Meghalaya! Untouched by the harshness of the modern day vulnerability, this beautiful land (one of the Seven Sisters of the Northeast India) has continued to nurture every little gift of nature in all its magnificence.
In today's post, I will tell you about this heavenly place in India that definitely deserves a visit at least once in your lifetime.
Meghalaya has been blessed by nature in abundance. Crystal clear rivers, beautiful pleatues, and pine-covered hills, tumbling waterfalls, virgin forests... all of these only add to its majesty.
It is not only an abode of phenomenal natural beauty but is also the cradle of the rich cultural and traditional heritage of the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes.
True to the meaning of its name in Sanskrit, Meghalaya is one of the most beautiful 'abode of clouds' in India.
The capital of Meghalaya, Shillong in all sense is a powerful enchantress with all its aesthetic beauty. Due to its resemblance to the European world, Shillong has been fondly called as the Scotland of the East. It is now the hub of all commercial activities in Meghalaya.
A few kilometers away from Shillong lies Cherrapunji. The land that had gained recognition as the wettest place on Earth, until Mawsynram replaced it.
This place is truly Nature's paradise. In spite the fact that it's true for the entire Meghalaya, you will see every little detail of nature in all its glory, here in Cherrapunji.
MEGHALAYA: HISTORY AND TODAY
Before the 19th century, Meghalaya had its own independent political history. This, however, took a turn after it came under the British rule in 1872. Cherrapunji was the capital of the state under the British. But in due course, the capital got shifted to Shillong, because of the extreme rainfall marked in Cherrapunji.
In 1874, Shillong was made the capital of Assam and remained so till 1972. Meghalaya later attained full statehood as the autonomous state of Meghalaya in 1973 and set off to start its new journey.
Today, it is one of the coolest retreats for those living in the plains. Being the wettest region of India, it unveils paths of new delight to its visitors especially during the monsoon with its continuous heavy showers. It is a great place to explore for solo bag-packers and nature lovers.
For those of you who do not know, Meghalaya is a matrilineal society. So women here unlike many other parts of the country have a high sense of authority and independence.And that, I am sure is the best news for all the solo woman travelers out there. Because it is the safest places in India for you to be.
HOW TO REACH SHILLONG:BEST & AFFORDABLE ROUTES
Shillong is connected to other parts of India via Guwahati in Assam. There are various means to reach Guwahati. You can book a train ticket or take a flight from anywhere and reach Guwahati. There is good road connectivity between Guwahati and Shillong. There are both bus and taxi services from Guwahati to Shillong.
Buses operate from Inter State Bus Terminus on the Khanapara Jalukbari Bye-Pass Road. Tourist Taxis are available from the Taxi stand in Paltan Bazar, near Guwahati railway station.
Shared taxi and Sumos are also available which charge 500/- and 200/- respectively for Guwahati to Shillong. From police bazaar to Shillong, one can also hire a tourist taxi to reach Cherrapunjee.
Beautiful four lane expressway covers the distance of 101 km within two hours. Cherrapunjee is 56 km from Shillong which will take you another one and a half hour. It is advised to halt at Shillong for a day and then proceed to Cherrapunji, so you can go for sightseeing in Shillong before you reach Cherrapunji.
GOOGLE MAPS: ROUTES PLANNER
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SHILLONG
There are a number of good places where you can put up for the night. Although you might have to spend some cash to land into a good place, a proper research will help you find some decent stay.
On your way to Shillong from Guwahati, you will find villagers exhibiting local items for sale.
You can stop by in these shops to have a taste of the local delicacies or pack some handmade pickle (mainly of bamboo shoot and bhut jolokia - the world's hottest chillies) to take back home.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MEGHALAYA
The best time to visit Meghalaya is September to May. However, you can visit it throughout the year, as the climate mostly remains pleasant almost at all times.
If you want to get the feel of monsoon, then June-July surely is the best time to be there.
Whenever you plan a trip to Meghalaya, try saving at least 6-7 days in hand, so you get to enjoy the place thoroughly, without having to hurry from one place to another for the lack of time.
Even though the places are not separated by a lot of distance, you might be delayed on your journey by a sudden rain shower somewhere in the middle of your trip. So come prepared accordingly.
BEST TOURIST PLACES TO VISIT IN MEGHALAYA
The list of places that you need to see in Meghalaya is extensively large. There is so much to explore in this place. Truly speaking, there is something or the other that will strike you with awe in every step. So listing all of them is obviously not possible in this tiny post.
I will, therefore, tell you about the places that you should definitely not miss when you are there. So let's begin.
ELEPHANTA FALLS: SHILLONG
The Elephanta Falls is one of the most popular places in Shillong that should definitely be on your list of places to see in Shillong. This is a beautiful multi-layered waterfall that is located on the outskirts of Shillong.
