Northeastern states of India are still a mystery. This, in a way, is good as there is a lot to explore on your trip. North-East is an unexplored part of India but it has some very beautiful places which can take your breath away. Even with such a small population they are exceeding in many fields be it music, literacy, cleanliness and fashion.
But here I will be talking about Meghalaya and how you can plan your trip to Meghalaya. This is not just a guide to plan your itinerary but my personal experience.
The name Meghalaya means "The Abode of Clouds" and you will realize this once you visit the state. Being the most beautiful state of North East India, it offers a variety of sights, food, festivals, waterfalls, caves and butterflies. You cannot hold yourself from planning a trip to this beautiful place called Meghalaya.
Meghalaya has got some of the tallest waterfalls and deepest caves of India. Out of 10 longest and deepest caves in India, the first 9 are here. Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram are among the wettest places on Earth where the rainfall can be recorded in feet rather than in millimeters. Nongriat is famous for its double-decker root bridge made of living roots of a rubber tree. Dawki, a small town at the Bangladesh border, has a crystal clear Umngot river. Mawlynnong, one of the most beautiful village, has got the title of Asia's cleanest village.
So here is my 10 days experience in the spellbound state of North East India:
Day 1 - Guwahati to Shillong to Cherrapunji
Most part of this day will be spent on traveling. Guwahati is the nearest airport and train link to Meghalaya. From here, you can book a cab to reach Cherrapunji, costing you approx Rs.1500-2000. If you are a budget traveler like me, take a bus from Guwahati to Shillong and then a shared taxi from Shillong (Police Bazar) to Guwahati which will cost you approx Rs. 200.
Reach Cherrapunjee a day before so that you can get some rest at night to start your trip the next day early in the morning.
Day 2 - Cherrapunji (Cherrapunjee)
Located 150 km from Guwahati and 54 km from Shillong, Cherrapunji (or Cherrapunjee), also known as Sohra, is a high altitude town in Meghalaya.
It is known for its living root bridges, waterfalls, caves and various beautiful short treks. With the breathtaking beauty and friendly & helpful nature of people, you can easily fall in love with this place which has a lot to explore in and around.
Start your day early at around 7 AM and visit the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Starting your day early is recommended so that you can enjoy the mesmerizing view of this gigantic Nohkalikai Falls clearly. Clouds do gather up after some time and obstruct the beautiful scenic view of the fall
With a height of 340 meters, a plunge pool with green colored water is formed below the falls. The pool is so eye-soothing that you would want to jump into that, but for that, you need to have an adventurous soul and a fit body.
It takes approx 2 hours of trekking to reach the bottom of the fall. If you are planning to trek, then keep half day reserved for this trek and carry your lunch with you.
Mawkdok Dympep Valley View Point
Lush green valley just 30KM from Cherrapunji has a picturesque view. As we all know, every good thing has a price likewise to reach this viewpoint one has to climb a lot of stairs.
Mawkdok Dympep Valley viewpoint can be compared to the very beautiful Dzukou valley in Nagaland.
This place also has a facility of zip lining for your adrenaline rush.
Dain-Thlen Falls is a popular picnic spot for the locals highlighting a large waterfall. This waterfall drops down from the height of 80-90 meters and you can follow the path to trek to the bottom.
The best thing about this place is that you can stand at the top-edge from where the fall starts. To enjoy the best views, one should cross the fall and go to the other side of it.
Wah-Kaba Falls is not big in terms of width but drops 170-190 meters into the valley. Like all other falls, this can also be accessed after a short hike of approximately 200 stairs. Full view of the fall can be seen after a hike of approx 150 stairs.
Like Dain-Thlen Falls, you can stand at the edge of this waterfall too which has some barriers for safety purposes. The valley views from the top of the falls are spectacular and dressed in clouds.
