibe in some parts of the city. Most tourist attractions are situated close to Shillong so while planning your Meghalaya tourism itinerary, we recommend making the city your base. 

 

You can explore the entire city in one day but if you’d like to enjoy the local culture, we suggest staying here for at least two days. The mesmerising views, the unique culture and the delectable local cuisine are reasons enough for travellers to fall in love with the state’s capital. Wards Lake, Umiam Lake, Elephant Falls, Mawsynram and the Don Bosco Museum are a few other attractions that should be part of your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. 

 

Mawsynram is situated approximately 60 kilometres from Shillong and it takes about two hours to cover the distance. You can hire a cab to explore the village or use local transport. One of the wettest places in the world, Mawsynram is a delight for nature lovers. The village is known for a huge formation of a stalagmite that is said to resemble a Shivling. Mawsynram witnesses extreme rainfall and travellers are sometimes astonished by the intensity of the rain. It’s best to explore Mawsynram with a tour guide since it’ll be easier to navigate the language barrier and you might be privy to a few hidden gems in the area.

 

Umiam Lake is another attraction that is on top of the list for travellers exploring Meghalaya tourism. The lake is situated 15 kilometres from Shillong and there are numerous transport options available from the main city. Travellers head to Umiam Lake for an exceptional boating experience and also to admire the spellbinding sunrise and sunset. The lake is surrounded by the thick East Khasi Hills and the views are mesmerising. There is a garden adjacent to the lake which is a hotspot for picnics. You will see numerous locals enjoying their Sunday in the midst of lush greenery here. Shillong is home to a range of guesthouses and luxury resorts that are a recent addition and a huge reason for the growth of Meghalaya tourism. If you’d like to spend a couple of days in Shillong, we recommend booking your trip well in advance. 

 

Cherrapunji

You can’t imagine a trip to explore Meghalaya tourism without visiting the gorgeous town of Cherrapunji. It’s claim to fame is that it is one of the wettest places in the world. Another reason why travellers are attracted to Cherrapunji is the mesmerising double-decker living root bridge. If you have seen images of Meghalaya, we are sure that the living root bridge was among the top photos. The surreal natural beauty of the bridge is a sight to behold and sees hundreds of tourists every day. Cherrapunji is situated 55 kilometres from Shillong and you can easily hire a taxi from the capital city to cover the distance. We recommend spending a few days in Cherrapunji so you can include a visit to the numerous waterfalls in your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. 

 

The Jingkieng Nongriat Double Decker Living Root Bridge is located in the village of Nongriat and is among the most visited sites of Meghalaya tourism. It is three kilometres long and is perched at a height of 2400 feet. With the Umshiang River flowing beneath the bridge and lush greenery surrounding this natural attraction, it’s no wonder that this is on top of the list for most travellers. Your cab will drop you to Tyrna village from where you will have to trek to the bridge. The trek takes about two hours each way and while it’s an easy trek, you need to be prepared for sudden downpours. 

 

If you are travelling with little ones or the elderly, you can hire travel guides and porters to help you tackle the distance. It’s best to start your journey early in the morning so that you have more time amidst surreal natural beauty. Mobile network is weak in the area and absent for the better part of the trek so ensure that your hotel is aware of your whereabouts in case of an emergency. There aren’t too many hotels or guesthouses in Nongriat so if you are planning to stay here, we recommend booking your stay in advance. Mawsmai Caves and Nohkalikai Falls are two tourist attractions that should be in your Meghalaya tourism itinerary for the sheer beauty that they offer. In fact, you can include a tour of Mawsmai Cave to add a little bit of adventure to your trip to Cherrapunji. 

 

Mawlynnong

Mawlynnong rose to fame a few years back when it was given the title of  ‘Asia’s Cleanest Village’. The small, idyllic village is situated almost 100 kilometres from Shillong, close to the Bangladesh border. Replete with vibrant flower fields, small stretches of forest land and a few living root bridges of its own, Mawlynnong is a dream-like destination for nature lovers to explore. You must save at least two days for the village, especially if you are exploring Meghalaya tourism for the first time. However, if you are short on time, you can plan a day tour from Shillong.

 

Mawlynnong Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall situated in the village. A popular tourist attraction, it gets converted into a picnic spot during holidays and weekends. The waterfall isn’t as big as some of the others in the region but is a sight to behold. If you want to explore hidden gems around the village, you can make your way to Riwai village. Situated two kilometres away, the village is popular among adventure enthusiasts for being a mesmerising trekking spot. Taking you past lush rainforests and small living root bridges, this untainted village sums up the joys of a vacation to Meghalaya. 

