I was barely able to control my excitement. My friend had registered for a monsoon run in Cherrapunji, and we were planning a trip to Meghalaya, a state located in the North East of India. Visiting Meghalaya in the monsoons had been a childhood dream, after reading a chapter on Cherrapunji in our course book. It was then the wettest place on the planet. The title now rests with the neighbouring Mawsynram village in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. Here is an itinerary on things to do in Meghalaya that I recommend based on my own experiences.
Charmed by Meghalaya
Day 1 Morning
Reach Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya
Fly to Guwahati.
There are a number of transport options available from the Gopinath Bordoloi Airport in Guwahati, including shared taxis. They typically charge Rs. 300 per passenger and drop you at Police Bazaar in Shillong.
We decided to board the airport shuttle run by Meghalaya Tourism. The shuttle departs from the Guwahati Airport twice a day, at 2.00 p.m & 4.00 p.m and charges Rs. 250 per passenger. You can buy the tickets at the Meghalaya Tourism Information Centre inside the Guwahati Airport.
Shillong is about 117 kilometres away, but the journey can stretch up to four hours due to traffic congestion.
Day 1 afternoon/ evening:
Chill out at Cafe Shillong
Check in at your hotel or homestay. For a royal experience, stay at the Heritage Tripura Castle in Shillong built in the 1920s by Maharaja Bir Bikram.
The long journey to Shillong is a tad tiring, so keep the agenda for Day 1 light. Cafe Shillong at Laitumkhrahon is a beautiful place to unwind over cups of coffee and catchy music. I enjoyed eating a traditional rice and meat dish while listening to a singer jamming live at the Cafe. Meghalaya food is yum!
My first meal in Meghalaya. At Cafe Shillong.
Day 2 morning
Drive to Mawlynnong
From Shillong, drive to Mawlynnong early morning (start at about 5 a.m.) to avoid the rush. Hike to the single decker living roots bridge. The living root bridges have been built over many years by entwining the aerial roots of Ficus Elastica trees. The Mawlynnong village is regarded as Asia’s cleanest village, with cleanliness and waste segregation deeply ingrained among the people. You can spot bamboo baskets positioned outside each house to ensure there is no littering.
I devoured a plateful of hot Maggi noodles at Mawlynnong village — it was the perfect comfort food in the midst of rain and mist.
At the living root bridge in Mawlynnong / (c) Gitika Saksena
Day 2 afternoon/ evening:
At Dawki, a river runs through the border
If weather permits, you can cover Dawki on Day 2 itself. The drive takes about an hour and a half. The town is located in the West Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. The India – Bangladesh international border here is defined by the Umngot river that runs from the Indian side to the Bangladeshi area.
A boat ride on the crystal clear waters of Umngot is a must. You can see the river bed through the twelve-feet-deep emerald green waters of the Umngot — it’s so clean! The fare of the boat ride is negotiable.
You can head back to Shillong in the evening or choose to stay at Mawlynnong village. Mawlynnong Nongrai Homestay and Meghalaya Village Mawlynnong Bamboo Cottage are two good options at Mawlynnong.
Fishermen at Dawki river / CC BY-SA 4.0 / AditiVerma2193
Day 3 morning
Visit Mawsmai Cave and Nohkalikai Falls at Cherrapunji
Of the ten longest and deepest caves in India, nine are found in Meghalaya. The Mawsmai Cave near Sohra (Cherrapunji) is a must-see with its dim-lit passages and limestone formations.
The spectacular Nohkalikai Falls is a top rated Meghalaya attraction. It is the tallest plunge waterfall in India, with a height of 340 metres. Fed by rainwater, the waterfall is at its vociferous best during and after the monsoons.
Adventure buffs can also try zip-lining at the Mawkdok – Dympep Valley, the zip-line is 2600 feet long and 1200 feet high. If that is not your cup of tea, you can admire the valley views from the Duwan Sing Syiem bridge. Cafe Cherrapunji located close to the bridge is a good pit-stop for lunch.
At Mawkdok bridge near Cherrapunji. (c) Gitika Saksena
Day 3 evening:
Gallivant at Police Bazaar
Head to Police Bazaar, a lively market area where you can shop for locally made bamboo and cane handicrafts. If you are willing to experiment, there are a number of street food stalls here.
Your trip is incomplete if you do not try out the local cuisine at Trattoria restaurant at Police Bazaar. Traditional Khasi dishes are served here, do sample Jadoh (rice and pork) and Jhur-Kleh (mixed vegetables).
At Police Bazaar, Shillong. (c) Gitika Saksena
Day 4 morning
Pick up souvenirs at Bara Bazaar
For shopping in Meghalaya, Lewduh or Bara Bazaar is an exciting destination, it is among the largest and oldest trade markets in the North-East. You can pick up interesting souvenirs including local spices – Shyrmit (turmeric powder), Sohmirit (Khasi pepper), handcrafted knives and betel nut cutters. The market is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on all days except Sunday.
Afterwards, you can visit the Don Bosco Centre to know more about the region’s indigenous cultures and artefacts.
Day 4 afternoon/ evening
Admire the panoramic vistas of Umiam Lake
The scenic and tranquil Umiam Lake lies en route from Guwahati to Shillong. You can walk up to its shore and marvel at the beauty of this hill-flanked Lake. Enjoy a relaxing walk through the Nehru Park that lies on the shores of the Lake. For lunch, Ri Kynjai’s Northeastern restaurant – ‘Sao Aiom’ located at Umniuh Khwan, UCC Road is a great option.
Umiam Lake. (c) Gitika Saksena
On Day 5, head back to Guwahati airport. Plan for four hours of travel time at least. We got stuck in traffic on our way out of Shillong. Depending on the time of your flight, you can also visit the famous Kamakhya temple at Guwahati. And with that, its a wrap on your fabulous trip to Meghalaya!
NohKaliKai Falls in Meghalaya / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Kunal Dalui