The State of Meghalaya (meaning abode of the clouds) has never failed to thrill its visitor’s. From pleasant weather, beautiful landscapes, majestic waterfalls and breath-taking scenery, a visit to Meghalaya will surely fill your heart with solace. Shillong aka ‘the Scotland of the East’ and ‘India’s Rock Capital’ is the capital of state of Meghalaya where you see a blend of the cultural past and modern civilization. Shillong is also the District Headquarters of East Khasi Hills District and is situated at an altitude of 1,496 metres above sea level. The capital city has a bracing climate throughout the year. This city has been the seat of Government since the consolidation of the British administration in this part of India more than a century ago.
The city is well connected with motorable roads, has its own charm, different from other hill stations, and presents a natural scenic beauty with waterfalls, brooks, pine grooves and gardens. The place, the people, the flora and fauna and the climate all combine to make Shillong an ideal resort throughout the year. Shillong offers amenities for tourists with good hotel accommodations, facilities for sports, angling, trekking and hiking.
Meghalaya’s main ethnic communities, each having its own distinctive customs and cultural traditions are the Khasis (of Mon-Khmer ancestry), the Garos (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and the Jaintias said to be from South East Asia. The common trait binding all three communities is its matrilineal system in which the family linage is taken from the mother’s side. The people of Meghalaya are known to be hospitable, cheerful and friendly.
The State of Meghalaya is also home to the ‘Wettest place on Planet Earth – Cherrapunjee’. Cherrapunjee records the maximum rainfall anywhere in the world. The Majestic ‘Nohkalikai’ waterfall at Cherrapunji is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. The living root bridges at Cherrapunjee is also unique to the place that thrills most visitors visiting the place.
Mawphlang is a village in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya state in north-eastern India, 25 kilometers from Shillong. The word ‘maw’ means ‘stone’, ‘maw phlang’ means ‘grassy stone’, and is one of many settlements in the Khasi hills named after monoliths. Mawphlang is the site of one of the Khasi Hills sacred groves. Khasi heritage village- located in the Mawphlang district is considered to be the hub of Khasi culture.
Maple Pine Farm is a beautiful self-sustained farmhouse in Mawphlang, a village that lies a half-hour drive away from Shillong. The family of James Perry, a Canadian who’s spent most of his life in Northeast India, lives in the same property and there are log cabins, which he’s built with his own hands, available for guests. The property is completely off-grid, with electricity harnessed through solar panels and windmills, and with limited or no phone and internet connectivity at most times. It lies encircled by a stream and you can sit outside for hours watching the grazing horses, fluttering butterflies and the locals go about their daily lives. If you enjoy walking, you’re in for a treat as the Sacred Grove, one of the most beautiful forests, lies a short hike away. (Source: http://www.natgeotraveller.in)
Mawphlang is one destination in Meghalaya where you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity in the atmosphere that is clear and pollution free. In cannot be stated that Mawphlang is an entirely offbeat tourist destination because the place has gradually caught the attention of the travellers and many visitors come to visit Mawphlang to witness the pride of the East Khasi Hills – the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves at Mawphlang. The Khasi Heritage Village was setup at Mawphlang by the Dept. of Tourism (Govt. of Meghalaya) to promote the rich culture and traditions of the Khasi people of Meghalaya and the other indigenous tribes as well at the Monolith Festival that was hosted here every year and it was Meghalaya’s answer to the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland but owing to certain issues the festival was discontinued to be celebrated but the site of the Khasi Heritage Village is still present here in Mawphlang and tourists can come to witness the rich culture of the Khasi tribes of Meghalaya here at Mawphlang. At the Khasi Heritage village there are models built of the traditional Khasi homes and a visitor can witness the Khasi way of life here.
Mawphlang is an ideal getaway if you want to spend your time away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city life and stay in a quaint and peaceful environment overlooking the beautiful valleys of Meghalaya. This place is very less populated and only in certain pockets you can find human settlements. The David Scott Trail trek that starts at Mawphlang and takes you to Lad Mawphlang and further to Cherrapunji is one of the most pristine trek routes across Meghalaya across the tropical forests, gushing streams, beautiful country side, crystal clear water pools and the Umngot river passing by you along the trek. So in case you want to embark on this trek you can chose to stay at Mawphlang and enjoy the beautiful weather of the place before heading on your trek across the David Scott Trail trek. Apart from the Maple Pine Farm homestay at Mawphlang there are various other homestays at Mawphlang that have come up near the small village at the start of the David Scott trek and you can contact Mr. Ban Lyngdoh at this village to help you to arrange for your accommodation at Mawphlang. These homestays are a unique way to experience the local Khasi culture because this provided you with a unique opportunity to stay with the Khasi people of Meghalaya and learn about their local culture and traditions and also savour their local cuisine and other culinary delights.
The concept of ecotourism is to be able to visit a place and learn to live with the locals of the place and engage in their activities that are associated to that particular community of the place. For eg. When you visit Mawphlang, the Khasi people here are involved in agriculture and they grow various crops and vegetables for their livelihood along with animal husbandry and other local work. So in the very concept of ecotourism you need to stay close with the people of the community and what better than to stay with them and learn about their daily activities. The villagers head to the forests to look out for timber for their cooking needs as the remote places do not have access to cooking gas and firewood is the only source for the fire in the kitchen and no wonder they are blessed with natural environment all around them and they are adept in looking out for dry wood to use because in that way they are nor harming the environment by falling trees but instead they are using timber of an already dead tree.
These activities we will witness when we embark on our trek to Lad Mawphlang from Mawphlang along the David Scott trail. The David Scott trail was established during the British rule and this served as a very important trade route between Assam and Sylhet (Bangladesh). Mules and horses carried load across this route and the trade had flourished between the two regions. Today the stretch of 16 km from Mawphlang to Lad Mawphlang has been established by the Tourism Dept. and it allows visitors to witness adventure trail where there are low valleys, stream crossings and further across the countryside of Meghalaya where you get to witness quaint villages and clear water pools and this is what makes the David Scott trek one of the most important trekking routes in Meghalaya. So while at Mawphlang you can get to witness the Khasi Sacred Forest and then embark on the David Scott trek.
