Meghalaya - A gem abode of clouds
A lot of you might have seen those bits and pieces of mini - blogs about Meghalaya on my Instagram feed. So guys, first of all, thanks a ton for landing at my favorite corner on the internet and I hope you enjoy reading my blogs. Based on my experience, here are a few important things you should be considering while planning a trip to Meghalaya in north east India. (Please note that this blog is just a story & information guide right now, I am not provoking any travels right now due to COVID-19, You can refer them later once we are back to normal situation)
Trip Time/Month: Yes, it's the most important factor to consider while planning your next trip to Meghalaya. As the name suggest Meghalaya which means "abode of clouds" in Sanskrit, this place is a pure heaven amidst cloud. Meghalaya witnesses the heaviest rain of the year in India and known as the wettest place on earth. Also, it borders Bangladesh and is surrounded by tropical forests from north to south. Since it rains here throughout the year mostly, the best beauty you can spot in Meghalaya is, waterfalls. There are plenty of them and all of them are equally beautiful and adventurous to explore. So the point here is that you can plan your Meghalaya trip depending on the type of weather you like. Since it's popular for its gorgeous waterfalls and cloud wonders, we decided to hit it in just after the monsoon. So the peak monsoon season in Meghalaya is July and beginning of August. We traveled in third week of August which was pretty good, pleasant and wonderful. But make sure, you don't plan during heavy rain and flood times. If you are trapped during those times, you can't witness the crystal clear Dawki river and natural pools. So yes, it's bit tricky to decide the right time for Meghalaya. If you love rains, go in monsoons for some mind blowing adventures. If you want to witness light rains and showers once in a while then, April, May, June, September and October is the perfect time to go.
Travel Duration: Yes, second most important thing to consider is how long you are going to stay in Meghalaya. My personal opinion, don't rush otherwise you will miss a lot of untouched places. We explored it for 9 days! :) Which was quite surprising for us because even we didn't think that we will drop our plan for Tawang to be in Meghalaya for few more days. So yes, ideally minimum of 1 week, you should have for Meghalaya. You can expand it but no don't make it less please. Well, for us 9 days were also less since we still missed few great places which i will mention in this blog later.
Transport: So once you are clear on these two points, planning your trip to Meghalaya will become super easy. There are various ways to travel to Meghalaya. Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and is very well connected with the road & airways. The nearest railway station is in Guwahati, which is about 98 km from Shillong. Shillong has also got airport, but most of flights for Shillong will be connecting ones with more transit time, so better to land at Guwahati which has got numerous flights from most of the Indian cities. Also, If you are planning a tight time travel then, taking a flight to Guwahati and then hiring a private taxi would be a good idea. Once you land at Guwahati, the private taxi stand is just walk-able and you can hire a taxi. Mostly they will charge you around 1500-1800 INR max(Or may be lesser, if you negotiate well). Also, for shared taxis you need to go to Paltan Bazaar. Shillong is popular for it's plague like traffic. Ideally it should take 3 hour to reach but because of traffic issues you might get stuck for additional 2-3 hours just before entering Shillong city. But the scenic beauty doesn't make you tired :)
Stay: Well, Shillong is quite accessible hill station with a lot of guest houses, homestays, airbnbs and luxury stays! Best thing to do if you don't want to splurge money is; to book an airbnb with a super host and voila :) We stayed in Shillong for two days, once in the beginning and on the last night of our trip. Here is my recommendation for stay in Shillong. It's called Xanadu Home Stay and it's just beautiful. You can literally make the best time lapse videos of clouds from this guesthouse. Now you can imagine how pretty it is. It's well decorated, hygienic with lot of bright colour flowers. And the host is amazing, we loved the Poha she offered us in morning. Also the dog.. Wohuuu he used to be always suspicious about new guests coming in and going out, but well this is what you expect in an army colony, so it's cool.
