The village of Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills holds the world record for annual rainfall of 75 ft! In this rainy, wet climate the rubber fig tree grows. The tree has a secondary root system that grows up above the ground floor and lets the tree grow on top of boulders and in the middle of streams. Long ago, a tribe in Meghalaya area, used the roots directing them to make bridges to cross streams and rivers. The tribespeople use the trunks of a betul nut tree to guide the roots until they reach the other side of the river and can take root in the opposite bank. This process takes over a decade. Some of the bridges are said to be around 100 feet long and can hold the weight of about 50 people. The villages use these bridges daily and are thought to be around 500 years old. The BBC wrote a fantastic article detailing the history and origins of these beautiful natural bridges you can read here.
Unlike other parts of India, this area has another different characteristic of their social system. Meghalaya practices matrilineal system where the women hold the most important position in the family with all social, cultural and political rights. It is the groom who comes to live with the bride’s family after marriage. Women are in charge of business outside while men end up doing household chores. That’s why you will see more women in the market selling goods than men in Meghalaya. The children also take the mother’s name. This is a very unique area of India and is an interesting cultural experience.
I lived in the Indian state of Meghalaya in the city of Shillong back in 2014 and got to experience firsthand the amazing natural beauty in this village firsthand. The long wet rainy season living in India was worth the lush beauty of living in the Northeast corner on the border of Bangladesh. This was an amazing trip to take to see in this state and is one of the beautiful gems of Northeast India. Northeast India is not a tourist area and is not westernized which makes it a gorgeous place to see and have an authentic Indian experience.
Cherrapunjee is a small village that is known as the wettest place on earth in the Northeast section of India (on the border of Bangladesh). This village is a part of Megahlaya state and is a couple hours outside the big city Shillong in Meghalaya state. As you can see on the map below, this is a part of India that most people don’t know exist because it is surrounded by other countries including Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The closest international airport to fly into and major transportation is Guwahati in Assam state right next door. The drive between these states is only a few hours and there is no border crossing or pass needed.
How to get there
1. Fly into Guwahati
Take an early morning flight or make sure your arrival time is by noon at the latest. The Gopinath Bordoloi airport in Guwahati is located on NH-40 right on the way to Shillong. A right turn on the main road outside the airport will take you to Shillong and the left one will take you to Guwahati. The distance of Shillong from Guwahati airport is 120 kms. This can save you a lot of time not needing to go into Guwahati. By public transport you will need to travel to Shillong first. There is no direct public transport to Cherrapunjee from Guwahati.
2. Public Transportation from Guwahati Airport to Shillong
There are shared taxis available all the time just after you walk out of Guwahati airport (look for ML numbered – yellow number plate cars and SUVs). Rates are negotiable and are around 200-300 Rupees per person. Meghalaya Tourism buses also are between Guwahati airport and Shillong twice a day, ask at the MTDC tourism counter. If you wait on the main road you can catch one of the shared sumos (red normally open air jeeps) all day going between Guwahati and Shillong (170 Rs./- per person) – from Khanapara in Guwahati. Or, you can hire a private car for 3000 rupees. If you have a group or find travelers to split it between 4-5 people it could be worth it.
The road between Guwahati and Shillong takes around 3 hours. All shared taxis usually make a stop for snacks and food at Nongpoh (after entering the State border of Meghalaya). This journey is best to be made in the afternoon not at night.
3. Shillong Basecamp
Shillong is a bigger city with more westernization and accommodations options. The shared taxi drop off point in Shillong is at Police Bazaar. You can get a local taxi or walk to wherever you want to go in Shillong from here. Shillong is the biggest town and capital city of Meghalaya and lies in the East Khasi Hills district. This is the main gateway city to get into Cherrapunjee. This is a great place to spend the night and make basecamp before heading up into the village hills for a day trip into Cherrapunjee.
4. Shillong–> Cherrapunjee Village
The distance from Shillong to Cherrapunjee is about 55 kms and takes less than two hours. There are yellow shared taxis (Rs. 70) and buses (Rs. 50) from near Bada Bazaar in Shillong. The Bada Bazaar is a market where you can buy lots of fruit and produce.
Buses and taxis take you to the main market in Upper Cherrapunjee (locally called Sohra) near the Sumo taxi stand. There are a few home-stays near the main market where local products can be bought. There’s a popular hostel for backpackers in lower Sohra and another dorm option for budget travellers. These are very basic local stays, if you are looking for more comfort or western accommodations it is better to stay in Shillong.
It is best to visit in winter season (Nov – Feb) to avoid the intensity of monsoon season. However the monsoon would offer the true experience of the wettest place in the world in the wettest season. Winter however while it is the best weather to visit is also peak season for local tourism. If you want to avoid the crowds then don’t go during winter. It depends on your values and whether your value is the weather or amount of people to avoid. This also means that in winter the prices will be way higher as well especially if you want to stay in Cherrapunji overnight.
Keep track of the local weather at Cherrapunji here.
Things to do
There are lots of natural hiking trails in the jungle that is the village of Cherrapunji. There are streams, waterfalls, lush green jungle and amazing natural root bridges to cross. This is an outdoor lovers oasis to explore in an authentic area of India where tourism really does not exist. There are bridges, waterfalls, hiking, caves to tour and gorgeous viewpoints overlooking the green lush jungle of the villages.
There are several bridges that can be seen in the village area however the most famous are the living roots bridge and the double roots bridge. The Living Roots Bridge is the easiest one to walk to in the jungle and has the shortest hike. This one can be seen by anyone visiting. The Double Roots Bridge takes a hike including 3000 stairs and is a more intense jungle journey to see that bridge. The bridges are beautiful hikes where you can see waterfalls as well along the way.
