The Ultimate 12-Day Travel Guide to Meghalaya, India
I solo traveled in Meghalaya for 12 days and while I have so many stories to tell, I thought of writing this guide. You can read my stories from Shillong here and from Mawsynram, here. This guide explains the route I took, places I visited in Meghalaya, accommodation, transport and pretty much everything else you may need to know before visiting Meghalaya.
Note: Prices on this blog post are mentioned in INR (Indian rupee). At the moment of writing, $1USD = 71 INR. 1 INR = 2.3 LKR.
Where is Meghalaya
I’ll be frank with you. When I was 17, I didn’t know Meghalaya was a state of my big beautiful neighboring country. This tiny state belongs to North East India and like pretty much everything else in North East India, Meghalaya, too, is forgotten. Meghalaya lies between its Indian neighbor, the somewhat giant Assam and lesser loved (by many tourists although I love it and will visit one day) Bangladesh. Shillong is Meghalaya’s electric capital city. The British named it the Scotland of the East. The locals rarely like the tagline. Because, to them, Meghalaya is their Meghalaya, the abode of the clouds. Just like how Sri Lanka, to me, is, Sri Lanka and not Ceylon.
Soooo…why am I hyper about a tiny Northeast Indian state?
Because….I loved it. In 10 days, I felt at home in Meghalaya. Meghalaya is lush green. I saw waterfalls, some big, some tiny. I saw waterfalls, many of them. I don’t know how many, but I saw more waterfalls in 10 days than I ever did in my entire 23 years of life. I crawled inside dark, dank limestone caves, to see limestone streams, fossils and get lost in their eerie silence. I stayed with locals. I talked to them, heard their stories, and ate with them. I laughed with them. I almost cried with them, too.
I ate Jadoh, Meghalaya’s local delicacy. I sat in tiny tea stalls, had a few cups, listening to locals. I didn’t understand their language, but in a tiny corner of my heart, I felt connected. On my last day, sitting in my taxi, I watched the sun bade goodbye over the majestic Jaintia Hills. I cried like a wee kid inside my Airbnb in Shillong. The next day, I left Meghalaya with a sore heart. I don’t know if Meghalaya is for everyone, but if you love nature more than big buildings, if you love silence, if your heart yearns for the mountain charm, azure blue rivers gushing through deep gorges, this, my dear, is the place for you.
How to get to Meghalaya
Shillong has its own airport, named Umroi, but that’s probably not where you’re going to fly to. Umroi Airport welcomes small flights from Kolkata and a few other North East Indian cities like Dimapur in Nagaland. The airport is about 30 kilometers from the city center, located close to Lake Umiam.
You are probably going to fly into Guwahati, the Assam’s capital. It’s the getaway point to other NE Indian cities. Guwahati is hot in summer, recorded 38 Celsius the day I landed. If you are flying from Colombo, check with IndiGo, as they have flights to Guwahati connecting via Chennai. CMB – MAA – GAU route. I flew to Chennai with Sri Lankan Airlines. From Chennai, I flew to Guwahati with IndiGo with a stopover at Kolkata (MAA – CCU – GAU). I didn’t book my flights until the last two weeks or so and the direct flight from Chennai to Guwahati was a tad expensive for me.
On my way back, I flew directly to Chennai from Guwahati. I highly recommend IndiGo. The check in was easy, the staff is fab, flights on time and smooth, comfortable journey.
Guwahati Airport to Shillong
There are shared taxis to Shillong from Guwahati, but not frequently and you’ll have to wait until they get full. Instead, you can book an Ola or Uber (yes, Uber and Ola function in Guwahati) from the airport to either Paltan Bazaar (24 km) or Khanapara (30 km). From there, take a shared taxi to Shillong. The journey will cost you 400 INR. You can also take a shared taxi to Paltan Bazaar and from their hop on another one which goes to Shillong. The journey will take 3 hours, but if there’s traffic as you near Shillong, expect a 1-2 hour delay.
Accommodation in Meghalaya
Here’s a breakdown of all the hotels/homestays/cottages I stayed in Meghalaya with prices.