Costume & Gears: Since it's one of the wettest place on earth, the rain might occur anytime in Meghalaya. Some gears which you should definitely carry with you, are raincoats, swim wears, track pants & shorts, sports t-shirts, umbrellas, waterproof hiking shoes/bags/ rain covers, extra inner wears, sunscreens, caps and slippers etc.
So yes, now let's begin the 9 days Meghalaya trip.
We started our flight from Bangalore and landed at Guwahati
around 10 AM in the morning. Since we were 4 people, we booked/hired a private taxi at Guwahati airport for Shillong and paid 1800 bucks(INR) for it. On the way we stopped for some Assamese lunch. It was a rainy and cloudy day. After riding on wet roads amidst lush green forests for about 3 hours, we crossed Umiam Lake which is just before Shillong. It looked wonderful during rains. And after crossing Umiam Lake, yes we were trapped in traffic for about 3 hours on a 3 km stretch just before Shillong city :) No wonder traffic is a plague in Shillong. (Well the reason is, hilly terrain and narrow roads). We had booked a home stay through airbnb in Shillong central near police bazaar which is quite popular for shopping and most of the attractions are quite close from here. Since we reached quite late in the evening, we decided to just freshen up, have tea and explore Shillong local. We explored a bit of local market, eateries and returned to guest house. And then planned the excursion for next day and slept off.
Since we were staying in main Shillong city, near Police Bazaar, most of the Shillong attractions were quite close from our guest house. So we decided to explore the city without taxi. One amazing thing I would like to introduce about Shillong is that sunrise happens here quite early in the morning. At 5 O'clock, we saw plenty of sun rays in our Guesthouse. That means the sunrise might have happened around 4:45 AM or so. It was quite strange for me. We had our breakfast at 7 AM and then were ready for our day trip by 7:30 AM. We left the guest house at 7:30 AM and just walked to explore local attractions of Shillong.
Well, Shillong is quite popular for it's beautiful churches and our first attraction was Mary Help of Christians Cathedral, Shillong. This church is quite big and has a very different architecture. It can be easily accessed as it's located in the central of the city. You can certainly have a tranquil and peaceful time over here. This church offers and amazing view of Shillong.
After this we started heading towards All Saints Church which is also in Shillong central. We spent some really serene time here.
The best thing which happened on Day -2 was spending the noon at Laitlum grand canyon. Laitlum means 'End of Hills' and this place justifies it very well. It's literally on the edge and looks quite dangerous if you see down. But the bird-eye view is so spectacular from here. This was one of my most liked places around Shillong. To reach here, you need to hire a taxi and it will take approximately 45 minutes. If you are comfortable driving, then you can drive as well. The last motorable road is 2 km before the summit. So, you will have to park your vehicle and start hiking towards the canyon. We paid 1500 to the taxi driver for Laitlum from Shillong and then drop at Cherrapunji with all the sightseeing in between. After visiting this heaven, we started our journey towards Cherrapunji. The drive from Shillong to Cherrapunji is gorgeous. There are a lot of beautiful falls on the way like elephant falls, some lesser known falls and mountains which keeps you awake in the whole journey :)
We reached Sohra, main town of Cherrapunji around 6:30 PM and stayed at an airbnb! It was quite late in the night, we just relaxed at the guesthouse and slept off after having dinner. Since, the place is not so hustling, I would suggest not to roam around in the night.
Day 3: Our day 3 was little difficult since we were not able to connect with our taxi driver whom we had booked for the next day excursions. We were ready by 7:00 AM in the morning, but unfortunately he did not turn up. Then we decided to just walk a little bit and ask for the taxis. Finally after a few of the negotiations, we got one person 'Rocky' who was ready to show us Cherrapunji and drop at our next location. If you want the contact number of Rocky, I can help you with. He is an amazing taxi driver. Since we were quite late, we started our day 3 excursion at 9:30 AM from Sohra, Cherrapunji.