 

Adventure enthusiasts should also save sufficient time in their Meghalaya tourism itinerary for Sky View Point. Priced at a mere cost of Rs.10, this experience will be etched in your memory. Sky View Point is on top of a tower that is made of cane and bamboo, and it offers breathtaking views of the Bangladesh border. The views are so surreal that you will feel as if you are floating amidst the clouds. Even if you are short on time, this is an experience that you must tick off your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. In order to learn more about the local culture, we suggest paying your respects at the Church of the Epiphany. The 100-year-old structure has stood the test of time and is the centre of all activities in the village. Surrounded by vibrant flowers, the church is open throughout the week and you can pay a visit any time of the day. Sundays in the village are dedicated to mass in the church and we recommend participating in the ceremony if you’re in town. 

 

Dawki

Dawki, a small town in Meghalaya, is one of the most picturesque places in India. Situated near the India-Bangladesh border, the town is famous for the Umngot River. Dawki is situated around 95 kilometres from Shillong and is barely two kilometres from the Bangladesh border. The drive from Shillong to Dawki is mesmerising, with palm and betel nut trees on one side and rocky mountains on the other. 

 

Although the town is a hub for cross-border trade, Dawki has become popular owing to the magical emerald waters of the Umngot River, also known as the Dawki River. One look at the river is sure to capture you in a spell. The images of boats in the river, that appear to be floating in the air, are a phenomenon on social media and the perfect introduction to this gem of Meghalaya tourism. A suspension bridge across the river offers the best views of the river as well as the surrounding Jaintia Hills. A boat ride in the pristine waters of the Umngot River is an experience to cherish for life. 

 

For food lovers, there are a lot of open-air restaurants that offer delectable Assamese and Meghalayan cuisines. Don't miss the freshly caught and prepared fish that many open-air restaurants offer. There are not many hotels around Dawki and hence most people stay at Shillong and travel to Dawki to experience the glorious beauty.

Activities And Things To Do In Meghalaya

Trek to Laitlum Grand Canyon

Laitlum Grand Canyon is one of the lesser-known gems of Meghalaya tourism. Laithlum translates to ‘the end of hills’ and it’s an apt translation for the gorgeous viewpoint. The spot is not listed on most Meghalaya travel guides and you’ll hardly find any tourists here. You will need to trek for approximately two kilometres to reach the top of the peak. There is a longer hike as well which is said to be more rewarding but challenging. If you are an expert trekker, you can opt for the latter. However, it’s strongly recommended that you trek the route in a group and in the morning. Laitlum is sparsely populated and Ra Song is the closest village. Ideal for trekkers, nature lovers and photographers, a trek to Laitlum Grand Canyon also gives you an opportunity to interact with locals. If you book a tour through Meghalaya-tourism-approved agencies, you can expect a guided tour complete with local Khasi lunch to make the trip better. 

 

You will cross the Laitlum Stream on your trek and we recommend spending some time here. A beautiful picnic spot, it offers spectacular views of four waterfalls. Most travellers spend time here after their trek but we recommend saving some time in your itinerary before you start the ascent towards the top. 

 

Mawsmai Cave

The Mawsmai Cave is the most popular cave that is part of most Meghalaya travel guides. The limestone cave is located four kilometres from Cherrapunji and should be on your Meghalaya tourism itinerary if you are interested in adventure and photography. The cave sees a large number of visitors and is quite crowded, especially during summer. 

 

Unlike other caves in Meghalaya tourism, the Mawsmai cave is well lit and comfortable to explore. You can explore the natural formations without grappling to tackle the unfamiliar terrain. The opening of the cave is quite large and one can easily get in. However, as you proceed further, there are corners where you will need to bend and manoeuvre sharp turns. If you are travelling with little ones, we recommend discounting the attraction from your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. 

 

It’s not suitable to visit the cave during the monsoon and you should wait for the end of the season before you include this attraction in your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. It’s also recommended to hire a tour guide if you are planning to include the cave in your Meghalaya tourism itinerary.

Where To Stay In Meghalaya

Most hotels and resorts that are part of Meghalaya tourism are situated in cities such as Shillong and Cherrapunjee. If you are planning to spend a few days in small villages, we suggest booking your accommodation in advance and also getting in touch with a tour agency to plan your stay. Let's take a look at some of the accommodation options that are part of Meghalaya tourism.