Note: accommodation in Meghalaya is slightly expensive than say, Himachal Pradesh. Both Nathan and I stayed in cozy hill cottages for about 900 INR in HP, but in Meghalaya, it’s hard to find places cheaper than 1000 INR.
Prices are for one night. I was a solo traveler, but even if you are a couple, it would cost you the same as I stayed in private double rooms.
If you sign up for Airbnb using this link, you get $25USD OFF of your first booking.
- Shillong: Russet Homestay (1500 INR including breakfast which was a full feast)
- Kynjai Homestay (1400 INR including a simple breakfast)
- Mawsynram: Emily and Sankirta’s Homestay (1500 INR including breakfast with ham, eggs, cornflakes etc.)
- Mawphanlur: Traveller’s Nest (1600 INR. Breakfast isn’t included)
- Kongthong: Bamboo Hut (2000 INR. Breakfast isn’t included)
- Sohra (Cherrapunji): Sohra Plaza (2000 INR and breakfast isn’t included. They have an extensive menu and their food is cheap)
- Mawlynnong: Sahpyngngad Homestay (1800 INR for 4 people. Breakfast isn’t included)
- Shnongpdeng: Bright Star Camps and Foods (1500 INR)
Transport in Meghalaya
Shared taxis and shared sumos are available from Shillong to other places. They are cheap and save a lot of money. But they take a lot of time, too. If you are heading to place B from place A, you’ll mostly have to go back to Shillong from place A to get a shared vehicle to place B. I hope this makes sense? Private transport is expensive for a budget traveler.
Hiring a private taxi will be the costliest sector of your trip to Meghalaya. I paid 18000 INR for 8 days for a private taxi. This includes driver accommodation, food etc as well. In most places, there was free accommodation available for drivers.
Khraw was both my guide and driver, but he became an amazing friend at the end of my trip. I highly recommend him. He knows a lot of hidden places you and I probably have never heard of. You can contact him at: +919485366484
Organized tours in Meghalaya
Now, if you don’t want to do this on your own, you can organize a customized tour as you prefer. I highly recommend Greener Pastures who organized me the best accommodation options throughout Meghalaya. Nathan and I both love community-based, responsible tourism. Greener Pastures are a small, responsible tour company in North East India. Meghalaya is not just about its mesmerizing landscapes, it’s a brimming pot of culture too. They have a few sample itineraries, but you could always reach out to Greener Pastures to organize a tour according to your preferences.
Network in Meghalaya
WiFi doesn’t exist except for a few hotels and cafes in Shillong. Therefore, you HAVE to buy a sim. Jio works the best. Network fluctuates as you move into rural areas. I had both BSNL and Jio, and only the latter had some coverage in many places. As a foreigner, buying a sim in India is a pain unless you bought it at the airport. Check if there’s a Jio kiosk at the airport and buy your sim there to save the hassle. If you have a local friend, ask him/her to buy it for you. A 4G Jio sim costs only 500 INR including a three-month package with 1.5GB data a day, free roaming within India and unlimited calls within India.
What to wear in Meghalaya
Urm? You meant clothes? Jokes apart, what to wear in Meghalaya completely depends on the season. I was so scared that heavy rains will ruin my plans, but however, it only heavily rains in June and July now. Global warming is real. If you are traveling in June or July, bring a cheap, long raincoat to cover your body or a poncho will work out better. Pack lightweight materials which dry fast for monsoons. In monsoons: Raincoat for your bag. Waterproof bag for your phone, money and other valuables. Raincoat for your DSLR if you carry one. These are a must. Pack a light rain jacket for other months as you never know when it will rain in Meghalaya.
During monsoons, wear a pair of sandals with a good grip. When it rains heavily, crocs will be the best footwear as they dry fast. In winters, it gets quite cold. You will need thick jackets, scarves, and boots.
Apart from these things, wear anything you normally wear on a trip to India. You can wear shorts. I did and no, they aren’t frowned upon or stared at. Just avoid anything too short or reveals too much of skin. Shillong loves fashion. I meant they loooooooove fashion. So feel free to dress up.
