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Meghalaya–Abode of Clouds

Let me start with some facts about Meghalaya no rocket science, and one can easily get these details over a simple google search. 😊   

Meghalaya is a hilly state in northeastern India and it means “The Abode of Clouds” in Sanskrit, and you will experience this once you read my blog. The capital of Meghalaya is Shillong and principal languages are Khasi, Pnar and Garo with English as the official language. I was pleasantly surprised to see that in most of the restaurants and shops we visited, women were majority. It is then I learnt that they followed a matriarchal system where lineage and inheritance are traced through women. Meghalaya is the home to the wettest regions in World – Mawsynram village receives approximate 12000 mm annual rains, followed by Cherrapunjee whose annual rainfall is approx 10000 mm annually. (Why mention Cherrapunjee, because we stayed there 😊 and more about this later in my blog)

While the entire north east region is home to around 250 tribes and subtribes – Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes make up the majority – with the Khasis being the largest group, followed by the Garos then the Jaintias. Meghalaya is also one of the Seven Sister States of northeast India and is mountainous, with stretches of valley and highland plateaus, and it is geologically rich – a heaven’s paradise for nature, macro and landscape photography.

How to Reach
There is a small airport at Umroi, about 35 km from Shillong but there are very few flights and mostly from Kolkata. The most convenient way, one that I would also recommend, would be to arrive at Guwahati International airport – Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi – which is around 130 km from Shillong and is well connected to rest of India with regular flights. While we had our own dedicated cab for the entire travel, I also saw options for shared cabs available from outside the airport connecting to Shillong. The rate is Rs. 300 – 500 per passenger and it drops you off at Police Bazaar from where you can get a ride to almost any part of Shillong.

Best Time to Visit
March to June: See the advent of summers but the weather is still quite pleasant
October to February: Rainfall stops and the weather begins to cool down

Mesmerizing Meghalaya

Now coming back to our trip, we had planned a 7 day schedule – a few days in advance of the tourist peak season. This worked in our favor (well mostly 😊 ) as we got our own peaceful time to spend.

Abode of Clouds

We started our journey from Pune on 20th Oct afternoon, as we had a flight from Mumbai to Guwahati in the wee hours of 21st morning. We stayed for the night at a hotel very near the airport – Hotel Sunshine. The only reason I chose this hotel is they had a complimentary airport drop 😊 . You will get many other better options as well.
We landed in Guwahati at around 8:50 am. I deliberately had planned this, as we had to drive 3 hours to Shillong and furthermore, we also planned a few stops en route which I will talk about later.

Day 1: Guwahati – Shillong

Destination: Shillong
Accommodation: Hotel Eee Cee
Places to visit: Umiam Lake, Ward Lake, Police Bazaar

We were given a warm welcome at the airport by our cab driver cum guide – Mr Debojit Nath – who ultimately turned out to be an excellent companion who ensured that our epic journey throughout was comfortable and never hesitated to accommodate to my intermittent requests of taking multiple stops for photos.
In case you happen plan for Meghalaya and through North East Vacation, I would definitely recommend him.

Umiam Lake

Timings : Lake is open at all times. Water sport activities are open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and cost extra. We did not explore any sporty activities.

“Water of Tears”

We drove from Guwahati to Shillong and our first halt was at Umiam Lake (commonly known as Barapani Lake), a mesmerizing man-made reservoir in the hills 15 km north of Shillong. It was created by damming the Umiam River in the early 1960s. ‘Um’ in Khasi translates into ‘water’, while ‘Umiam’ in its pure essence means ‘Water of the Eyes’ or ‘Water of Tears.’

Adventure @Umiam

This is also a popular tourist destination with water sport and adventure facilities, but like I said earlier, as we had planned ahead of the tourist season, it was blessing in disguise experience for us, with very few handful of tourists present. I would definitely recommend you to explore the adventure if this matches your passion

“Fangorn Forest” of Shillong

This lake is fringed with beautiful pine forests and a view of the undulating Khasi Hills which eventually left a lasting impression on us. While we sat at the lake digesting this exhilarating experience, I discovered a sidewalk which we decided to explore. And it did not disappoint. It was a 500-700-meter walk with the lake on one side and the pine tree envelope on the other.