Jungleideas welcomes you to the North East of India to witness the tradition and culture of the Khasi people at Shillong, Cherrapunjee and ‘Khasi Hills Sacred Groves’ at Mawphlang, State of Meghalaya, Incredible India!
Recommended Itinerary for your visit to Mawphlang ~
Day 1: Guwahati – Shillong – Mawphlang
Arrive at the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi at Guwahati where you will be received by our representative offering you a warm welcome in traditional Assamese style and at the arrival lounge we will board our comfortable Innova vehicles and we will begin on our drive to the Scotland of the East – at Shillong before continuing on to Mawphlang area. We will take the route via Pamohi where we will get a chance to cross the Deepor Beel area (a pristine natural lake near Guwahati that is home to various species of birds both resident and migratory especially during the winter season) where we will stop to admire the beautiful waters of the Deepor Beel. The Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary is adjacent to the lake and in the evening the roads here get to be the Wild Elephant crossings that come out of the place and travel to another part of the Wildlife Sanctuary across the highway. After this we continue on our drive to the North East Museum of Handicrafts and Handloom at the Garchuk area in Guwahati. As this itinerary is focussed on ecotourism and learning about the life of the indigenous people of North East India we will start by exploring a museum that houses the vast skills of the indigenous people when it comes to the handicrafts and handlooms.
The indigenous people of Assam and Meghalaya (since we are visiting and are focussed on these two states in this Itinerary) are known to the World when it comes to the use of bamboo and cane to weave out various forms of handicrafts like furniture’s, sofa sets, stools, utensils, trays, binds, cradles, fish traps, musical instruments and even houses and bridges made up of bamboo and we will catch a glimpse of these various crafts here at the North East Museum of handicrafts and handlooms at Garchuk in Guwahati. The place is spread across a sprawling campus and has a huge display area, a section for weaving of handlooms, a section for display and sale of handlooms and another area for the crafts of the bamboo handicrafts. We will at first visit the handicraft display section and we get to admire the various crafts of bamboo and cane put up on display here. The display room has various handicraft styles some from across the States of North East India and it also demonstrates how the artisans work on bamboo sticks to make these handicrafts in the form of models.
The place also displays a model of a village hut made with bamboo and various other items of handicrafts and there are artisans here who engage in the manufacture of the bamboo furniture’s especially the sofa sets and these are put up on display here and again you will be surprised with the craftsmanship of these artisans when it comes to making of these handicrafts. We admire these handicrafts and next up we visit the section of handloom weaving where we will witness how the local tribal ladies make use of the traditional looms built with wood and use these looms to weave out some of the most exquisite handloom fabrics that look absolutely brilliant. It is indeed a treat to the eyes to witness these ladies who weave the handmade fabrics themselves and work on these looms that creates a unique ‘tak’tak’ sound that is a soulful tune to the ears. Next up we explore the handloom display and sale section and in case you are interested you can purchase the handlooms here and carry along with you as a souvenir of your visit to Assam. With this we will hit the road again and we take the National Highway to travel to Jorabat.
We will cross into Meghalaya at the border and we travel to Nongpoh area crossing Burnihat where we will break for lunch at the Jiva’s veg restaurant at Nongpoh. The beautiful roads of Meghalaya os one of the most enjoyable drives here in North East India and we enjoy the scenery around us and continue on our uphill drive to Nongpoh area crossing the toll gate before Nongpoh. One nice thing to notice along the roads are the small shops that are setup by locals who sell fresh organic vegetables and fruits along with homemade pickles that are made with chillies, fish, chicken, garlic, amla and various other ingredients and the one thing to look out for is the chilly pickle Meghalaya is home to one very spicy ingredient of the bird’s eye chilly that is so hot that the oil in which it is stored soaks in the spice of the chillies and a few drops of this oil is enough to flavour up your meals. We soon reach Nongpoh area that is a favourite stop over destination for the various tourist vehicles plying on the roads of Assam and Meghalaya and there are quite a few clean and decent restaurants at this place and the best among these is the Jiva’s veg that is a pure veg restaurant and it serves a varied array of cuisine here.
We savour our lunch here at the Jiva’s veg restaurant and enjoy the fresh and cool weather of Nongpoh and continue on our drive to Shillong. We will drive uphill and the temperatures begin to get cooler and we will soon reach the Barapani area that is home to the pristine Umiam Lake and the crystal clear waters of this man-made water reservoir is a sight to look out for. The Umiam Lake is the largest artificial water reservoir of North East India and it was created to power the hydel project here to generate electricity for supply across Meghalaya and some states in North East India. We will stop at the view point area of the Umiam lake and admire the crystal clear waters here and also savour a cup of black tea here and continue on our drive to Shillong.
It was earlier a straight drive to Mawphlang from Shillong but to ease traffic congestion in Shillong city the route for taxis has been diverted to cross via Shillong and so we will take this opportunity to visit the Polo grounds in Shillong and also the Ward’s lake and with this we continue on our drive to Upper Shillong where we will reach the junction of the roads and we stop to admire the elephant falls of Shillong. Meghalaya is known to be the land of waterfalls and very beautiful waterfalls we will witness on our visit to Cherrapunji. As the Elephant Falls is a very important tourist destination in Shillong we will take time to visit this place (if time permits as it is always advisable to check into the place of stay before sun down) and if we are having adequate time (the drive to Mawphlang will take another 30 minutes) we will explore our first waterfall of Meghalaya at the Elephant Falls in Shillong that is a three tiered waterfall with one fall on top, another in the middle and the ground one down. A rock in the shape of an elephant head was present here that was destroyed in the earthquake of 1897 and hence the British names this waterfall as the Elephant falls.