You will have to travel almost around 12km from the main city to reach this stunning spot. The beauty and vigor of this fall soar high during the monsoons. This does not mean it is less beautiful in the other seasons. Elephanta is gorgeous at all times.
The stairs that gently descend to the base of the waterfall will lead you to the most impressive part. This is the place where you can actually see the water falling from hill to settle at the base. And once you are there, you will not even realize when your time flew.
SHILLONG PEAK: THE HIGHEST PEAK IN SHILLONG
Being the highest peak of Shillong, this point overlooks the entire city from a height of 6449 ft. You will have to travel a distance of 10 km's from the main city to reach there.
Once you reach the spot, you can not only have a breathtaking view of the beautiful city but also of the gorgeous plains of our neighbouring country Bangladesh and an impressive view of the mighty Himalayas.
This tourist point is situated at an air force base, so you will have to undergo heavy security check at the entrance. Tourists are not even allowed to carry their cameras beyond a certain point.
WARD'S LAKE: SHILLONG
Another amazing place in Shillong is the Ward's Lake that is situated right in the heart of the city. This artificial lake surrounded by a very refreshing garden is a popular picnic spot for the locals. It is a favourite for love birds and couples who want to spend sometime alone as they enjoy the beauty of the park.
This lake is also known as the Pollock’s Lake or Nan-Polok by the people of Shillong. You can have a really good time in the garden enjoying the mesmerizing view of its orchids, palm trees and other plants that have been very neatly maintained for its visitors.You can go around the park or enjoy a boat ride in the lake to add to your leisure.
CHERRAPUNJI: THE JEWEL OF MEGHALAYA
Around 55 km's away from Shillong lies Cherrapunji. The road that leads to Cherrapunji has beautiful high hills on one side and deep gorges on the other. You will need about an hour and a half to reach there.
There are a number of places you need to see in Cherrapunji. It is a Nature lover’s refuge. You can go for trekking for long durations armed with cameras and never become tired of taking photographs.
Fog and mist create a breathtaking view for its visitors. At times you may be blinded by the slowly descending dense fog, while at the other the fog lifts to unveil the sublime beauty of this wonderful land.
Cherrapunjee is famous for its oranges. So-called soh-sohra means Cherra oranges are grown in the orchards of the sub-tropical region in the southern slopes of Sohra. Every year Cherapunji organizes an orange festival where varieties of oranges are displayed and tasted by the fruit lovers.
Let us now check out the places to see in Cherrapunji.
NOHKALIKAI FALLS: CHERRAPUNJI
There are many beautiful waterfalls around Meghalaya which are definitely worth seeing. Nohkalikai Falls is one of them.
Nohkalikai means “the jump of ka likai”. The story of a local tribal girl named Likai committing suicide in this fall has done the rounds since long. The fall has therefore been named after the incident.
Nohkkalikai is the 4th highest waterfall in the world and the tallest plunge waterfalls in India. It falls from a height of 1,100 ft and is in its best form during the monsoons.
Nohkkalikai is just 5 km's away from Cherrapunjee. You can either enjoy the view from the top or add some adventure to your trip and take the stairs, that lead to the base of the fall.
Here you will also get to see the Double Decker Root Bridge that is another great tourist attraction.
DOUBLE DECKER ROOT BRIDGE: CHERRAPUNJI
Root Bridge is a fantastic combination of man and nature. The roots of the rubber trees and the branches of betel tree are entangled and directed in such a way that it forms a bridge over the river.
The tribal Khasi people use these as an alternative to wooden bridges. It takes 15 years for these trees to grow but once grown, they last for at least 100 years.
The Oldest root bridge in the world is 500 years old. The sight of these bridges will leave you bewildered by this amazing connection between men and nature.
Umshiang is one of such longest bridge at a height of 2400 ft.and 3 km. long. It is a very popular tourist attraction.
MAWSMAI CAVE: CHERRAPUNJI
An amazing natural feature of Meghalaya are the caves. These caves get a high tourist footfall, especially for the caves in and around Cherrapunjee. There are more than the 1000 caves in Meghalaya. Out of them 980 caves are fully or partially explored so far.
There are more than the 1000 caves in Meghalaya. Out of them 980 caves are fully or partially explored so far.The Mawsmai cave is located at a distance of 6 km from Cherrapunjee and it is one of the best-known caves here.
Though the cave is only 150 mts long but the thrill of exploring it is what drives the tourists to this location.The cave is lit just about enough for tourists to enjoy the natural formation of limestone and stalagmites. This magnificent creation of nature is bound to make you speechless.
The entrance to the cave is wide and gets narrower as you walk deeper into the cave. At one point, you will have to bend down to proceed till you finally see the daylight again.The cave is wet and damp inside and water is seen continually sipping in from the roof. You will hear the faint sound of the water once you are inside the cave.