 

Luxury hotels in Meghalaya

The luxury hotels and resorts that are part of Meghalaya tourism offer an experience unlike any other. You can expect warm, comfortable rooms, customised itineraries, transport and most importantly delicious food while exploring Meghalaya tourism. What makes this even better is that most luxury hotels in Meghalaya will not burn a hole in your pocket. Here are a few hotels that are part of Meghalaya tourism.

 

  • Ri Kynjai, Shillong
  • Lakkhotaa Lodge, Shillong
  • Polo Orchid Resort, Cherrapunji
  • Hotel Polo Towers, Shillong
  • Orchid Lake Resort, near Umiam Lake

 

Mid-budget hotels in Meghalaya

The growing popularity of Meghalaya tourism is giving rise to a stream of mid-budget hotels and guesthouses. Locals are converting their homes to guesthouses to offer travellers an authentic experience and it's worth every rupee you spend. Here are a few beautiful mid-budget hotels that are part of Meghalaya tourism.

 

  • San Nael la Resort, Cherrapunjee
  • Royal Heritage–Tripura Castle, Shillong
  • Dew Drop In, Shillong
  • Betelnut Resort, Dawki
  • Punhet Campsite, Dawki

 

Budget hotels and hostels in Meghalaya

Budget travellers can expect a wonderful vacation in Meghalaya since the state welcomes all kinds of travellers with open arms. You can book your trip in advance or choose to go with the flow and book on the spot depending on your travel interests. To make this easier for you, here are a few budget accommodation options that are part of Meghalaya tourism.

 

  • Travenjo Camping at Shnongpdeng, Dawki
  • Cafe Shillong Bed and Breakfast, Shillong
  • Kongthong Bamboo Hut Accommodation, Kongthong Village
  • Hotel Barbereek Inn, Shillong
  • Encamp Adventures, Dawki

 

Some of the best hostels in Meghalaya are:

 

  • Isabella Hostel, Shillong
  • Hostel Shillong Dormitory, Shillong
  • Silverbrook Hostel, Shillong

Cuisine And Best Places To Eat

The local cuisine of Meghalaya is a huge draw for travellers exploring Meghalaya tourism. Influenced by location, weather and tradition, the food in the state is prepared using fresh ingredients and plenty of herbs. Most of the dishes are unique and you might be apprehensive before digging in. The local food in Meghalaya is also influenced by the cuisine of neighbouring states.

 

Jadoh is among the most popular dishes in Meghalaya. You’ll find it in almost all restaurants. The dish comprises red rice cooked with pork, fish or chicken. You can customise it according to your taste and control the spiciness of the dish. In some places, jadoh is cooked in pork blood which is a speciality. Doh khlieh is another delicacy that is not for the faint-hearted. The main ingredients of the dish are pig brains cooked with herbs. The dish is usually eaten with Indian bread. You can also try this delicacy in a salad. Fish is a staple in Meghalaya and is widely used as an ingredient in most dishes. Nahkam is a delicacy that is stir-fried and has pungent flavours. It is usually enjoyed as a starter. Doh-Neiiong, pumaloi, doh jem, do’o kappa and pudoh are a few other dishes that you must try when you are exploring the cuisine of Meghalaya.

 

Munchies, Dejavu, Cafe Shillong, Trattoria, Bamboo Hut Cafe, Jadoh, Lamee, Phunga Manipuri Restaurant, La Galerie Restaurant, Living Roof, Dylan’s Cafe and Hashtag are a few popular restaurants that are part of most Meghalaya travel guides. We also recommend trying a few local joints when you are visiting small villages in Meghalaya. Eating out in Meghalaya is a reasonable expenditure which is a huge advantage for budget travellers. You can expect to have a lavish meal within Rs.300 and still save some cash for dessert.

How To Travel In Meghalaya

Meghalaya is fast becoming one of the most sought-after destinations in India. However, the beautiful state is still lagging in terms of multi-modal connectivity. The only airport is in Shillong, and that too offers very few flights. Most of these flights are not direct, with stopovers at Kolkata. 

 

In terms of railway connectivity, the state only has one railway station at Mendipathar, around 100 km away from Shillong. Mendipathar-Guwahati Passenger is the only train that runs to and from the station.

 

For travelling within Meghalaya, taxis are the best option. Although there are few local buses and shared cabs (Tata Sumos), they are not reliable. That said, the frequency and reliability of local buses and shared cabs are improving. These buses and cabs travel to most-frequented destinations like Cherrapunji and Dawki.

 

For travellers, the best bet is to hire taxis, either from Shillong or from Guwahati for the duration of their visit and enjoy the unparalleled beauty that Meghalaya tourism offers.

