Everywhere you go, you will never cease to be amazed by the natural beauty in Meghalaya, offering a variety of lush forests and rolling green hills cris-crossed by rushing rivers and sparkling waterfalls.
Meghalaya provides the best nature trek through to the river front at the bottom of the valley, to living root bridges, woven from the roots which are exclusive to Meghalaya in the entire world. The dry months from November to February throw open abundant trekking, camping and caving opportunities. The trekking is outstanding as the terrain is very challenging. You can hire guides to walk with you through these amazing terrains.
The Mawphlang sacred forests in the East Khasi Hills, rimmed by a dense growth have a spectacular variety of plants, flowering trees, orchids and butterflies.
Some of the best Trekking Routes are the Living Root Bridge, Kyllang Rock, David Scott Trail and Sohpet-Bneng trail. One of the most popular trekking routes is the old mule track marked by David Scott, traditionally used by people to travel from Mawphlang to present day Bangladesh. This trek takes you past clear streams, by waterfalls over rushing rivers, through meadows, jungles, valleys and also through a Khasi village on a hilltop.
Sohra, or Cherrapunjee the wettest plate on earth, in the East Khasi Hills, is dotted with waterfalls cascading over deep gorges and swift-flowing rivers. Laitkynsew resort, 15 km from Cherrapunjee, offers visitors treks around the picturesque hills, spring baths, the thrills of caving and many other forms of excitement. Close to the resort, there is a living root bridge across a torrential stream and in the adjacent village of Nongriat, two such living bridges have been created by weaving intertwining roots of the same banyan tree, famously known as the Double Decker.
An interesting trek is from Cherrapunjee to Pynursula or Krang to Pynursula. This trek is hard as one has to walk deep into the valleys before climbing up to Pynursula. There are many Living Root bridges on this trek and the experience of life in the deep valleys, with no access to modern amenities, is unforgettable.
Mawlynnong Village in the East Khasi Hills has earned the distinction of being the cleanest village in Asia. The picturesque village offers many interesting sights such as a living root bridge and a strange natural phenomenon of a boulder balancing on another rock.
A popular destination for trekking and rock climbing is the Kyllang rock at Mairang, 78 km from Shillong in the West Khasi Hills. A massive dome shaped from a single rock of red granite, rising to an elevation of about 5400 ft above sea level, it measures 1,000 ft. in diameter. Enormous detached blocks of rock feature on the southern side and dense forests on the northern side. Tourists flock to Jakrem in the West Khasi hills on the Shillong-Mawkyrwat road, to take a dip in its sulphurous hotwater springs with miraculous medicinal properties, and it is also a great picnic spot in winter.
Mawthadraishan in the West Khasi Hills is a range of rolling, low hills which are ideal for easy treks. Mawthadraishan peak is located near Nongshillong, Mawroh and Markasa villages. On top of the range, there is a depression with about 7 to 8 fish ponds of considerable size. It offers a panoramic view of the plains of Assam and the distant Himalayas, after the monsoon and on clear days, as well as the Garo and Khasi Hills and part of Bangladesh. Forming the Western part of the State, the entire Garo Hills having an area of approximately 8,000 sq. kms. is densely forested and hence one of the richest spots in bio-diversity.
While trekking in the Garo Hills, there is always a likelihood of seeing or hearing wild elephants. Its Tura Peak, teeming with wildlife and sacred abode of the Gods, offers some of the finest views of the hills against a backdrop of the golden yellow plains of Bangladesh and sweeping curve of the mighty Brahmaputra river. It has a reserve forest with an observatory, a Cinchona plantation. Trekking from Tura to the Nokrek peak is an arduous task but worth the effort if one has the stamina. For people inclined to exert less effort , one can take a drive to the Nokrek Peak. This trek involves crossing virgin tropical forests and wading through mountain streams. Teeming with wildlife, Nokrek hill is the home of a very rare species of citrus locally known as Memang Narang, or orange of the spirits, the most primitive citrus and progenitor of all other varieties in the world.
