Located in northeastern India, Meghalaya, meaning ‘Abode of Clouds’ in Sanskrit, is a tiny state yet it packs a wallop in terms of outdoor pursuits. It is home to stunning landscapes and several natural wonders - including the deepest (and longest) caves, living root bridges, gorgeous waterfalls, virgin islands and a hidden canyon - that appeals to adventurers and nature lovers alike, with an added plus of being as far away as possible from tourist hordes. It’s also one of the safest travel destinations for female travelers in India. Read further to know the best things to do in Meghalaya for outdoor enthusiasts.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a spelunking tour. Meghalaya is home to more than 1,580 caves - and the major ones are spread across the East Khasi Hills, Garo Hills and Jaintia Hills district. The Krem Puri near Mawsynram village in the East Khasi Hills district is the longest sandstone cave in the world (24.5 km/15 miles long), and it is also believed to contain dinosaur fossil remains dating back to some 70 million years. Meanwhile, Mawsmai and Arwah Caves in Cherrapunji will captivate you with their well-preserved stalagmite, stalactite and rock formations. To explore these caves, we recommend you hire a local guide to lead the way.
Caving in Meghalaya
Duration: 4 hours
2. Take a tour of Nongkhnum Island
A few miles from Nongstoin village is Asia’s second largest river island called Nongkhnum. It is an epitome of scenic beauty with patches of grasslands all around. While it’s beautiful, the journey to the island isn’t an easy one, with rough terrains throughout and no human presence whatsoever. But once you reach here (via taxi from Nongstoin village or on foot), you’ll know it was worth it for the utmost serenity and natural beauty. While you’re here, do visit Weinia Waterfall.
3. Go kayaking at Umngot River
Considered to be the cleanest river in India, Umngot River in the border town of Dwaki, is the best place for kayakers. You can rent a kayak or book a tour - either way, you’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery while paddling your way through the clear waters. Avoid the monsoon season (May - September) as the water gets muddy; instead visit anytime between October and December, when the river turns into shades of blue and green - a sight to behold! You can also engage in angling here. Should you wish to stay, there are bamboo huts nearby or you can pitch in a tent near the river. You can book a tour with Pioneer Adventure, one of the best operators offering kayaking and boating trips here.
4. Trek to the Living Root Bridges
Meghalaya is home to several centuries-old single and double-decker bridges made from the roots of ancient rubber trees. These are man-made natural wonders that take 15-20 years to become stronger and are fortified with sticks and stones. Some of them are believed to be hundreds of years old. The must-visit bridge includes the 180-year-old Umshiang Double-Decker Bridge in Nongriat Village, which is 20 meters (65.61 feet) long and is accessible only via trek - 3,500 steps from Tyrna village will lead you to this spot. Other noteworthy bridges include Ummunoi Bridge in Nongkroh Village and Riwai Bridge near Mawlynnong, referred to as Asia’s cleanest village. While you’re here, make sure to visit 25.9 meters (85-feet) high Sky Walk made of bamboo and the 100-year-old Church of Epiphany.
5. Hike the Laitlum Grand Canyon
In the East Khasi Hills lies an incredible natural feature that surprisingly is untouched by tourists. Literally translating to ‘end of hills’, Laitlum Canyon can be reached via trek. It includes uneven and narrow rocky terrains, which makes it a challenge for the trekkers. But the reward is the panoramic views of Shillong (Meghalaya’s capital). From here, head to a small village of Rasong through a long steep stairway. It is inhabited by 300 or so people, and there isn’t much to do here, but the peaceful setting and abundant natural beauty make it a perfect spot for those looking for some time alone.
Laitlum Grand Canyon
Address: Meghalaya 793015
Opening hours: Mon-Sun: 7:00am - 5:00pm
Nestled in Sohra (also called as Cherrapunji), Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Gushing down from a height of 340 meters (1116 feet) from the jungle-clad hills, it forms a plunge pool at the base, which has green tones in summer and is azure in winter. There’s also a formation of picturesque mist down below. You can hike or take a taxi from Cherrapunji to the falls, and spend a few moments (or hours) admiring its immense beauty. The best time to visit is in September and October. While you’re in the area, do take a trip to Nohsngithiang Falls in the East Khasi Hills district. The water rushes down from 315 meters (1033 feet) into seven segments, hence it is also known as ‘Seven Sisters Falls’.
Shillong to Cherrapunji Private Full-Day Sightseeing Excursion
Duration: 10 hours
7. Be one with nature at Garo Hills
Located in the western part of Meghalaya, Garo Hills is an offbeat place that is inhabited by tribal group called Garos. Here, outdoor enthusiasts can take a hike through the hills, while nature lovers can visit Nokrek Biosphere that is known for having the rarest species of citrus, or Siju Bird Sanctuary and Balphakram National Park, which are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
8. Visit the Mawphlang Sacred Forest
Tucked in the East Khasi Hills, the Mawphlang Sacred Forest is a sacred entity and guarded by a local deity, called Labasa. Visitors can take a stroll through this forest, which is marked by the interconnected network of plants and trees - some are believed to be more than 1,000 years old. Also, there are several monoliths within the forest worth checking out. There is one rule, however, to be followed while visiting the forest - you are not allowed to take anything from the forest, not even a pebble or leaf, else the deity gets upset.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest
Address: Nongrum, Meghalaya 793121
Opening hours: Mon-Sun: 7:45am - 5:45pm
Entry fee: INR 20 (0.28 USD) per head, and INR 20 (0.28 USD) for the camera. For a guided tour, the fee is INR 300 (4.22 USD) for 1 hour(inclusive of an English-speaking Khasi guide).
9. Marvel at the Nartiang Monoliths
Nartiang Monoliths are a collection of upright, carved stones found in the Nartiang village in Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. These vary in height and some are up to 10 meters (32.8 feet) tall. They were erected by the local tribal groups, and each represents a particular individual or event. Besides marveling at the monoliths, visitors can spend some time in the village, that once served as the summer capital of 17th-century Jaintia rulers, and learn more about these monoliths.
Address: Nartiang Rd, Nartiang, Meghalaya 793151
Opening hours: Open 24 hours
10. Indulge in adventure activities at Mawphanlur village
Mawphanlur is a remote village in the West Khasi Hills. It is home to 10 lakes, where adventure enthusiasts can go kayaking, canoeing or fishing, while the trekkers can hike its numerous lush peaks. If you wish to stay, there is only one guesthouse here - Traveller’s Nest, which has three cottages with basic facilities.
Address: Meghalaya 793119
Entry fee to the village: INR 10 (0.14 USD); plus additional charges for parking, camera, etc.
Meghalaya: an outdoors paradise
From trekking to the Living Root Bridges, to exploring the world’s longest sandstone cave and taking a tour of Asia’s second largest river island, Meghalaya is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
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