Showing posts with label Meghalaya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meghalaya. Show all posts

Travel to North East India - Meghalaya

Itinerary, tips, what to shop for, where to eat and things to know before you go for a 10 day trip to North East India including the states of Meghalaya, West Bengal and Sikkim.

After many debates, discussions and online searches later, we finalized our 2019 vacation destination as North East India. It was a vacation I had done ten years ago with my parents and chose to repeat the same with Raj.

The North East has been blessed with natural beauty - the towering Himalayas, the clear rivers, white waterfalls, varied wildlife, diverse fauna, clear blue skies, fresh hilly air, and clouds. Ever since my first visit in 2009, I had been craving to take Raj there. And finally, we made it this year. And we have some more trips planned based on our current experience.

This travel post (like all my travel posts) is divided into 3 parts so that I can detail out our itinerary, the sights to see, places to eat perhaps, our plans and misses, and how I would replan it for the future.

Our overall itinerary:

Day 1 - Travel from Bangalore to Guwahati by flight. Then drive down to Shillong.
Day 2 - Sohra (Cherrapunji) sightseeing
Day 3 - Mawlyngong and Dawki
Day 4 - Drive back to Guwahati. Fly to Bagdogra. Hire a cab to Darjeeling.
Day 5 - Kalimpong sightseeing
Day 6 - Darjeeling sightseeing
Day 7 - Take a cab to Gangtok.
Day 8 - Nathu La Pass
Day 9 - Gangtok sightseeing
Day 10 - Take a cab to Bagdogra. Fly back to Bangalore.

This post details our travel and stay in the state of Meghalaya.


Meghalaya means the abode of clouds. And true to its name, that is exactly what it was. You can love it or hate it, but you just cannot ignore the clouds. Sometimes we were mesmerized by them, sometimes we wished they would all go away, just for a day. It has often been referred to as the Scotland of the East.

The state of Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in the year 1972. Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya. Meghalaya is flanked by Bangladesh on its west and south. It is also home to the wettest places on Earth - Sohra (Cherrapunji) and Mawsynram.

Our Journey: Day 1: Shillong

We took an early morning direct flight to Guwahati, Assam from Bangalore. Shillong has an airport too, however, it doesn't have a direct flight from Bangalore and we would need to hop flight at Kolkata. Guwahati worked in our favour as we were able to rent a self-drive vehicle from there, something that is still not available in Shillong.

Our original plan was to reach Guwahati early, pick up our Zoomcar (self-drive), visit the famous shakti peetha - Kamakhya in Guwahati and then proceed to Shillong, which is a 2.5 hour drive. And if there was still daylight, we planned to see a few places in Shillong. But things went wrong from the moment we landed in Guwahati. The location provided by the Zoomcar app took us to a drain 27kms away from the airport. We had booked a car from a location closest to the airport (4.5kms) as we did not get an airport pickup. Their customer service center kept telling us they had technical issues so they could not help us. We finally managed to get a vehicle from them even further away from the Airport (30kms) and that too 3 hours later. This meant we had to forego visiting Kamakhya as that had already closed for the afternoon and also, we had no daylight when we reached Shillong.


We had a very harrowing experience that I have not detailed here. To avoid something similar, I suggest booking a car well in advance and to only take an airport pickup in an unknown city. Otherwise, you may be better off just hiring a cab instead of taking unnecessary stress like we did. Also, it isn't as easy as it sounds. There is a lot of process to gain access to the car that they have for security reasons, but sometimes that plays out negatively. The car we got couldn't be locked/unlocked by the app and we had to call up their call center, who in turn had to get the owner of the car to unlock it for us. The only positive was, the car was decent and Zoomcar reimbursed all our uber receipts for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time and also missed out on visiting places that we had planned.