Nohkalikai Fall : Our first attraction point was Nohkalikai Falls, It's one of the tallest plunge waterfalls I have seen till now. Height of the waterfall is about 1115 feet. The natural pool is slightly green in color. The fall is surrounded by misty clouds and lush green forests and rocks. Best time to visit this place is July-August because the fall will be brimming with water. I so wanted to trek down and experience this closely but we did not had much time so we did not go down.
Seven Sisters Fall: This was our second stop. This waterfall is a pool of seven separate falls which are perfectly aligned parallel to each other. It looks quite magnificent when the monsoon is on peak. Though we went in August, but monsoon was almost over in Cherrapunji. July is the peak time. So it looked okay and not very intriguing.
This was our third touristy stop and it's about 20-30 minutes from Sohra, Cherrapunji. It's quite an adventurous & magical experience to enter in the cave. This cave has got limestone and water keeps dripping out of it. You will have to squeeze yourselves at some points in cave ;) while enjoying these natural formations of cave. To enter in the cave, you will have to pay for the ticket which is about 20 rps.
Double Decker Living Root Bridge Trek: It's already 11:30 and now we are heading towards our most adventurous part of the day which is "trek to Double Decker living root bridge". Our taxi driver dropped us at the trek starting point in Tyrna village which is about 30-40 minutes from Sohra, Cherrapunji. The trek was difficult because of steep descents, flat taxiing on suspension bridges and steep ascends. There are about 3500 steps and descends approximately 2400 feet one way.
The trek involves continuous ascends and descends. It's kind of difficult for people who are trekking for the first time.
And, also if you are scared of height. So the more we descended inside the deep forest nestled amidst dense forest and valley, we could not resist admiring this mesmerizing beauty of Nongriat village and the Double Decker living root bridges amidst lush green forests. Few portions of these forests are preserved untouched due to religious beliefs and culture. These are called as 'Sacred Groves' and they represent a tradition of rich environmental conservation based on some ancient belief and history. It is said that these sacred groves are used by locals to perform some special rituals and religious activities and thus kept untouched by local inhabitants. Meghalaya has a lot of sacred groves and it's believed that one should not 1)pluck the plants, 2) Disturb the nature in any way, 3) Do photography or 4) Any nature's call here. Point is to just keep it sacred.
In terms of costume, It's better to carry light sports wear for the trek and also some swimwears to soak in the natural crystal clear pools. Well, we reached in 2 and a half hours and spent about 45 minutes at the Double Decker pool. So guys, out of my experience, I would suggest you to keep minimum 3 days for Cherrapunji so that you can explore a lot of other beautiful things which we missed due to time constraint. We missed rainbow falls which is another 1 and a half hour trek from Double Decker. Also, we should have stayed at beautiful Nongriat village for at least 1 night which we could not because we had to return the same day due to taxi bookings for Mawlynnong :( Our taxi driver was waiting uphill so we wrapped and started trekking to reach at the taxi stand/trek starting point. Coming up was more tough due to uphill but somehow We made it in two half hours.
It was already 5:00 PM therefore we started heading towards our next destination. Again, the route from Tyrna Village to Mawlynnong is absolutely amazing. Since, we had to reach Mawlynnong by 8 PM, we just had a cup of coffee on the way and decided to have dinner directly at our destination. So, yes it was 8:30 and we were inside the Asia's cleanest village which is Mawlynnong. We paid 'Rocky' 4500 for the whole excursion and bid goodbye to him. We had already booked our stay through airbnb, so directly hit the guesthouse which is centrally located in Mawlynnong. After checking in, we came out of the guesthouse and headed to this amazing place for dinner. So the story of this restaurant is that when we got down from the taxi, we saw a lot of crowd here and we were like, okay this is going to be our place for dinner today. And, yes the food here proved it all. They served typical khasi plate which had chicken , rice, some Aloo Bhujia, and the typical khasi chutney which is just too good. The place name is Dapbiang Restaurant. Food was very satisfactory since we were quite hungry as well. After food, we returned to the guesthouse and slept off for the next day adventure.