This walk terminated at a resort, which I was not aware 😊 , and then I realized that it was a private walk. Having said that, the concierge at the resort (Orchid resort) was very supportive and greeted us with a smiling face. And this is what we experienced in our entire stay @Shillong – people were very helpful, polite and always smiling.

Ward Lake

November – February- 8:30 am till 5:30 pm
March – October- 8:30 am till 7:00 pm
Entry Fee: The entry fee to the Lake is INR 10 for Indian tourists, you need to pay extra for bringing along a camera and take permissions if you want to shoot videos

It was very difficult for us to leave the serene location of Umiam Lake, but we had to, as we had a hotel to reach to 😊.  So, we journeyed ahead towards Shillong. On the way Debojith, our guide, requested us to visit Ward Lake before we checked into the hotel. Honestly, we were skeptical initially, but since he insisted, we decided to explore it, nevertheless.
Ward Lake, also known as Pollock’s Lake, is one of the most popular attractions. This artificial water body is encircled by an extensive lush garden and lies in the middle of the city. There is a cobble-stone path, which is banked by admirable colorful floral beds. It is named after the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, Sir William Ward, who started the plan for the establishment of this lake. You can also try its cafeteria where you can gorge on a wide variety of refreshments and beverages. We did not as we were too engrossed by the flora and fauna. 🙂

Finally, we checked into our hotel – Hotel Eee Cee. The hotel was strategically located, a stone’s throw away from the Police Bazaar – Shillong’s main market housing many garments shops and street food stalls – the main commercial hub of Shillong.

It was a fantastic driving experience and an incredible stretch via NH27 and NH6, which was indulging and entertaining at the same time.  I would also like to bring to your attention that, on the way to Shillong, you will experience roadside fruit and pickle stalls which are produced locally. We were very excited to reach Shillong first so decided to explore these on return. I would genuinely suggest you do try out these stalls, as pickles is their specialty since they are locally made.

And the real excitement began from here on.

Day 2: Shillong – Shillong

Shillong Peak Viewpoint

Timings: 9 AM – 3.30 PM and it is closed on Wednesdays.
Entry is free

After a sumptuous breakfast, we headed towards Shillong Peak Viewpoint. We arrived there at around 9:00 – 9:30 am. Now this is where we lost time, as the approach road passes through the Indian Air Force Radar Station. We had to go through their security procedures, where we submitted our Photo Id (carry your Adhaar Card) to take a permit. It was a 30-45 min wait (an estimate of more than 300 vehicles enter the radar station each day), hence maintaining the security is non-negotiable for the Air Force. I respect that and would suggest you hit the road early and reach this place by 8:00 – 8:30 am.

The peak offered an enchanting 360-degree view of the entire Shillong city and was surrounded by lush greenery. Again, a heavenly location for my fellow photographers, as you will not be able to leave your cameras away at any moment. Such was the magnetism this location connects you with. We easily spent more than an hour here.

Elephant Falls

Timings: All days of the week 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Entry is free

Dramatic, Multi-tiered, Picturesque

We continued from here towards Mawphlang Sacred Grove Forest with a halt at Elephant Falls which is en route to the forest. Elephant Falls was a short stay – named after an Elephant like stone at its foot, it is amongst the most popular falls. However, the stone disintegrated and was washed away due to an earthquake in 1897. This was the British name of what the local Khasi people once referred to as Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew (or “Three Steps Waterfalls”) since the falls actually consisted of three sections in succession with an easily accessible walking path.
After quickly wrapping up a few good clicks at Elephant falls, we headed towards the sacred forest – Mawphlang

Mawphlang Sacred Grove Forest

Timings: All days of the week 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Entry Fee:
I would suggest you take a local guide here which will cost you around 500-600 Rs. You have two options:
1. 45 min trail: a short trek in which you see most of the monoliths and learn about the forest biodiversity
2. 90 min trail: longer trek of 90 mins takes you deeper into the forest, and you walk alongside a small forest stream