Ka Bri Ki Synrang
Also known as "The Garden of Caves" is a unique tourist spot. The tagline of this place is "Breathe Green" which justifies the place. This place is surrounded by greenery and is home to many caves and waterfalls which makes it a breathtaking spot.
The dense jungle around the park makes it a peaceful retreat and a great escape from all the hustle-bustle of the cities. This place has 7 major spots and you can read about it here ( http://sohra.info/ka-bri-ki-synrang/). I will suggest you keep some time handy to explore this place fully.
Day 3 - Cherrapunji (Cherrapunjee)
Today is the day when you will explore deep caves of Meghalaya and some more stunning waterfalls.
Start your day a bit early because of the same reasons you did on the first day. Another reason to start early is, there is a lot to explore in Cherrapunji which can only be enjoyed in day-light. So, it's better to start early rather than to miss out on some amazing spots.
At a distance of 3.5 km from Cherrapunji, Mawmluh cave is one of the prominent caves in Meghalaya with a total length of 7 km. This cave is famous for various stone formations inside the cave and pool formed due to the merger of 5 different rivers.
One has to walk through a well-defined eco path to reach the starting point of this cave. The authorities have installed light bulbs for the visitors to explore some portions of the cave but you can hire a guide to go beyond the lights. Guides don't have any specific rates, you can tip them as per your budget.
Caving is an unexplored and adventurous activity that you can experience in Meghalaya.
You can explore this 7 km long Mawmluh cave with the help of a guide and proper gears & equipment. One has to be physically very fit for caving as it requires crawling, climbing and all kinds of body stretching. December is the best time to explore caves in this Northeastern state of India.
At a distance of 6 km from Cherrapunji lies a small village named Mawsmai which has another cave for tourists. This is comparatively easier than Mawmluh cave and only 150 meters is open for tourists with adequate lights. This cave can be enjoyed by all age groups despite having few narrow crossings and large rocks to climb.
The cave is divided into 2 parts, old and new, while the old one is well equipped with lights, the new one is still to receive some lightings. This place does not require any guide for exploring.
Also known as the "Seven Sisters Waterfall" is located in Mawsmai village. It is divided into 7 segments which symbolizes the 7 states of Noth-East India.
With a height of 315 meters and an approximate width of 70 meters, Seven Sisters falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in India.
The views are spectacular in monsoons when the magnificent flow of water falls down the hills. This stunning waterfall cannot be entered into but can only be dreamt about and admired from a distance. The sunlight falling on the Nohsngithiang falls make a rainbow which is an indescribable beauty.
At a distance of 12 km from Cherrapunji, this fall is inside a very huge park named Thangkharang park. With the height of 305 meters, Kynrem Falls is the 7th tallest waterfall of India.
The base of this fall is connected through a motorable road with a bridge for vehicles to cross. The road is not well maintained but the greenery alongside the road is breathtaking. Very few tourists go till the base of this fall, but I will recommend you to drive till the base to admire this magnificent and gigantic waterfalls.
With your 2nd day coming to an end, you can proudly say that you have explored Cherrapunji to its fullest. Enjoy your evening and have some local cuisine for dinner.
Day 4 & 5 - Double Decker Root Bridge and Rainbow falls
Have you ever been to a place that got stuck in your mind and you always wanted to go back to that place? The trek to Double Decker Root Bridge is one such journey. Nested in the deep forests of Meghalaya and capped in clouds, this place can leave a mark in your life which will be hard to forget.
Double Decker Root Bridge
Root bridges are the perfect examples of what man and nature can do together. This man-made wonder is handmade from the living roots of a rubber tree.
Though, there are many living root bridges but, the double-decker root bridge is one of a kind with two levels, hanging one above the other. It takes about 15 years for a root bridge to become strong enough to make way for people and a few more years to become even stronger.
The beauty of this place is unremarkable. With the splendid waterfalls, enchanting forest, colorful butterflies, this place feels like a magical world. The waterfall forms a natural swimming pool, where, one can swim, relax and admire the charm of nature.