(So, there was a little change in our plan, initially we had decided to cover Tawang as well along with Meghalaya. But after speaking to the local drivers and community we decided to drop the plan of Tawang because of less time. So guys, please remember when you will read blogs on internet, you might find that you can do Tawang in 9-10 days along with Meghalaya, which is not true according to me. Because if you are going to do that, you will miss a lot of things in Meghalaya and also in Tawang which is in Arunachal Pradesh. And instead of an exploration, it will become like tick marking the bucket lists. This was the precise reason, we dropped our plan of Tawang, Because of this we have now a lot of days left to explore /Meghalaya properly. And we were so happy with this decision :)
Day 4 : Started with rain showers and red tea amidst this beautiful cleanest village of Asia. Yes, Mawlynnong received accolade for the cleanest village in Asia and its quite visible. You won't spot even a paper on any of the corners. This village has set an example to several other villages. The village is a community based tourism and its managed really well. You will spot bamboo garbage bins on the corners which adorns to its beauty. So, our morning began with a cup of Red Tea which is quite popular in Meghalaya. Since we were extending our stay in Mawlynnong and had booked the guesthouse for just one day, this morning we had to move to some other guest house. There are abundance of guesthouses available in Meghalaya, so no worries if you have not pre-booked it (unless it's Christmas season).
Our host was so warm and welcoming who offered me the local traditional khasi dupatta known as 'dhara' on just one mention of "wow this looks so nice, teach me how to wear it" Such love is rare. So, Yes people are really nice across whole of Meghalaya. We bid goodbye to our host and started walking towards our next home-stay which was close by like it was her friend's house next door.
In just 2 minutes we reached another guesthouse and after checking in, we came out for breakfast. Our plan was to explore the local village, church of epiphany and then living root bridges. After having the meal we returned to our guesthouse since we really needed some rest to trek again for the living root bridge. After a 2 hour nap and 2-3 UNO sessions, We planned to start our excursion for today. Since it's a very small village, we decided to explore it by just walking, also you get to see a lot of offbeat things which you miss when you are in a taxi. That's why we did not book any taxi and simply started walking after having our lunch.
The lunch included again typical khasi food, Ohh I was in love with
the local food of Meghalaya.
After having lunch we started to roam around and the first stop was Church of Epiphany which was hardly 3 minutes walk from the center where we had stayed. We spent some time over here and then moved to the next destination which is basically a tree house and you can see Bangladesh from there :)
Now comes our adventurous part of the day which is a trek to Mawlynnong living root bridge. So like I mentioned, we decided to walk. It was about 7 kms from the center and it was kind of drizzling but we had our umbrellas so it was okay. Also the signmarks won't make you lost if you are planning to walk. So this was the rain harvesting stream we crossed which was totally untouched :) After a successful hike and a few descends downwards we reached living root bridge of Mawlynnong.
After spending some tranquil time amidst the woods, sacred groves and old living root bridges we returned back following the same trail. Well it started raining quite heavily suddenly the moment we reached near our guesthouse. It was so cloudy, nothing was visible. This was the time when we felt that whatever we heard in our childhood about cherrapunjee on doordarshan news was not false. This was real Meghalaya - the wettest place in India.
We had coffee amidst the cloud and waited for the rain to stop. And once, it slowed down we started walking towards our guesthouse. By 7:30 we were inside our guesthouse. Since we were super tired, we quickly came out and had dinner at our favorite place and wrapped the day with a good night's sleep.
Day - 5, when we were little sad about leaving this beautiful, cleanest and tiny village. We had booked a taxi through the guesthouse and it picked us around 8:00 AM in the morning for our next adventure. We just had a quick bite of bread toasts and coffee for breakfast before we started our travel today. Believe me these two three days in Meghalaya, it was raining continuously. And we were really scared of floods and all.