Sacred Forest

This is the most sacred forest, which is guarded by one strict rule, and yes, I did not believe it too – “NOTHING is allowed to be taken out of this Sacred Grove. Not even a leaf, stone or a dead log. Failing to comply may lead to death.”
Covering some 192 acres, this forest is nestled in the East Khasi Hills near Mawphlang village. It had its deep roots in the age-old religious beliefs, in which forests were regarded as a sacred entity. The local Khasi tribes have been preserving this forest for hundreds of years


The entry to the forest begins with an array of lush green trees. At the entrance, you will come across a unique formation of Monoliths. There are two types:
First are vertical stones or Menhirs (remember Asterix & Obelix, in case you are a fan 😊 ) locally known as Moo Shynrang and represent Male Stones &
Second are the horizontal stones or Dolmens, locally known as Moo Kynthai represent female stones. These were raised in the memory of clan ancestors.
Later in my blog, I will also talk about our visit to Nartiang Monoliths – a collection of monoliths that are believed to be the tallest in the world.
Our guide, Arki was his name, was very interactive. He explained to us the medicinal properties of many plants and trees growing in the forest. We were bowled over with the large variety of endemic and rare plant species found inside.

As we explored further, we came across various species of mushrooms as well, growing on trees and on Mother Earth. Each unique in their own way. There were also find monoliths inside, covered with moss, and it is from these that the village gets its name – Mawphlang = “moss covered stones”.

Nature in Love

As we strolled through the dense forest, my eyes caught this picturesque heart shape that was created marriage between two trees. Truly captivating. I always wonder how HE creates such magic and leaves you spellbound.

While we continued our journey further deep inside, there is a stream that cuts through the forest. Here I would sincerely advise you to taste the flowing water. I know, I know this sounds weird😊, but trust me, we tasted it and just a few sips quenched our thirst. The water was cold, fresh and sweet. Finally, this awe-inspiring trail came to an end – a paradise for photographers and nature lovers.
We extended our stay to a couple of hours and then headed back to our hotel. This experience left us with some unforgettable memories of this magical Fangorn Forest (Remember Lord of the Rings 😊). You can also opt to stay locally and further explore the magnificence this place displays.

Day 3: Shillong – Shillong

Key Places to visit: Krangshuri Falls Jowai, Nartiang Monoliths

We are at Day 3 now and from here on commences our journey of the grandeur of Meghalaya. This route that we took from here on is a part of the Sohra circuit, known for its waterfalls, caves and valley viewpoints. Next 3 days were all about riveting experience which this state is renowned for. Such is the beauty preserved in this state that you actually are spoilt for choices. 😊

Krang Suri Falls

Timings: All days of the week
Entry Fee: Rs 50

Hands down, the most magical waterfall I have laid my eyes on

We started our journey to Jowai to visit Krang Suri Waterfalls, one of the 16 main waterfalls in Meghalaya. Nestled in the serenity of Jaintia hills, it is amongst one of the most scenic waterfalls of Meghalaya. The falls is blessed with sparkling blue waters, lush green scenes and a plethora of species. It was a 91 km drive to this location, and it took us approx. 3 hours.

Our cab parked right close to the entrance, from where we followed a vintage styled stone pathway towards the falls. This was an approximate 20-minute walk – and as we moved forward, we could hear the enchanting bubbling sound of the falls. This kept getting louder as we inched closer.  Throughout the trail, we were always surrounded with the thronging natural beauty and flora / fauna. You have to be there to see it, experience it.

When we reached the base, it was an overwhelming spectacle. The tranquil ambience and charming beauty of this place revived our souls. In case adventure excites you, you can trek alongside the big stones and stand behind the falls or take a dip in the greenish blue pool.  This greenish blue pool was very clear and serene. This nature’s creation actually tempted me to take a jump in the pool. But with my camera gear and tripod, I curbed my enthusiasm and believe me it was a very difficult decision to make.  😊 We were wanting to spend more time, but we had to head back to Shillong. So, with a heavy heart, we had to leave this incredible and peaceful nature’s phenomenon. We walked up the pathway towards our cab and took a tea break at a small restaurant near the entrance.

