As a nature lover and an avid hiker, Meghalaya has held my fascination since ages. Last year me and my best friend decided to bring in the new year from this scenic wonderland. I don’t think I have ever had a better start to a year than this.
From the unforgettable living root bridge trek to the sight of numerous thundering waterfalls plunging from the skies to sparkling green rivers, turquoise blue natural pools and green villages in the heart of nature, it is a visual epiphany all the way.
Although i packed all of this in 4 days’ time, here is a 7 day ideal Meghalaya itinerary that I highly recommend.
1. Day 1 – Arrive in Guwahati and go to Cherrapunjee
If you are traveling to this side of Northeast, chances are, you will land up mostly in Guwahati. It is well connected to Meghalaya. From the airport you should go to Paltan Bazaar, from where you can get shared cabs to Cherrapunjee.
These shared cabs don’t directly run till Cherrapunjee. They take you to Shillong and from there, you can take another one to Cherrapunjee (Also known as Sohra)
The total journey including breaks might take around 4-5 hours. So ensure you reach early morning in Guwahati.
Where to stay: Coniferous Resort
2. Day 2 – Mawsmai cave, Seven Sister falls and Nohkalikai Falls
Meghalaya is known for its numerous cave systems and the most popular amongst them is the Mawsmai cave. It’s one of the smaller caves in Sohra, but quite good to get a feel of caving.
The cave is spacious at most parts with only a few narrow passages which require squeezing and ducking. You can spot stalagmites and stalactites of various shapes and sizes at every nook and corner. The limestone formations inside the cave glittered when we beamed our flash lights on them.
The entire trail in the cave is well-marked and well-lit from entry to exit. If you are a little adventurous, you can go off track, crawl through tiny passages and discover massive hidden caverns. I did that, only to reach a dead end.
Don’t worry; it’s hard to get lost in this cave. And surprisingly i did not spot even a single bat in the cave.
How to reach: It is around 6 kms from Cherrapunjee. Since you would be visiting a couple of spots today, it makes sense to hire a private cab for the day. Also the entry to the cave starts only at 9.00 a.m.
Seven Sister Falls/ Nohsngithiang Falls
If you are traveling to Meghalaya in the monsoon time, then this waterfall will have your jaws touching the ground in no time.
A cascade of multiple streams plunging down 1000 foot cliffs, this waterfall epitomizes the beauty of Meghalaya during rains. A sea of clouds swirling over the lush green valley below just makes it picture perfect.
While most waterfalls in Meghalaya are at their prettiest in monsoons, Nohkalikai remains majestic even during the winter months.
At 1,115 feet, it is India’s highest plunge waterfall, dropping straight from the top of the plateau to the emerald green pool below. While we admired the grandeur of the falls from a view point, I later came to know that there are stairs you can take down the cliff to get even closer to the falls.
In the non-monsoon season, it’s possible to even trek to the bottom of the falls and swim in the pool formed underneath the fall. If you intend to do this, it’s better to take a guide with you.
The fall got its name from a tragic legend about a woman named Ka Likai who jumped to her death from the cliff. It is said that she was fed remains of her own daughter by her husband. The guilt made her commit suicide by taking the plunge. Hence the name stuck as Nohkalikai or “the leap of Likai”.
How to reach: The view point for Nohkalikai falls is just a 20 minute drive from Cherrapunjee.
3. Day 3 – Living Root bridge Trek
Like I keep saying, if there is one experience that perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Meghalaya, it is the living root bridge trek.
You will see an art of nature found nowhere else in the world. And to an extent it is man-made. Living root bridges are formed when massive roots are guided by villagers over a span of 15 years to mingle with each other and form sturdy bridges strong enough to support people. Over time, they get stronger.
They were actually built to help locals cross raging streams in the monsoon. Today, they have captured the travel world by storm.
The village of Nongriat has a double decker root bridge – one bridge stacked over another, a unique wonder found only in this village. There are single root bridges in other villages too.
The trek itself is so fascinating that you are left with a question. Which is better? The sight of the root bridge or the hike itself?
Walking through lush green forests, crossing wobbly bridges suspended over electric blue pools and swimming in the transparent waters of Rainbow falls is bound to drive your senses into a frenzy.
It’s that beautiful.
