8 Must-See Meghalaya Tourist Places for Nature Lovers

Mawlynnong Cleanest Village
Timothy Allen/Getty Images

Meghalaya, in northeast India, used to be part of Assam. Known as the Abode of the Clouds, it's famous for being the wettest place on earth. This makes it a popular monsoon travel destination for those who love the rain. The state has an abundance of natural attractions, including these must-see Meghalaya tourist places. The majority of the population is made up of tribal people -- Khasis (the largest group), Garos, and Pnars -- who predominantly earn their living from cultivation.

  • 01 of 09
    Double-decker root bridge
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    Possibly Meghalaya's most famous attraction, deep in the dense tropical forest and shrouded in cloud and rain for much of the year, are some astonishing man-made natural wonders known as living root bridges. Inventive members of the Khasi tribe have trained them to grow from the roots of ancient rubber trees, native to the northeast region. There are two places that you can see the bridges: near Cherrapunji and Mawlynnong.

  • 02 of 09

    Mawlynnong Cleanest Village

    Mawllynong
    Ashwin Kumar/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    In addition to having an easily accessible living root bridge nearby, scenic Mawlynnong was named the "Cleanest Village in Asia" by a travel magazine. Also dubbed "God's Own Garden", the village is an outstanding example of community-based ecotourism. The locals have constructed a remarkable Sky View platform from bamboo atop the highest tree in the forest, nearly 80 feet up. It offers a bird's eye view of the village and panoramic view across to Bangladesh (the border is just a few kilometers away). Mawlynnong is a 3-hour drive south of Shillong in the East Khasi Hills. It's possible to stay there in a basic village guesthouse or treehouse on stilts, also created for tourists by the locals.

  • 03 of 09

    Dawki

    Dawki, Meghalaya.
    PKG Photography/Getty Images

    About an hour east of Mawlynnong, in the West Jaintia Hills, the border town of Dawki is worth visiting for its pristine emerald Umngot River. The absence of security makes it hard to believe that the International Radcliffe Line border between India and Bangladesh is situated there (and yes, locals from both sides do cross and intermingle). It's possible to go on a picturesque boat ride along the river, which is said to be one of the cleanest on earth. If driving from Mawlynnong to Dawki, do stop at the magnificent Bophill Falls along the way.

  • 04 of 09
    Mawphlang Sacred Forest
    Sharell Cook

    Located approximately 45 minutes southwest of Shillong in the East Khasi Hills, Mawphlang is home to a sacred plant grove of the Khasi tribe. It's full of medicinal plants. Tribe members also perform animal sacrifices and burn the bodies of their dead inside it. There's a Khasi Heritage Village next to the sacred forest, with different styles of mock tribal huts. If you're feeling energetic and want to spend a day out in nature, try the David Scott trail from Maphlang to Lad Mawphlang. This very picturesque treehouse trail is part of an old horse trail dating back to the British era.

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  • 05 of 09

    Laitlum Canyon

    Laitlum Canyon, Meghalaya, India
    Hrishikesh Sharma/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    You'll feel like you've reached the end of the world at Laitlum Canyon, only about an hour south of Shillong. If you can tear yourself away from gazing across the open expanse of the gorge, it's possible to hike down a steep stairway to the village of Rasong. The 350 or so inhabitants of this remote village rely on a rustic cable pulley to transport food and other essential goods up and down the valley.

  • 06 of 09

    Caves

    Mawsmai Lighted Cave, Cherrapunji, Meghalaya
    Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    Meghalaya is also known for its multitude of caves. There are more than 1,000 of them! The most frequently visited cave is Mawsmai, near Cherrapunji (2 hours from Shillong). It's maintained as a show cave for tourists and is lit up all the way through. The other caves are more challenging to visit and are suited to caving expeditions with appropriate caving equipment. These include Siju, Mawmluh, Mawsynram, and Liat Prah (the longest cave in India). Meghalaya Tourism has a list of caves in the state. The Meghalaya Adventurers' Association conducts week-long caving expeditions from Shillong.

  • 07 of 09

    Monoliths

    Monoliths of Meghalaya
    PKG Photography/Getty Images

    Many mysterious monoliths can be found spread across Meghalaya's Khasi and Jaintia Hills, erected by the regions' tribes as a symbol of remembrance. However, the largest collection is located in the vicinity of Nartiang village in the Jaintia Hills, about 2 hours east of Shillong. This village used to be the summer capital of the Jaintia rulers and is a lesser-known tourist destination perfect for escaping the crowds. Some of the many monoliths there are up to 10 meters tall!

  • 08 of 09

    Garo Hills

    Garo people in traditional dress.
    Earl & Nazima Kowall/Getty Images

    If you're a nature lover who really wants to get off the beaten track, then head to the densely forested Garo Hills in the western part of Meghalaya. This vast area, which is home to the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, and Balpakhram National Park, is pristine and full of biodiversity. Tura, the second largest town in the state after Shillong, has a helpful tourist office that can organize guides and trips. Non-profit organization Samrakshan, which works in conservation and community development, runs community-based eco tours in South Garo Hills. The butterfly tours are a highlight.

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  • 09 of 09

    Also Don't Miss: Shillong Iewduh Bara Bazaar

    Bara Bazaar, Shillong
    Sharell Cook

    Regarded as one of the largest traditional-style markets in northeast India, this hectic and congested market in the heart of Shillong is where local Khasi women come to sell their fresh produce and livestock. You'll get some tasty local street food there too. The market is a fascinating place to walk through, especially if you're into street photography. It's open daily from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. except on Sundays. (Go early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds, otherwise brace yourself!)