Top 10 Things to Do in Meghalaya

Top 10 things to do in Meghalaya

The first time that I saw the massive lumpy sheet of grey clouds pour into the valley where the Seven Sisters Waterfall dripped over an edge, I had to rub my eyes. The sight was something out of a dream sequence. It was my first day in Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, the once statistical winner of ‘highest rainfall in the country’ – now it’s Mawsynram, west of the former leader. Superlatives and statistics apart, the sight was breathtaking and set the mood perfectly for my 10 days in the state. Recapping the days for a friend when I came back, I set about picking the best experiences that she could encounter over a trip for the same number of days. Here are  my top  picks for Meghalaya.

1. Glass-like waters of Dawki and Schnongpdeng 

Top 10 things to do in Meghalaya

If the proliferation of blogs and books about these two destinations was anything to go by, the actual trip did not disappoint. The small border villages of Dawki (82km from Shillong) and Schnongpdeng (7.5km away) are not popular for lying at the edge of Bangladesh, but for the Umngot River that crosses both. One would think that you would take a boat ride and look at the edge of the river hamlets or greenery around. But here, it’s most prudent to peep over the edge of the water and look below – you can see the bed of the river. The water of Umngot is crystal clear enough to see schools of fish, boulders and the sandy bed clearly. In fact, the boats look like they are hanging mid-air.

2. Root Bridges

Top 10 Things to do in Meghalaya

Nongriat Double Decker Bridge (Photo Credit: Arijit Sahu)

Top 10 Things to Do in Meghalaya

The concept of root bridges has been alive in Meghalaya for thousands of years, but caught the attention of travellers when they were brought under the lens by the village of Laitkynsew. The valleys close to Cherrapunji are dotted with these unique natural bridges that have been made from diverting the roots of trees through bamboos and made to intertwine. So sturdy are these bridges that they have been veritable modes of crossing over streams or gushing rivers for eons. The most famous Double Decker and Long Route bridges lie close to the village of Nongriat (12.3 km from Cherrapunji). One has to leg about 3000 steep steps and cross rickety suspension bridges over rivers to get here. But the walk is worth it, once you see the marvel with your eyes, all the fatigue disappears.

3. Rainbow Waterfalls

Top 10 Things to Do in Meghalaya

On the same route as the Double decker bridge, walk 3km ahead, over undulating hills and a mix of paved and dirt path to reach the Rainbow Waterfall. The sobriquet is well assigned as the haze of water around the falls invariably forms a rainbow. The fact that not too many people make the additional journey means lesser footfall and more intrigue. The white sheet of water plunges into a deep blue pool of water with thunderous speed and impact.

4. Caving

The vast number of underground channels that exist in Meghalaya, make caving a legit sport. Sign up with Gregory Diengdoh (0364-2545621) to go for an adventure of a lifetime. Caving is more about technique than fitness – crawling, jumping and wading through knee deep water may be part of it. Well-equipped and trained instructors take people on daylong caving trips. There are a number of caves in the state but not all are open to general public, but Krem Liat Prah trumps all of them, as it is the longest in the country at 34km length. Caving can be easily organised as day trips from Cherrapunji.

5. Nohkalikai Waterfall

Top 10 Things to Do in Meghalaya

Meghalaya cannot be elusive from superlatives. And the most prominent one that is attached to the state is with the highest plunge waterfall, Nohkalikai in Cherrapunji. The strip of water changes in width in monsoons and otherwise, but the fascinating part of it is that it drops 340 meters down to a bed of large boulders, forming a thick haze of mist around. While most people stand by the edge of the valley at different viewing points, some choose to venture to the head of the falls. This can be only done in the summer months but is worth your while to see the moonscape like rock beds before the water dives down.

