Offbeat Meghalaya – A glimpse into 5 unexplored destinations of North East India
Meghalaya, the abode of clouds is a state which is most easily accessible among the other North Eastern states. While most of the travellers limit themselves to the popular circuit of Shillong-Cherrapunjee-Dawki, there are a bundle of unexplored destinations in Meghalaya that have remained overshadowed till date.
Starting from beautiful villages to camping sites and mystical forests, there are so many places that you should add in your itinerary while visiting Meghalaya .
Go ahead to read about a few of these destinations and get all the necessary details about your travel, accommodation and experiences you can expect.
- 5 Offbeat Destinations in Meghalaya
- MAWPHLANG SACRED FORESTS
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5 Offbeat Destinations in Meghalaya
MAWPHLANG SACRED FORESTS
Mawphlang, which literally means moss-covered stones, is the biggest sacred forest out of the 52 sacred forests in the Khasi Hills. This 800 year old forest is situated about 25 kms away from Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya. This sacred forest in Meghalaya is said to be a storehouse of legends, indigenous cultures and religious beliefs.
According to legends, the sacred grove is protected by a local deity named Labasa. The locals offer sacrifice, which in the earlier days used to be a bull, in order to keep the deity happy. It is said that if the deity is happy, a leopard shows up and if the deity is angry, a snake shows up. Thus, the locals make the sacrifice with great precision and make sure it is rightly done.
It is also said that nobody should carry anything out from the forest. What belongs to the forests stays there. If one carries something even as small as a leaf, it brings bad luck to them.
How to reach Mawphlang?
- From Shillong, you can hire a cab for half a day to take you to Mawphlang. This would cost you around INR 2000.
- Self drives are highly recommended on this route. You can rent a motor cycle or a scooter from Shillong and head to Mawphlang. For budget travellers and backpackers, this is a better option.
- You can also get a shared vehicle till Mawphlang in less than INR 100, but they are not very frequent.
What to expect in Mawphlang?
The sacred groves are a treasure in terms of biodiversity. Studies say that this forest contains 514 species of animals. As you walk towards the leafy entrance of the forest, you’d spot the monoliths, which are erected there as ritual stones. The Khasis pay homage to the stones before entering the forests and also conduct rituals around the monoliths.
Upon entering the forests, you’d be surprised to witness the change in the quality of air. It becomes a lot cooler than the air you feel while walking through the meadow. As you walk into the forest, you’d spot mosses, lichens and mushrooms of different colours, textures and varieties. Remember to not get carried away and pluck anything from the trail.
On walking further, you’d notice the remains of a long stretch of stones covered in moss. This used to be the spot of sacrificing bulls in the earlier days. The forest also has almost 25 varieties or orchids. If you’re there at the right time, beautiful orchids along the trees and the branches would welcome you.
The entire forest is divided in three parts. A little detour off the trail will lead you to a secret pool to have water from. The sweetness of the water will surprise you to the core.
To experience the best of Mawphlang, spend a night in the village and engage in conversations with the locals. There is no better way to know about the history of a place than knowing about it from the locals.
Where to Stay in Mawphlang?
- Maple and Pine farm : +91 098560 41205
- Mr. Embor’s Homestay : +91 8837437716
Things to remember while visiting Mawphlang
- You need a guide to lead your inside the forest. You will find an official guide at the entrance of the forest.
- An hour long guided trip will cost you about INR 500 (INR 500 as of 2020; kindly check the costs).
- If you need to use the washrooms, use the ones outside the forest before you enter the groves.
- It is advisable to wear ankle high boots to avoid leeches.
- The best time to visit the sacred groves is monsoons. The entire forest appears to be alive during monsoons. Do not forget to carry your umbrellas.
- The visiting hours are 10am to 5pm.
You might be aware of the tea plantations in Darjeeling and Assam, but did you know that a beautiful tiny village in Meghalaya is famous for producing tea! Well, now you know.
Mawlyngot is a quiet and idyllic village in Meghalaya, located about 45 kms away from Shillong. The village is set amidst vistas of tea estates and makes it a perfect offbeat destination for discerning travellers. If you are looking forward to spend a peaceful day in the lap of nature, Mawlyngot is the place you need to be in. The aroma of Urlong Tea will definitely make you forget all worries; do not forget to pack some to carry back home.
How to reach Mawlyngot ?
