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Things to do in Meghalaya

The cradle of untouched exquisiteness, the North-Eastern state of Meghalaya, one of the ‘Seven Sisters of India,’ leaves an indelible imprint even after a short sojourn. Aptly named ‘the abode of clouds’ the land shines bright with diaphanous rivers, tumbling waterfalls, dark caves, foggy hills, living bridges, and pine-carpeted forests. It is little wonder then that Meghalaya tourism is steadily rising and marking a permanent spot in tourists’ travel plans. 

Carved into statehood from Assam in early 1972, the Himalayan state borders Bangladesh and present-day Assam and is tightly packed with the rich heritage of several tribes. The three prime groups of people here consist of the Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia communities. The tribes ran their independent kingdoms until they came under British rule in the late 19th century. Meghalaya was absorbed into the state of Assam with Cherrapunji as its first capital, which was later shifted to Shillong. English is the official language and the state follows the ancestral system of matrilineality where the youngest daughter, or Ka Khadduh, is bequeathed the familial property, and children take their mother's surname.

Best Time to Visit Meghalaya

Boasting innumerable gems, the state presents a seamless marriage between age-old traditions and mosaic-printed landscapes. Tourism in Meghalaya is ripe all year round although certain seasons see a bigger surge than others. 

Summer: The sun-kissed scenic greenery glitters in the warm season from April to June making this possibly the best time to visit Meghalaya. The air is thick with the sounds of revelry as most festivals are held in summer. The most notable and grandest of these is the agrarian three-day Khasi celebration of Shad Suk Mynsiem. Observed in April, the cycle of new beginnings, optimism, and rebirth, it honours the creator for bounteous yields with a thanksgiving ‘Dance of Contentment.’ The locals, clad in their finest silks, perform to the sounds of the tangmuri, a traditional wind instrument. 

The temperature hovers between 15 to 25 degrees with predominantly overcast skies. Tourist spots tend to witness large crowds and it is recommended to book tickets in advance. 

Monsoon: Meghalaya is home to the wettest zone in India with Cherrapunji and Mawsynram bagging the top spots for being the rainiest cities in the country. Although the state is soaked in rain showers from July to September, and it is not advisable to explore due to slippery terrains, the monsoons present the perfect time for a lazy holiday, reading a good book and snuggling in blankets with a warm brew. Hazy mornings against dewy meadows with hums of nearby waterfalls on rocks pervade the air lending a quality of magic and wonder. 

The Behdienkhlam Festival (chasing away the Demon of Cholera and marking the victory of good over evil) of the Jaintia tribe in July, is a highlight of the rainy season. Young men make an invocation to God by symbolic motions of driving away demons and disease with bamboo poles. The women on the other hand participate by offering libations to the spirits of their ancestors and cooking delicious food.

 Autumn: Weather conditions see a dip in temperature fluctuating between 22 to 29 degrees Celsius in October and November, after the relentless downpour of previous months. Meghalaya Tourism notes a significant surge as tourists are bedazzled by the bloomy transformation of the state into a floral fantasyland with resplendent cherry blossom trees dotting the countryside. The province is bathed in shades of pink and purple with hints of white and green. The annual Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival attracts large crowds with several musical contests, flower and fashion shows, and local cuisine.

Winter: Presenting the ideal climatic conditions for trekking and picnicking, December to February is comfortably cold in Meghalaya where the mornings are thick with frost, but the days are warm with clear skies. Whilst Christmas and New Year celebrations are observed with great aplomb, the merriment seeps into February with the locals rejoicing in the Strawberry Festival, gifting the sweet, red fruit on Valentine’s Day, instead of red roses. The macroclimate of Meghalaya is conducive to the growth of strawberries and the festival essentially celebrates and promotes the farmers growing this fruit, in turn supporting the economy.

Places to Visit in Meghalaya

Falling in one of the lushest ecosystems in the world due to the intense rainfall in the region, Meghalaya’s postcard perfection with its windswept plateaus, avocado-shaded meadows, and pine groves is balanced with a simple life of restful cottages and quiet villages.