We reach Mawphlang and we head to check into our place of stay at the local village area before the start of the route to the David Scott trek and we take time to freshen up and an evening fire will be lit in the kitchen where we will get together with the local Khasi people and prepare a delicious local Khasi cuisine here at Mawphlang where we will make use of various organic herbs, vegetables and spices to create a wonderful cuisine. Meghalaya is the land of spices and the Lakadong turmeric along with the cinnamon of Cherrapunji, the long pepper variety, round pepper variety, cloves are renowned across India and it has amazing aroma of the spices and these spices of Meghalaya are known to be very good immunity boosters of the human body. The sacred groves that we will be visiting tomorrow is home to some of the very rare plants and trees that are known to have various medicinal properties and the locals say that the bark of a tree when used properly seems as a cure for cancer in humans as well. Meghalaya is also known to grow a variety of vegetables like carrots, potatoes, cabbage, coriander leaves, etc. and vegetables from Shillong are transported all across the states of North East India providing an income support to the local farmers. Even here at Mawphlang, the local Khasi people are into agriculture and they grow a variety of vegetables as well.
We will assemble at the local kitchen of the homestay and here we will get together with the members of the homestay who will guide us with the cooking process and we prepare ourselves a wonderful meal. Next before dinner we will explore the local village and understand how the Khasi families lead a close knit life and they engage with the families of one another and get to work in the daily chores. The Khasi people of Meghalaya practice Christianity as their faith and they ensure to attend the proceedings of the local church every Sunday and this is what makes them a close knit society. This is a beautiful village located near the pristine forests of the David Scott trail and also the Umngot River flowing by close. Numerous small streams are also to be found here and this give rise to fertile soil that allows harvest of good crops here at Mawphlang. We explore the village and come back to our homestay where we will savour our dinner and the meal will be a truly home cooked meal cooked over wood fire. After an early dinner we spend our time at leisure around the homestay and later retire to bed.
Night Halt: Homestay at Mawphlang
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 2: Mawphlang – Mawsynram – Mawphlang
Today we will at first travel to a place that is the wettest place on Earth and this is none other than Mawsynram in Meghalaya. We will visit Mawsynram from Mawphlang in the morning and visit the places of interest at Mawsynram like the Mawjymbuin caves, the monolith park, Mawsynram local market and the Jakrem hot springs before we head back to Mawphlang by early morning noon where we will savour a nice lunch at the homestay and later we will explore the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves and the Khasi Heritage village at Mawphlang and later understand about the various sustainable practices undertaken by the people of Mawphlang that has helped them to preserve these forest pockets as sacred groves. We start after an early breakfast of bread, butter, eggs, cornflakes and maggi noodles and we begin on our drive from Mawphlang to Mawsynram.
The roads are narrow but well-pitched and the beautiful countryside of Meghalaya welcomes us on our way to Mawsynram. The drive from Mawphlang to Mawsynram is a short one around 35 km and it takes just above an hour to reach Mawsynram from Mawphlang and on the way we will see the Wei Wei falls that is a beautiful waterfall of this area and this is our second waterfall of Meghalaya where the waterfalls from the top and it falls across the road during the monsoon time and cars need to cross under this waterfall. During winters it cannot be seen as the rains are less and so hopefully we will be able to witness the waterfall at its best at Mawsynram. The forest areas of Mawsynram are abundant in bamboo growth and the local artisans of Mawsynram have used this unique grass to turn into a profitable industry and they make and weave out exquisite handicrafts from this bamboo. The unique thing about the bamboo handicraft of Mawsynram is that the artisans smoke the bamboo at first and this brings a unique texture to the bamboo and the colour of the final product is very appealing to the eyes.
We have witnessed the bamboo handicrafts at the museum in Guwahati and today at the Mawsynram market we will witness more of these crafts. Next up we head to explore the Mawjymbuin caves here at Mawsynram that is a very revered cave among the Hindu people as this is the home to a natural Shivalinga that is present inside the cave and every year during the festival of Shivaratri thousands of pilgrims come here to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva. The unique thing about this Shivalinga is that inside the cave a small water stream drips on the top of this Shivalinga and this is considered to be auspicious as it is a natural way of devotion to Lord Shiva. Once you enter the cave we will witness the Shivalinga and also there are various fossils to be seen on the cave walls along with the stalactites and stalagmites. We pay our respects to the Shivalinga inside the Mawjymbuin caves and walk across the area of the place that is surrounded by tall trees and a stream flowing close by.
Next up we travel to the Jakrem Hot Springs area near Mawsynram that is a place that is renowned for the medicinal and mineral filled waters that comes out from deep within the earth’s surface and it is a popular spot where visitors go to cleanse their body with the mineral soaked waters and we will go to witness this place here at Mawsynram. The place has been designed to keep the sustainability of the mineral water pool (Jakrem Hot Springs) by not allowing visitors to directly take a plunge in the waters here and instead there are room designed for the bath at the site and visitors have to pay a small token amount towards the water bucket and the water from the hot springs that is brought by long pipes and the water filled in the buckets that is provided to the visitors. And one can get a chance to view this hot spring from a distance. This has been a good move because allowing the visitors to jump directly into the waters of the hot pool could be dangerous and also this may be a cause for many diseases as well.
This water is filled with minerals directly from the soil and these minerals are very helpful in the treating the diseases of the skin and so once you have a bath in the waters of the Jakrem Hot Springs at Mawsynram you are bound to feel a kind of unique freshness in your body. In case you are interested you can take a bath with the waters of the Jakrem hot spring or else we will take a look at the beautiful waters of the hot spring and alter continue on our drive to the Mawsynram market area where we will take the opportunity to view the unique bamboo handicrafts of the ‘Wettest Place on Planet Earth’. The Mawsynram local market is located on a valley offering the panoramic view of the beautiful landscapes of Meghalaya and also the plains as well. We stop at the market for refreshments and tea and later we will visit the local emporium that has these handicrafts on display. We will understand the process of how these bamboos are smoked and later examine the detailed craftsmanship on these products and later begin on our drive back to Mawphlang.