Typical Costs In Meghalaya

Meghalaya tourism is a treat for budget travellers to explore. Besides reasonable accommodation options, shared taxis and local eating joints are a saviour. You can explore Meghalaya tourism on a reasonable budget and expect to cover the entire state. Here are tentative per-day costs that you should keep in mind while preparing your Meghalaya travel guide

 

The per-day cost for luxury travellers is between Rs.3000 and Rs.4500 when exploring Meghalaya tourism. This amount will vary depending on the kind of accommodation you book and the transport you choose.

 

Mid-budget travellers can expect to spend between Rs.2000 and Rs.3000 when exploring Meghalaya tourism. Budget travellers can reduce this amount if they choose shared taxis over private taxis and stick to exploring local joints. 

 

The per-day cost for budget travellers varies between Rs.1000 and Rs.1500. This cost includes accommodation, eating out and guided tours. If you choose group packages, this cost can drastically decrease.

FAQs

Which are the best places to explore in Meghalaya tourism?

Meghalaya tourism offers nature lovers, photographers and adventure enthusiasts a world of experiences. Some of the places that you should add to your Meghalaya tourism itinerary are Laitlum Canyon, Shillong, Nohkalikai Waterfalls, Mawlynnong village, Cherrapunji, Dwaki, Ialong Park, Nongstoin and Krem Liat Prah.

 

Are there enough eating options for vegetarians exploring Meghalaya?

You might think that Meghalaya tourism doesn’t offer too many options for vegetarians but you’ll be surprised. There are many vegetarian dishes that you can try including red rice, Khasi dal and vegetables. There are numerous cafes in Laitumkhrah and Police Bazaar in Shillong that offer global cuisines including Italian, Chinese and Mughlai. 

 

Is there a major language barrier while exploring Meghalaya tourism?

If this is your first time exploring Meghalaya tourism, then you should be prepared for challenges when it comes to language. But a few days in the state and you will realise that most tour guides speak English and you will not face any problems while planning your Meghalaya tourism itinerary. The locals speak Khasi, Assamese, Garo and Rabha depending on which part of the state you are exploring. 

 

Which are the best markets for shopping that are part of Meghalaya tourism?

Shopping will be a huge part of your trip when you are exploring Meghalaya tourism. There are numerous markets spread across the state but the majority of markets are in Shillong. Lewduh Market or Bara Bazar, Police Bazar and Khasi Emporium are some of the popular markets that are part of Meghalaya tourism. Some of the things that you can bring back are bamboo items, handicrafts, food items like dried herbs and handmade clothes. 

 

Is there Internet connectivity in the state?

The major tourist attractions including Shillong and Cherrapunji have Internet connectivity. However, if you are travelling to the interiors, Internet connectivity is limited. You must keep your phone charged at all times since charging points are not available in most tourist attractions. 

 

What should I pack for my visit to Meghalaya?

Meghalaya tourism is full of surprises and it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected. To help you prepare for your Meghalaya tourism trip, here are a few things that you should pack:

  1. Two sturdy pairs of shoes
  2. Windcheaters or waterproof jackets
  3. Mosquito repellant
  4. Prescription medicines that may not be widely available
  5. Extra cash as digital payments are not widely accepted

 

Which are the activities that I can include in my Meghalaya tourism itinerary?

Some of the activities that you can include in your Meghalaya tourism itinerary are exploring beautiful caves, trekking, shopping and enjoying the local cuisine. 

 

Does one require any permit to explore Meghalaya tourism?

As of now, travellers don’t require an Inner Line Permit. However, the government has introduced an ordinance due to which travellers might need a permit after submitting required documents if the stay is for more than 24 hours. But, till the ordinance is passed you can enjoy exploring Meghalaya tourism without any hassle. 

 

Which are the best places to eat in Shillong?

Shillong is the hub of shopping and local cuisine in Meghalaya. Some of the popular restaurants in Shillong that you can include in your Meghalaya travel guide are Jadoh, Munchies, Cafe Shillong Heritage, Sao Aiom, Dylan’s Cafe and Cafe Shillong.

 

Share some Meghalaya travel tips.

It’s a joy to explore Meghalaya tourism but as is the case with any trip, a few tips are certainly helpful. Some tips that will help you plan your Meghalaya tourism itinerary better are:

  1. Travel either during the summer or winter
  2. Book your accommodation in advance
  3. Keep all your identification documents with you at all times
  4. Respect the local culture

Written by Kirat Sodhi. She is a proud mom of three cats and lives for lemon tea, a good book and spontaneous travel plans.