- Mawlyngot is accessible by roads. You can hire a cab from Shillong or Cherrapunjee, as per your itinerary to reach Mawlyngot.
- You may also opt for a bus or shared sumos from Shillong to Mawlyngot. Shared sumos start from Bara Bazar (Lewduh).
What to expect in Mawlyngot?
Acres of lush green tea gardens shall be awaiting your arrival at Mawlyngot. Take a walk along the tea gardens and make some friends in the village. You would most definitely spot villages plucking tea leaves. Do not miss on the opportunity of trying your hands on plucking some tea leaves. The villages would be happy to share their knowledge about the different methods of harvesting tea, the various qualities and how tea plantation started in Mawlyngot. It’s an exciting story that you should not miss.
You could also witness the processing of tea in Urlong Tea Processing Factory. You’d be able to see each step involved, till the packaging. Lastly, don’t forget to go for a tea tasting session.
There are plenty of unnamed hiking trails in and around the village which goes through thick forests. Ask a local to guide you, if you’re interested to go on one of these short hikes. What is different in these hikes is the fact that they do not have even a tinge of commercialisation and you can experience raw nature in its best form. You’d be accompanied by the buzzing of crickets and humming of birds while you walk through the forests. You can also visit the banks of Umsong River or take a dip in the cold waters, to address the adrenaline junkie within you.
Spend some time with the locals and experience a heart-warming hospitality. Engage in conversations with them to know about their history, culture and customs. Their minimal and simplistic lifestyle will surely leave you in awe.
To experience the best of Mawlyngot, spend a couple of days in the village. A night’s stop over is a must, if not more. There are not many options to choose from when it comes to staying in Mawlyngot. There is a bamboo cottage with basic amenities and you can choose to spend the night there. The staff is very hospitable and would give you an overall idea about the place and also guide you through your experiences.
Where to Stay in Mawlyngot?
Mawlyngot Traveller’s Nest – +91 8974009244 (the guest house is a part of an initiative called Explore Exotic Meghalaya under the Meghalaya Tourism Department. If you wish to stay here for a night, you can contact in the given number to make arrangements for your stay).
When we try and picturise a village in Meghalaya, what may come to our minds are thick forests, clear streams running through the valley, children playing in the meadows and village houses made of bamboo and other sustainable products. Well, you are not wrong if this is the image you have had all along about a typical Khasi Village. But in addition to these usual expectations, Khonoma, has something more to offer.
Many of you may have read about the whistling village but did not possibly know that it was Kongthong, situated in Meghalaya. Well, that is it. Kongthong is more famous among travellers as the ‘whistling village’. Since time immemorial, the custom of naming people by a tune or whistle has been practiced. When a child is born, a unique tune is assigned to them, instead of a conventional name. At present there are about 700 inhabitants in the village and it is very fascinating to know that all of them have their own unique tune which they use to call each other. The villagers have preserved the practice till date, which now ends up attracting a generous number of travellers to experience their culture and stay with them.
How to reach Kongthong?
- Kongthong is located 55 kms from Shillong.
- You could hire a private cab to reach Kongthong or take a sumo from Bara Bazar in Shillong.
- Shared vehicles might not drop you till the village, which means you are left with no option other than walking the last stretch. Hence, it is advisable to hire a cab which will drop you to the village directly.
What to expect in Kongthong?
The major reason why travelers visit Kongthong is the indigenous people and their cultural heritage. To see 650 or more people having a unique tune which they use to call each other is no less than a wonder. Take a tour of the village and have a wonderful time interacting with the locals.
You can relax and rejuvenate in the arms of nature, soak in the freshness of the winds and pay a visit to the bee farms. Konthong has a number of bee farms where you can witness the process of extracting the best quality of honey, which is later sent to different places.
Usually, people visit Kongthong on a day’s tour from Shillong but you could also spend a night in the village. There is no better way to experience the village and history to the fullest unless you spend a couple of days here. You are sure to feel that you have found a second home.
Where to Stay in Kongthong?
Kongthong Travellers Nest– Contact Mr. Rothell Khongsit – 9856060347 for bookings.
Jowai is more of a place where you can head to for an incredible roadtrip. This part of Meghalaya set on the Jaintia Hills is not prominent on the tourism map but is gradually developing. You will be able to experience this road and the destination to the fullest only if you’re on a self drive expedition. Alternatively, you can hire caravans or SUVs with a rooftop tent from Camping Co and set out for an adventure you’ve never experienced before.