What to eat and drink in Meghalaya
You can find north Indian food and thali pretty much everywhere. Some places have Chinese food. Jadoh is the famous local food and jadoh stalls are everywhere in Meghalaya. If you are a little adventurous, try Jadoh cooked in pork blood. You can also have blood sausages in Meghalaya. I also tried Sakin Gata – made with sticky rice and sugar. It’s so good with tea. Meghalaya has their local rice beer and wine made with locally-grown blackcurrant.
My 12-day Meghalaya Itinerary
So this was where I went in Meghalaya.
Shillong (2 nights) Mawsynram (2 nights) Mawphanlur and Nongkhnum Island (1 night) Kongthong (1 night) Sohra aka Cherrapunji (2 nights) Mawlynnong (1 night) Shnongpdeng (1 night) Shillong (1 night)
I didn’t feel rushed at all, but if I didn’t have a lame speech the day I landed back in Sri Lanka which was 25 percent of my grades, I would plan to stay another week or two in Meghalaya. I’m planning to go back and the next time I’m in Meghalaya, I want to stay in Shillong for 3-4 days to experience the café culture. Shillong is named India’s Rock Capital and jam sessions happen pretty much every day.
I also want to spend a few more nights in both Mawphanlur and Nongkhnum and maybe 2 nights in Jaintia Hills. And more time in Shnongpdeng if I head back in winters. Mawsynram, too, has a few other caves which are only accessible in winters. I didn’t venture into Garo Hills. Tura is the capital of Garo Hills and it’s pretty far. Locals also told me it’s a bit unsafe. But please check with local people when you are in Meghalaya. They know better than guidebooks or blogs.
I’ve heard that Meghalaya turns into its happiest self in December as Christmas nears. Over 70 percent of locals are Christians and if you want to get a glimpse of the festivity, December is a fabulous time. Ticket prices go high so, book in advance.
I have written a blog post about Shillong (which a lot of people loved) here. It’s a story, and contains what to do, where to stay and pretty much everything else you need to know about Shillong, but here’s a bit of practical information again.
Shillong is just like any other hill station in India. Imagine bustling markets, taxis, insane traffic and everything else an Asian city has. Shillong has it all. But it’s only cooler. Hip and open. Fashion is a big thing in Shillong. Police Bazaar is the main market which is actually an outsider’s hub than locals. Many shops inside the Police Bazaar are run by outsiders (Assamese, Rajasthanis, Bengalis etc).
From Police Bazaar, shared taxis and buses (red in color, rare and small) function to every locality in Shillong and far away corners. Laitumkhrah is Shillong’s café hub. A shared taxi only costs 20-50 INR within Shillong, but expect to get squeezed. It’s a cheap way to travel in Shillong if you don’t have heavy luggage. There’s no Uber. There’s no Ola. No Meeru or any taxi service.
For small distances, walk, walk and walk! With its pleasant air, mild sunrays and mind-your-own-business attitude, I think Shillong is one of my favorite places to just…walk.
In Shillong, I stayed in Anne’s place and Kynjai Homestay. Both are well-maintained, neat, beautiful, cozy spaces but if you need to chat with a local and hear plenty of stories, stay at Anne’s. She’s the sweetest!
What did I do in Shillong?
I ate momos. Lots of them. I walked, roamed around. I had chai with gulab jamun. Many cups of chai. I also went to a few attractions and shopped a bit at Police Bazaar.
Here’s where I went:
I hired a taxi which my host had suggested to me. It cost me 1500 INR. I went to Laitlum Canyon in Smit village. The views from here are stunning. I then went to Shillong Peak where you can get a panorama view of this enchanting hill town. I’m not a museum person, but I learned a lot in Don Bosco Museum, it’s well organized and has a skywalk from where you get a beautiful view. Not only me, but even India’s prime minister suggests you should visit Elephant Falls, so you really should visit that! Shillong Cathedral aka Mary Help of Christians Cathedral is a welcoming place with stunning British architecture.
My next destination was Mawsynram. You can get to Mawsynram on a shared sumo for about 70 INR, but the day I went, there were no shared sumos. A private taxi costs somewhere around 1500-1800 INR.
Mawsynram is not only the wettest place on Earth but its full of charm, smiles and engaging stories. The village is about 3 km from the main market area. There are no restaurants in the village so I had dinner at my homestay. It was tad expensive, but a full feast with local food.