At Mawphlang we will head to our homestay where we will have a sumptuous traditional Khasi lunch that would be having a lot of green vegetables and salad and offerings of fish and meat as well and later we will head to the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves at Mawphlang to witness this beautiful forest. These sacred groves are forest pockets to be found not only across Meghalaya but other states in North East India as well that have been protected due to certain ancient folklore and ancient rituals and customs that have been associated with these forest pockets. Like here at the Mawphlang Sacred Groves site the Khasi ancestors used to perform religious rituals to appease the Gods on the sacred monoliths inside the sacred groves and God would appear in front of them in the form of a certain animal thereby telling them about the year ahead of them whether it would be a favourable year with a bountiful harvest or a year of famine or drought. As per the local guide who will escort us into the Khasi Hills Sacred Groves, it is believed that God would appear in the form of a tiger and this meant that the year ahead would be bountiful with an abundant harvest.
But if God appeared in the form of a snake it would mean the locals had to be ready to face a year of drought and famine and so they had to prepare themselves with resources to brave that year. These legends associated with these forest pockets made the locals revere these forests and they ensured to declare these sacred groves as an area where no acts of nuisance is to be committed and even felling of trees and plucking of plants from these sacred groves is said to be an ill omen that would bring upon a great distress to the person who does this act. The legends have continued over the years and even today the local people of Mawphlang protect and preserve these forest pockets. Over the years these forests have become rich in bio-diversity as there has been no disturbance from humans and today the sacred groves at Mawphlang now harbours various flora, fauna and avifauna species. Some of the very rare orchid species of North East India are to be found here at the Mawphlang Sacred Groves and various rare and endangered animal and bird species are also present inside the sacred groves at Mawphlang. We will be taken across the sacred groves site by the local guide who would detail us about the various facets of this place and also take us to the site where we will witness the monoliths where the sacred rituals were done by their ancestors.
We will witness the various trees and flowering orchids (depending on the season of our visit) and the guide will tell us about the various medicinal uses of the trees present inside the sacred grove. We complete our short exploration and hike along the sacred groves and next up we will visit the site of the model Khasi Heritage Village site at Mawphlang that is a site that would earlier host the Monolith festival of Mawphlang. The Monoliths are sacred stones that are worshipped by the Khasi people of Meghalaya and hence these monoliths are very sacred to these people. The model Khasi village is located by a valley and here we will get to see the traditional Khasi tribe homes that they used to stay earlier built with mud and thatch roof and the entire family used to stay inside a hit that had the sleeping room as well as the kitchen and dining area. You will be really surprised as to how an entire family could fit inside the small hut but we will get to witness a real hut at Nohwet village later on our tour near Mawlynnong.
After exploring the sacred groves and the model Khasi Heritage village we will travel to the site of the agricultural farmlands of the Khasi people here at Mawphlang where we will learn about a unique type of cultivation known as the terrace cultivation that is practiced by members of the indigenous communities of North East India and this unique cultivation technique allows the villagers to cultivate on farmlands year after year without having the need to search for new farmlands by chopping down trees. This is a predominantly a culture of the Angami Naga people of Khonoma village and this cultivation techniques along with various other sustainable techniques adopted by them has earned Khonoma the title of the first green village in India. It might be noteworthy to say that most of the villages across North East India and especially at Meghalaya, the locals have always respected Mother Nature and have always found out sustainable practices that helped preserved Mother Nature. Across Meghalaya when you travel you will find that most of the villages are very neat and clean and the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind is provided importance. At the Maple Pine Farm homestay at Mawphlang, the owners harness the power of wind and solar to cater to the power needs of the homestay and even in the homestay at the village where we are staying we can see the use of solar power to light the street lights in the village.
And one factor to this would be that before converting to Christianity these indigenous people of North East India were followers of the Dony Polo which meant a religion where they prayed to Mother Nature along with the Sun, Moon, Stars, farmlands and this had made them to stay in touch with nature. We will witness how the Khasi people of Meghalaya practice this sustainable technique to keep on reworking on a land year after year and what are the types of produce that is yield from these farmlands. The use of artificial fertilizers in cultivation is almost nil as they use all natural resources to fertilize the land that gives harvest to some best organic vegetables and crops here at Mawphlang. With this we call it a day at Mawphlang and we head back to our homestay where we will need to prepare ourselves for our 16 km long David Scott trek trail tomorrow across the vast wilderness of Meghalaya and we need of shoes, first aid kits, meals, etc. ready. We will savour a nice ethnic Khasi cuisine dinner at the homestay and retire to bed to prepare for the trek the next morning.
Night Halt: Homestay at Mawphlang
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 3: David Scott Trek Trail – Cherrapunji
Today is our 5-6 hour long (16 km) trek across the beautiful valleys, streams, countryside, local villages and crystal clear water pools of Meghalaya along the David Scott Trail trek starting from Mawphlang to Lad Mawphlang. Our taxis will leave us at the village that is located close to the trek start point and the vehicles will await us at the trek end point at Lad Mawphlang where we will be picked up and taken to Cherrapunji. The shop we will find to eat something and to get drinking water is at a village after completion of about 3 hours of our trek and so we will need to ensure to carry adequate drinking water and some packaged food along with us on the trek. We will be accompanied by a local guide and a porter who will guide us along the trek and we will start after an early breakfast to head on our David Scott Trail trek in Meghalaya.
