An exquisite hilly region located in the North-eastern region of India, Meghalaya lies comfortably between Bangladesh in the South and Brahmaputra valley in the North. The state is otherwise called as the “abode of clouds” and Meghalaya is geographically known as “Meghalaya Plateau”.
Shillong is the capital of the cloudy state. It is also called as “abode of gods” where pilgrims invade for worship and people come together to greet god. Mawsynram is one of the chilliest places in the state.
How to Reach
The state is accessible through Air, Road, and Railway.
Meghalaya has one civil airport, The Shillong Airport also called Umrai Airport. However, this airport at present is only connected to Kolkata and its neighbouring states of Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Tripura.
Therefore the best way to get there is to fly to Guwahati in Assam. The Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati is the closest airport and is well-connected to the international cities of Bangkok and Paro, along with Indian cities Chennai, Calcutta, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
However, there is no straight bus available from Guwahati Airport to Meghalaya, but one can hire a cab. The airport is roughly 120 km from Shillong.
The state is easily accessible through well-paved roads. But, it is quite essential to take precautions while driving on the roads in heavy monsoon season. Some roads may get slowed down due to water stagnation.
The nearest railway station from Meghalaya is situated in Guwahati (Assam), at a distance of 180 km. Guwahati Junction is connected to Amritsar, Jammu and Kashmir, New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore. You can opt for buses or can hire a cab to reach Meghalaya from Guwahati.
Places To See
The state is encompassed with many natural caves. Many of the caves are made of natural limestone. The interiors are cool and one can feel like quite the explorer.
The Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia are popular tourist attractions. Krem Mawmluh, Mawsmai Cave, Krem Umshangktat, Siju-Dobkhakol are other notable caves which tourists visit.
These caves will have a nominal entry fee and sometimes come with a car or bike parking charges.
The state is surmounted by a number of waterfalls which are gushing from the steep mountains, take a twist and reach the jungle at last. Elephant Falls, Mawsmai Falls, Spread Eagle Falls, Imilchang Dare are some of the most popular waterfalls.
Elephant falls is quite touristy and is mostly a commercial waterfall. You will find stalls selling handicrafts and other merchandise that you can take back home as a souvenir around the waterfall. But the truly awe inspiring ones are those that can be found in the hills and jungles.
Lady Hydari Park
This is an alluring garden and the best months to visit the garden are from April to October. At the time tourists can enjoy seeing the flowers blooming. There is a mini zoo next to the garden where a number of birds and animals chirp and roar.
This is a gorgeous lake created by damming the Umiam river. You can find it en route between Guwahati and Shillong. The lake is a major tourist attraction and also a spot for people to try water sports like kayaking or boating.
This pretty little town borders Bangladesh. It is most famous for its lake – beautiful, calm and emerald green in colour. You can go boating in Dawki. The biggest highlight is getting to Dawki as you will have to drive up the mountains and then down into the valley. You can see why Meghalaya is called the abode of clouds on this route. You will also find plenty of little streams and waterfalls on the way, where you can stop and refresh yourself.
Known as one of the wettest places in India, Cherrapunji is a delight for the pluviophile. The Nohkalikai Falls, the tallest waterfall in India is closest to Cherrapunji. The Mawsmai and Arwah caves are also nearby. The seven sisters waterfall and the rainbow waterfall is also a must-see. However, if there are incessant rains, the resulting mist or fog can sometimes disrupt views.
From Cherrapunji you can also go to see the famed single and double living root bridges. It is quite a trek to get to the bridges. After climbing down nearly a thousand stairs you will come to the single root bridge. You have to take a slight detour from there, walk a little more, cross a few bridges and climb up some more stairs to get to the double root bridge. It’s worth the trouble!
Travel tip: Cherrapunji is a small town with very sweet and hospitable locals. Head to some of the small, nondescript restaurants for a meal. These places have limited food (usually they have a fixed meal for the day) but it gives you a feel of eating at home.
Mawlynnong, the cleanest village in India and Asia is also in Meghalaya, located in the East Khasi Hills. Read more about it here.
How to Commute within the State
Driving or riding to Meghalaya (and around) is a great (and the best) option as you have views of the hills and valleys unfold before your eyes. As well as the convenience of going about at your own pace and time. You can hire a bike or a car on rent (for self-drive) in Guwahati. You can try this rental service.
If you do not want to hire a self-drive, the next best thing to do is to negotiate with a taxi driver in Shillong to take you around for the duration of your stay. These drivers also double up as tour guides. Hiring them for a longer duration will help you negotiate a price and customise your trip as per your liking (a package deal).
State transport like buses is limited in Meghalaya and the timings are erratic, hence self-drive or cab/taxi are the most convenient options.
Where to Stay
Shillong has plenty of hotels that you can stay at. In Cherrapunji you can find some backpacker lodges. If you want to visit the root bridges you can either do a day trip and back from Cherrapunji or you can opt for a homestay there. The rooms will be limited, hence ensure that it isn’t booked full. Or you might end up getting stranded in case it gets late. Camping is also a great option in this state.
When to Visit
The state is a suitable for lovers and the newly wedded, due to its cool climate and serene atmosphere. The best time to visit this beautiful state is from October to April. If you are a pluviophile, then monsoon season would be apt for you as this area gets the highest rainfall in India.
Further, if you wish to visit during the Cherry Blossom festival, then plan your visit for November. The Himalayan Cherry Blossoms can be found in the wild in Khasi hills. And the Government of Meghalaya has planted them in several places. They are also protected by bamboo tree guards that add to its beauty. You needn’t go all the way to Japan when you have these pink and white petaled beauties right here in India.
Other Details about the state of Meghalaya
In Meghalaya, three languages are very familiar and these popular Meghalaya languages are Khasi, Garo, and English. There are few people who speak Nepali, Assamese, Bengali, and Bodo. Most people will happily communicate with tourists in Hindi or English.
The traditions and customs followed by Meghalaya vary to the highest extent and it differs across different communities. The supreme god is locally known as Dakgipa Rugipa worshipped by the Garos. They also believe in sin and reincarnation.
People’s Occupation in Meghalaya
People living in Meghalaya consider Agriculture as their prime occupation. Rice, Maize, Potato, Cotton, Jute, Mesta, Black pepper, Bettle leaf, Nuts, Turmeric, Ginger, Jackfruit, are the common food crops here. Besides agriculture, small, medium scale industries are coming up for better employment. Since most of the people in Meghalaya earn their living by handcrafts, resultantly it has become an integral part of the culture. These handicrafts are great to take back as gifts or souvenirs.
The Capital of Meghalaya celebrates Easter, Good Friday, Christmas, New Year, Khasi festivals, Behdienkhalm and various Wangala festivals.
North East India Tourism
Meghalaya is blessed with eternal beauty and considered an embodiment of bliss. Travelling here will be really unforgettable and will stay in your mind long after you have left. Meghalaya is part of the seven sister states in Northeastern India.
Meghalaya’s neighbours, the other six sisters, are just as beautiful and gorgeous. They have exclusive fauna and flora which is a treat for explorers and nature lovers. Tribal, heritage, food, culture, friendliness, adventure, and sightseeing are all a part of these states. Even in these modern times, they have still retained some of their roots which makes them culturally unique.
The dense forests and jungles are the dwelling place for many indigenous animals, birds and plants. There are several wildlife sanctuaries, biosphere reserves and national parks working towards the protection of endangered species. These forests are home to tigers, elephants, leopards, rhinos, orchids, several exotic species of birds and flowers and even butterflies. Enjoy your heart out, and collect memories which can be cherished for a lifetime.
Read more Travel guides to the northeastern states of India