About the Trek
At a distance of 20 km from Cherrapunji, is located a small village named Tyrna which is a base to start trek to Nongriat village. To see the very famous double-decker living root bridge, one has to trek for 3 km which en routes approx 3500 stairs.
The first half is mostly the stairs, it takes approximate 45 minutes of descending down into the forest. Here, you get a sight of the longest root bridge named Ritymmen.
The other part of the trek requires you to cross two iron suspension bridges over a seething river, causing an adrenaline rush while crossing. Another 45 minutes of the trek will take you to the double-decker root bridge.
Hidden deep within the dense forest, away from man-made life, Rainbow Falls is one of the most alluring waterfalls of the state. Sunlight forms a glorious rainbow over the falls, giving it the name of Rainbow Falls. The sound of the fall can make you feel spooked and delighted at the same time.
About the Trek
The trek to this hidden gem starts from the double-decker bridge and takes around 2-2.5 hours. The route is not well laid like the one from Tyrna to the double-decker bridge and has an earthy narrow passage. With a mix of ascends and descends, this trek requires you to cross other living root bridges and suspension bridges.
How to Plan
Start your day early, reach Tyrna village and start descending towards Nongriat village. You can easily get rooms in Nongriat on a per bed basis costing you around 300-400 bucks only. Have some tea and maggie from the small shop near the double-decker root bridge and relax a bit. From here you have two options:
Start trekking towards the Rainbow falls on the same day. Once you are back, you can enjoy the serene plunge into the waterfall and into the swimming pool in front of the double-decker bridge. Stay overnight and ascend back to Cherrapunji after a lazy morning or afternoon. Chill, relax and enjoy the natural swimming pool of Nongriat. Stay overnight and start your trek to Rainbow falls early the next day.
I will recommend you to do the Rainbow falls on the very first day, as, the trek from Tyrna to Double-decker bridge is mostly descending, saving you some energy to start another one.
If you don't want to cover Rainbow falls, still I will recommend you to give one night in Nongriat and lose yourself in the spell bounded and calm nature.
Day 6 - Mawlynnong
80 km from Cherrapunji, alongside the Bangladesh border, is the most beautiful and cleanest village of Meghalaya named Mawlynnong, aka, "God's own Garden". Mawlynnong has been awarded the title of "Asia's cleanest village". Strolling in this village will give you an impression of a big park with small houses constructed in between.
Bamboo garbage bins are installed at every corner of the village. The zeal to keep the place clean is what we should learn from the people of this village.
In spite of being a small village, the literacy rate of this village is 100%.
Following are the two major attractions:
Living Root Bridge, Yes you heard it right! Mawlynnong also has its own living root bridge named "Jingmaham Living Root Bridge". It does not require you to trek for 2 hours like Nongriat's double-decker bridge. This can be reached by just walking for 10-15 minutes. Sky view is another handmade attraction, made of bamboos, having a machan at a height of approximately 80-90 feet. Being on the India-Bangladesh border, this machan gives you a landscape view of Bangladesh. The entry ticket to this place is Rs 10 per person.
Day 7 - Dawki and Krang Shuri Falls
At just 35 km from Mawlynnong, exists a small town of Dawki, famous for the Umngot river. And then 30 km from Dawki, lies a very beautiful and unexplored waterfall named Krang Shuri.
Start early from Mawlynnong to spend ample time in Dawki and then in Krang Suri falls. Once you dive into Krang Shuri waterfalls, you will no longer keep a track of time.
Umngot River, Dawki
With a completely clear river, this is an uncommon sight to be seen in India. Crystal clear water of Umngot river, aka, Dawki river gives you the impression that either the boat is flying or is lying on a glass surface. One can take a boat ride till the Bangladesh border which takes approx 30-40 minutes and is a wonderful experience.