The trek starts across a flat surface that is covered with tall canopy of trees all around and gradually it is a downhill walk. At first we reach the summit and we get to witness one of the very pristine scenic views of the mountains of Meghalaya and a waterfall among the mountains as well. The Umngot river flows down across the valley and we will be crossing this river on a suspension bridge that is present after about 5 km into the trek. We start on the downhill walk and the guide will lead us along the way. The pathway is well laid out with stones and this was laid long back during the time of the British when this trail was used as an important trade route between Assam and Sylhet (Bangladesh). At the first half of the trek we will halt at the grave of a small child ‘Camilia’ who is buried here and pay our respects here as it is considered to be a good omen to pay our respects before the start of the trek. We gradually start walking down and we will cross a small stream and finally reach level grounds and some we will arrive at the suspension bridge area of the David Scott trek that was originally built during the British time but it was washed away by the floods of the waters of the Umngot river and was later rebuilt by the PWD dept. of Meghalaya.
After the bridge crossing we keep hiking until we reach a stream crossing and after the stream crossing we take a break and have our packed food and the trek from now on is uphill and it will take us across a pristine forest cover of Meghalaya and we will reach the beautiful countryside village of Meghalaya along the David Scott trek trail. It is here we will dispose of our wastes at the community dustbin and we take our places near the shop to have some refreshments and to hydrate ourselves after the uphill trek. After a short break time we start on our trek again along the David Scott trek and now we will walk across a plain surface and we will encounter some of the clearest water pool with water so clean you would feel like taking a plunge on these waters. Our trek continues and we reach the area of an old bridge from where we go downhill and further uphill towards the trek end point at Lad Mawphlang. In short to summarize the David Scott Trek:
- Km 0 – The Trailhead
- Km 0.5 – Ka KorShonmai
- Km 2 – Mawshep
- Km 5 – Suspension Bridge
- Km 6 – Wahtham Valley
- Km 9 – Laithsohma Village
- Km 12 – Arch Bridge
- Km 14 – Kor-Parkti
- Km 16 – Shillong-Cherrapunji road at Lad Mawphlang
Our vehicles will await us at the trek end point at Lad Mawphlang and we will board our vehicles and drive towards Cherrapunji – the land of waterfalls in Meghalaya. The drive will be across some pristine valley locations of Meghalaya and we might be greeted with the pleasant rainfall on our drive to Cherrapunji as the local say ‘Sohra’ – meaning the Shade of the Clouds. We soon reach Cherrapunji where we will check into our place of stay at the Sohra Plaza Homestay that is a nice guest house type accommodation at the entrance of Cherrapunji town and it is an isolated property so we can have one half of the place to ourselves and we check into our rooms to freshen up followed by an evening snacks of French fries, veg cutlet and coffee. Post our snacks we will sit by the bonfire and enjoy our evening here at Cherrapunji and the next day we will explore Cherrapunji town.
Night Halt: Sohra Plaza Homestay at Cherrapunji
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 4: Cherrapunji – Mawlynnong
Today in the first half of the day we will explore the sightseeing spots of Cherrapunji and later drive to Pynursla village where we will visit the longest living root bridge in the World at Pynursla (it takes a trek duration of about an hour and half to complete this) and later we drive to Mawlynnong to reach by late afternoon and we get to witness another day at Mawlynnong with the Khasi people of Meghalaya learning about their culture and traditions. We will start after an early breakfast at our place of stay at Cherrapunji where we will at first travel to the Nohkalikai Falls – the tallest plunge waterfall in India here at Cherrapunji (height 330m) and it is one of the most pristine and beautiful waterfalls in Meghalaya with a unique legend associated with the waterfall. The waters from the various perennial streams flowing across Cherrapunji gather at the summit of the plateau of the Nohkalikai falls and later it plunges down together from the top and it creates a unique green colour water pool at the bottom that is just an amazing sight to behold. This view when coupled with the gushing sound of the falling water and the hovering cloud cover across the waterfalls makes Nohkalikai falls one of the best waterfalls to view in the entire country.
We admire the beautiful view of the Nohkalikai falls and we explore the area around the place and read about the legend associated with the waterfall as to how a Khasi lady had jumped off the cliff of the Nohkalikai falls and the reason why this waterfall is called as the Nohkalikai falls – meaning the leap of Ka Likai. With this we head back to visit the Arwah Caves at Cherrapunji (we will exclude the Mawsmai cave because the Arwah Cave is much wider and deeper and is clearly better visible than the Mawsmai caves and also instead of the Seven Sister Falls we will visit the Wei Sawdong falls that offers us an opportunity to travel to the base of the waterfall). We soon reach the site of the Arwah caves and we get down at the parking spot and we will need to walk for almost 500 m to reach the entrance of the cave. The entire area is across a valley with the view of the Wah Kaba falls of Cherrapunji to be seen from the park area here that we will witness while coming back.
We enter the Arwah caves to be immediately greeted by the fossils on the walls of the cave. This is a pre-historic cave with the presence of various fossils and also the stalactites and stalagmites. The Arwah cave is a very wide cave and has a water stream flowing inside the cave as well. We keep walking inside the cave looking out for the occasional fossils on the cave walls and also getting a feel of this cave as well. The cave is well lit up to a certain distance and from this point on there is a narrow passage that takes you deeper into the cave but there is nothing much to see and so we wind up here and come out of the caves to go to the park where we catch a glimpse of the Wah Kaba falls at Cherrapunji and we hike back to the parking area where we board our vehicles and travel to the Wei Sawdong falls behind the area of the Sohra Plaza homestay. The waters of the Wei Sawdong falls are very clear and this is due to the sparse population here at Cherrapunji that releases less amount of garbage and also the continuous rains across the area that keeps the places neat and clean.