6. Teer

The local sport of archery offers a daily dose of gambling to thousands in the state. There are about 1500 kiosks that sell tickets to people who bet on numbers that a group of archers might plug into a hay target every afternoon. The sport is known as Thoh Tim, about 60 archers come every afternoon at 3.45 and shoot arrows into a target in quick succession. The total number of arrows shot inside the target determines the amount that can be one. A round 2 follows. Gamblers have a chance to win 80 times the money if they guess the number correctly. If they get both round 1 and 2 correct, the money can multiple 4000 times.  Teer is organised in Shillong on a daily basis but the bets are placed all across Meghalaya.

7. Tribute to Bob Dylan

There are a handful of places and people that have put Shillong on the rock music map of the country for decades. The leading rocker of the town, inspired by Dylan himself, is over 70 years now, but has the energy of a 20something. Lou Majaw, can be watched crooning in Cloud 9 bar and Café Shillong every week. Besides, Shillong is also home to the recently opened Dylan Café that is an ode to the legendary singer – right from the menu, graffiti and décor.

8. Jadoh Stalls

The direct translation of Jadoh is ‘rice meat’ but in normal parlance it is referred to the local khasi food that can be found in Meghalaya. While a number of great cafes dot the capital city, it’s the Jadoh stalls that make a real difference to a traveller’s authentic experience. Dingy outlets with benches and slim tables line the traditional Jahoh stall. Step into the stalls in the Bada Bazaar and Police Bazaar are to try local Khasi delicacies like Dohnud (liver), Nierbah (pork entrails), Tungtap (dried fish chutney) and other dishes. The most popular Jadoh stall in Police Bazaar is Tratorria.

9. Laitlum

Top 10 Things to do in Meghalaya

Image Credit: Ashwin Kumar

Alas, the imprint of Bollywood makes its way into the lesser known Laitlum area, on the outskirts of Shillong. Sprawling meadows that end in a large rocky plateau, which dips into a deep valley largely, defines the topography of Laitlum. A trekker’s paradise, there are some daredevil trails here, that lead to villages deep in the gorges. Rustic ropeways to carry goods can be seen hanging overhead, as one steps carefully on the narrow trails. Laitlum’s beauty lies in its off-the meted path look. Close to Laitlum is the village of Smit, traditional seat of power of the Hima Khyrim, a sub-tribe of the Khasis.

10. Mawlynnong

Top 10 Things to Do in Meghalaya

It will be a rare sight to spot a wrapper or an overflowing rubbish bin in the village of Mawlynnong. Declared as the cleanest village of Asia since 2003. The criteria for this have been proper drainage, attached toilets and a garbage disposal system. Even though hundreds of travellers tread the small village, it is immaculately clean. It is recommended to stay a night in the many homestays to support the local community and experience life at close quarters once the day traffic of tourists have left.

Vitals

Getting There: The easiest access to Meghalaya is by a combination of air and road; air travel to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport or Guwahati International Airport. Major air carriers connect Guwahati to most key cities of India. After reaching this gateway to the northeast, it is a 3-hour drive to Shillong (98km); cab fare starts from `2000 (you also opt for an Uber cab that will cost approx `1500, depending on where in Shillong you might want to go).

Getting Around:  The best way to get around in Shillong and Cherrapunji is by cabs. Scores of pint sized Maruti 800s still run in and around the city. Daylong chargers start from `2000 to cover sightseeing places.  The cars are able to negotiate some rough terrains as well, though the roads of the region are largely excellent. Book a cab with seasoned driver, Primal Pal (+91 9862102512)

Stay in Shillong:  ZV The Homestead (+91 96129 04717) is a Bed & Breakfast located in the centre of the town opposite St. Anthony’s College. The rooms are cosy, well equipped and the staff cheerful and extremely helpful.

Stay in Cherrapunji: 7 Sisters Falls View Inn (098625 42945) faces the namesake waterfalls. Expect gorgeous views, in-house dining and comfortable rooms.

Stay in Mawlynnong: Apart from a number of homestays that are available, Mawlynnong has one semi-luxury Bed & Breakfast called Areca Cottages (+91 80148 59700). The rooms overlook an areca but plantation. Wooden floors, thatch topped local flavour to the architecture and green surroundings are the highlights here.

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Top 10 Things to do in Meghalaya
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