If you want to get to a few places near Mawsynram, you will have to hire a private taxi as there’s no other way. And it costs. A lot. Depending on where you go.
Here’s where I went in Mawsynram:
I went to Mawpdai Village, to see what became my favorite tree. You can walk inside the tree, as you cling on to its impressive root system and come out on top to see a view of the Bangladeshi plains. It’s 22 km from Mawsynram. Then you have to drive back to Mawsynram to visit Mawlyngbna, a beautiful place full of waterbodies, caves, rocky outcrops, split rocks, and fossils.
You can also stay a night in Mawlyngbna (Travellers’ Nest) if you are keen on waterbased activities. Then, we went to see a waterfall, and it didn’t have a name, but if you tell any local you’d want to see falls, they’ll take you there. At last, I went to see Mawjymbuin Cave, a place worshiped by Hindus.
West Khasi Hills
After two nights in Mawsynram, I traveled to West Khasi Hills. I stayed a night in Mawphanlur. There is no public transport. If you want to get there cheaply, you have to hop on a shared sumo to Shillong from Mawsynram and from Shillong, a shared sumo to Markasa. This will take a lot of time…like a full day.
From Markasa, you can hire a taxi to get to Mawphanlur. The road isn’t good, so they charge 400 INR. The landscapes in West Khasi Hills are heavenly and I immediately fell in love. People, both men, and women work in paddy fields, nestled in deep valleys, surrounded by the emerald hills.
Where to stay in Mawphanlur
Mawphanlur is a fairytale village with its sublime natural beauty. It has 10 lakes. The village actually has more lakes than houses. On a tiny hill, you will see Traveller’s Nest, Francis’ home for travelers. The place has three beautiful cottages, with space for 6 people. You cannot book it online. We just turned up and tried our luck. We were indeed lucky because I could stay in one of the cute cottages. You can order food at the homestay for a small fee. Simple food, but it was so delicious.
What to do in West Khasi Hills
Trek trek and trek in Mawphanlur. You can cycle to visit other lakes, too. Or just laze down. It gets quite cold at night and it was blissful.
Asia’s 2nd largest river island will fill your heart with its quietness. Its colors. Its smells. Smells of its haystacks, piled upon one another next to small cottages. On my way to Nongkhnum, I saw beauty. The beauty of little things. Of wildflowers that are pink in color. And the beauty of West Khasi Hills. Begged to be explored.
What to do in Nongkhnum Island
There was a homestay on the island but you cannot book it online. You can camp for a night and do boating, kayaking, and fishing. Have a BBQ and stargaze at night! This is exactly what I’m going to do on my next visit. A short drive from Nongkhnum takes you to Weinia Falls. I visited her just after monsoons, so she was in her happiest mood. She gushed down the rocks, merrier than ever.
How to get to Nongkhnum Island
I traveled in my private taxi, but if you want to do this cheaper, ask Francis to drop you at Markasa (400 INR) and then take a shared taxi to Nongstoin. From Nongstoin, hire a taxi to Nongkhnum Island. If you are coming from Shillong for a day trip, hiring a private taxi to Nongkhnum Island will cost you somewhere around 4000 INR (yikes). Or, you could hop on a shared sumo early morning to Nongstoin, and take a taxi from there. But I’ll doubt you’d have enough time to go back to Shillong.
I swear I didn’t know this place until Khraw told me a story he learned as a kid. Kyllang was a giant. A giant who became a rock. You can hike it in 30-45 minutes. There was a group of people who played Khasi music and had a BBQ when we visited. A picnic. And it was beautiful. I love Khasi music.
After my one night in the West Khasi Hills, I again went to East Khasi Hills. This time to Kongthong, a small village where people has a tune as their name. The village has about 700 hundred inhabitants and each one has their own tune.
There’s only one place to stay, which to my surprise can be reserved online. It’s a little bamboo hut and I had a caterpillar who said hiiii at night. You’re in the jungle, so be ready for surprises like that! Food is simple and locally-sourced.