We walk to the base of the Wei Sawdong falls and we get to admire this three step waterfall and the water falls down from the top to the ground before getting collected on the flat surface across each of the tiers of the waterfall. This is a less frequented waterfall here in Cherrapunji and so we could enjoy the place in calm before we head back to the Sohra plaza homestay to check out and travel on our way to Pynursla. Pynursla is the last township on our way further to Mawlynnong and Dawki and so we will refuel our vehicles here before we travel to the village here to go on our hike to visit the Longest living Root Bridge in the World. We will eat something in our vehicle because by the time we have our lunch it will be almost 3 PM and so before our hike to the Longest Living Root Bridge we will have some snacks and later we explore this beautiful and clean village of Pynursla and embark on our hike to the site. The pathway is well laid out with stone slabs and this makes the hike easier these days than earlier as it was on the steep ground and so it was a tough hike.
We will soon reach the bottom of the hill and here we get to witness the man grown bio engineering marvel of the Longest Living Root Bridge and also there is another root bridge located parallel to this one. The Living Root Bridges are unique to Meghalaya grown by the Khasi and Jaintia people to access remote villages in the forests and to help their way across the perennial streams. There are many root bridges across Meghalaya but the very popular ones are the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat, the Riwai Root Bridge at Mawlynnong, the Longest Living Root Bridge at Pynursla and the twin Root Bridges of Tyrna near Cherrapunji. These root bridges are grown with the roots of the rubber tree and the young roots are allowed to grow in a direction across the perennial streams by providing support with hollowed out areca nut tree trunks or even bamboo poles and these root bridges take about 15-20 years to grow completely and once fully grown these last for around 500 years thereby providing a life longer than the iron bridges that are difficult to construct across the remote locations and hence the locals found a unique way of growing the tree roots. Also with the heavy rains of Meghalaya, the iron bridges are prone to rusting but these root bridges grow stronger with the rains. We admire the grand view of the longest living root bridge at Pynursla and later hike back to the top of the village and continue on our drive to Mawlynnong before stopping for lunch at little ahead of Pynursla.
We will commence on our drive to Mawlynnong after lunch and we take a right diversion from the road and travel on a downhill drive towards Mawlynnong with the various betel nut trees and broom stick trees greeting us on the way. The entire stretch of the road is green and a river flows down and this is the same river that flows underneath the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge that we will visit tomorrow on our day of exploring Mawlynnong. We will soon reach the Mawlynnong village and we will at first go to check into our homestay here at Mawlynnong village and later after freshening up we will explore this beautiful village area of Meghalaya. Mawlynnong is called as the ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’ and this title was awarded to the village by the Discover India Magazine in 2003. It is a small village of around 100 households and the people of this village have known to have maintained décor and cleanliness in their village since long time back. Every morning, the village has assigned groups that clean the premises of the village and segregate the entire degradable and non-degradable waster and while the degradable waste is used to create fertilizers to be used in the village farms the non-degradable waste is sent to various recycling plants in Shillong to be disposed of in an environment friendly process.
Also, these days owing to the heavy inflow of tourists to the village especially to view the Living Root Bridge of Riwai (this Living Root Bridge is the most easily accessible root bridge in Meghalaya) so this creat4es a lot of accumulation of waste products as well and the villagers of Mawlynnong ensure to collect the garbage in the evening itself so that the village remains clean. Every house in Mawlynnong village has a toilet since times when it was not a movement that was started across India and all these practices awarded Mawlynnong with the coveted title of the Cleanest Village in Asia. We will freshen up at the homestay and later we come out to explore the cleanest village in Asia and understand about the various steps followed by the villagers to keep the premises clean and green. As mentioned earlier, use of sustainable energy can be seen across the villages of Meghalaya and even at Mawlynnong village one can find the various street lights powered by solar power and also solar panels installed at the local homes to use for their power needs.
We will take a walk across the village and a local guide will help us learn more about Mawlynnong village and we visit a nearby cemetery and the banks of the river as well. There are shops where visitors can get themselves dressed in the traditional Khasi attires and get their pictures clicked and in case you are interested we can do this. We end our day of exploration of Mawlynnong village by visiting the holy Cathedral at Mawlynnong that was built more than 100 years back during the time of the British and it is a beautiful structure built with stone blocks and the calm and peace in the area is divine. Later we will travel to a restaurant that is owned by the local guide and today we will cook some true ethnic Khasi delights like chicken with sesame seeds, banana flower, raw papaya curry with herbs, bamboo shoot, etc. This restaurant has a traditional kitchen that is powered by wood fire and we will witness how an ethnic meal is prepared here. We savour our dinner here at Mawlynnong village and later we return to our rooms to prepare our next day of exploration of Mawlynnong and further drive to Shillong – the Scotland of the East.
Day 5: Mawlynnong – Shillong
Today in the morning we will take a walk across the Mawlynnong village and after an early breakfast we will visit the Balancing Rocks at Mawlynnong village that is an interesting phenomenon where a huge rock boulder rests on a much smaller rock and this structure has stood here like this since times immemorial and it is indeed a wonder to watch this huge rock rest on the smaller one without any form of support and visitors from across the World come to admire this unique phenomenon. Earlier this site used to be revered by the Khasi people and people used to perform various rituals to appease the Gods at this site but now it stands as a tourist site only. We explore the balancing rocks at Mawlynnong village and later we travel to the site of the Riwai Living Root Bridge where the vehicles will drop us at the parking spot and we will hike for a short while to the bottom area where the Living Root Bridge is located. Our vehicles will travel to the Nohwet village as we will hike from the Living Root Bridge to the Nohwet Village that is a short 30 minute hike and we get to witness more natural wonders of Meghalaya in this trek. We will at first trek down from the parking area crossing another very clean and beautiful village and reach a stone slab stairway that takes us to the Riwai Single Decker Living Root Bridge at Mawlynnong that is arguably the most visited root bridge in Meghalaya because of its easy accessibility and everyone can undertake this short hike while the ones at Nongriat and Pynursla that need a lot of trekking across steep stairways.