If everything had gone right, this is what we would have accomplished on day 1:
  • Pickup car at 11am.
  • Reach Kamakhya temple by 12pm. The temple is closed between 1pm to 2.30pm.
  • Have lunch and start for Shillong by 2pm.
  • Reach Shillong by 5pm. See Umiam lake on the way.
  • Explore the local markets and cuisine.
We managed to see the Umiam lake but skipped the temple. Umiam Lake or Barapani Lake is a huge man-made lake on the outskirts of Shillong. Since it is almost 15kms away from the city, it makes sense to cover it on the way in or out of the city, unless one plans on enjoying the water sports available there. There are several viewpoints near the lake which offer picturesque views, make sure to stop at one. There are small shops near these viewpoints that sell you tea, pakodas, aloo chops, maggi and cane knick-knacks. We tried the aloo chops at one of these and they were heavenly. We also picked up some cane vases and cups as souvenirs. 

We had booked Hotel M Crown, bang in the middle of Police Bazaar. I could play devil's advocate for the location of the hotel - it was right next to the market, but that made it a nightmare to reach it. Read my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor. We reached Shillong by 6pm and it was already pretty dark, but Police Bazaar was alive with its hawkers and shops. We managed to battle our way through the crowd and take a glimpse of the market. We also managed to eat momos on the street and rich Bengali sweets from Delhi Mistan Bhandar. We also finished our souvenir shopping of cane goods and fridge magnets. 

Sights to see in Shillong:

  1. Umiam Lake -  We visited this on our way to Shillong on Day 1.
  2. Elephant Falls - Elephant falls is on the way to Sohra/Cherrapunji. It is a 3 level water fall. We visited this on Day 2
  3. Shillong Peak - Highest point in Shillong from where one can view the entire city. We planned for it but it was closed by the time we reached there. It is open from 9am to 3.30pm.
  4. Ward's Lake - A large lake in the middle of the city with a small garden on the side. You can do boating here. We visited this on Day 2
  5. Lady Hydari Park with a small zoo
  6. Museums - There are a few museums in the city related to air force, military and local culture. 
  7. Churches, Temples and Mosques 

Umiam Lake

Elephant Falls
Ward's Lake

Day 2: Sohra/Cherrapunji

We started early for Sohra or Cherrapunji. Sohra is the local name and Cherrapunji is a British corruption of it. Locals prefer it being called Sohra, so Sohra it is. We started at 6.30am from the hotel towards Sohra. Sunrise happens early here, around 5am, so it was bright daylight when we started. If breakfast is included in your hotel stay, ask for a boxed breakfast the night before, most hotels will keep it ready for you. If you eat eggs, then head to police bazaar for a quick egg and roti breakfast. Else, you can eat at Nongkhlaw Cafeteria on the way. We got some aloo paratha and puri bhaji there along with some really good ginger tea.

We then continued our sightseeing in the following order:

  1. Duwan Sing Syiem View Point - Dress up in local Khasi clothes here for Rs.100 per person and take photographs. View the lush green valleys from the viewpoint.
  2. NohKaLiKai Waterfall - This is the part where we hated clouds. Fog like clouds covered the falls and we barely got a glimpse after a good 30-minute wait. We bought some cinnamon here and a local snack of sweet almonds - tasted like some sweet flour coated peanuts. 
  3. Seven Sisters Waterfalls - Again, clouds covered these and it was a test of patience as we waited in the hope that it would clear. They finally did clear and the sight was breathtaking.
  4. Ecopark - This park is located at the origin of the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. Worth the visit.
  5. Wah-Kaba Falls - You can stand near a waterfall here, hence, we loved it. 
  6. We also returned to Shillong by 4pm so we covered Elephant falls and Ward's Lake in Shillong too. 
  7. Shillong Peak closes at 3.30. If you are not hampered by clouds in Sohra, you can manage to cover this on the same day as well.

