Situated in the northeast part of India, Meghalaya is all about mesmerizing hills, dominating rain-forests, dramatic clouds and a lot of rain. The town of Cherapunji and Mawsynram are statistically among the wettest places on earth. English is the official language here, making communication with locals not much of a hassle. I found Meghalaya as one of the safest and convenient places in India for solo travelling. The entire state is majorly populated by three indigenous tribes, who follow a matrilineal system with property names and wealth passing from mother to daughter. Come here to explore a non-clichéd and a different side of India.
TOP PLACES TO SEE AND EXPERIENCES TO TRY
Root Bridges In The Eastern Khasi Hills: This is something so unique that you can’t find it anywhere else in the world. Root bridges were made by indigenous Khasi people, living in and around the Village Nongriat, in Eastern Khasi Hills. There are a number of small root bridges around the area with a Double Decker Root bridge, unlike one of its kind, located in Nongriat. Exploring root bridges and crossing them watchfully, is one of Meghalaya’s best holiday experiences.
Claiming Your Own Natural Pool In Eastern Khasi Hills: I was totally amazed to see the number of natural pools this place owned. You walk from one village to another and you come across natural pools on the way, where you can swim and relax, in fresh/running water. Some of them even give free pedicures.
Eat The Traditional Khasi Dish: Jadoh is a traditional Khasi dish of meat served with rice. The exclusivity, however, is that it includes rice cooked in either pork or chicken’s blood – because Khasi people do not waste any part of the animal, not even their eyeballs – if they kill it to obtain meat. I’ve eaten some exotic foods around in India, but none of them matching the exoticness of that of Jadoh’s.
Explore The Rainiest Place In The World: Housing a few families under its wetland, the town of Mawsynram is the rainiest place in the world. Though Mawsynram gets most of the rain during its rainy season (between June and September), expect to see periodic showers throughout the year. Before arriving here make sure you carry a raincoat with you. Or perhaps, an small size umbrella – to look a little local.
Cherapunji: Before Mawsynram, Cherapunji owned the title of Rainiest Place in the World. Though even today, it won’t disappoint you with the annual rainfall it gets in a year. Cherapunji is located within a few hours drive from Shillong. Come here to see Meghalayas few popular natural caves, the mesmerizing Nohkalikai Waterfall, and an ideal viewpoint to overlook into India’s neighbour, Bangladesh.
Shillong: Shillong is the capitol city of Meghalaya. Congested in a small place with yellow metered taxis running around the popular Police Bazar, Shillong is trendy, energetic, and has a vibrant young crowd. The food here is super cheap and the accommodation range from cheap guesthouses to villas. Come here to see a bustling Indian-capital city, which doesn’t make you go mad. If nothing else, come to play golf in Asia’s second largest golf club, surrounded by rain-forests.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest: About 45 minutes drive from Shillong, in the East Khasi Hills, will take you to Mawphlang, a home to a sacred, full medicinal plant grove of the Khasi tribe. Tribe members perform animal sacrifices and burn the bodies of their dead inside it. Visit the nearby Khasi Heritage Village to see, and perhaps experience, some mock tribal huts.
COST OF TRAVELLING
Food: Food in Meghalaya is cheap. If you eat meat and fish, it’s even better, as it is easily accessible and is always amazingly good in taste. When I visited Cherapunji in September 2015, I survived on Pork+Rice for 5 days. I was hooked to it, and it was cheaper than any other (good quality) Pork+Rice dish I’d ever eaten in India before. Expect a one time meal to be available in under 100 Rupees, if you’re backpacking.
Accommodation: Many small tourist-towns across Meghalaya offer homestays, which cost somewhere between 600 to 1000 Rupees a day, including food. A cheap room, with shared bathroom, in most popular towns, including Shillong, start from 350 Rupees a day; pay around 500 Rupees and you have your own bathroom and a standard room – it you’re lucky it can even have a TV.
Transport: There are no trains in Meghalaya. So if you want to travel cheap, use state buses. They are a little infrequent, but thanks to the shared-taxi system in the entire state, transport is atleast possible pretty much everywhere. And it is cheap as it is in the rest of India. A 2 hour shared taxi drive, from Shillong to Cherapunji costs 150 Rupees. Bus, on the other hand takes around 90.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
The weather in Cherapunji is tropical. It rains and it sweats. You can travel anytime but during monsoon (between June and September). However, according to the tourism department, March and May is the most pleasant time to come, compared to the other time of the year. This is when the maximum temperature hovers around 25°C at an average.
FEW OTHER TIPS
- Since most of the Meghalaya is covered in rain-forest, the wildlife here is rich. Expect to see a few big-size spiders pretty much almost everywhere. And if you’re into butterflies and moths, there’s no other place (at least not anywhere else in India) to be.
- Transport and accommodation is pretty easy to find in most popular tourist places in Meghalaya. Almost all the villages, that have a reason for tourists to come, have a guest house or a home-stay. If nothing found, you can book day/weekend excursions to throughout Meghalaya, from Megalaya Tourism office in Shillong.
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