How to reach Jowai?
- You can start from Shillong on a self driven car or a motor cycle. The distance is 65 kms and the roads are in absolute best conditions.
- You could hire a cab for the entire day and ask the driver to also stop at the various waterfalls along the way.
- Alternatively, you could hop onto a shared sumo from Shillong and hire a vehicle in Jowai for sightseeing.
What to expect in Jowai?
An amalgamation of history, heritage and the beauty of nature, Jowai offers a lot to the visitors. Head to Thadlaskein Lake and Lalong Park near Jowai to experience surreal landscapes set along the Jaintia Hills.
Another destination near Jowai, which is not to be missed at any cost is the Krang Suri waterfalls. The distance to reach Krang Suri waterfalls from Jowai is 28 kms. It is easily one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Meghalaya which would leave you in awe as you spot the emerald blue waters. There is ample space to park your vehicles. There is an entry fee of INR 40 to enter the waterfalls. From the point of entry, you’d be required to walk downhill for about 15-20 minutes to reach the waterfalls. If you wish to take a dip in the pool, there is provision for that too. You’d be compulsorily required to hire life jackets and you’re good to go.
You can stop at Jowai for a day if you have enough time. There are many options for accommodation in and around Jowai ranging rom riverside camping tents, home-stays run by locals and also hotels.
Where to Stay in Jowai?
Located about 90 kms away from Shillong, Shnongpdeng is truly a hidden gem, overshadowed by its more popular counterpart, Dawki. While the distance between the two places is merely 8 kms, most people just limit themselves to visiting Dawki and miss out on the more beautiful alternative.
Shnongpdeng is a rather off beat destination and are mostly frequented by travellers who are water sports enthusiasts and wish to be on an edge of adventure. The crystal clear waters of Umngot River and its sight from the suspension bridge above is clearly magical. There are several unnamed hiking trails in and around Shnongpdeng. Keep an entire day in your itinerary for this exotic location else you’d regret big time.
How to reach Shnongpdeng?
- From Shillong, reserve a cab to reach you to Shnongpdeng. You can either take the shorter route through Dawki or take the longer route through Jowai and visit Krang Suri waterfall on the way.
- You can alternatively, take a shared vehicle from Shillong till Dawki and take another shared cab from Dawki to Shnongpdeng.
- If you’re traveling from any other destination like Cherrapunjee or Mawlynnong, it is advisable to hire a cab to drop you off at Shnongpdeng.
What to expect in Shnongpdeng?
Shnongpdeng is a destination which can never disappoint you, even if you have visited the entire world. A boat ride is a surreal experience to remember for life. While you take a boat ride, you’d be able to see the river bed too, the water being transparent and clear. One boat can accommodate about 5-6 people and they’d charge you INR 700-800 for 30 minutes.
You can also opt for adventure activities like cliff jumping, scuba diving, kayaking and snorkeling, however make sure to hire life jackets, for your own safety. Pioneer Adventures organizes all these activities in Shnongpdeng.
You could also stop by the Indo-Bangladesh border overlooking the plains of Bangladesh and take a picture with the border forces as well.
You can also camp by the riverside. There are many camping sites which can be pre booked and even booked on spot. You can expect a bonfire evening and a jamming session in the evenings in the campsites. Chill under the stars while relishing on freshly caught fish from the river. You may be traveling solo, but if you’re camping in Shnongpdeng, you will go back with a bunch of friends and lovely memories.
Where to Stay in Shnongpdeng?
Things to remember while visiting Shnongpdeng
- The destination looks beautiful because not many tourists frequent the place. If you are visiting the place, you are required to visit responsibly too and not litter the place
- The campsites have basic facilities and common toilets. If you wish to camp here, you have to be prepared to adjust.
- If Shnongpdeng is in your priority on the list of places you’re visiting, make sure you plan your trip between October and April. Avoid the monsoon months as all activities in this place will basically be dead.
If you’re heading to Meghalaya for the very first time, you should have a look at this 7-day itinerary to plan your trip to Meghalaya, with which you can add on these offbeat destinations to make your trip even better.
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Hailing from the foothill town of Siliguri, Michelle takes keen interest in storytelling, through words and photographs. Having a home so close to the mountains is what she considers a gift. A law student and freelance content writer at present, she often takes time out to travel to the mountains and pen down her experiences. She believes in giving back to the community through volunteering in local projects and strongly supports community tourism.