There’s nothing to do here if you are just here for a day. Kongthong has living root bridges, hidden, deep in the subtropical jungle which you have to trek for 5-6 hours. There’s a waterfall, too which takes 3-4 hours to reach by foot. I loved listening to people call each other by their tune. The sunset from my hut was mesmerizing.
How to reach Kongthong
If you are coming from Cherrapunji or Shillong, there’ll be one or two shared sumos a day to reach the village. There’s no fixed timing. It’s not very far from Shillong but the road, for about 20 kilometers is in a very bad state and will cost you a bit if you opt for private transport.
From Kongthong, I finally went to Cherrapunji. I stayed two nights in Sohra aka Cherrapunji.
The weekend destination for people in Shillong and Assam, Cherrapunji is probably Meghalaya’s busiest subdivision. Many people come here to visit the double-decker root bridge in Nongriat. More about that later.
Where to stay in Sohra
I’ve heard good things about By The Way Hostel if you’re on a budget. It’s 200 INR for a dorm bed and 500 INR for a double room. I stayed in a beautiful hotel called Sohra Plaza which cost me 2000 INR a night. Sohra Plaza was a secluded place with amazing food. They have a driver room, too for no additional charge. For those who want to splurge, Sohra has beautiful resorts like Sa-I-Mika Resort and Jiva Resort.
What to do in Sohra
There’s so much to do. Caves, waterfalls, markets, living root bridges, you name it. Once you are in Sohra, you can hire a taxi to get around. I visited Dainthlen Falls on the first day and since it was a Sunday, the place was filled with people. Surprisingly, I loved it with people. The atmosphere was festive. People arrived with music. They bathed, swam, washed their cars, danced, played games, prepared food and were having a beautiful time.
Wei Sawdong Falls
From Dainthlen Falls, Wei Sawdong Falls is 1 km away. To reach the falls, there’s a hike through a steep path which will take about 15-20 minutes. Unfortunately, when I visited, all the locals advised us to not go there as the place was very slippery with monsoon rains. The three-tier waterfall is best-accessible in winters.
Mawkdok Valley and Garden of Caves
I also visited Mawkdok Valley. You can go zip lining here and it only costs 300 INR. I then went to the Garden of Caves in Laitmawsiang. It’s a beautiful, lesser visited place. I spotted about 5 waterfalls and visited a heart shaped rock.
Arwah Caves and Mawsmai Caves
On my second day, we went to Arwah caves. I loved this place. It was a limestone cave and a guide from the place took us around for no additional fee. He loved showing us all the fossils and hidden treasures. Only a very few people know about Arwah. I didn’t either, but Khraw took me there (yay!). Mawsmai Caves, on the other hand, were crowded. You have to wait in line to get inside.
Nohkalikai Falls and Seven Sisters Falls
There are so many waterfalls in Sohra and I could go to the most famous ones: Nohkalikai Falls and Nohsngithiang Falls (Seven Sisters Falls) – from where you could also see the Sylhet plains. The next time I’m in Sohra, I want to see both Kynrem Falls and Lyngksiar Falls.
I went to a cemetery!
We also went to a secret viewpoint which only Khraw knew about, inside a jungle next to a cemetery. I love cemeteries! I love the eerie silence they carry. I’m a tombstone reader and it belonged to an English family back in the late 1800s and early 1900s – the cemetery. It was near the Jiva Resort and you get a beautiful view of the mist-clad mountains.
The market in Sohra happens only once a week and you can check market days here. Luckily, it was the market day when we visited. I wasn’t exactly thinking of visiting, but then Khraw had to buy a few things. I loved every bit of this chaotic, crazy Khasi market. Loud, bustling and noisy – Just like Pettah, but filled with women. Women vendors. With a few men here and there.
Living root bridges
The famous double-decker root bridge is located in Nongriat. Nongriat is only accessible by foot, from nearby Tyrna. Tyrna is 12 km from Sohra. You can either walk 12 km or take a taxi for 300 INR. There are about 3500 steps to take you to Nongriat. As someone who struggles with shortness of breath, and without Nathan, I avoided Nongriat. However, next time, I’ll be there, with Nathan. You can also trek to Rainbow Falls from Nongriat. According to my research, the village has two homestays.