Other sights to see in Sohra:

  1. Mawsmai Caves - Dimly lit limestone caves. I visited this in 2009 and didn't personally find it special, hence skipped it. There are sections in the caves that are narrow and you may need to squeeze through. Also, be aware that the caves have a strong odor due to the natural mineral deposits.
  2. Double Decker Root Bridges - Definitely a must-go if you are physically fit. The trek to go here involves going down 3500 stairs to see the bridges and climbing back up the same stairs to get back to your car. If you plan to visit these, it is better to halt at Sohra for the night and go here early as this may take a good 2-3 hours to visit.
  3. Rainbow falls - A short trek from the double decker route bridges. If you visit the bridge, then plan for this too.
  4. Wei Sawdong Waterfalls - View 3 levels of waterfalls if you have the courage to bear the bad roads. We planned it and skipped it after traveling a few kilometers off the main highway. The bumpy ride wasn't for us.
Duwan Sing Syiem View Point 
Khasi Dress
NohKaLiKai Waterfall

Seven Sisters Waterfalls

Wah Kaba Falls

Day 3 - Living Root Bridge, Mawlynngong and Dawki:

We had a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel and started day 3 around 8am. Personally, I'd say start earlier as the roads are not good and they slow you down. We wanted to cover three places on our trip in the following order:

  1. Living Root Bridge - If you skipped the double decker root bridge like us, you can visit this one. This is a short 15-minute walk from the parking. It does involve stairs, but much fewer than 3500. The point where the road deviates from the highway is narrow, surrounded by thick foliage, has no cell reception in most places and is full of pot holes. It is a bumpy ride of 13kms that easily took us upwards of 45 minutes. But the sound of the river is calming and the feat of engineering is humbling. 
  2. Mawlynngong - Declared the cleanest village in Asia in 2003, it is only 2kms from the Living Root Bridge. The villagers are extremely conscious about cleanliness and the tourists are also expected to be so. There is a nice bamboo tree top viewpoint, which was under maintenance when we went, but appears to be nice if functional. We ate lunch at the village square and it was a simple yet good meal.
  3. Dawki - If the time is right, the waters are clear. Dawki is located on the India - Bangladesh border and is famous for the illusion of boats floating in the air when the water is clear. The time to witness this is from November to April. The water was green when we went and we didn't mind it at all. The water turns muddy brown during monsoons and is not recommended at that time. There are several boating locations as you near and you will find agents pouncing on your car asking if you want to go boating. We went to the absolute end near the border and chose to go boating from there. It cost us Rs.700 for one boat. Life jackets are provided. The rowboat is taken until a small island where the water is clear and you are given time to take photographs and to soak your feet in the clear and cold water. As per Raj, this was the highlight of the entire trip for him, so I guess something went right here. You can also see the plains of Bangladesh from here.
The drive back was slightly scary as night had fallen by the time we were negotiating the hills and it turned all foggy and cloudy. The visibility was near zero and the rain didn't help much either.

Living Root Bridge



Zero Point - India Bangladesh Border at Dawki

If we were to replan:

  • Number of days - 2 days is definitely not enough to absorb the beauty of Meghalaya. If we were to replan, we'd add in at least 3 more days to the trip and include a visit to Kaziranga National Park in Assam. It is 4 hours from Guwahati. Kaziranga is closed for the general public from May to October every year.
  • Time of travel - We definitely want to see the clear waters of Dawki, and would hence plan this during November or December. I would not recommend closer to the summer as the waterfalls may dry up. 
  • We would stay at Sohra for the night and cover the double decker root bridges for sure.

