Explore Meghalaya – A Nature Escape to the Indian North-East

Smart Village Movement, December 30, 2021

Anna Fitter for Smart Village Movement in Alliance with Berkeley Haas

As we work hard towards building Smart Villages to empower rural communities in Meghalaya, we’d like to honor the beauty of the land, natural environment and people we seek to enrich. 2021 comes to a close with yet another holiday season shadowed by the pandemic. So in our “new normal” we’ll keep our travel options simple and explore the great outdoors away from the crowds. 

India has staggering beauty and stark diversity from state to state with a variety of beautiful locations to explore. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, I regret never having the opportunity (and the good sense) to pack a backpack, waterproof jacket, hiking boots and head to the North East.  Now, in the holiday spirit of mixing a little pleasure with business, I turn to ask our Smart Village Team in Meghalaya, one of India’s Seven Sisters states, to share some of their  favorite spots and experiences with us. 

Keep in mind this is a dynamic group of young professionals who love to explore, their middle name is adventure! So here are some highlights the team shared of Meghalaya – An Abode in the Clouds, for thrill-seekers, explorers, and village-builders everywhere.

This will be a 3-part blog with Part One: Best of Meghalaya | Part Two: Food & Culture in Meghalaya | Part 3: People and Products of Meghalaya – so stay tuned as the compass points NorthEast.

Map Source : Vector Stock

Part 1 Of 3: Best of Meghalaya

Nestled in the clouds, with a record of highest levels of rainfall in the world, Meghalaya is one of the most beautiful states in India. People here stay close to nature, honor their resources and strive to manage and enhance their natural environment. As a traveler you can enjoy  several beautiful vantage points, staggering natural beauty and a diverse and verdant wildlife. This is home to some of the most gorgeous lakes, hiking trails, mysterious caves and beautiful waterfalls. You’ll be met with a smile wherever you go. Meghalaya is known for gentle, friendly and very hospitable folk.

The state has a flourishing tourism industry, with around 1.28 million annual visitors. Tourism is considered as one of the most important avenues of rural development and provides employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for rural communities while preserving the environment and promoting indigenous handicrafts and products.

Smart Village Movement shares these as the Top  8  spots to see in Meghalaya:

1. Umiam Lake

“A Beautiful Boat House in Serene Umiam Lake”
Photo Credit – @rohitrawatone (Instagram)

Encircled by the lush green East Khasi hills of Meghalaya is the scenic Umiam Lake, locally known as Dam Sait,  a man-made reservoir in the hills 15 km (9.3 mi) north of the capital Shillong. The lake was formed after a dam was constructed to generate hydroelectric power in the 1960s. The calm, pristine, bottle-green waters of Umiam Lake is surrounded by lush coniferous forests. Apart from using water for hydroelectricity generation, the lake also provides numerous ecosystem services like downstream irrigation, fisheries and potable water for inhabitants of the neighboring villages. 

“The beautiful Umiam Lakeview from Guwahati-Shillong route”
Photo Credit – @parthkonwar (Instagram)

Umiam lake is one of the reasons why the Guwahati-Shillong route is considered one of the most scenic in the region. Plan on spending a leisurely half-day here enjoying boating or simply taking in panoramic views. For added adventure, book paddle boats, water scooters, and speed boats to explore the lake and observe wildlife and take in the serenity of unexploited nature. This promises to be a favorite spot for nature-lovers, water sport enthusiasts and  photographers, especially  during the golden hours.For more information click here

2. Krang Suri Falls

“Majestic Krangsuri Falls amidst the lush greens”
Photo Credit – @balagraphy (Instagram)

Picture a placid river that drops in surprise, creating a curtain of flowing water that falls over a cave amidst a thick forest. In summer, clear blue waters can be seen at the bottom of the waterfalls creating an irresistible urge to dive in. The walk down to Krang Suri falls is an easy, pleasant hike. You begin at an open meadow and slowly climb down through lush, green vegetation. The railings around the falls offer a great view. Upstream is a small camp area with the gentle ripple of the river for company. On sunny days, you can enjoy a dip in the pool of the waterfall or inquire about renting boats on site. Photographers will certainly enjoy strolling around the surrounding hills discovering vantage points for that perfect shot right out of Jungle Book. This is an ideal day trip about 3 hours from Shillong, but overnight camping can be an exhilarating experience as well.

Getting there – The 90-km drive to Krang Suri from Shillong via the NH6 and NH206 is a riveting one – highways looping around the gentle hills, punctuated by hamlets and small towns.

For more information and destination details check out this blog on Krang Suri Falls by  WildLife Zones

“The pleasure of a natural swimming pool”
Photo Credit – @senswathy (Instagram)

3. Laitlum Grand Canyon-“The End of Hills”

“Experiencing a breathtaking view”
Photo Credit – @Regia Kom

Perched on the East Khasi Hills, Laitlum Canyons is one of the most picturesque tourist and hiking destinations in Meghalaya. The canyons are located about 21 Kms. south of Shillong about a half-hour drive away. This exotic viewing site offers the best panoramic views of the whole of Meghalaya embraced by the majestic hills and valleys. The spot is secluded and serene, ideal for quiet and peaceful getaways. To catch this place at its best, visit Laitlum Canyons either during sunrise or sunset. It is a must-visit for nature lovers and photographers.

Learn more about Laitlum and how to get there.