If you have a day more to spend, you can actually stay in Nongriat Village. There are two guesthouses where you can stay for as much as INR 300 per night.
Now, here is a disclaimer, the entire trek from the base village Tyrna to Nongriat takes around 5-6 hours and requires you to descend 2500- 3000 steps one way. The climb back up is certainly daunting, especially if you are not an active person. It is doable though. You just need to pace yourself well enough and start the trek early.
As the trek is long and tiring, it makes sense to carry some energy bars and 2-3 bottles of water with you. Of course, there are villages along the trek from where you can buy them.
How to reach: The base village Tyrna is a 30 minute drive from Cherrapunjee
4. Day 4 – Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village
I had never heard of this village until I started researching about Meghalaya. Dubbed “Asia’s cleanest village” in 2003, Mawlynnong is like a breath of fresh air. Actually, most of Meghalaya is like that.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into this village were its tree houses. Made of bamboo, these charming houses rise over tree-tops to give you a sneak peek into neighbouring Bangladesh. It’s a great place to spend your evenings, gazing at the sunset while sipping a cup of coffee.
A walk around the village reveals why it’s so clean. There are bamboo made dustbins across the village. There are specific rules to be followed when it comes to dumping waste, and it’s posted on a board right at the centre of the village.
There are neat walk ways built throughout the village, along which lie traditional thatched huts. Most of these houses have small gardens with colorful flowers. Needless to say, it’s a paradise for nature lovers.
But scenic beauty aside, it is a place where peace and tranquility are always within touching distance.
How to reach: It is a 4 hour drive from Cherrapunjee along pretty winding cliff side roads.
Where to stay: Henry’s Guesthouse
Note: Adventure freaks can try ziplining at Mawkdok Dympep Valley. It’s probably one of the best in India.
5. Day 5 – Umngot River in Dawki, Shnongpdeng and drive back to Shillong
Sometimes all it takes is an image to inspire you to travel. Ever since the unreal images of river Umngot took the internet world by storm, I’ve been swooning over its beauty.
The river flows through Dawki, a town on the Indo-Bangladesh border, which is a 2 hour drive from Mawlynnong. Even the drive to Dawki through the forest is a visual feast.
True to its fame, the Umngot is as sublime as the pictures claim. But like any natural wonder, pictures or words will fail to do justice to it.
Although most people take a boat ride across the river to appreciate its beauty, I trekked along the river gorge and found a rock to sit on and admire its translucent waters. And when the sun shines over it, the river sparkles and you can see all the way to the bottom. Nature at its dazzling best!
There is a village near Dawki called Shnongpdeng where the river is clearer and prettier. Unfortunately, I missed it on my trip, but hopefully you won’t. But then like all places I have been to, I have a reason to go back, yet again.
From Dawki, you can hire a shared cab to Shillong. The drive would take around 3-4 hours.
6. Day 6 – Elephant Falls, Umiam Lake and Laitlum Canyon in Shillong
Shillong, in comparison to the rest of the places on this list will seem a bit touristy.
One of the popular places is Umiam Lake, also called “Bara Pani” or Big Water. It’s a pretty lake wrapped around lush green hills. And there are these small islands which pop out in between, which make the lake even prettier. You can try boating and kayaking on the lake.
Falling in multiple cascades, Elephant falls got its name from an Elephant faced stone at the lower most layer. Although I must say, I could barely identify an elephant face in the rocks.
There are three different vantage points from where you can view each of the three layers. There are stairs built along the entire route.
How to reach: It’s a 30 minute ride from Shillong.
There are tonnes of other places you can visit like Wards Lake, Shillong Peak and the Don Bosco Museum. You can also shop at Police Bazaar.
If you have another day to spare, you can check out Laitlum Canyons, a little explored haunt with views of stunning gorges and mist covered valleys. I highly recommend it.
Where to stay in Shillong: Eee Cee Hotel
7. Day 7 – Shillong to Guwahati
Take a shared cab from Shillong and head to Paltan Bazaar Guwahati. The journey will take around 2-3 hours. From Paltan Bazaar you can head to the Airport.
Best time to visit Meghalaya
Although Meghalaya is prettiest during monsoons, when lashing rains lend it a resplendent green avatar, traveling could get hit due to heavy rains. So the best time to visit is ideally between October to April.