Meghalaya’s stunning natural scenery hardly requires an introduction. Meghalaya, which translates to “abode of clouds” in Sanskrit, is exactly what its name implies. Throughout your travels in this state from the northeast region, you’ll be treated to some of the most stunning landscapes, including pristine waterfalls, meandering roads, living root bridges, and the cleanest village in all of Asia. A beautiful waterfall plunging fiercely from sheer cliffs will make your heart skip a beat, and the waters of a pristine river will make time stand still.
We couldn’t believe it when we eventually landed in Guwahati, finally having set out for Meghalaya after numerous fruitless attempts. For those who share our passion for travel, the adventure begins the moment you leave Guwahati Airport and begin haggling with taxi drivers to get to Shillong. A glimpse of the next few days’ worth of adventures can be had during this three-hour journey.
When we reached Shillong, the state capital, we observed one thing: the place is hip and happening, packed with life. Shillong’s architecture prominently shows the influence of the British. It was only the beginning of winter, but the weather was already chilly, so we went in search of a place to have some hot soup. Furthermore, Shillong is full of cosy cafes where you can enjoy great meals while listening to rock.
To start your day in this gorgeous town, whether in your hotel, homestay, or out at a café, wake up to a view of the hills and pine trees outside your window. Following breakfast, you’ll go out on a sightseeing tour of Shillong, also known as the “Scotland of the East”. People in Shillong prefer to get around by walking, and you’ll see them doing just that. As a tourist, however, you’ll have the most fun getting around on two wheels and exploring the places.
Ward’s Lake is located in the heart of Shillong. The lake was given its name in honour of Sir William Ward, who proposed the idea of creating this artificial lake. This horseshoe-shaped lake is surrounded by lush landscaping all around it. The presence of the wooden bridge on the garden paths enhances the beauty of the lake as well. Just relax and take in the beautiful scenery as you stroll through the garden or relax by the lake.
You absolutely must make the trip out to Umiam Lake, which is located 17 kilometres outside of the city. When you first see the lake, you will be amazed by its peaceful waters and sheer size. Another astounding location due to its spectacular views of valleys and rolling green hills is Laitlum Canyons, located an hour’s drive from Shillong.
If you’re looking for a local market for shopping and some tasty street food, Police Bazar is the place to go in Shillong. You can also visit Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak, Lady Hydari Park, Laitumkhrah Cathedral, the Golf Course, the State Museum, and Bishop Beadon Falls while in Shillong.
Dawki and Shnongpdeng
The following day, we got an early start because we needed to get to Dawki before it became dark. Our intention was to see as much of Meghalaya as we could, so we planned our route to Dawki to take us via an area of the state that is not as well known, the Jaintia Hills. The Phe Phe Falls and Krang Suri Falls are two of the most spectacular waterfalls in the state, and they are both located in this region. The waterfalls in Meghalaya are so stunning that I may write an entire blog to describe them.
My interest in visiting Dawki began with the same obviousness as that of other tourists. I couldn’t get enough of those social media pictures of a boat on the crystal-clear Umngot River below. We had booked the stay at a riverside camp a little further away and upstream at Shnongpdeng to avoid the crowd in Dawki. When we finally arrived, it was getting close to dark outside.
There were homestays and tents set up all along the riverside. After crossing large boulders and carrying heavy loads, we made it to our campsite. That day, I was convinced of how important it is to travel “light”. The area was so dishearteningly disorganised that we considered going somewhere else for the night and coming back in the morning for the view. The idea then took yet another hit, which was quite unfortunate. It began to rain, and we had no choice but to remain inside the tents until the rain stopped. After a while, it became completely dark. We were fortunate enough to get company after a while, and meeting other like-minded travellers helped make our stay much more enjoyable. We were exhausted and crashed into our tent after a quick dinner. That was enough adventure for one day!
There were clouds outside when I woke up. The sound of the river as it flowed between the rocks was calming. I was confused for a second as to my current location. The crisp air of the dawn at Shnongpdeng jolted me awake, and I quickly realised that we were camping there. This morning held enchantment at every turn. After all, don’t we all make an effort to travel to places like these and experience such beautiful moments? Once the initial excitement had gone off, we roamed the area and took a boat out on the Umngot river, which is known for its crystal clear water. We missed out on witnessing the phenomenon of crystal clear water because it was still overcast. The river, I realized, is one of the cleanest rivers in India. The pebbles in the riverbed were barely visible, so we could only imagine how it looked on a sunny day. After spending more time by the river, we took a stroll across the suspension bridge to take in the scenery.
The next stop on the itinerary was the BSF checkpoint on the Indo-Bangla border not far from Dawki. The road is always busy because it is used for carrying coal across the border. Dawki, located close to the border between India and Bangladesh, is a small, bustling town. The Umngot river serves as a de facto border between the two nations. The proximity of Bangladesh is such that you can see the little houses and the people on the opposite side of the river enjoying themselves.
It was our third day in Meghalaya, but we’d only just begun. The persistent rain and dense fog made the situation even more frustrating, as we had to pull over several times due to poor visibility. The next stop on our trip was Cherrapunji, one of the wettest places on Earth. Our forecast indicated that the clouds will scatter the next day, so after a good night’s rest, we’ll be gearing up to go discover more of this stunning region.