Drop by Mawlynnong: Located on the Indo-Bangladesh border, ‘God’s Own Garden’ or Mawlynnong village is one of the cleanest villages in Asia. Positioned prettily amid swaying forests, fruit orchards, rolling hills, bamboo bridges, and gushing streams, it makes a scenic spot for a nature lover. The village is also renowned for its approach to sustainability by expelling the use of plastics and planting trees regularly. The Khasi residents routinely sweep the streets and garbage bins are placed at short distances to avoid littering. Part of the reason for the intense devotion to hygiene is the link between Christianity and the practice of sanitation, where missionaries taught the locals to reach God through cleanliness. Women empowerment is strongly advocated with a 100 percent literacy rate. The village has undoubtedly shot a boost in Meghalaya’s tourism arm. 


Close to the village lies the Nohwet Living Root Bridge created by interlacing the roots of the Ficus Elastica tree around a frame through several years. Apart from offering an exceptional sight with panoramic views, the cool waters of the Thyllong River flowing beneath the bridge invite the traveller to take a quick dip after a long walk! 

The Church of the Epiphany, built in 1902, in the neighbouring village of Riwai, is also a popular tourist sight. Surrounded by orange and palm trees, narrow stone paths littered with flowers lead to the black and white aesthetically superior church radiating old-world appeal. 

Gape at the astounding Double Decker Living Root Bridges in Cherrapunji: Situated deep in the lush forests of Meghalaya the Double Decker Living Root Bridges attract multitudes of adventurous travellers keen not only on upping their fitness quotient with trekking but also admiring the natural-cum-man-made wonder. Created and ‘grown’ by the Khasi tribe the practice dates back generations where bridges are fashioned from the roots of ancient rubber trees on a solid framework. The roots are stacked on top of each other and specifically trained to strengthen over time into hardened and stable bridges, taking up to fifteen years to mature. Moreover, the bridges become sturdier with time with stones, leaves, and bamboo – hence named living bridges - with the capacity to hold the weight of over thirty people at a time! These living root bridges served as a pivotal link for isolated villages in the steep valleys and mountains, bridging people together and making it easier to indulge in travel and trade. They serve as a delightful alternative to wooden bridges which erode and decay over a period, especially during the lengthy and often harsh monsoon season.

Some of these marvellous living structures have been around over five hundred years old. There are eleven living root bridges near Cherrapunji. Some of the most renowned ones are the Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge, Ummunoi Root Bridge, Umkar Root Bridge, and the Ritymmen Root Bridge. The Umshiang living bridge with its aerial roots intertwined around a Betel tree suspended above the gurgling Umshiang river, is particularly famous and is the only means for the villagers to cross over to the other side during the wet season when walking tracks seemingly sink in water. Over 200 years old, it is located in Nongriat village, fifteen kilometres from Cherrapunji. The bridge is accessible by an arduous 3-kilometre trek with over four thousand steps, from Tyrna village. Although the trail is challenging, it is visually spectacular, nonetheless, passing through a verdant forest, waterfall, and flowers. Spotted butterflies accompany the trekker across tiny, picturesque hamlets. After drinking in the beauty of the surroundings, one can dip one’s tired feet in the cool water- with perhaps a nibble or two by a fish - before heading back.

Marvel at the awe-inspiring Mawsmai Cave: There has been an explosion of cave exploration and tourism in Meghalaya, due to the numerous caves spread through the state. Cave formations thrive in the region due to ideal conditions such as rainfall, altitude, humidity, and superior-quality limestone. 

The spell-binding limestone caves of Krem or cave Mawsmai lie six kilometres from Cherrapunji. Stretching over 250 metres, with 150 metres accessible to the public, the well-lit caves can be easily accessed through a large entrance at the end of a concrete pathway across a lush grassland teeming with orchids and ferns. A magnificent, natural creation of a million years of abrasion and underground water, the interior caverns are decorated with innumerable limestone rocks of varying shapes and sizes. The constant drip of water from the roof of the cave has resulted in countless stalagmites and stalactites glistening on the cave walls and floor forming sparkling, shallow water pools. Small bridges built over these cave streams make it easy for tourists to negotiate their way through the dark hollows. Although the floor is cold and damp with deeper sections of the cave narrowing down with sharp bends and curves, rich flora and fauna with bats, insects, moss species, and fossils can be spotted inside.

