Top Places to visit in Meghalaya and other Meghalaya destinations
The state of Meghalaya is easily one of the most popular and accessible of the Northeastern states, or Seven Sisters as they are so-called. With plenty of places to visit in Meghalaya, the region makes for a relatively popular destination amongst Indians mostly, as many Meghalaya destinations are less known to foreign tourists.
Follow our post to learn all about the top places to visit in Meghalaya and other Meghalaya destinations!
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Where is Meghalaya?
Meghalaya is situated in the Northeast of India, a region made up of seven (or eight if you include Sikkim) states, many of which are tribal. Meghalaya is bordered by the country of Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam, another of the Seven Sisters.
Some of the top places to visit in Meghalaya include the wettest place in the world, some very unique living root bridges, as well as the gorgeous emerald-green Umngot river in Dawki. Caves and waterfalls abound in the region, with plenty of Meghalaya destinations to keep a visitor in awe for several days, if not weeks.
Meghalaya is home to three main tribes, the largest of which is the Khasi tribe, architects of the most famous of all the places to visit in Meghalaya – the magnificent living root bridges of Cherrapunji.
Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is often called Scotland of the East, due to the similar landscape, with lush rolling hills, winding roads and waterfalls. We quickly discovered that the weather in Shillong can get pretty cold too!
Getting to Meghalaya
Meghalaya is one of the more accessible of the Northeastern states. Shillong is only a few hours sumo ride away from Guwahati in Assam, the gateway to northeast India. The roads are in good shape and so traveling between these states is a breeze.
Sumos run regularly between the two Northeast capitals. We believe that there are also buses running between the two towns, but we didn’t verify this, since traveling by sumo is the easiest option in Northeast India.
If you’re looking at traveling to Shillong from the southernmost of the Northeastern states, your best bet would be to change sumo in Silchar. We were in Aizawl, Mizoram, before traveling to Meghalaya. We booked a ticket on a sumo running from Aizawl to Shillong, during which we stopped for lunch and a driver change in Silchar.
The whole journey lasted a tiring 13 hours – normally, travel time between Aizawl and Shillong is shorter, but we wasted about an hour staring at a mechanic trying to repair the sumo engine somewhere along the way. The ticket cost Rs 1100 (about € 13.80) each.
Getting to Shillong from Guwahati on the other hand is a far easier trip, lasting less than 3 hours.
Getting Around Meghalaya
Although the more popular Meghalaya destinations are accessible by sumo, some of the places to visit in Meghalaya are rather off the beaten track and driving your own vehicle is the preferred way of getting around.
If, like us, you are restricted to using public vehicles or taxis, you will be interested in knowing that the Department of Tourism in Meghalaya organizes affordable tours by coach (or sumo depending on the numbers) to the top places to visit in Meghalaya.
Related: The Best Places to Visit in Tripura, India
We infinitely preferred making our own way to the different Meghalaya destinations by using the ever-present sumos, but we were plagued by fever during our time in the state, and then got stuck in Shillong for a while due to a bandh (similar to that in Arunachal Pradesh), during which all transport was halted.
The result was that we were very short on time for sightseeing and decided to take one of the organized tours to see some of the top places to visit in Meghalaya, including Dawki/Umngot, Mawlynnong and others. The ticket cost Rs 500 (about €6.50) each which was actually quite affordable given that we were driven around for about 9 hours in a sumo van. The bus, also organized by the same tourism office, is cheaper at Rs 350 (about € 4.50) each.
If you would like to join an organized tour, you can contact the tourism office in Shillong in Police Bazaar. They were extremely helpful and explained all about the different tours and what we would likely experience on each one. We actually booked two trips with them, one of which was cancelled due to the ongoing bandh. You can book a trip earlier by turning up at the office and paying a deposit, although confirmation of the trip only occurs when the minimum passenger quota is reached.
We did manage to use public transport and make our own way to Cherrapunji and Nongriat independently though, via a combination of sumo, taxi and hiking. Details on how we did this are included in a section further down.
Places to visit in Meghalaya
You might feel confused with the abundance of Meghalaya destinations which, compared to other attractions in Northeast India, are not hard to visit at all. We will list here however, our list of top places to visit in Meghalaya so that you can make the most out of your time there.
Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, Scotland of the East, is without doubt the best base from which to start off your travels in Meghalaya. You can choose to skip it completely of course, but this is where you will find most available transport connections, and also the place from which you might want to shop around for day trips if you would like to take any.
Where to stay in Shillong
Police Bazaar is pretty much the centre of town with many hotels, restaurants, taxis and sumos. You might want to base yourself in the area, although we preferred staying at Hotel Oyo Shelter Inn, a 20-minute walk (or so) away.
During or time in Shillong, we really enjoyed having our dinners at Madras café, where the South Indian food served, was delicious, plentiful and affordable. Hotel Shelter Inn also provides tasty food in its in-house restaurant.
Shillong is well-known for its rock music scene, which unfortunately we did not get to experience due to the fact that both Nikki and I spent most of our time nursing head colds and fevers, hoping to get better in time to visit the rest of the Meghalaya destinations. We did notice that quite a few live gigs were happening around the capital though!