Well, thankfully nothing happened though the weather was extremely cloudy. Our plan was to reach dawki, do boating and them camping at Shnongpdeng. On the way we saw balancing rock, some really nice scenic cloud wonders, Bophill waterfall, India -Bangladesh View Point and some more beautiful offbeat falls.
We reached Dawki around 1:00 PM. Since, it was raining heavily. Well Meghalaya rains are unpredictable during monsoon, we could not stop at dawki and planned to reach at shnongpdeng directly though we were not in a condition to camp as well due to rain. We had already booked for camping but unfortunately due to rain, it got cancelled and we got the refund. But we did not have a guest house booked, so it took about 20-25 minutes to find a nice guest house amidst that heavy rain. Well, we landed at one of the most beautiful place which was besides dawki river and surrounded by betel nut trees. We checked -in and changed our clothes since we were totally wet :) And after that, we just came out for lunch. Since it was raining heavily, boating was closed that day. So we just chilled out at the guesthouse while enjoying the mysterious clouds & view around us. It was such an incredible view.
Day - 6, After having breakfast at the guesthouse, we started walking towards the Dawki river for boating around 8:00 AM. Woahhh, Day-6 was the wettest day of all 9 days of our trip to Meghalaya. We never used our raincoats but this place made us do. Even with the raincoat, we felt like OMG this is it. This was real Meghalaya. It rained so heavily , that we could not do boating :( But well, its alright! We had gone to see rain in Meghalaya. We just walked & shot a couple of photos on the hanging bridge. We spent about 2 hours, just looking at the water, the view and the people fishing. And then we returned to our guesthouse and checked out right away and headed to our next destination via taxi.
Our host at the guesthouse was very generous and he decided to drop us till Dawki village while showing us Bangladesh - India Border. Well this is one of the very popular borders where a lot of trade happens between these two countries. We reached Dawki around 10 AM and booked a taxi right there. You can get a lot of taxis immediately so there is need to book in advance all the time. We had planned to see Krangsuri falls. Well, Krangsuri is one of the best falls in Meghalaya according to me. Well, guys again the road from Dawki to Jowai is very pleasant and this fall comes in between with a slight diversion. Its surrounded by lush green hills and forests and it looked surreal. Well, unpredictable rains were a little upsetting part about Meghalaya trip, since we could not see the real crystal clear dawki river due to heavy rain.
So, finally after 3 hours of thrilling car ride in rain, we reached Krangsuri falls. Well we were able to see it from quite far. So you got to trek down the hill to reach at the waterfall. And you can have a bird-eye view from the trek starting point. The beauty of this fall is defined by its sprinkling water falling from the top which gets merged into the natural crystal clear water. Due to continuous waterfall, it didn't appear like it is originally but definitely not less beautiful than that. The waterfall had turned so gigantic and it was such a thrilling experience to watch this incarnation of Krangsuri falls. Well, crystal clear water was not in our destiny during this trip.
After spending some magical time at Krangsuri falls, we decided to head towards our destination which is Jowai. It was still raining, the roads were totally wet, the falls were plunging heavily with water, It was one of the best trips of my life. I had seen so many things like mountains, beaches, historical places but there was something about Meghalaya which had made me fall for it. And, I am definitely going again.
So we reached Jowai around 5:30 PM and decided to stay at Oyo. Well, I have never seen this beautiful Oyo guesthouse before. This was such an incredible place to stay. I say it because of two reasons, it gives absolutely mind boggling view of rice terraces and the rooms were quite decent with polite staffs and gorgeous view. We wrapped our day with some nice coffee and then dinner.
Since this place was so beautiful and also we did not have any bookings in advance, we decided to extend our stay here for one more day.
