Sparkling waterfalls at every turn, endless green pastures, scenic drive in the wilderness of tropical forest and innocence of Khasi kids with big warm smile.
Meghalaya – best known as a place where clouds live should be on everybody’s bucket list. It is adjoined by Assam in the north and east, by Bangladesh in the south and Brahmaputra in the west. The mesmerising stretches of valley amongst the hilly-terrain are a delight to the eyes. Meghalaya remains rain-soaked land throughout the year, where the rainfall is at its peak during the monsoon. Below is our Meghalaya itinerary. In addition to our Meghalaya itinerary, I would also be sharing the following:
- Why Meghalaya?
- Quick Meghalaya itinerary snapshot
- Budget for the trip
- What to pack?
- Booking accommodations
- Getting around in Meghalaya
- Detailed day by day Meghalaya itinerary
1. Why Meghalaya?
Ours was a 4 days – all girls trip to Meghalaya during mid of July. Three friends, amidst the solitude of nature, beholding the beauty of misty clouds, playing hide & seek with the hills across the quiet landscape. What more can you ask for!
The most obvious reason to visit Meghalaya, as all girls, is that it is as safe as it gets. The secure environment where women run the show instead of hiding behind veils is emancipating. Even miles away, in a dark and deserted hilly road, doesn’t sound scary when you know there will be a lady selling handicrafts in that quietness at the next shop. It was so safe that we used to leave all our cameras, wallets in the car with mirrors down in busy streets, to see all those thunderous waterfalls.
2. Our quick itinerary snapshot for the trip
First day: We flew in to Guwahati Airport and took transfer to Langkawet village (stayed for 2 nights).
Second day: We explored Mawlynnong (God’s own garden), surrounding areas and Dawki town.
Third day: We visited Cherrapunjee, Nongriat and reached Shillong by the evening to stay for a night.
Fourth day: On our last day we explored Shillong and left for Guwahati Airport.
3. Budget for the trip
Expenditure (as of July 2017) for an individual came out to be – Rs. 20,000
- Flights (to and fro Delhi-Guwahati) – Rs. 8000
- Private Taxi for 4N and 5D (Dzire) – Rs. 11000 (shared among three of us)
- Hotels (this depends on your preference) in Shillong – Rs. 6000 per night (shared among three of us). In Langkawet – Rs. 2100 per night (shared among three of us)
- Miscellaneous (meals, toll, entry fee, etc) – Rs. 3000
4. What to pack for the trip (Monsoon)
- Carry light weighted quick drying clothes, a rain jacket, wind cheater and a mild warm sweatshirt as evenings may get little cold.
- Waterproof shoes/ slippers are a must. I bought a pair of crocs which were really helpful during my treks.
- Mosquito repellants are a must.
- If you are bag packing then a rain cover for your bag.
- A lot of fun spirit.
5. Booking Accommodations
Meghalaya has options for all type of travellers depending upon one’s choice of hotels/ bread and breakfasts/ homestay/ camping. We advise you to book in advance, as options available on the internet are very few. If you are a backpacker, you would prefer spending time at options available in small towns rather than bigger ones. Also, plan your bookings well ahead in time during peak season.
6. Getting around in Meghalaya
If you prefer to travel through local conveyance then it is easily available in Meghalaya and is safe as well. You can take a taxi from Guwahati Airport to Shillong at Rs. 2k and then from Shillong take a local black-and-yellow cab to Langkawet, which would cost about Rs. 1.2k. However, we chose to hire a car for the entire trip, as it gave us mobility to explore more places and a more personalised experience. A Dzire car will charge you about Rs. 2.5-3k per day depending upon how many kms you intend to travel. You can negotiate to a fair of Rs. 2.5-2.7k per day if your tour is only limited to Meghalaya.
7. Day by day detailed itinerary of our trip with some tips
Day 1: Fly to Guwahati Airport and transfer to Langkawet (about 170 kms/ 5 hrs approx.)
Try to take an early morning flight so that once you reach Guwahati you can start your road trip. We took the morning flight to Guwahati and landed at around 10:30 am to start our Meghalaya itinerary. We had already booked our cab which was waiting for us as we came out of the airport. Hemen Bhaiya (our car driver) was excellent, both professionally as well as in person. Within a few hours we got this feeling that we are with a reliable person for our trip. We took a quick stop to have our breakfast at Jiva veg, a good restaurant on the way from Guwahati to Shillong. Our next stop was Umiam Lake.
Umiam Lake is a pure beauty with hills in the backdrop covered with dense clouds in monsoon season. It is a good idea to stop here for 30 minutes to enjoy the sublime view before reaching Langkawet via Shillong.
There were three reasons we chose to stay in Langkawet instead of Shillong. Firstly to avoid traffic chaos and the hustle-bustle of the city. Secondly, to feel the tranquility of dense green tropical-forest, isolated, far away from meddling crowd and totally connected to nature. And lastly, all the must-see-places of East Khasi hills are nearer so we could cover more places in less time.