The cave is divided into two parts with only the older section of the cave lit with halogen lamps. There is only one exit and that too is speckled with ancient rock formations.

Be bedazzled by the Mesmerising Waterfalls of Meghalaya: An uncountable number of waterfalls gush down in Meghalaya adding to the stunning scenery of the state. One of the most-thronged amongst them are the Nohkalikai Falls, a short five kilometres away from Sohra or Cherrapunji. Cascading like silk from an impressive height of eleven hundred feet, the falls are one of the highest waterfalls in India. Reaching the falls requires a 2-hour hike through forested hills, boulders, and clear streams. The trail ends in a majestic sight of water leaping over red-rock cliffs, encircled by a lush jungle, into a turquoise pool that changes colours with the season. Monsoons are the best time to view the falls in all their majesty, especially in the late afternoon, watching the sunset over the falls. 

The sad legend behind the name of the falls lends it a haunting quality. Noh Ka Likai means ‘the leap of Likai.’ It is believed that a local, young widow named Ka Likai with a baby daughter, remarried at the urging of the elders in the village to give her child the stability of a family. Sadly, her husband turned out to be a jealous man begrudging the attention she lavished on her baby. In his envy he killed and cooked the child, feeding her to the unaware mother. However, soon realising her husband’s gruesome act and filled with remorse and grief, she rushed to the cliff, throwing herself down the falls.

The tiered Elephant Falls are an equally popular natural sight located close to Shillong Peak – the highest point of the Shillong plateau across Meghalaya. Cozily nestled amidst green woods, the remarkable sheer waterfall tumbles down on glades of fern-covered rocks over three steps. Comprising three smaller falls, the first fall is broad yet hidden amongst trees. The second is smaller and almost ‘timid’ compared to the first one, with the third fall being the largest. Locally referred to as Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew, which means 3-step waterfall, the modern name was adopted after the falls were discovered by an Englishman in the 19th century who spotted a giant rock resembling an elephant near the falls. The rock was destroyed in an earthquake, however, the name stuck.

Cut off from the tourist circuit and located on the other side of the state in the Jaintia hills, lie perhaps the most stunning of waterfalls in Meghalaya. The Krang Suri waterfall is a 3-hour winding drive from the capital city of Shillong coupled with a 20-minute walk. As one nears the waterfall, the temperature drops delightfully and the sounds of the burbling water get louder with each passing step. What greets the walker is a dazzling, magical sight of shimmering water with every hue of azure sparkling in the sunlight. Rainbows are a common occurrence against the painted backdrop of leafy foliage and the fall adorning walkways of carefully sculpted stones in myriad colours. The picture-book views from the top of the waterfall of nature’s ambience are compounded by the bright display of small tinted boats docked on the river bank.

Flow through the Surreal Umngot River: Arguably one of the purest rivers in India, the Unmgot or Dawki River sits on the Indo-Bangladesh border marking an unofficial boundary between the two countries. Simultaneously it draws a natural border between the Khasi and Jaintia hills.

With unimaginably clean water, the deep green river meanders and threads its way through the emerald hills, seeming like a mirror with a crystal-clear view of the deep river bed. Boats glide as if floating through the air and hanging in the sky. The pristine waters make it an ideal spot for scuba diving and snorkelling with a clear view of aquatic life, and underwater caves.
Getting to the town of Dawki is a scenic two-and-a-half -hour drive from Shillong passing through gorges and ravines amidst settlements. The river has remained spotless largely due to the massive effort put in by the locals who have vetoed hydroelectric projects to prevent waste and mineral-mining elements from getting washed up in the water body. It is still a vital source of livelihood for the indigenous communities and was previously used for transportation and trade.

The easiest way to experience the joy of tourism in Meghalaya is to revel in the wanderlust of the hilly state, zigzagging through the dramatic terrain. Unhurriedly unravelling the artistry of Mother Earth’s rainbow-specked abundance in the province, opens a doorway to a multitude of memories remembered over a lifetime. Touch base with Offbeat Tracks to curate the finest journey for you listing the best things to do in Meghalaya. We will help you peel off the many layers in this rich North-Eastern region of India.