What you need to know before visiting Meghalaya

Photo: Shutterstock/ explorewithinfo

Nestled in the North-Eastern corner of the country, the hilly state of Meghalaya is an emerald jewel. The lush greenery of the forests and the sweet petrichor (the fragrance of rain) welcome you with their untouched charm as you step into the literal abode of clouds. Mawsynram in Meghalaya receives about 467 inches of rain annually. 

To say that Meghalaya is undiscovered isn't far from the truth! Yes, its capital – Shillong, is more frequented by travel enthusiasts, but that being said, Meghalaya has so much more to offer! With a bewitching history and sights that mesmerize the eyes, Meghalaya deserves to be on your travel wish list!

Smiling girls in traditional costumes with large beads and crowns on their heads at Shad Suk Mynsiem Festival in Shillong. Photo: Shutterstock/ Michal Knitl

Don't believe us? Here are some of the most unique sights and wonders Meghalaya has to offer:

1. The Mawlynnong village
Hidden away in the East Khasi hills, Mawlynnong inhabits perhaps the most exemplary society in the world, with a 100% literacy rate and a matriarchal social construct. Mawlynnong is also renowned for being the cleanest village in Asia, so much so that it has also been declared a world UNESCO heritage site. This village is about a three-hour drive from Shillong and has cute little homestay options available for tourists, should you wish to stay there. Stay or not, we highly recommend a day trip to Mawlynnong. 

2. Dawki River 
Easily one of the most Instagram-worthy places in Meghalaya, the Dawki River is a sight to behold! Also known as the Umngot River, the Dawki flows through the village of Mawlynnong and offers an amazing view of the majestic borders of Bangladesh. It is considered one of Asia's cleanest rivers; you can see the river's bed while taking a soothing boat ride over it (which will cost you about Rs. 500). Though the river is a breathtaking sight all year round, it is considered to be the cleanest in September. 

Tourists boating on the cleanest river Umngot at Dawki. Photo: Shutterstock/ Raj - Contributor

3. The Ancient Living Root Bridges 
Meghalaya, the wettest place on Earth, isn't particularly kind to wooden structures out in the open. Most tend to rot quickly and become redundant. To combat this, for centuries now, the tribal clans of Meghalaya have been 'training' the rubber tree roots to form natural bridges that become stronger with time as the roots grow. These 'living' bridges are the most sustainable and prudent structures given Meghalaya's climatic condition. The collaborative works of art by mother nature and man can be seen in their full glory in Cherrapunji and Shillong. 

Living roots bridge formed by training tree roots over years to knit together near Nongriat village, Cherrapunji. Photo: Shutterstock/ Abhijeet Khedgikar

4. The Limestone Caves
a. The Siju Caves: 
Located in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, the Siju Caves are limestone caves known for their stalagmites and stalactite formations. These caves are also known as the 'Bat Caves' because of the number of bats that live there. Numerous mysteries and stories cloud these caves that are rumoured and feared to be haunted!

b. The Mawsmai Caves: 
If travelling all the way to visit the Siju caves seems like a bit of a flex, Meghalaya has the perfect limestone caves for you, just six kilometres away from Cherrapunji! The Mawsmai caves are one of the longest caves in the country and the largest network of caves in the world, with over 700 caves. The Mawsmai caves continue to house fossils from pre-historic eras, preserved in their stalagmites and stalactite formations. These caves are one of the largest crowd pullers of Meghalaya and receive thousands of travellers each year. 

Multi-Layered Waterfall - Meghalaya. Photo: Shutterstock/ PhotozRam

The best time to visit Meghalaya:
Meghalaya is ethereally beautiful all year round, but most travellers certify that the best time to visit this paradise of clouds is in the winter months, from November to February. 

However, if you wish to witness the true beauty of nature in all its glory, we'd recommend travelling during monsoons. During the monsoon period, you can see innumerable waterfalls throughout Meghalaya. Also, it is a great time to see the locals move about in their large umbrellas called Kurup, made from locally grown cane and bamboo. The Kurup is known for enabling the user to remain hands-free. 

Magnificent View of Nohkalikai Falls. Photo: Shutterstock/ SOURADIP HALDER

How to get there:
Experiencing the serenity of Meghalaya is quite easy. The capital of Shillong has a fully equipped airport with frequent flights from all the country's major cities. 

Getting about: 
The best way to get about in Meghalaya, for day trips or transiting from one city to the next, is via cars. You can rent a car and drive down to your desired locations. Still, we highly recommend getting a cab with a local guide who can navigate the hilly troposphere of Meghalaya easily, even when your navigation system fails you.

What not to miss out on: 
The Cuisine: 
When in Meghalaya, you must remember to sample the local cuisine there. Meghalaya's street food offers a variety of meat and seafood dishes like the Nakham Bitchi and Doh- Khlieh, which are a party on a plate. But vegetarians needn't despair; you have several dishes for every diet genre. 

Retail Therapy: 
After so much sightseeing and gastronomy, if all you want to do is take a break and indulge in some retail therapy, Meghalaya's local markets have just what you'd want! Get some gorgeous handicrafts and cane products from Cherrapunji, and remember to carry back the delicious orange flower honey for all your loved ones. 

Now that you're equipped with all information about this scenic jewel, when are you booking your trip?


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