The best time to see the crystal clear water is in December and January while monsoon season will not give you that experience. Being the border town between India and Bangladesh, roads in Dawki can be very busy sometimes.
Krang Shuri Falls
If you talk about the must-visit places in Meghalaya, this can go on top of the list. Being the most appealing waterfalls of Meghalaya, this place is for all the nature lovers, adventure junkies and Instagram geeks. The natural blue color of this fall and pool is what stuns everyone.
The authorities here, provide you life jackets if you want to dive into this serene plunge pool. With less crowd, lifeguards around the waterfalls and changing rooms for ladies, this place makes a great escape.
With just 1 hour distance from Dawki and 3 hours from Shillong, it is very easily accessible and yet is an unexplored part of Meghalaya. Entry fee to this place is only Rs 40 per head.
Day 8 - Mawsynram
At a distance of approximately 80 km from Cherrapunji and 60 km from Shillong, is a green village covered with clouds.
Mawsynram is one of the wettest places on Earth where you can measure rain in feet rather than a millimeter. The rains are so compelling that the villagers have to use various ecological ways to soundproof their homes.
This little mesmerizing village is surrounded by hills and the glimmering clouds. More than a village, it is the journey till the village which will take your breath away.
Mawphlang Sacred Grove
Mawphlang Sacred Forest is protected by only 1 rule - "You cannot take anything out of this holy forest, be it a leaf, a flower or even a dead log". Denying this rule may have its consequences.
At a distance of 30 km from Mawsynram, Mawphlang Sacred Forest is nestled in Mawphlang village, covering the area of around 190 acres. Rooting it with old-age spiritual beliefs, people are preserving and worshipping this forest for more than a thousand years.
Visit this place while returning from Mawsynram. You can hire a local guide and take a 3 km excursion of this sacred forest which can take around an hour. While strolling around the jungle, you can hear the sound of whistling wind, sparkling river water, chirping birds and many more and still you can feel the calmness and quietness of the jungle.
The entry fee to this forest is Rs. 20 per head and extra Rs. 300 for the guide. I will recommend you to hire a guide, to hear the stories of the people's belief, to gain knowledge about the various flora and fauna in the jungle, etc.
Head back to Shillong after that and stay overnight in Shillong.
Day 9, 10 - Shillong
The capital city of Meghalaya derives its name from a powerful deity, Lie Shyllong. Guwahati is 100 km from Shillong and is the nearest airport and train link. With well established educational institutes, it is an education hub for entire North East India.
Impressive mountain peaks, luminous lakes, beautiful golf courses, museums, zoos, it has got everything people want on a trip, making it the reason why so many people visit this place.
Other parts of Meghalaya have some adventurous and raw beauty, on the other side, Shillong is more of a relaxing getaway. People generally start their trip from Shillong and move towards other parts of Meghalaya. I will suggest you cover other parts of Meghalaya and then come to Shillong to relax and chill out as you don't need much energy to explore and roam around this beautiful city of Shillong.
Here are some of the best places to visit in Shillong
12 km from the city, this fall was named after an Elephant shaped stone at its foot. The most popular waterfall of Shillong is a three-layered fall, which can be easily accessed by tourists. A well-laid footpath and a wooden bridge can be used to reach for all 3 layers of a waterfall.
The highest point of Shillong is only 10 km from the city and provides a panoramic view of the city. People often come here for a picnic. Every year, locals come here to worship an idol, named Lie Shyllong.
Lady Hydari Park
Located at the center of the city, Lady Hydari Park is popular amongst locals and tourists both. Spend your evening in this beautiful park and admire the variety of flora and fauna it has.
A beautifully constructed lake is surrounded by a green garden and provides a boating facility.
Shillong Golf Course is one of the oldest, finest and largest natural golf course in the world. This lush green golf course has got a title of "Gleneagle of the East" by USGAM (United States Gold Association and Museum).
