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Meghalaya, India

  • (worth a trip)
  • NA
  • Easy
  • Average
  • 4-7 days
  • 3 3

Home to Cherrapunjee – the wettest place in the earth!

Meghalaya India
No visit to Shillong is complete without a visit to Trattoria’s which is famous for its midday meals. Patronised by locals, the restaurant serves some of the best local Khasi dishes such as Ja doh – rice stewed in pig blood, and curried pig intestines (literally). Broadway is another nice restaurant in Shillong which serves a tasty menu of Chinese and Indian dishes. Café Shillong is famous for serving the best coffee in town, mouth-watering steaks, and a Les Paul guitar autographed by performing artists. Come during the weekend and the café is busy with live performances.
Siat Khnam is a unique and interesting local sport which involves a group of Khasi marksmen shooting a dozen of arrows into a barrel-shaped straw target. At the end of the shooting session, the number of arrows on target are counted and the last two digits of the total number of arrows are declared as the lucky number. If you have bet on this particular number before the shootout, the evening’s beers are on you! This sort is mostly held around 04:00 P.M. though the timings may vary a bit every now and then. Secondly, if you are planning on border crossing into Bangladesh from Dawki (Bangladesh shares borders with India in the North East), the border is open from 09:00 A.M to 06:00 P.M. There are no foreign exchange booths on the Indian side, though you may find helpful officials to assist you with it on the Bangladesh side of the border. The border post is at Tamabil, roughly 1.5 km from Dawki. A taxi will cost around INR 50. There are frequent mini buses from Tamabil to Sylhet.

Meghalaya, the seventh sister of the seven sisters of North East India, is often known as the ‘home of clouds’. The mountain state of Meghalaya is a cool, often wet, state which is set on dramatic horseshoe cliffs. Home to the wettest places on earth – Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram – most of the rainfall is during the months of June to September, resulting is magnificent waterfalls and carving out some of the largest caves in Asia.

 

The population in the state majorly comprises the Jaintia, Khasi, and the Garo tribes, who occupy the eastern, central, and western part of the state, respectively. The four day Wangala Festival (a harvest festival held in autumn) celebrated in the Garo Hills between October and November is usually considered a good time to visit the state. You can expect to witness tribal dancing and some fascinating traditional drum recitals.

 

Shillong:

Once the capital of Assam, Shillong is now the state capital of Meghalaya and has rapidly developed into a modern town since this change. It has still retained some of its colonial-era charm though which is reflected via some of its architecture. Overhauled cars are quite the rage here.

 

Sights of Importance in Shillong:

  • Colonial-era Shillong: Like mentioned before, even after its change from the capital of British-made Assam to the state capital of Meghalaya, the town has retained some of its old-world colonial-era charm. It is visible in certain pockets of the town. Some of the notable edifices which exhibits that charm are Pinewood Hotel on Rita Rad which was built in the 1920s as a tea-growers retreat looks specially great at night, the All Saints’ Cathedral on Kacheri Road which was constructed in 1902 is so old and picturesque that it would fit perfectly on a biscuit tin, and the Anglican Church near Police Bazaar which looks elegant and graceful adorned with its trimmed lawns.
  • Ward’s Lake: This beautiful lake has a very attractive patterned bridge surrounded by well-maintained flower-beds making it a romantic setting for couples. If you walk for 15 min to the northeast of the lake, you would find yourself near the rolling meadows of the Shillong Golf Course fenced by pine trees and adorned by a nice clubhouse. Entry to the lake is INR 5 per person. An additional fee of INR 10 and INR 20 is charged for camera and video, respectively. The park is open from 08:30 A.M to 05:30 P.M between November and February and 08:30 A.M to 07:00 P.M. between March and October.
  • Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous Cultures: This well-maintained museum comprises a brilliant source of countless tribal artefacts along with some interesting displays on Christian missionary work. Guided tours, which are mandatory, last over an hour. The seven-storey museum houses sections on tribal basketry, weapons, daily life tools and objects, musical instruments, costumes and jewellery, along with a huge collection of photographic documentation. Entry to the museum costs INR 60 for Indians and INR 150 for foreigners. Timings are 09:30 A.M. to 04:30 P.M Monday to Saturday and 01:30 to 04:30 P.M Sundays. The closing time is extended to 05:30 P.M. between April to September.
  • Adventure Sports: Cultural Pursuits Adventures is an experience travel agency which conducts caving, and trekking tours along with village stays and off-the-beaten-track activities. They are located in Hotel Alpine Continental on Thana Road. Website – culturalpursuits.com. Timings – 10:00 A.M. To 04:00 P.M.