Nartiang Monoliths

Timings: All days of the week  
Entry Fee: Free

Obelix, Do Bee doo, where are you?

While driving back to Shillong, Debojith suggested to visit the Nartiang Monoliths. Since we already had visited these at Mawphlong, we were in two minds about whether we should detour or proceed directly to our hotel.  Finally we decided to go with the flow. And once again, he did not disappoint us. It truly was a sight to behold.
Before I take you through this virtual tour, it is essential for you to know that these Monoliths exist throughout the length and breadth of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya. You will come across a large mix of Menhirs and Dolmens (recall the trail at Mawphlong Sacred Groves 😊 ). These mega structures were erected by various clans of Nartiang village and are dated way back to 1500A.D.

Tale of 2 Monoliths

Once you enter this intriguing complex, you will witness the exhibition of the largest concentration of monoliths that that are believed to be the tallest in the world in Nartiang – A Garden of Monoliths, I would say. Located 60-65 kms from Shillong this was a man- made spectacle.  I am sure, our dear Obelix would have gone wild with uncontrolled excitement. 😊 Whenever I read their comics (I have the entire collection & still read them 😊) it always made me wonder, how would a Menhir look in real life. And abracadabra, here it was.

Before heading back to our hotel, I also experimented with my macro skills on the blooming garden flowers that enveloped these structures. 😊 We reached Shillong around 5 pm

Day 4: Shillong – Cherrapunjee

Key Places to visit: Mawdak Valley view point, Nokhalikai Falls, Awrah Caves

After breakfast at the hotel, we proceeded towards Cherrapunjee where we would prepare ourselves  – both mentally and physically – for the first taste of an adventurous trek to the Living Root Bridges. Shillong to Cherrapunjee is 64 km, which is a two-hour drive and as all the other drives have been, very picturesque.  We had 3 prominent stops planned en route to Cherrapunjee

Mawdok Valley View

Timings: Open 24 hours
Entry Fee: Free

This point, centrally located between Cherrapunjee and Shillong – is a wonderful vantage point. We also got a chance to visit Wah Kaba Falls. Located very close at a distance of about 3-5 kms from Mawdak, this waterfall descends from a steep rock face and drops approximately 170-190 meters into a gorge. There is a nice restaurant where you can have a quick bite and a few vendor stalls where you can shop for some souvenirs and bamboo products

Nohkalikai Falls

Timings: Dawn till Dusk
Entry Fee: Rs 10/-

Travelling further down towards Cherrapunjee, we took a diversion towards Nohkalikai Falls.  Located close to Cherrapunjee (6-8 kms), these falls are predominantly the tallest plunge waterfall in India at a height is 1115 feet/340 meters. But this was our first letdown of the entire trip. As I had mentioned in my prologue, Cherrapunjee is one of the wettest places on earth and here is where the weather played a spoilsport. The entire region around these falls was covered with dense fog and we did not get any glimpse of this gigantic marvel. But this did not disappoint us…

She means business 😊

We decided to explore the area and walked around. There were a number of local and tourist shops where one could try out some local specialties – pickles, honey, cinnamon. Mind you honey is very exclusive product of Cherrapunjee and you must plan to carry a bottle or two home, in case you relish honey. This lady was very kind enough to allow me to take her photo. As a gesture in return, we bought few good local products from her – cinnamon sticks, pickles. It was nearing lunch time and we were famished. In all the excitement of the walks, the trails, the amazing locales, we forgot about our dear friend – our stomach 😊.
So from here we went to a restaurant for lunch. It was a very simple setup, with an amazing landscape and food was absolutely delicious. We were planning to head towards Arwah Caves directly from here, but in case you are interested, you can visit the Ramakrishna Museum and Eco park which are in the range of 8-10 kms towards Cherrapunjee.