What to buy:

  • Chillies - North East India is famous for its extremely spicy chillies. Buy them at the market at Police Bazaar. This may be seasonal.
  • Apples - We got some amazing crisp apples here. It may be seasonal though.
  • Pickles - Loads of local pickles on sale here in various quantities - chillies, local fruit, bamboo and fish. Take your pick.
  • Cane products - Bamboo grows in abundance here and hence, they have a lot of cane ware for sale - bowls, vases, baskets. 
  • Long lemons and other local vegetables - I loved the lemons and bought home a few. They are served in all restaurants and they tasted different to me. I also saw a lot of different vegetables that I would buy if I were heading home straight from Shillong.
  • Spices - The shops in Sohra sell spices, I picked up some fragrant cinnamon.
  • Shawls and Jackets 
Chillies for sale at Police Bazaar
Shop for pickles and spices at Nohkalikai Falls

Where to eat:

  • Red Rice Restaurant - If you want to try local Khasi cuisine, head here. We tried our luck on two days and managed to get a vegetarian thali on day 2. It was a simple fare, but delicious.
  • Delhi Mistan Bhandaar - If you love sweets, you have to go here!! I loved their sweets. It may be one of the best sweet shops I've ever visited. Try their special sweet, you won't regret it. Skip the nimkis (too salty for my liking).
  • Trattoria - A small hole in the wall in the market that serves local food and is frequented by locals too. It closes at 8pm and I'm not sure it serves veg food. Ask before settling it. Vouched for by most people online for non-vegetarian food. 
  • We also tried Lamee and the restaurant in M Crown Hotel, and preferred the latter. The service in Lamee was slow and the food was average.
  • Momos on the street were average, you can try it once though. 
  • Police Bazaar circle offers a lot of variety in non-vegetarian food - there is biryani, jadoh, momo, kebabs, chops, fried goodies etc. Judging by the looks of it, these are extremely popular with locals, so it must taste good. Try if you are adventurous and non-vegetarian.
  • The same circle offers roti and masala boiled eggs in the morning. You can give that a try too.
  • Wahrisaw restaurant- We ate a simple thali lunch here when at Sohra and it was good.
  • Dapbiang Restaurant - Again, we ate a thali here when were at Mawlyngong. The salsa that accompanied our meal was spicy and full of flavor.
  • Tea near the boating counter at Dawki - This has to be the best tea I've had in a restaurant. Absolutely loved it.
  • Berries from Bangladesh - Give it a try at Dawki if you are feeling adventurous. I did not really like them, but you may.
  • Ja and Cha shops - There are several Ja cha shops all along the highway. Ja means rice and Cha means tea. A simple ja meal is rice, dal, one vegetable (usually okra/bhindi) and one boiled egg if you want. If you want to eat like locals, pop into one of them.
Clockwise from L-R - 1) Sweets at Delhi Mistan Bhandar, Meal at Mawlynngong, Meal at Sohra, Manchow soup at Lamee, Aloo Paratha at Nongkhlaw Cafeteria

 1) Tea at Dawki 2) Khasi meal at Red Rice, 3) Long lemon 4) Sweets at Delhi Mistan Bhandar 5) Sweet almonds

Things to know before you go:

  • Sunset happens very early in Meghalaya. Expect it around 4-5pm in the winter months.
  • Restaurants close early - 8pm to 10pm. Head for an early dinner.
  • Language is not a problem at all. English is the official language of the state and almost everyone speaks Hindi.
  • Street food is mostly non-vegetarian. Ask before you eat.
  • Shillong has a lot of one-ways and Google maps isn't accurate. Ask the locals for directions. Do NOT rely on Google maps.
  • Be aware that Shillong has a lot of traffic jams. It may easily take you 1 hour to cover 4kms in the evenings. 
  • The highway is prone to landslides during monsoons. Be cautious.
  • The city has extremely narrow roads, drive carefully.
  • The state is proud of its cleanliness, there are a lot of dustbins all over the tourist places as well as restrooms (they are well maintained mostly). Use them and do not litter on the streets.
  • All major festivals are celebrated in Meghalaya, so it is better to avoid visiting during Durga Puja, Diwali and Christmas unless you love crowds.
  • Most of the sights in Shillong are closed on Sundays. Ward's lake is closed on Tuesdays. Plan accordingly. 

Useful links:

Meghalaya Tourism Official Website -
Kaziranga National Park Official Website -
Our favorite website to compare flights -
Our favorite website to book hotel -
For details on Kamakhya temple -
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