Other attractions to visit in Shillong are Cathedral Catholic Church, Capt. Williamson Sangma State Museum, Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, Spread Eagle Falls, Sweet Falls.
Here are a few useful information required to plan your trip and budget.
Best time to Visit
You can visit Meghalaya all around the year. In my opinion, Meghalaya is majorly divided into 3 kinds of Attractions i.e, Waterfalls, Treks, Caves.
You can admire the enormity and beauty of Waterfalls only during monsoons when it is in full flow. But being the wettest place on Earth, Meghalaya can be a little difficult to explore during monsoons. Therefore, October 1st half is the best time to visit Meghalaya for Waterfalls and Treks as the monsoons are over by this time and are still in their enormous state.When it comes to Cave exploration, December can be the best time. As the water level in caves will be reduced by that time and routes would have opened up.
Cherrapunji - There is only 1 big hotel in the main area of Cherrapunjee village, the rest of the hotels and resorts are on the outskirts. If you are a budget traveler, you can easily get lounges and homestays ranging from Rs. 1000-2000 per room. I will suggest you stay in a homestay to get the experience of a local's lifestyle, food, culture, and language.
Nongriat - In between the dense forest, this village has only 2 homestays with a price of Rs 300-400 per bed. The best one out of both is the Serene Homestay (+91-9615252655) and the owner of this homestay is a very humble man and a good cook. This one is mostly booked during the peak season, so you can call and book in advance.
Mawlynnong - This place has so many lounges and homestays with basic facilities ranging from Rs 1500-2500. Stay in homestays for homely experience and good food.
Shillong - Being a well-populated and advanced city, you will get many hotels in Shillong. You can decide your budget here and search for the accommodations accordingly.
Guwahati to Cherrapunji - You can either book a cab from Guwahati to Cherrapunji which will cost you around Rs. 2000, or you can take a bus from Guwahati to Shillong and then shared sumo from Shillong to Cherrapunji which will cost you Rs 150-200.
Cherrapunji to all other Locations to Shillong - I will suggest you hire a cab to visit all these places as there is a lot to see and very limited to no public transport. A cab can cost you approximately Rs. 2000-2500 per day depending on the season.
I was lucky to get Mr. Collinson (098621 52844) as my cab driver. I am not advertising him at all, he was genuinely a very nice guy. Though he had Maruti 800, that hardly mattered once we started our journey with him.
Shillong to Guwahati - You can either book a cab which may cost you around Rs. 1000, or you can take shared sumo which will cost you around Rs 70-100.
Networks are not an issue in Meghalaya. You might not get the internet in some places, but you will always receive signals to make a call.
Being the border town of Meghalaya, Mawlynnong will have some network issues but some corners of the village will receive networks whereas BSNL works properly.
Accommodation (Shared by 3 people)
Cherrapunji - Rs 1,000 X 5 nights = Rs. 5,000
Nongriat - Rs 900 X 2 nights = Rs. 1,800
Mawlynnong - Rs 1,500 X 1 night = Rs. 1,500
Shillong - Rs 1,500 X 1 night = Rs. 1,500
Total = Rs 9,800/3 = Rs. 3300 per person approx.
Transport (Shared by 3 people)
Cab from Guwahati airport to bus stop = Rs. 700
Guwahati to Cherrapunji = Rs. 600
Cab for 6 days = Rs. 12,000
Shillong to Guwahati = Rs. 300
Bus from Guwahati bus stop to airport = Rs. 300
Total = Rs 13,900/3 = Rs. 4,700 per person approx.
Food and Miscellaneous - Rs. 4,000 per person
Cost of the Trip = Rs. 12,000 per person
Flight cost from Delhi to Guwahati and return = Rs. 8,000 per person
The total cost of my 10 days trip was Rs. 20,000/head
So, this was my itinerary, my experience in the beautiful state of Meghalaya. Please let me know in the comments if you want some more information on anything specific or about any particular place.
Keep travelling and keep sharing experiences!