By the time we reached our accommodation it was already evening. We explored the nearby surroundings and chit-chatted with the very welcoming Khasi people. They have a unique habit of chewing paan (“Kwai”) irrespective of their age and gender. You may notice red lips and constant chomp on the face of every Khasi people.
Day 2: Langkawet to Mawlynnong Village and then to Dawki
We left early after having our breakfast. We started with rolling our wheels over incredible slopes and panoramic landscape of Pynursla, which was totally relatable with Scotland and made me realise why the eastern Khasi Hills are termed as “Scotland of the East”. Next, we stopped at famous Living Roots Bridge, a picturesque natural beauty. It is located at Riwai (about 35kms/ 1 hr approx), a small village near Mawlynnong. There is a treehouse from where you can get an aerial view of Bangladesh. Climbing to the top of the treehouse is so much fun in itself.
We continued towards a beautiful village, awarded as the cleanest in Asia in 2003 – Mawlynnong. All the residents of this village participate in cleaning up the village as a mandate. They collect waste in the dustbins, made of bamboo, which you can spot hanging in front of every house/ shop. Smoking and use of polythene is banned here. Mawlynnong has plentiful shops that offer handicraft items made mostly of bamboo and cane. There aren’t too many options to eat, except the local food (Rice, dal and sabzi) and of course Maggi. We spent around an hour here and then headed towards Dawki, India-Bangladesh border.
Alternate route to Dawki – for mesmerising waterfalls
We took an alternate route to visit Dawki (about 30 kms/ 1.5 hrs approx.). This route shelters a number of cascading waterfalls – Rymben, Songrampunji, Patumai, Borhill. If you like waterfalls, this road is must for you and was one of the highlights of our Meghalaya itinerary. The waterfalls were gushing with force in July and the greenery surrounding the waterfalls made them very enchanting to the eyes. Finally, we reached Umngot River in Dawki.
The daylight was about to fade, hence we quickly decided to take the boat ride. The river is not transparent at this time of the year. But our boatman who was wonderful, fluent in English and highly knowledgeable of the surroundings and culture, made up for it. Soon, the sun disappeared and there was a profound silence all around. We sailed for 45 minutes, quietly listening to what Boatman had to share. It was an unforgettable experience. Finally, we left for our accommodation.
Day 3: Cherrapunjee, Nongriat and Shillong
We checked-out from our accommodation in Langkawet after having our breakfast. We headed towards Nongriat via Cherrapunjee (about 70 kms/ 3.5 hrs approx.). Enroute, we stopped for zip-lining. The activity will give you adrenaline rush as you go sliding down a rope between two mountains. Trust me, the zip-line in Meghalaya should be on your must-do list if you are an adventure junkie. The stunning location where the zip-line descends over lush green mountains and slides through the clouds makes it a worthwhile endeavour.
Next we stopped to take the glimpse of Nohsngithiang waterfalls (famous as seven sisters falls). We continued our journey towards Nohkalikai Falls, which is a spectacular cascade that descends from a lushly forested plateau down to a rocky green or often turquoise-coloured pool below. The best way to see this waterfall is from the Nohkalikai viewpoint. One can also reach the waterfall from the village Nongriat in the valley below.
You can also visit Mawsmai Caves with limestone rocks and dripping water which is an experience in itself. We skipped this one as we had witnessed similar caves in Hua Hin (Thailand).
The double decker bridge
After that we headed towards the most awaited part of our trip – famous trek to the single and double decker living root bridges located in Nongriat. The ideal time to reach this place is by noon so that the whole experience of the trek can be completed by the sun-set i.e. around 6:30 pm. It is an arduous trek, but if you are fit you might not find it challenging and enjoy the venture. You have to climb down 3000 steps and you will enter Nongriat village. You will see many small streams on the way, beautiful butterflies and can listen to diverse twittering of birds and insects. The double-decker living root bridge is just 50 steps walk from the Nongriat village. There is a river that rushes beneath the bridge and we noticed a lot of people were swimming here. Little further are the beautiful Rainbow falls.
We couldn’t make upto the falls as we had to return before it got completely dark. There are some home stays near the double decker bridge. If you can’t walk further I would suggest to stay there for the night. It will cost around Rs. 500-1000.
It was then time for us to head towards Shillong (about 65 kms/ 2 hrs approx..). After checking-in back to our accommodation we chilled a bit and went to a lovely café for dinner.
Day 4: Shillong and transfer back to Guwahati airport
We explored Shillong for an hour mainly the police bazaar area, enjoyed mouthwatering pineapple which is absolutely a not-to-miss thing. Then with beautiful memories we left for Guwahati airport. Since we had a late evening flight we managed to visit Kamakhya temple in Guwahati.
And that was it for our Meghalaya itinerary, stay tuned for my next adventure.
Relish the memories of sailing in river, seductive waterfalls, enchanted panoramas of the lush green landscape, and the friendliest locals as you board your flight back home.