Arwah Caves

Timings: 9. 30 AM – 5. 30 PM
Entry Fee: Rs. 20 for Adults, Rs. 10 for Children, Rs. 100 for Guide & Rs. 50 for Camera

Post lunch we headed towards Arwah Caves – located at a distance of 6 kms from Cherrapunjee. While the Arwah is a huge cave, but only a small part of it has been opened for the tourists. It consists of excellent rock formations and even small passageways which lead to other parts of the cave. There were two paths to reach the cave from the parking area, one is rugged trail and other is pleasant walk. It takes around 15-20 minutes to reach the cave entrance. We obviously took the pleasant walk. 😊 Once we entered the caves, we could locate limestone formations, stalagmites and marine animal fossils inside, which are believed to be millions of years old. These caves were interconnected, but the route for tourists was well defined. Since lighting inside the cave was not sufficient and I had to use my mobile phone torch to guide me through the path.
One word of caution: In case you are claustrophobic, I would advise to avoid.  Also it is not suitable for kids and elderly people.

The walk along this bridge was very refreshing and we experienced a breathtaking view of the valley and the misty showers of the waterfalls that fall along the bridge. As a part of our earlier schedule, we had planned for visiting Mawsmai caves as well. However, we planned only for Arwah as we wanted to check in the hotel, take rest – for a fresh start to the root bridges next day

Day 5: Cherrapunjee

Key Places to visit – Living Root Bridges
Timings: I would recommend you hit the road early and plan to reach the starting point by 7:00 – 8:00 am. You will need at least 4-6 hours (depending on your fitness) to complete the entire journey to the double decker bridge – to and from.
Entry Fee: While the path is self-exploratory, I would still recommend taking a guide. And that is what we did. It will cost you Rs 700/- .

Love Affair of 2 banayan trees

Before I venture into explaining our mind-blowing trek, it is important I tell you folks a brief history about these bridges. These Living Root Bridges are made up of tangled thick roots that provide for formidable structures. They are formed by placing the roots into hollow canes and then foster properly until they grow enough to reach the opposite bank, completely entangled.  The double-decker root bridge in Cherrapunjee is one of its kind in the world and are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Sites.
Believe me, this will be one journey which will be very hard to forget. The overall hike consisted of approximately 3500 cemented steps (one way) to the Double Decker and what a steep gradient it is. So walking down is fun; it is the return that hits you J. The overall hike took us 5-6 hours. We had carried disposable ponchos and would recommend you too carry the same. I did not carry my camera gear to avoid the extra baggage.

We checked into our Hotel La Kupar, which was situated approx. 10-12 kms from the bridge location. Our hotel stay was an excellent experience and the staff was very courteous. Hotel also had a beautiful garden where they had orchid plantations. We were very excited for the adventure next day and then the unexpected happened – heavy rains and high-speed winds…
Once again, to jog your mind,this place has the 2nd heaviest rainfall in the world 😊.
It rained throughout the night and with a deafening sound. The rains mellowed in the early mornings. We were confused and were not sure whether we should go ahead with our plans. We consulted Mr. John, our hotel manager. He was a great guide in disguise and given the fact that we were prepared with rain gear and proper footwear, he motivated us to go ahead with the hike.

Map of Middle Earth

So we began our long descent towards the bridges, slow and steady. The entire path was engulfed in thick forests, surrounded by stunning ecosphere of nature. Like I said earlier, the whole journey is around 7-8 kms/7000 steps (to and from) and as we walked down the steps, we passed through 2-3 villages on the way, many small restaurant huts who kept an ample supply of water, soft drinks, hot drinks and fruits (So you need not carry anything with you, at least we did not carry). We first reached the Single Root Bridge, following which we “courageously” 😊 crossed two suspension bridges and finally, reached the jaw dropping Double Decker bridge. Our whole journey was spellbound and left an everlasting impression on us.
Our goal was the Double Decker. Please refer to my blog where I have tried to explain this incredible journey using Life as a Metaphor.

