Meghalaya (which means “Abode of Clouds” in Sanskrit) is one of the seven Northeastern states of India. Most of the terrain is hilly and experiences heavy rainfall during monsoons.

Famous for its high rainfall, subtropical forests, and biodiversity, it is surrounded by Assam in the north and east and by Bangladesh in the south. The Brahmaputra River forms the border in the west.

Things To Do In Meghalaya

This abode of clouds is literally that. During monsoon, it sticks true to its name of housing the wettest place in the world- Cherapunjee. Meghalaya can mesmerize you with its hills, valleys, lakes, caves, and waterfalls which give it a beautiful look when covered with beautiful clouds.

Meghalaya has a history of rich craftsmanship, and wood-carving and artistic weaving are important crafts here, especially in the Jaintia and Khasi districts.

Photo: A field in a village in Meghalaya / CCo

Top Cities

  • Shillong — East Khasi Hills
  • Cherrapunji — formerly the wettest place on Earth and still holding the all-time record for the most rainfall in a calendar month and year
  • Mawlynnong — the village offers picturesque natural beauty
  • Jowai — Jaintia Hills
  • Mawkyrwat — South West Khasi Hills
  • Nongstoin — West Khasi Hills

Shillong

The capital city is also the biggest and filled with a lot of people and tourist during the season. Shillong has a lot of leftover British colonial influence that is evident from the plentiful British architecture.

Owing to the magnificent lakes all around the town, and the hills surrounding it, Shillong has often been called the Scotland of the East.

Photo: The Raj Bhavan in Shillong / CCo

Cherapunji

Cherrapunji is famous for its rainfall, and it used to be the wettest place on Earth before the title was taken over by Mawsynram, which is less than 100 kilometers away from Cherrapunji.

The city has plenty of waterfalls, like Nohkalikai and Seven Sister Falls. The living root double-decker bridge is a famous attraction in Cherrapunji, where you have to trek down 3000 steps to reach it and is a wonderful place to spend a night at.

shillong meghalaya PD

Photo: Cherapunjee during monsoon / CCo

Cultural Sites

Explore Caves

Meghalaya is a caver’s delight. The area around Cherrapunji has quite a few limestone caves that can be visited, such as the caves at Mawsmai near Mawsynram.

Earlier in 2018, the world’s longest sandstone cave has also been discovered in the area at Krem Puri. At nearly 25km long, its length is almost three times the height of Mount Everest. Some dinosaur fossils have also been found in this cave.

Photo: Mawsmai Cave during peak rainy season / The Art of Travel Partners

Jowai

Jowai is famous for its scenic setting and breathtaking views with the perfect mix of heritage and culture. Lakes are the main attraction of Jowai. The Thadlaskein Lake and Lalong Park are the famous tourist’s hot spots while Syntu Ksiar is also a popular destination on the shores of river Myntdu.

Photo: Beautiful unspoiled waterfalls in Jowai / CCo

Living root Bridges

These are bridges across streams made from living roots of trees which make a spectacle to admire. There are different types. One single root bridge you can access easily by a vehicle but the double-decker root bridge needs a little trekking done to get there which makes it even more worth it.

Venture further towards the rainbow falls if you go till the double-decker bridge. It is a mighty, voracious fall during monsoon and filled with rainbows during summer.

Photo: The double-decker bridge during monsoon / The Art of Travel Partners

Mawlynnong

If you want to take a look at Asia’s cleanest village, don’t forget to visit Mawlynnong. Lying on the border separating India from Bangladesh, Mawlynnong is an amazingly clean village in Meghalaya where each and every street corner has a bamboo dustbin to ensure nature-friendly disposal of trash.

Photo: The cleanest village in Asia- Mawlynnong / CCo

Nature & Scenic Sites

Dawki

A small border town in the Jaintia Hills, Dawki and its famed river Umngot is a must visit if in Meghalaya. The river post monsoon is crystal clear hence making it a very famous tourist attraction.

Sandwiched between India and Bangladesh, Dawki is a major center of trade between India and Bangladesh.

Photo: Clean blue waters at Dawki post monsoon / CCo

Umian Lake

Umiam Lake, a mesmerizing man-made reservoir, is located at a distance of 15 kilometers north of Shillong which is the capital of the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya. The sunrises are a treat to the eyes and shouldn’t be missed.

Photo: Umian Lake as seen when going to Shillong / CCo

Waterfalls

Apart from caving, you will also enjoy visiting the beautiful waterfalls around Shillong and Cherrapunji. Some of the main ones are

  • Elephant Falls
  • Nohkalikai Falls
  • Seven Sisters Falls
  • Kynrem Falls
  • Bophill Falls
  • Mawphlang Falls

Photo: Elephant falls in Shillong / CCo

Wildlife in Meghalaya

Balphakram National Park

Located in the Garo Hills in Meghalaya, a well-known park in India for its scenic beauty and various species of flora and fauna.

Nokrek National Park

Also a Biosphere Reserve, Nokrek National Park is a small population of Red Panda resides in this park. It is habitat for the Asian elephant, species of cats and primates.

It is also an important area for birds. Rongbang Dare Water Fall and Nokrek Peak are located in this park with tall thick forest.