 

Cherrapunjee:

Perched on the edge of Himalayas, Cherrapunjee is famously known as the ‘wettest place on earth’. The drive from Shillong to this famous town of Meghalaya is a scenic one that becomes more dramatic near the Dympep viewpoint where a V-shaped valley gashes deeply into a plateau – amazing photographic opportunities and setting! The town of Cherrapunjee is locally known as ‘Sohra’.

 

Sights in Cherrapunjee:

  • Root Bridges: These are the most fascinating and intriguing sights around Cherrapunjee. Living rubber fig-tree roots which the native Khasi villages have trained across streams to for natural pathways! Three of these unbelievable bridges are near Nongriat, including a mind-blowing double-decker bridge. Access to these is via the beautiful village of Tyrna which is 2 km from Mawshamok.
  • Moors and Waterfalls: The grassy moors encircling the town vouch for Meghalaya’s title of “Scotland of the east”, though they are sprinkled with monoliths and blemished by excavating. Compared to these, much more striking are the series of ‘grand canyon’ valleys that plummet into deep plush surrounding of tropical forests covered by a succession of seasonal waterfalls. The Nohkalikai Falls are especially prominent and look even more majestic during monsoons when their capacity and flow increases 20 times more. There is an official viewpoint roughly 4.5 km south west of Sohra market, however, the waterfalls are quite visible from afar during the rainy season.
  • Mawsmai Caves: These caves are more famous with the domestic tourists. You can often witness a bunch of sari-clad Indian women stopping through the low passages of the 150 metre long natural limestone formation. Mawsmai also has a tall row of interesting roadside rock formations which are often overlooked due to the caves which grab the major attention.

 

Garo Hills:

This is what we travellers call the ‘off-the-beaten-path’ experience. If you have a few days to spare, head over to the plush green hills of Garo in the far far west of Meghalaya and you won’t regret a moment of it. Accessible easier from Guwahati than Shillong, the main urban hub near the hills is in the small settlement of Tura, where the warm and welcoming staffs at the tourist office can help you with arranging local guides. The office is open Monday to Friday 10:00 A.M. to 04:00 P.M.  Most people visiting the hills often pay a visit to the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve to see the endangered Hoolock gibbons, a cuddly and friendly species of primates which live in the forests in the reserve. The second important highlight of the visit to the hills is an excursion to the tribal villages located deep within the mountains. If you are lucky enough to have a reliable local guide, they may as well take you for a visit to a traditional Garo village where you can sit around in a traditional kitchen and see their daily kitchen activities. Remember to leave a tip for their hospitality and generousness.

How to get there

The nearest major airport to Meghalaya is the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati (Assam), which is well-connected by air with other major cities of India such as New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. A cab or a rent-car facility is available at the airport and takes about 4 hours to Shillong. There are no bus services between the airport and Shillong.

The nearest railhead to Meghalaya is in Guwahati as well which has train connectivity to other major cities in the country such as Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore.

The NH 40 connects New Delhi and other major cities in India to Meghalaya. The roads are in good condition and are well-frequented with traffic movement in and out of the state. However, if you decide to drive to Meghalaya yourself, be careful of the roads during monsoon.

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