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 majority of the state's population is made up of tribal people -- Khasis (the largest group), Garos, and Pnars -- who predominantly earn their living from cultivation. The state is divided into three main hills -- Khasi Hills (Central range), Garo Hills (Western range) and Jaintia Hills (Eastern range). Most tourist places are located in the Khasi Hills. Here's the pick of attractions.
Living Root Bridges
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. Read more about how to visit the living root bridges in Meghalaya.
In addition to having an easily accessible living root bridge nearby, scenic Mawlynnong village 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 three hour drive south of Shillong in the East Khasi Hills. It's possible to stay there in a basic village guesthouse or house on stilts.
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 mesmerizing 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 magnificent Bophill Falls along the way. Shnongpdeng village, a short distance further on from Dawki, is the best place to stay.
Krang Suri Falls
In Meghalaya, there are waterfalls and there's Krang Suri. This small but stunning waterfall is tucked away near Jowai, about an hour northeast of Dawki and about three hours southeast of Shillong in the West Jaintia Hills. Be prepared to hike for around 20 minutes down a trail of steps to reach it. Entry tickets cost 50 rupees. It's possible to go swimming although you'll be told to wear a life-jacket. Changing rooms and toilets are provided.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest
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 picturesque David Scott trail from Mawphlang to Lad Mawphlang. It's part of an old horse trail dating back to the British era. Read more about how to visit Mawphlang Sacred Forest.
Combine a day trip to Mawphlang Sacred Forest with Laitlum Canyon, where you'll feel like you've reached the end of the world. It's only an hour or so south of Shillong, and an hour and a half east of Mawphlang, in the East Khasi Hills. If you can tear yourself away from gazing across the open expanse of the gorge, it's possible to descend 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.
Meghalaya is the best destination for caving in India. There are more than 1,000 caves in the state, including the recently discovered longest sandstone cave in the world (Krem Puri in the Mawsynram region of the East Khasi Hills). The most frequently visited cave is Mawsmai, near Cherrapunji (two hours from Shillong). It's maintained as a show cave for tourists and is lit up all the way through. The Garden of Caves, near Laitmawsiang village on the way to Cherrapunji, is spectacular and has waterfalls. Arwah Cave can also be explored in the area and is known for its prehistoric fossils. Other caves are more challenging to visit and are suited to caving expeditions with appropriate caving equipment. These include Siju (a bat cave), Mawmluh (with a pool inside), Mawjymbuin (notable for its stalagmites) and Krem Dam (a long sandstone cave) near Mawsynram, and Liat Prah (the longest natural cave in India). Meghalaya Tourism has a list of caves in the state. The Meghalaya Adventurers' Association conducts week-long caving expeditions from Shillong.
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 two 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!
Mawryngkhang Bamboo Trek
Thrill seekers will love the new Mawryngkhang Trek, which opened in 2017. It starts out from Wahkhen village, about two hours south of Shillong in the East Khasi Hills, and will take you to the top of massive Mawryngkhang -- the legendary "King of Stones". The trail extends over a series of connected bamboo bridges built by locals and terrifyingly hugs the side of a huge sheer rock-face in part. Below is a deep gorge and river. Although the trek is quite easy and can be completed in two or three hours, definitely skip it if you're scared of heights! There aren't any accommodations in the area, so you'll have to return to Shillong or Cherrapunji the same day.
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 is home to the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, and Balpakhram National Park. It's pristine and full of biodiversity, including hundreds of species of butterflies. Tura, the second largest town in the state after Shillong, has a helpful tourist office that can organize guides and trips.
In Shillong: Don't Miss Iewduh Bara Bazar
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!)