Photo: A red panda in the National Park / CCo

Other Must Do Visits

  • Elephant Falls
  • Lady Hydari Park
  • Shillong Peak
  • South Garo Hills, Pitcher Plant sanctuary, Siju Caves
  • Wards Lake
  • Living Root Bridges

Language

Garo, Khasi & Jaintia are the major languages spoken in addition to English, which is spoken all over the state and all urban areas.

shillong nature PD

How to Get Here

The Shillong Airport, located around 35 KM from Shillong is the only airport in Meghalaya where commercial flights operate from. However, the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati serves as the nearest major airport to Shillong. It is connected by daily flights to all Indian cities and also to Bangkok.

The Government of Meghalaya operates twice-a-day helicopter service from the Guwahati Airport to the Shillong Heliport, located 10 km away from the city center.

There are no railway lines in Meghalaya. Guwahati is the nearest railway station located around 104 KM from Shillong.

Shillong is connected with Guwahati by NH 40. Various modes of transport including Shared taxis, Buses, and private cabs ply on this route. Shared sumos are available from right outside Guwahati Railway Station to Shillong for ₹160 per seat.

Getting Around

Any Meghalaya excursion should start from Shillong or Guwahati for convenience. Local non-AC buses, share sumos connect several parts of Meghalaya and other destinations of the North-East.

Though cheap, these buses are infrequent and inconvenient for both domestic and foreign travelers. Best is to hire a taxi for a day and cover your destinations.

So plan your itinerary in advance and accordingly make arrangements from Shillong for pick up from the resorts on the return leg. Otherwise, you may have to face delays. As tourism initiatives are mostly limited to Shillong and East Khasi Hills, travelers to Garo Hills (Tura, Williamsnagar), Jaitia Hills (Jowai) and West Khasi Hills (Nongstoin) should plan their route/itinerary considering the lack of proper tourism infrastructure.

Festivals of Meghalaya

Shad Suk Mynsiem

Celebrated in April, the rituals or ceremonies are conducted by individual family clans or the Khasi state (Hima). The dance is performed by unmarried girls dressed in their traditional best, dancing in slow painful steps with coyness; while the man circles the women in their lashing out swords and whips.

Photo: Performers at the festival / CCo

Behdeinkhlam Festival

It is celebrated by the people of the Niamtre religion. It is celebrated in July before the seed sowing season. The literal meaning of Behdeinkhlam is ‘Chasing away the Plague’. Rituals and sacrifices are made by the priest accompanied by the beating of drums and flutes.

Nongkrem Festival

The festival is celebrated for good harvest, peace, and prosperity. People from all over the country and the world come to witness the celebration that is accompanied by young women performing the Shad Kynthei and the men circling them performing the Shad Mystieh, as a symbol of male power and protection over the women.

Wangala festival

Today it is popularly known as The Hundred Drums festival. Accompanied by the cries of the leading warrior, he leads the boys and girls to synchronized dance steps with hand and heads gesturing movements. The festival is celebrated from September and December at popular places across Garo Hills.

Photo: Performers at the festival / CCo

Local Cuisine

Rice is the staple food and different varieties from the red rice to the sticky glutinous rice are grown and eaten in Meghalaya. The red rice from the Sung Valley is known to be particularly delicious. Pork in every form is enjoyed by all three communities. The Khasi and Jaintia cuisine are similar and use black sesame seeds to add a distinctive taste to the pork and other dishes. A cold salad of shredded pork with onions and ginger is also very popular.

During the early monsoon, different varieties of mushroom sprout all over the Jaintia and Khasi Hills and these make their way to the local markets. The mushrooms are either cooked in combination with the meat dishes or just fried lightly on its own.

Rice is cooked either plain or in combination with onions, ginger, and turmeric, giving it the characteristic yellow color; this is known as ‘jastem’. Another variation is the ‘jadoh’ which is rice cooked with meat (namely pork). Rice cakes called ‘putharo and the drier flaky ‘pumaloi are prepared from rice flour. Another variety is the deep fried jaggery sweetened pukhiein and steamed pusla usually eaten as snacks with tea.

Photo: Pukhiein- sweet dish / CCo

One of the most popular dishes among the Garos is the Nakham Bitchi dish, which is prepared from special dry fish, chilies and a pinch of soda. This is hot spicy soup and is usually served with rice, together with some other fish or meat dish, usually boiled with yam, pumpkin, gourd, chilies, and a dash of bamboo ash water.

These dishes are sometimes cooked wrapped in leaves or in fresh bamboo cylinders over an open fire, thereby infusing the food with the flavor of the leaves and green bamboo. Also popular among the Khasi, Jaintia and Garos are fish and meat preserved either by drying in the sun or smoking over a fire.

A variety of chutneys prepared from different types of herbs, fermented soya bean, and fermented fish always accompany the meals.

Photo: Bamboo shoot which is a local delicacy / CCo

How Safe Is Meghalaya

There is a general notion about safety in North East India but for tourist, Meghalaya is a safe place to travel in. You can safely venture out in the capital city until late evening to get a good dinner in one of the restaurants in the city center.

People and taxi drivers can be helpful as long as you take your precaution and know your limits you will find it easy to travel in this state.

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November 10, 2018 9:01 pm Published by

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