Day-7, I woke up quite early in the morning around 7 AM and decided to go for a small walk around the guest house. And, I was awestruck with the gorgeous view of Jowai rice fields. Jowai is an exquisite destination in Meghalaya, located in Jaintia Hills. It maintains quite chilly and refreshing weather due to Myntdu river. After the walk we returned to our guesthouse and decided to relax for the whole day and just enjoy the view.
We wrapped our day-7 at Jowai while doing a bit of stargazing from the guest house in night.
We woke up at 7 AM and walked about 2 kms to get the taxi for planned excursions. We left the guesthouse at 09:40 AM after breakfast. Our plan was to first see Tyrshi Falls and then have brunch at one of the most happening cafes of Meghalaya which is ML05. Tyrshi falls is one of the main attractions of Jowai and one needs to hike little bit and then trek steep downhill to reach at the fall.
Our driver dropped us at the parking stop. From there we had to hike through rice terraces since the road is not a motorable one. We reached at the starting point of trek around 10:45 AM and then started walking downhill on steps. It's hardly a 15 minutes walk and this fall was just breathtaking.
I can not explain how beautiful it looked. By the way, the rain had already stopped & that's why we were able to witness this gorgeous fall in it's right shape :) After spending some tranquil time at Tyrshi falls, we climbed back and returned to the parking spot by 11:30 AM.
Again, following the same beautiful roads, cauliflower farms, lush green forests, we finally arrived at ML05 cafe. Yes, you heard it right.
ML05 - quite known beautiful tiny cafe is located about 10 kms from Shillong, is nestled amidst the pine trees, it's a hidden treasure to cherish and satiate your taste buds. Don't miss breakfasting or brunching in ML05 when you are in Meghalaya. We ordered a couple of nice cheese loaded stuff and some desserts (Please find them on my instagram feed). The ambience was perfect at the cafe. Since it was light rain showers and the weather turned quite pleasant. After this, we started heading towards Shillong.
To conclude, we took a circle tour of Meghalaya, Here is the map & itinerary which we followed.
We reached Shillong around 3:00 PM and checked in to our homestay, which we had booked through booking.com, the place name is Xanadu Abode the cloud, Shillong.
This homestay gave us the excellent view of Shillong city along with the perfect cloud landscapes for those time-lapse videos. The view was simply breathtaking from here.
We relaxed for sometime and then decided to just see the shillong city, nightlife and do some shopping. Well Shillong is popular for its rock music, which can be experienced in Dylan's Cafe, ML05 Cafe and few more. Interesting thing about Shillong city is that it sleeps around 9:30 and most of the restaurants are closed by 9:30. Since we were so engrossed with shopping, we reached Dylan's cafe quite late and they were on the verge of shutting it. We returned from the cafe and started hunting for some shop wherein we can at least get some maggie packets to cook at our homestay. Well, everything was almost shut near our guesthouse and thankfully we got one shop where we bought maggie packets. Since this guesthouse is located in army colony, everything around here was shut quite early. Thus we wrapped our night after maggie+milk as dinner.
Day-9, Started with delicious Poha, toasts and chai as breakfast, which was offered by our benevolent guesthouse owner. Well, this was our last day in Shillong and i can't explain the view which we were able to witness in the morning. It was such a refreshing feeling being amidst the clouds and beautiful shillong city.
With this we wrapped our trip and bid goodbye to Shillong around 09:00 AM, since we had to reach Guwahati to catch our flight for Bangalore. On the way we stopped for 15 minutes and took some shots at Umiam Lake since we could not capture it while coming due to rain :)
Hope you enjoyed reading this full trip guide & travel story of Meghalaya. Please comment, if you want specific information with regards to any of the places mentioned in this blog.
Enjoy reading travel stories during this lockdown period. I am doing the same :)
You can also connect with me on instagram in case of any questions/trip itinerary or collaborations with regards to Meghalaya. My Social handle is @tinystunningstories :)
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Stay Home & Safe Guys.