Situated in the northeast region 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 fairly hassle-free. 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 and wealth passing from mother to daughter. Visit Meghalaya to explore a non-clichéd and a different side of India.
TOP PLACES TO SEE AND EXPERIENCES TO TRY IN MEGHALAYA
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 top experiences.
Update March 2020: I revisited Nongiat in January 2020 and was totally startled to see its state. Overtourism has killed the place. Where last time I found local families in Nongriat too welcoming and heart-warming to be true, this time they were too busy to even speak to. Kids were busy selling fake ‘natural honey’. The root-bridge was slowly dying. Read More: Nongriat Isn’t Worth Visiting Anymore.
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 periodic showers throughout the year. So before you plan Mawsynram, make sure you’ve invested in a good raincoat or an umbrella.
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 at a few hours’ drive from Shillong. Come here to see Meghalayas a few popular natural caves, the mesmerizing Nohkalikai Waterfall, and an ideal viewpoint to see India’s neighbour Bangladesh from a distance.
Shillong: Shillong is the capital 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 in Shillong is super-cheap and the accommodation range from budget guesthouses to villas. Visit Shilling to see a bustling Indian-capital city that doesn’t grow mad on you. 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, home to a sacred, full medicinal plant grove of the Khasi tribe. What’s interesting is that the local tribal people perform animal sacrifices and burn the bodies of their dead inside the Mawphlang forest. Visit the nearby Khasi Heritage Village to see, and perhaps experience, some mock tribal huts.
COST OF TRAVELLING IN SHILLONG
Food: Food in Meghalaya is cheap. If you eat meat and fish, it’s even better, as it is easily accessible and is amazingly good in taste. When I visited Cherapunji in September 2015, I survived on Pork+Rice for pretty much all my time there. I was hooked to it, and it was cheaper than any other (good quality) Pork+Rice dish I have ever had in India. Expect a one time meal to be available for under 100 Rupees.
Accommodation: Many small tourist-towns across Meghalaya offer homestays, which cost somewhere between 500 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.
Transport: There are no trains in Meghalaya. So if you want to travel cheaply, use state buses. They are a little infrequent, but thanks to the shared-taxi system in the entire state, transport is at least 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 can cost around 200 Rupees. Buses, on the other hand, may cost less than 100 Rupees.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL IN SHILLONG
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 the 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 are 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 the Meghalaya Tourism office in Shillong.