The next day, I continued my journey to Mawlynnong which literally means “God’s Own Garden.” Mawlynnong is known as Asia’s cleanest village. I was told not to go here by a few people because it was touristy. Yes, the village gets many visitors. Yes, every house is a homestay and has a small restaurant. But the village had its own charm. Many people come for a day visit, but I stayed a night. The place was where I’ve felt the safest in my entire life.
What to do in Mawlynnong
Climb one of the small tree houses during sunset hours to see the gorgeous Bangladeshi plains. Sit in village’s tiny tea stall, have a cuppa and listen to the stories. No, I didn’t understand anything, but I loved it. The main church is stunning and village kids sing carols every evening. I sat there to get some network because it was the only place Jio worked in Mawlynnong. Barely, though.
A few kilometers from Mawlynnong is, Riwai. In Riwai, you could walk to the single decker living root bridge. It takes 10-15 minutes. There’s a stream in Mawlynnong which you could take a dip, but please ask the locals before doing so. It’s where the locals bath and wash their clothes and it’s their daily life. We are just visitors. I personally avoid doing things which may interrupt the local lives.
How to get to Mawlynnong
From Sohra, you have to go back to Shillong to find a shared taxi. If you are in Shillong, you can easily find a shared taxi or a shared sumo to Mawlynnong.
Dawki and Shnongpdeng
Dawki is commercialized. So I went to Shnongpdeng, a cute little village to soak up the beauty of Umngot River, even in monsoons.
Where to stay in Shnongpdeng
I stayed in one of the cute bamboo huts. It’s a simple place. The bed was hard, but it was fine for me as I stayed only one night. The place is called Bright Star Camping. I paid 1500 INR a night for a private room with an attached bathroom. You can stay in one of the tents which costs 700-1000 INR.
What to do in Dawki and Shnongpdeng
I only stayed one night and went on canoeing on my last morning. There’s so much to do here like snorkeling, cliff jumping, scuba diving, and fishing. I also visited the majestic Byrdaw Falls on my way to Dawki. It’s located in Pomshutia. You can walk through the waterfall, and get amazed by the sheer beauty of it. Just like how I did. Remember, it was the monsoons and monsoons are the best time to view waterfalls. You have to park your vehicle in the village and walk for 20-30 minutes to reach the falls.
I didn’t exactly go to Tamabil Border but went so close to it. If you fancy international borders, it’s a short drive from Dawki. Tamabil is one official border crossing where India is separated from its one small neighbor, Bangladesh. You can also go to Bophil Falls in Dawki. I couldn’t go there, but it looks like it’s a stunner.
How to reach Dawki
From Mawlynnong, you can take a shared sumo to Pongtung, and from there, you can try your luck and wait for a shared taxi to Dawki, which will probably be coming from Shillong. There are shared taxis and shared sumos from Shillong to Dawki every day. From Dawki, Shnongpdeng is 8 km away. You’ll have to take a private taxi to Shnongpdeng.
Driving back to Shillong from Dawki
We went via Jowai to get a glimpse of the Jaintia Hills. Despite being one of the wettest places on earth, I noticed that Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills has a huge water problem, even during the monsoons. It was drier than the Khasi Hills. We started at around 10 AM from Shnongpdeng and it was around 7.30 PM when I reached Shillong. Of course, I visited a few places on my way, had lunch, and took it slow but it’s a long drive.
So what did I do in Jaintia Hills?
I went to see Krang Shuri Falls. It’s absolutely breathtaking and in winters, I heard it’s azure blue. Krang Suri Falls are in West Jaintia Hills. You could also visit Tyrshi Falls. I didn’t have time to visit that. Moopun Falls is 30 km from Krang Suri Falls and are in East Jaintia Hills. I visited Nartiang monoliths, a huge collection of megalithic stones. Nartiang is 28 km from Jowai, Jaintia Hill’s capital.
Can you stay in Jaintia Hills?
Obviously, you can. There’s campsite in Krang Suri Falls. For five people, it only costs 500 INR. There are also a few homestays and hotels in Jowai.
So that was the end of my trip. Have you been to Meghalaya? Did you love it? Are you planning to go? Do you want to know anything else? Feel free to comment below or email us your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help you.