“Enchanting sunset view from Laitlum point”
Photo Credit:@Vidhatri Pattapu

4. Nongriat Double Decker Living Root Bridge in Cherrapunji (Sohra)

“Mesmerizing botanical architecture preserved”
Photo Credit – @ashwin647 (Instagram)

Visit one of the most documented examples of this traditional architecture: a double-decker bridge in the heart of a deep, forested valley. The natural bridges of Meghalaya are like live scaffolding, woven from the giant roots of rubber trees, a beautiful enigma. These bridges last for generations and are still growing, a classic example of the old Khasi lifestyle that dates back to the times when commuting through thick forests and negotiating fast-flowing rivers was a part of their routine. Nongriat’s double-decker root bridge is unique because of its multi-level formation – it took years for these beautiful examples of botanical architecture to develop and if preserved carefully, will last for generations; a testimony to the harmony that the Khasi tribe has with nature.

“An alluring view of the Living Root Bridge”
Photo Credit – @ujwal.balan (Instagram)

5. Mawlynnong- The Cleanest Village in Asia

“A beautiful sunny day in the cleanest village of Asia – Mawlynnong”
Photo Credit – @vinay_arya (Instagram)

Well, for obvious reasons, we consider Mawlynnong Village in East Khasi Hills a pretty “Smart” village for retaining a sense of community and cleanliness, and successfully branding themselves as “Asia’s Cleanest Village”. The locals themselves prefer to say “God’s own Garden ” and true to label, the village is really like a garden- well kept and clean, where cleanliness is not just a habit, rather a lifestyle that is deeply ingrained even among the very young. Mawlynnong village is located about 80 kms (50 miles) from Shillong and is also known for a community-based ecotourism initiative. The community has made a collective effort to maintain the ambience of a clean village.

“Aesthetic Bamboo Rubbish Bin is a common sight in Mawlynnong Village”
Photo Credit:@bhaskar_tourism (Instagram)

Things to do around Mawlynnong: 

  1. Picturesque natural trek to Jingmaham, the living root bridge at a neighboring village Riwai. 
  2. The village also offers a sight of natural balancing rock, a strange natural phenomenon of a boulder balancing on another rock. 

6. Dawki – Umngot River (Cleanest River in Asia)

“Flying boat in the crystal clear water of River Dawki”
Photo Credit:@nk_JHA (Instagram)

Now let’s introduce you to the cleanest river in Asia. Yes, the cleanest river in Asia also flows in Meghalaya through Mawlynnong Village known as “Dawki” or the “Umngot River”. At the first glance of Dawki from Dawki Bridge, you are sure to fall in love with it. The river is crystal clear and has a fresh aqua-green color. As you row in a boat in Dawki, you will be able to see everything underwater, rock, fish, marine plants, the boat seems like it’s suspended in air because the water is just that clear.

“Eve in awe of the beauty of Dawki River”
Photo Credit: @Eve (The cutie in the photo)

Things to do in Dawki: Enjoy a 2-3  days camp stay beside Dawki Lake and experience the calm and mystical feeling under the moonlight at night. Hold your breath to see how the water shines and glitters at night as the Moon’s reflection falls on the river. Take a refreshing dive in the cleanest river.

7. David Scott Trail 

“Time off at David Scott Trail”
Photo Credit – @kyntiewsgallery (Instagram)

Meghalaya has an abundance of well-preserved hiking trails for those who want to experience the region’s natural beauty on foot during the dry winter months. Some of the more extreme trails like the Bamboo Trail require a lot of climbing, while some require you to swim. One of the more popular ones that offer you a memorable time and exquisite scenery is the David Scott Trail located in Mawphlang.

“Enriching experience of trekking through David Scott Trail”
Photo Credit – @kickass.travel (Instagram)

The David Scott Trail is one of the oldest hiking trails in Meghalaya. It’s named after a British administrator posted in the North-Eastern region in the early 1800s, who was charged to build a horse-cart route for trade. The trail is a stretch of 16 km (10 miles) and can be covered in a little over 4 hours. Beginning from Mawphlang village, the trail takes a winding route across the hills and valleys with ascents and descents with a Moderate difficulty level. The David Scott trail is an engaging route, steeped in colonial history and peppered with amazing mountain views. Pristine pools, trickling streams, sacred forest groves, idyllic meadows with wild blossoms and lush forest patches are the compelling attractions as you go forward. A charming iconic arched stone bridge, a river crossing, and spell-binding views of the valley are some of the highlights of the David Scott Trail. Unharmed by urbanization, David Scott trek makes for a wonderful hike for nature lovers of all ages. Expect amazing landscapes and friendly interactions on your path. 

8. Krem Mawmluh Caves

“Beautiful void inside the rocky Krem Mawmluh Cave”
Photo Credit – Instagram @exploreyourplan

Meghalaya is famous for its caves and checking a few out is a must for those intrigued by caving. Krem Mawmluh cave, located close to Cherpunjee is the   picturesque and unique fourth-largest cave in India. Tourists follow the river to look for this opening 200 meters downstream and reach a point where the river goes underground. To reach this hidden entrance, the visitors need to wade through the water, which is a surreal experience. What to see – Calcite formations, intricate passages, waist-deep pools, massive caverns, and diverse geographical features.

This trip is now definitely on my bucket list and I hope you’ll get a chance to visit this Abode in the Clouds soon! Tag us on Instagram when you visit –  @smartvillagemovementofficial or on Twitter @MovementSmart and Facebook @SmartVillageMovementOfficial. Visit us at www.smartvillagemovement.org to find out what we do to build sustainable Smart Villages in India and join us in this incredible journey.

Khublei!

Next Month Look for Part 2 of this Blog
Part Two: Food & Culture in Meghalaya 

Travel Resources

Here’s a list of some fun and reliable tour organizers and transport companies in no particular order – suggested by our friends and colleagues in Meghalaya. 

    1. Time GoTravels
    2. Challo Hoppo
    3. Go Somewhere
    4. Encamp Adventures
    5. Travenjo

Find more options on Meghalaya Tourism