One of the most attractive spots in Garo hills is Siju. Making base here, one can trek towards the Balpakram National Park to a village called Rongsu in South Garo Hills District. The Balpakram national park offers a wide variety of treks particularly ideal for wildlife spotting. For treks through this amazing tropical forest, assistance from Forest Department officials is necessary. Langurs, Hornbills and other birds are quite easily spotted and sometimes the elusive sambar can be seen.
The literal meaning of Balpakram is the “land of perpetual winds”. There is a great precipice or deep gorge in Balpakram. Hindus believe when Laxman was seriously injured during the war with Ravana and a very rare life saving herb was required, Hanuman found it here but not knowing which to take also in his haste to return, broke the top of the hills and carried it away. The missing portion of that hill became a deep awning canyon, Chitmang peak. Balpakram is sacred to the Garos as the abode of the dead spirits.
Imilchang Dare is a waterfall of immense visual beauty close to the Tura-Chokpot Road in West Garo Hills district. The stream on which it is located, flows through a deep, narrow winding bed of crevice rocks till it suddenly emerges on to a broad wide opening and cascades in a thick, wide formation, over a broad chasm, creating an electrifying waterfall of unique beauty.
Lum Sohpetbneng in Ri Bhoi district, known as the navel of Heaven, is a place of pilgrimage for Khasis following the indigenous religion. Located on top of a hill, locals say this spot is a golden ladder connecting Heaven and Earth, God and Man. In February, the indigenous Khasis gather here to conduct rites and rituals and offer prayers. For visitors, a view of the surrounding countryside from the hilltop is breathtaking. Dwarksuid, in Ri Bhoi District, is an enigmatically beautiful pool with wide, rocky sandbanks located on a stream alongside the Umroi-Bhoilymbong Road, known as Devil’s doorway. Its lotus-like rock formations are captivatingly scenic.
The majestic Umiam lake in Ri Bhoi District, more popularly known as Barapani, is the biggest artificial lake in the State, surrounded by sylvan hills and wrapped in the beauty of green Khasi-pines and azure blue skies. The Water Sports Complex provides a choice of row-boats, paddle-boats, cruise boats, sailing boats, water scooters and speed boats. This is a very popular place for picnics, fishing and watersports like angling and Lum Nehru Park is a popular picnic spot nearby.
Mawsynram is a small village in the East Khasi Hills, which receives the world’s highest rainfall. It has steep, sliding slopes, rolling green mountains and deafening but beautiful waterfalls. The Mawjymbuin Cave here is famous for its magnificent stalagmites. One is shaped into a massive Shivalinga.
Umlawan Cave in the sleepy hamlet of Lumshnong village in the Jaintia hills is the longest and the deepest in the sub-continent. The Umlawan cave is interconnected with two other caves, the Kot-Sati and Umskor caves.
The total length of these caves is more than 21 kms and about 100 m in depth. This place is 60 kms east of Jowai. Siju in the South Garo Hills is famous as Dobakkol or the bat cave with impressive stalagmites and stalactites. It is one of the longest caves in the Indian Sub-continent and contains some of the finest river passages to be found anywhere in the world. There are magnificent limestone rock formations inside. A chamber named after Princess Diana by the cavers will fill any visitor with awe. Close by on the other side of Simsang River is the Siju bird sanctuary, a home for many rare and protected birds such as migrating Siberian Ducks. At the entrance to this bird sanctuary, after a steep climb of nearly 1 km, there is a stretch of fantastic rock formations.
A popular local sport is Archery where teams compete to hit a cylindrical straw target mounted on a bamboo pole. Archery is also a popular form of gambling where the bets are made on the number of arrows hitting the target. Archery game is usually held on the eighth day, being the last market day of the week in rural areas. Competitions such as the inter-Hima contest between the traditional administrative Khasi states, is held on 4th April, organized by the Apphira Archery Committee at the Polo grounds in Shillong.
Shillong Golf Course provides scenic views, amongst pine trees on gently undulating land. It is the third oldest Golf Course in India. Developed in 1898, it was converted to an 18 Holes course in 1924 by Capt. Jackson and C.K Rhodes.
Issued by the Directorate of Tourism, Meghalaya, Shillong.