Every day during the tourist season thousands of visitors come here at the Riwai Living Root Bridge and this is the widest among all the root bridges in Meghalaya. And owing to this the locals have made it mandatory that no visitor can stand on the root bridge and they have to walk across one way over the root bridge and return from another bamboo bridge. We will however walk across the living root bridge and walk over to the other side and after admiring the grandeur of the Riwai Living Root Bridge we continue on our hike to the Nohwet village from here. The trek is slightly uphill but a well laid out pathway is present and in some time we reach the Nohwet village where we will go to visit the Oldest Khasi Hut in this village. The oldest Khasi hut belongs to the grand parents of our local guide Sukher who will elaborate to us about the place and one will be surprised with the various items that is present in the miniature hut and even though the hut looks very small from outside in the inside it is spacious.
We will take our time to explore the Khasi hut and Sukher will explain to us about the various facets of this hut and how his grandparents lived in this heritage hut at Nohwet village. With this we will visit the Nohwet Skywalk that is a tall tree house made entirely with bamboo and from here we get to view the lush valleys of Meghalaya and also the plains of Bangladesh. We admire this beautiful view and later we board our vehicles to continue on our drive to Shillong. We cross Pynursla and continue on our drive further to Upper Shillong area and we will break for lunch at the Soliyana Huts near Upper Shillong.
After a nice lunch at the Soliyana Huts near Upper Shillong we continue on our drive to Shillong market area and the beautiful city of Shillong welcomes us. At Shillong we head to our guest house to check in and freshen up and in the late afternoon we will set out to explore the Police Bazar and Ward’s lake area in Shillong. The city of Shillong is called as the ‘Scotland of the East’ because when the British came here they saw the landscape of Shillong to be similar to the landscapes of Scotland and hence they gave this name. At Shillong city you will see a blend of the ancient and the modern world as the people have adhered to their traditional practices that they had before converting to Christianity and there is a section of the society who have completely adopted the modern way of life and this blend is what we will watch out at the Police Bazar in Shillong that is a market that gives you a total glimpse of this transition. While on one side of the market one can see the various traditional shops and business establishments while on the other side there are the modern high rise malls and complexes.
We will at first go to explore the Ward’s lake area in Shillong that is just adjacent to the Police Bazar area and this is a very popular tourist attraction in Shillong. The Ward’s lake was dug out in Shillong during the British Raj (the erstwhile capital of Assam) when General Ward found that the prisoners of the central jail in Shillong were getting fat not doing out any much form of physical activity. He ordered the prisoners to dig out this lake and it took almost a few years to clean the area and dig out this lake. This was named as the Ward’s lake and this served as a nice recreational area for the local officials in the evenings. Over the years this became a very green and beautiful surrounding in the hear t of Shillong city and today not only the locals of Shillong but also tourists come to visit the Ward’s lake in large numbers every day. We take our time to take a walk across the Ward’s lake in Shillong and also there is boating facility available on the lake and in case you are interested you can take a boat ride on the waters of the wards lake.
Post this we visit the Police Bazar area and here we will witness the various archery betting stalls that is like a religion in Shillong. The traditional archery is a main betting game in Shillong where locals bet on certain numbers of the day and a game of archery is held at the Polo grounds every afternoon where the traditional archers use their bow and arrow to shoot at the numbers and the number that gets the most number of arrow hits is declared as the winning number and the person betting on this number wins an amount almost 80 times the amount of the bet and this is what makes this game very popular among the locals and across Shillong and the East Khasi hills district and once can find these betting stalls all around and a section of the Police Bazar market is filled with such stalls. We explore the market area for a while and later we drive back to the guest house to make a final stop for the day at the Madina Masjid in Shillong. The Muslim population of Shillong live at the Laban area in Shillong and they came up with a unique way to build a mosque to offer their prayers completely out of glass and this went on to become the only glass mosque in India. In the evenings the place is lit with green light and the mosque looks absolutely beautiful and we stop here to admire the construction of the India’s only glass mosque – the Madina Masjid in Shillong. With this we call it a day and travel back to our guest house in Shillong where we enjoy a nice evening sinner and prepare for our visit the next day to the UNESCO World heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
Night Halt: Sunrise Guest House in Shillong
Meals Included: Breakfast
Day 6: Shillong – Kaziranga National Park
Today is our day of drive to Kaziranga National Park from Shillong before stopping at the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong and later we will drive to Kaziranga. We start our day after breakfast and we drive to the Don Bosco Museum in Shillong and this is a one of the finest museums in North East India that illustrates the rich culture, heritage and traditional of the indigenous people of North East India. North East India is home to around 200 indigenous tribes and sub tribes with three of these from Meghalaya namely the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia people. This museum illustrates about the history of these indigenous people and how they came from various countries in Assam and South East Asia and settled across the region of North East India.
The museum is spread across 7 floors and each of these floors is dedicated to a particular attribute of the indigenous people like one floor has their traditional attires, one floor about their agricultural practices and tools another about their weaving skills and so on. We will start from two floors underground and continue exploring the Don Bosco Museum towards the top floor that ends in a skywalk that overlooks the part of Shillong city. We come back to the ground floor that has a souvenir section and we shop for more memorabilia of our visit to Meghalaya here and later we start on our drive to Kaziranga National Park from Shillong. We cross Shillong, Barapani and travel towards Nongpoh area where we will break for a short tea break and later continue to drive towards the Meghalaya and Assam border at Jorabat and we soon enter back into Assam and continue on our drive towards Kaziranga National Park via Jagiroad, Raha, Nagaon and Jakhlabandha. We will continue on our drive to Raha where we will make a stop at a roadside shop that display and sell the bamboo handicrafts of Assam.