Living Roots Bridge
Depending on where you start this hike is only 3-4 hours and is a much easier trail than the other bridges to access. This is the main bridge that will be the most crowded in your visit. There are water pools all around here where you can take a dip and other hiking trails to explore.
Double Roots Bridge
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Nongriat, Sohra(Cherrapunji) . Trek through about 3000 stairs most of them are steep and you reach to most beautiful bridge no steel or machine can ever make. The small stream down the bridge adds to its beauty. The small check dam is abode for people who loves to dip in running water. . Must visit place in Meghalaya #meghalaya #meghalayadiaries #meghalayatourism #northeastindia #biketriptonortheastindia #nature #naturelovers #livingrootbridge #indiatravelgram #biketrip #greenindia #indiacaptures #hidden_earth #whereisnortheast #travelrealindia #wanderlust #bikelife #trekker #trekking #indiaclicks #phonephotography #traveldiaries #roadtrip
The trek to the ‘double decker root bridge’ of Nongriat village is one of the must sees of Cherrapunji and its living bridges. There are two routes; the first one (easier) is from Tyrna village and involves a descent of around 3000 steps while the second one is a long trek that begins from the view point of Nohkalikai waterfalls. Tyrna village is approx. 26 kms away from Cherrapunjee. It is best to stay in Nongriat for a day or overnight to do the hike and see the bridge and rest. The hike is around 9 hours and has beautiful emerald water pools for swimming as well. This is the cleanest water you will find in India and it is a gem to experience.
Mawsaw Steel & Root Bridge
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Bamboo Skywalk Viewpoint (Nohwet View Point)
Nohwet View point is about 10 miles from Cherrapunjee and the living tree bridges and is a great side trip to do while you are there. The skywalk is made out of bamboo bridges and walkways that wrap around up until you are at a viewpoint overlooking the trees and whole valley to see the neighboring Bangladesh. The view boasts unrestricted views of the Khasi mountain range, India’s last frontier overlooking Bangladesh. This village is also one of the cleanest in India. There is no trash on the streets and the locals have it maintained so beautifully. The Bamboo skywalk is located at the very end of Riwai village. It is constructed atop a tree roughly four stories high and gives an amazing view. Despite being made of bamboo, the structure is strong and can hold up to 10 people. It is remade each year by two Khasi brothers and is a privately owned property.
Seven Sisters Falls
This is one of the most famous waterfalls in this area with 7 streams cascading over the rocks down the mountain. They are some of the highest in India, over limestone cliffs in a picturesque setting.
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Rainbow falls has emerald blue water that cascades down into a small pool at the bottom of the rocks. This waterfall is on the hike to the double roots bridge. This is at the end of the hike where you can swim in the clear water and cool off from your hike.
This breathtaking waterfall is the tallest waterfall in the country which falls from a height of 1115 feet and it is the fourth highest in the world. Nohkalikhai waterfalls are the fourth highest in the world. They are only 4 kms from Cherrapunjee. You can walk to the top of the waterfalls on a 40 minute path and experience other waterfalls and strange rock formations on the way to the top. The entrance fee is 30 rupees per person.
Mawsawa Falls & Mawsynram (wettest place on earth)
Mawsmai caves is also a must visit place with fascinating stalactites and stalagmites. Mawsynram is the wettest place on earth (Cherrapunjee’s claim to fame!). This is one area that is a must visit as well when you go to Cherrapunjee. There are so many falls in the area and the rest located centrally you can visit are: Daiñthlen Falls, Kynrem Falls, Janailar Falls, Lyngskiar Falls, and Lyngngai Falls.
Another thing that Cherrapunjee is famous for are the mysterious caves that have ancient fossils and tunnels. These can be a great way to escape the rain and hang out in large gorgeous caverns. Mawsmai Cave is the other large cave you can tour in the area.
Arwah Lumsina cave is worth a visit for amazing views on the walk towards them as well. It cost 25 rupees to enter caves and a camera fee of 50 rupees. There is also a 1000 rupee charge for video so be warned.The Arwah cave has gorgeous views along the trail making the trip worth it for more than the cave experience itself as well as a split trail with a rugged path to the cave or a pleasant walk to the cave with funny signs.
Where to stay
Polo Orchid is the most modern and western like hotel space for your money in Cherrapunji with a beautiful large infinity pool overlooking the lush jungle with gorgeous views. This is if your budget has more room.
By the way hostel is a great clean budget guesthouse for 500 rupees a night for a private double room with an outdoor shower. They have budget dorms with several people in a room for 250 rupees a night per person as well. There are mostly home stay locations here where you rent a room for the night in someone’s house. This is a budget way to travel and see the village. There are many hostels and stays that will try to charge 2000 rupees but that is too much and an average should be around 200-500 rupees per night in your stays in the village.
Cherrapunji Holiday Resort is a family run ‘Nature Resort’. It is located on a hill in Laitkynsew village, with scenic views, with 12 more modern and western rooms. They have views of the mountains and Bangladesh as well as delicious local food. There are evening fires as well as board games and transport assistance. They do tours in the local caves, waterfalls and guided treks. There are 11 natural root bridges nearby the hotel.
Pala resort is the only other hotel in the village with a big pool in their backyard. This is a more rural nature resort as well located farther outside the city center for more peace and nature. This resort is very close to Seven Sister Falls and is in a gorgeous area.