THANGHKARANG PARK: CHERRAPUNJEE
Thanghkarang Park is about 12 km's away from Cherrapunjee. It is situated just beside KhohRamhah or pillar of the rocks. From the idyllic viewpoint, you get an immense panoramic view of the great plains of Bangladesh.
Kho Ramhah is a piece of rock placed in a peculiar way on another rock on the other side of the park. This park has another specialty which is a lifetime experience if visited during monsoon.
You can enjoy the fantastic view of usual 4 o’ clock rain in the evening that happens every day in this region.
The serpentine Road from this lush green park to the valley is beautiful. There are footbridges which lead to different viewpoints. The serene environment of the park will definitely mesmerize you with its magnificence.
MAWSYNRAM CHERRAPUNJEE: TOUCH THE CLOUDS
Mawsynram is only 15 km's from Cherrapunjee and is a great place for traveller's who loves nature. If you have ever dreamt of touching the clouds, this is the place that will make you realize your dream.The fields and valleys are covered with lush green grass, and the clouds are seen almost kissing the ground.
Here it is no surprise if you are suddenly blinded by the fog and mist in the middle of your walk in the fields. This charisma of nature is seen on the approach road to Cherrapunjee as well. Mawsynram beats Cherrapunjee in rainfall. It receives 11,872mm rainfall annually as compared to 11,777mm in Cherrapunji.
Khasi women use rain covers made of bamboo slivers and green grass called ‘knups as a shield against rain. It is large enough to cover their body from head to knee.
NOHSNGITHIANG FALLS OR THE SEVEN SISTERS FALLS
The seven sisters falls is seven segmented waterfall located in the south of Mawsmai. The water, falls from a height of 315 m and has an average width of 70m.
During rainy season torrential amounts of water plunge from the top of limestone cliffs of the Khasi hills and cover up most of the stretch along the cliff.
It is especially breathtaking when sunlight falls on the falling water, revealing the entire band of vibrant colours across the waterfall. It is a photographers’ heaven with the potential of clicking mind blowing pictures with a setting sun.
MONOLITHIS: UNIQUE KHASI CULTURE
Monoliths are basically the pieces of single stones available in many places in Cherrapunjee. In Khasi culture, they use these monoliths to commemorate the departed soul of the respected and revered people by erecting monolith stone after the cremation.
Some monolith stones are erected upright and some are flattened. Upright stones are called menhirs erected for the males and flat stones which are placed flat on the ground are known as mawkynthei are the memoirs of the females.
Khasi monoliths are found in Mawsmai, near Mawsmai cave. You can also find them in Nartiang in West Garo Hills towards Jowai.
LAITLUM CANYON: HEAR YOUR OWN VOICE
Laitlum canyon is a less crowded tourist place where nature has showered all her beauty in abundance.It is in the East Khasi Hills District, of Shillong. The scenic hill slopes of Laitlum are often called as Amphitheatre of Meghalaya.
Many people cannot resist the temptation of responding to the call of the steep stairways that go down to the green valley. Breathtaking gorges will make the nature lover promise to visit this place again and again.
Do not forget to say things aloud to hear you voice echoing in the distant. The famous Bollywood movie Rockon 2 was shot at this place.
DAWKI: CRYSTAL CLEAR RIVER WATER
Dawki is on the way to Cherrapunjee. It is situated in the Jaintia hills and is a hidden paradise. This place shares a friendly international border with Bangladesh.
The crystal clear water and local boat rides are a tourist favorite. The water in this river is so clear that you can clearly see the river bed. The boats here look like they are floating in the air.
This view can, however, be enjoyed only when there is no rainfall in Dawki. Once it starts raining, the river water turns green and the riverbed is no longer visible.
SHOPPING IN SHILLONG: MY RECOMMEND STREETS
Khasi tribal people make different types of baskets, cutlery, mats etc. with bamboo. They make cane item also for their own use. Presently for the development of tourism, many items using the local material are also made available for sale.
You can go around the local markets and get hold of some of the cool handicrafts available here. If you want to hang out in a proper market place then go to the Police Bazaar in Shillong. Lewduh Market or Bara Bazaar are another popular shopping spots in Shillong.
You will get all sorts of amazing stuff that you will fancy buying.
LOCAL DELICACIES IN SHILLONG: MY RECOMMENDED FOOD
Pork with a special local herb (bamboo shoot) is an authentic dish here. You should not miss the mouthwatering beef and momo (served with soup) prepared by the locals.
Spices are rarely used in the Khasi cooking. Yet the food is so delicious that anyone will crave for it again once they have tasted them.
MEGHALAYA LATEST WEATHER & FORECAST
CONCLUDING REMARKS: KEY TAKEAWAY
So that was about Meghalaya. Although this place was not a popular tourist destination a few years ago, it has started attracting Nature lovers attention now. Meghalaya sees considerably more footfall now as compared to the past.
So before this place too, like many other places fall prey of the cruelty of modernity and loses its charm, come visit it and enjoy the grandeur of Nature.
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