The roadside shops at Raha area a favourite stop over for the vehicles plying on the roads to Kaziranga National Park as along with the bamboo handicrafts the shops here sell the fresh tender coconut and most of the vehicles take a break here to savour the fresh coconut water and visitors who are from outside of Assam are left enthralled looking at the bamboo handicrafts that range from various items like furniture’s, trays, crafts, decors, fishing tool, etc. and the best part is that the artisans here weave miniature items as well that make it easier for the tourists to carry back these souvenirs along with them. With this we will continue on our drive a little ahead where we will break for lunch at the Punjabi Dhaba at Raha as we had an early breakfast and so it would be good to have an early lunch as well and this is one of the very nice and clean places to eat in this area with the other restaurants being located at the Nagaon Bypass and further ahead at Amoni. This place serves very nice Punjabi cuisine food of Tandoori roti, dal tadka, chicken butter masala, Kadhai paneer and we savour our lunch here at the Punjabi Dhaba at Raha and alter continue on our drive to Kaziranga National Park.
We commence on our drive after lunch and we cross Raha to reach Nagaon Bypass and further towards Amoni, Koliabor and Jakhlabandha to finally enter the highway amidst the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park. The signage’s along the roads welcomes you to Kaziranga and instruct the driers to drive safety as this is an animal corridor and often animal herds cross the roads especially during the monsoon season and so any animal and vehicular movement conflict has to be avoided. We will drive along the beautiful highway that is covered by tea gardens along both sides of the road and the paddy fields on the left and the view of the majestic mountains of the Karbi Anglong hills on the right. Kaziranga National Park is divided into four zones namely central, western, and eastern and Burapahar and on the drive from Guwahati to Kaziranga we approach the Burapahar range at first and this range is known for its jeep safari rides into the interiors of the park to sight the varied flora, fauna and avifauna of Kaziranga National Park. We reach the entrance gate to the Burapahar range of Kaziranga and we drive towards the Bagori range where we are scheduled to halt at the JBs Resort between the Bagori and Kohora ranges of Kaziranga National Park.
Along our drive we keep looking across the surrounding to be able to spot the various species of fauna of Kaziranga and we might spot the occasional Rhino, capped langurs, wild water buffaloes, Indian elephants along our drive to our place of stay. We soon approach a view point and we make a stop here to view some of the varied fauna species of Kaziranga National Park. This is a swamp land here and visitors can see the One Horned Rhinoceros of Kaziranga National Park along with the hog deers, swamp deers, Asiatic wild water buffaloes, wild boars and various bird species of Kaziranga across this area and many visitors stop at this place to catch a glimpse of these animals. There are options of hiring binoculars on rent here as well and in case you are interested you can view the animal species up close using these binoculars. With this we board our vehicles again and begin on our drive to our place of stay at the JBs Resort at Bagori in Kaziranga National Park. At the resort we check into our rooms after a long drive from Shillong and in the evening we will visit the Hornbill restaurant that is located close to the resort to enjoy an ethnic Assamese cuisine dinner that will have various offerings on the platter. The Assamese cuisine is characterized by very low spices and oil and the use of various herbs and natural ingredients with organic vegetable followed by an accompaniment of meat and sour fish curry to be had with rice and varieties of dal. The meal is served on bell metal plates and this is what makes the presentation even more unique. We have our elephant safari ride scheduled in the morning at 6.30 AM and so we return to bed early to start our day in the morning.
Night Halt: JBs Resort at Kaziranga National Park
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 7: Kaziranga National Park
Today is our day of safari inside the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park on one elephant safari ride and two jeep safari rides one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We will also explore the Kaziranga Orchid Park – the largest orchid park in India where we will savour one of the best Assamese thali of the State that is a humongous thali as well. We get up early and get ready to visit the Bagori Safari range (Indian Nationals) or the Kohora safari range (Foreign Nationals) to go for an elephant safari ride and we will be handed our passes and we go for our hour long elephant safari ride into the forest reserves of Kaziranga National Park. After out safari is done we come back to our resort to take a jeep safari ride for about an hour and a half across another range of Kaziranga National Park and we come back to our resort to freshen up and after breakfast we go out to explore the Kaziranga Orchid Park. A beautiful park filled with the various indigenous orchid species of North East India, the Kaziranga Orchid Park also houses a rice museum, Bamboo Park, cactus garden, photo gallery, handicrafts and handloom section and an ethnic restaurant as well. We will start by exploring the green house at the Kaziranga Orchid park and a local guide will welcome us and take us on a short tour of this green house where we will get to sight the various flowering orchid species of Assam and North East India that are well aligned and placed with proper visibility to the audience.
We explore the green house and later visit the section of handicrafts and handloom and witness more crafts and looms of Assam here followed by the orchid photo gallery, the rice museum, the cactus garden and later we take seats to witness the Bihu and the Bamboo dance performance of Assam here. There is an open stage area here at the Kaziranga Orchid park and regular traditional dance performances are held here at regular intervals so that visitors can catch a glimpse of the Assamese culture. We will witness these dance performances and later visit the restaurant to enjoy an ethnic Assamese cuisine thali filled with around 30 offerings. After lunch we will board our jeeps and travel to the eastern range of the park at Agoratoli for a two hour long afternoon ride across the forest reserves sighting the varied flora and avifauna of Kaziranga National Park. The eastern range of known for its population of the tigers and hence if we are lucky we might be able to sight the tigers of Kaziranga National Park here on our day of visit. We are sure to sight rhinos, wild elephants, hog deers, swamp deers, wild boars, jungle fowls, assamese macaques, capped langurs, wild water buffaloes and the various birds of Kaziranga National Park here and we will complete our two hour long safari ride and head back to our resort. We spend our evening at leisure and after dinner we will retire to our rooms.
Night Halt: JBs Resort at Kaziranga National Park
Meals included: Breakfast
Day 8: Kaziranga National Park – Guwahati Airport
Today after breakfast we begin on our drive to travel to Guwahati from Kaziranga National Park. It will take us around four and half hours to reach Guwahati airport and we will drop you off at the Guwahati airport for your later afternoon flight to your onward destination. Tour Ends. Bid Adieu!
Night Halt: NA
Meals included: Breakfast