The Living Root Bridges of Cherrapunji (Sohra)
Without doubt, the living root bridges of Cherrapunji are the most well-known and probably most dramatic of all the places to visit in Meghalaya.
The living root bridges are cleverly built by the people of the Khasi tribe who inhabit the area. The bridges are hundreds of years old but still as strong and useful today as they were so many years ago. The root bridges are built from the rubber tree, whereby the roots are placed over a stream or river and ‘encouraged’ to twist over each other and grow to form a bridge which will eventually be strong enough to hold people.
Cherrapunji (also called Sohra) is famous for the double-decker bridge (actually found in the nearby village of Nongriat), among others. Here is how to get to Cherrapunji and eventually Nongriat (via the 3000 plus steps you might already be aware of) to experience all that the area has to offer.
Shillong to Cherrapunji
Getting from Shillong to Cherrapunji is straightforward enough. Sumos running from Shillong to Cherrapunji are located in Bara Bazaar on the second floor of a dark sumo parking lot near the market. A taxi from our hotel to Bara Bazaar cost Rs 20 (€0.25) each.
You will identify the sumo running to Cherrapunji since ‘Sohra’ is shown on the front windscreen, although the locals were happy enough to point it out too. The journey on the relatively flat Meghalaya roads (bliss when compared to those in Arunachal Pradesh or Nagaland) took 2 hours and cost Rs 70 (about € 1) each.
Cherrapunji to Nongriat
After getting to Cherrapunji, you will need to make your way to Tyrna. We had been told that we would easily find shared taxis running the route but no one seemed to be heading that way. After waiting for about 30 minutes, we got a private taxi for Rs 350 (about €4.50). Had we waited longer, we would have probably found some people to share the vehicle but we were getting impatient about starting the infamous hike to Nongriat.
Tyrna village seemed rather pretty and we would have loved to explore it were we not running late. Bamboo stick sellers and guides greeted us as soon as we stepped out of the taxi. We ignored the guides but we got a bamboo stick to help us trek down. One of the best decisions we have probably ever made! I don’t know how we would have made it back up without it!
We immediately started down the path leading to the steps. There are various reports stating exactly how many steps lead down to the village of Nongriat. Nikki actually counted them but in the meantime we have somehow misplaced the actual number, however we think that it was in the region of 3,600 steps.
Going down took about 1.5 hours, including a few short breaks which was decent enough considering our extreme lack of fitness. For the record, we spent 1.75 hours to get back up to Tyrna, two days after the descent, which was a welcome surprise given that our legs were still aching from the initial steps and subsequent trekking on the following days.
We highly recommend that you purchase travel insurance before your trip. Not that there are any serious dangers, but it is surely always best to be prepared! Sturdy shoes are essential, though we were amazed to observe a couple of people wearing flip flops.
Getting back to Shillong
Once we had climbed back up to Tyrna, we couldn’t find a shared taxi to take us to Cherrapunji. Private taxis were charging Rs 600 (about Rs 7.50) which was almost double what we had paid to get from Cherrapunji to Tyrna. We decided to wait for some other people but everyone coming up seemed to have their own private transport. It is probably wise to arrange pick-up ahead.
After waiting for around an hour during which I accidentally sat on wet silver paint (which resulted in a rather funky pattern on my black pants), two Indian trekkers stopped for us to get on their private van. We asked to share costs, but they wouldn’t hear of it. We are eternally grateful for their kindness!
The driver of their van stopped us near a sumo (on a different side of Cherrapunji called lower Tyrna, to which we had originally stopped) which he assured us would take us to Shillong. Sure enough, the sumo eventually departed with only us on it, but filled up at an intermediate stop in Sohra market. Cost of commute to Shillong was Rs 70 (about € 1) and we were dropped at Bara Bazaar in Shillong.
Where to stay in Nongriat
The most well-known place in Nongriat is Serene Homestay and this is in fact where we stayed too. The guesthouse offers tiny rooms with shared bathrooms and showers and though the rooms are rather spartan, the guesthouse has a real hostel vibe and is extremely comfortable. Dorms are also available. It is located literally less than 100 m away from the double decker bridge, and the owners will tell you all about hiking opportunities in the area.
We tried to book the homestay beforehand, but this is only possible by pre-paying your stay through a bank transfer, which we didn’t think was worth the hassle. Luckily, we managed to bag the last double room when we arrived. Breakfast is served individually, whilst dinner is served buffet style. Byron, the host, can be contacted on +91 94778 70423.
The double rooms cost Rs 1000 (about € 12.75)/night, and the dorm beds Rs 400 (about €5)/night. Two hearty dinners and two breakfasts, cost us Rs 655 (about € 7.75) each, so although I didn’t take note of the prices for the individual meals, they were pretty affordable.
We noticed a shack selling water and snacks (where we used to get maggi for our lunches) was also allowing some tourists to sleep there at a cost. We are not sure how much they were being charged for it, but Serene Homestay seemed way more comfortable. There are also a few smaller guesthouses around, but Serene Homestay seemed to be more equipped.
