Meghalaya, one of India’s smallest states, occupies the plateau and rolling hills between Assam and Bangladesh. Its people are predominantly Christian, belonging to three main ethnic groups, the Garos, Jaintias and the matriarchal Khasis – throughout these hills, women do most of the work and the household management. The state has a high literacy rate and teaching is in English. Much of Meghalaya (“the land of the rainclouds”) is covered with lush forests, rich in orchids; these “blue hills” bear the brunt of the Bay of Bengal’s monsoon-laden winds and are among the wettest places on earth. Stupendous waterfalls are a standard feature of the state, many to be seen on the outskirts of the capital, Shillong; however, the most dramatic of these plummet from the plateau to the south, around Cherrapunjee.
Meghalaya’s hills rise to almost 2000m, making for a pleasantly cool year-round climate. The Jaintia Hills offer good walking and caving, and the state is laced with historical sights such as Nartiang near Jowai, which has an impressive collection of monoliths. Elsewhere, the sacred forests, crucibles of biodiversity to be found throughout the Khasi Hills, remain jealously protected. To the south of Shillong, walks through pristine forests and across one of the most intriguing features of the region, the living root bridges around the village of Mawlynnong, make the East Khasi Hills one of the highlights of the Northeast. Although the state has seen its share of political turmoil since its inception in 1972, all in all Meghalaya remains a charming land of misty forests and hospitable people.