Day 6,7: Cherrapunjee – Guwahati

Key Places to visit –  Orchidarium
Timings: 10 am – 1pm; 3 pm – 5 pm; Wednesday closed.

I hoped liked my blog about our successful Double Decker trail. It was a little heavy on the philosophical side 😊 , but am sure you enjoyed it.

So now let me bring you back to the real world 😊 .
We reached our hotel around 2:00 – 3:00 pm and Debojith took us to a good veg restaurant – Orange Roots, a 10-minute drive from your hotel. After having local cuisine for 5 days around-the-clock, the taste of North Indian Veg was a heaven in disguise. We were completely burned out; body was aching and legs were completely numb 😊 . We spent the rest of the day in the hotel, to recover.
Our earlier plan was to visit Dawki & Mawlynnong – an enchanting village 2 kms away from Bangladesh border. Here lies the Umngot River – a ravishing site where you can see clear waters – if you google, you will come across a picture of a boat on crystal clear waters. This is THE PLACE. But because of the weather conditions, we had to cancel this and head straight back to Shillong. This was the 2nd disappointment for us.

But life is too important to be taken seriously. We intend to visit Shillong again and spotlighting our travel to cover waterfalls, adventure & Dawki. So with this thought and taking with us some lifelong memories, we headed back to Shillong. It was the same route we had taken for our incoming journey, scenic as always, but still offered some new spectacles. There were many natural waterfalls, on the way,  as a result of the heavy rains. They were surging and plunging down through the rocks. We also were dazed to catch glimpses of pitcher plants. We have never seen such large pitcher plants growing in a natural habitat.

About 10 kms close to Shillong these Cherry Blossom trees caught our attention. It is very near the Shillong Peak View entrance road. Pretty-in-pink blooms, you will find these spread across Shillong, especially in the Oct-Dec period. At Ward lake, you can also take a walk under the beautifully lit up cherry blossom trees.


Timings: 10 am – 1pm; 3 pm – 5 pm; Wednesday closed.

Near this place, there was an Orchidarium that caught our attention. This was newly opened in Shillong and housed around 300 species of orchids. The climate conditions and rich fertile soil were an added advantage. The place was unique and was built with an intention to boost growth of eco-tourism. So finally we reached our hotel and after a good rest, started packing for our travel back home the next day. Somehow my sixth sense made me call the airlines to check on the status, and I realized that the entire flight plan had to be changed. Now instead of via Kolkata, we had to fly Shillong – Delhi – Pune.


Our journey came to an end and we had to head back to our daily routines. I am short of words to summarize our stay, as each moment / event / location had its own uniqueness; you have to be there and experience the grandness. And this did not end here. On return as well, Shillong gave us an unforgettable return gift – an exhilarating view of the Great Himalayas

Takeaways from this visit

Important points that we would like to leave with you:

1. Travel light. That is what I normally do.
2. Weather is unpredictable especially during this period. So let this not disappoint you. Move on
3. Have the right tools for the right place. We had carried disposable ponchos at Cherrapunjee trek.
4. During this period (October – December), days are shorter and it gets dark by 4:30 – 5:00 pm so plan accordingly
5. If you have shopping in your schedule, then definitely buy some wooden artifacts. They come in different types and will end up being an attractive addition for your home décor. We found them cheaper in and around Police Bazaar as compared to the tourist spots.
6. If you’re a foodie, we would strongly recommend trying the Khasi cuisines, Street Food, Momos and different types of Chowmeins. You will get ample of options in Police Bazaar.
7. Positively try the Pineapples and Local Fruits sold by local vendors. While Pineapple is not in my top three fruit cravings, these were genuinely sweet and juicy.

“Khublei!!” Meghalaya.

Your comments are always welcome, and they will help in my next blog to improvise further. So you can directly write to me
Please do also share it with your friends!


Published by Wander Lens

A wanderer, dreamer, traveller, photographer from Pune, India. I set up this blog to share my experiences of travelling and photography to inspire and help you to travel more too

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