You can observe the living root bridges as soon as you start getting close to Nongriat, but the most spectacular of all is definitely the double decker bridge. It is totally accessible from Nongriat being literally down a short path from the tiny village. There’s a fee for Rs 20 (€ 0.25) entrance, Rs 20 (Eur 0.25) for each camera and Rs 100 (Eur 1.25) for a GoPro.
Rainbow Falls – Places to visit in Meghalaya
Another of Meghalaya’s destinations is located conveniently quite close (think about 1.5 hours hike) to the root bridges and can be visited during your time in Nongriat. Most people who decide to spend one or more nights in Nongriat in fact, make their way to Rainbow Falls.
Your host can explain how to get to the falls and there’s a map showing the route at Serene Homestay, which is pretty straightforward. The falls are gorgeous turquoise and get their name from the permanent rainbow at the centre of them. You can go right up to the falls but the best viewpoints are from right across, close by to the shack from where you can even get maggi or a cup of chai after your trek.
Be sure to stop at the spectacular pools on the way to the falls. The detour is marked by arrows. They are incredibly beautiful, with the clearest waters, and totally worth spending some time at. They were completely empty when we went, which we thought was strange given the number of people at Rainbow Falls.
Wettest Place on Earth – Mawsynram
The record of the wettest place on earth belongs to Mawsynram, located a few km away from Cherrapunji, although Cherrapunji itself is a strong contender. Mawsynram has reportedly received 26,000 mm of rainfall in 1985.
The main attraction in Mawsynram is Mawjymbuin Cave, which can be explored via some dark narrow paths. The cave contains typical rock formations and is interesting enough, although not one of the most exciting places to visit in Meghalaya. The fee is Rs 10 (about € 0.15) per head.
Mawlynnong – Cleanest Village in Asia
The village of Mawlynnong in the East Khasi Hills, is said to be the cleanest village in India and honestly, we weren’t sure why we went there at all. Besides walking down one road lined with souvenir stalls and eating lunch, there was nothing else to do.
One of those “I’ve been there” places with absolutely nothing in them! I suppose it looked way cleaner than other places in India but Meghalaya is already rather clean in general, compared to mainland India, so we didn’t notice much difference.
Nohkalikai Waterfalls – Places to visit in Meghalaya
The dramatic falls, located in Cherrupunji are best visited on a clear day when the clouds do not obscure the spectacular view! Any taxi driver in Cherrupunji will bring you here, if you do not have your own vehicle. Trips from Shillong are also possible.
Dawki – Places to visit in Meghalaya
The sparkling crystal-clear Umngot river in Dawki on the border with Bangladesh, was easily our second favourite place in Meghalaya after Nongriat.
There’s not much to do in the area, except taking a boat ride, and the river can be incredibly busy, but the waters are truly some of the most beautiful we have ever seen. These are the pictures of India you rarely get to see!
You can get to Dawki, by taking a private or a shared taxi (sumo) from Shillong, or going as part of a tour, and go back on the same day. Alternatively, you can also camp in neighbouring Shnongpdeng and spend a few nights chilling in the area. Facilities are rather limited though so be sure to bring much of what you might need.
Because we were tight on time, we visited Dawki on a day trip from Shillong organized by the tourism office in Police Bazaar, which included a longish stop in Dawki with the opportunity of taking a boat ride on the river, among other destinations. It was pretty much this or nothing at this point, but it suited our needs well.
Once we arrived in Dawki, we were completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of cars and the amount of people (domestic tourists mostly) by the shores of the Umngot river. Despite this, the river never felt or looked overcrowded though the banks most definitely were!
A guy who was on the tour with us asked us whether we would like to share a boat with him and his friend and negotiated a price with the boat guy. We paid Rs 250 (about € 3.25) each, for a boat carrying four people.
It was a slow ride up the river to an area full of boulders and some rapids, where we got off and walked around. Nothing special to look at in the area, however the boat ride was pleasant enough and the turquoise water magnificent. Dawki should definitely make it to the top of your Meghalaya destinations list!
On the way back, we passed the water border with Bangladesh and noticed, with some disappointment, that the same gorgeous river there had dwindled to almost nothing on the Bangladeshi side due to sand mining and other activities, which have almost destroyed the river. Whereas the Indian side of the river is used for fun and entertainment, locals use the river to wash clothes and other domestic activities on the Bangladeshi side. One river, two perspectives.
Elephant Falls – Places to visit in Meghalaya
Elephant Falls can be easily visited from Shillong – any taxi driver will drop you off there, so the area can get rather overcrowded. It is easy to get down to the falls which can be viewed from there different levels via a well-maintained path. We think that they are worth coming to if you have extra time, but we wouldn’t consider Elephant falls one of the most beautiful places to visit in Meghalaya.
Laitlum Canyon – Places to visit in Meghalaya
The spectacular Laitlum canyon is located in the East Khasi Hills and is easily one of the best places to visit in Meghalaya especially if you enjoy trekking and outdoor activities. Hiking paths snake through the canyon, and the views from the top are incredible, but be sure to carry your own food and snacks! Really an Abode in the Clouds and one of the best Meghalaya destinations!