Meghalaya, one of India’s smallest states, occupies the plateau and rolling hills between Assam and Bangladesh. The state has a high literacy rate, and children are taught 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 of them on the outskirts of the capital, Shillong; however, the most dramatic falls plummet from the plateau to the south, around Cherrapunjee.
The best travel tips for visiting MeghalayaThe people of Meghalayaare 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.
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 sites 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 some of the most intriguing features of the region, the living root bridges around the village of Mawlynnong and Nongriat, 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, and has become a hit with Indian tourists.
RoughGuides tip: Planning a trip to India? Perhaps our local experts in India can help you!
What to do in MeghalayaFrom the picturesque loch-like reservoir of “the Scotland of the East” to the Mawphlang Sacred Forest, there’s plenty to do in Meghalaya. Here’s the best.
#1 Visit the “Scotland of the East”Shillong was known to the British as “the Scotland of the East”, an impression first brought to mind by Barapani (or Umiam), the picturesque loch-like reservoir 23km from town on the Guwahati highway.
Also by the sight of the local Khasi women wearing gingham and tartan shawls.
At an altitude of around 1500m and with its rolling hills of conifers and pineapple shrubs, Shillong became a popular hill station for the British.
They built it on the site of a thousand-year-old Khasi settlement and made it Assam’s capital in 1874.
Sadly, with uncontrolled growth, choking traffic jams and water shortages – despite the rain – the city today has lost much of its charm.
Some of the original Victorian town around the centre, known as the European Ward, however, is still preserved, with garden villas and the sylvan environs of Ward Lake.
#2 Climb Shillong PeakShillong Peak (1965m), the highest point in Meghalaya, offers panoramic views of the city below from its popular promenade.
It is also home to the last four ilex khasiana, a high-altitude tree on the verge of extinction.
At the base, among a handful of teashops and souvenir stalls, throngs of domestic tourists pose for pictures in rented traditional Khasi costumes.
It’s a short uphill walk to the viewpoint on the peak.
#3 Find out more about the region’s tribal groups at the Don Bosco MuseumDespite the overtly Christian message, the sparkling Don Bosco Museum offers a fascinating insight into the region’s tribal groups.
Well-organised galleries each have dedicated themes ranging from prehistory, costumes and musical instruments to modern art.
The contemporary seven-storey building features an extraordinary, caged Sky Walk on the curving roof, with grand views of the city.
#4 Seek out the large rhinoceros beetle at Wankhar Entomology Museum
The small family-run Museum of Entomology (or Butterfly Museum) is dedicated to moths and butterflies, with more than ten thousand exhibits lovingly preserved.
There’s also a sizeable display of endemic insects, including the large rhinoceros beetle.
#5 Explore Mawphlang Sacred ForestThe sacred forest at Mawphlang is a prime example of the Khasi sacred grove, preserved from time immemorial to protect the delicate biodiversity.
A thick layer of humus harbours a huge diversity of flora, while the trees, draped with lichen, are covered with ferns and orchids.
Visitors should not pick anything, not even a fallen leaf.
Mawphlang makes a good base from which to trek the picturesque David Scott Trail, a British-built pony track that skirts Cherrapunjee before dropping to the plains of Bangladesh.
#6 Pack for raincoat for Cherrapunjee, the wettest place on earthCherrapunjee, 56km south of Shillong in the Khasi Hills, is a spread-out settlement with the town of Sohra at its centre.
It has achieved fame as the wettest place on earth: the highest daily rainfall ever recorded fell here in 1876 – 104cm in 24 hours.
The area’s numerous waterfalls are most impressive during the steamy monsoon season when awesome torrents plunge down to the Bangladeshi plains, often obscured by rain clouds.
Every eight days a market is held here, with tribal jewellery, honey and local produce on offer.
Of the various points of interest, the Noh Kalikai and Weisawdong waterfalls, Bangladesh viewpoint, Mawsmai village and cave and Mawjinbuin cave near Mawsynram, which is even wetter than Cherra itself, are all within a few kilometres.
#7 See a spectacular living root bridge at NongriatThe most spectacular living root bridge is the Umshiang Double Decker Bridge at the Nongriat village, where two bridges run one above the other across the Umshiang River.
To get to the double-decker bridge it’s a knee-grinding trek from the Tyrna village, set at the top of more than 3000 steps.
It's not for the faint-hearted: the dizzying staircase tumbles down through the forest, past natural swimming holes, and across two suspended metallic bridges.
Roughly halfway down, a 3min side path leads to the long bridge, a single decker root bridge strewn across the river.
Because this trek is usually crowded with Indian tourists who visit as a gruelling day-trip, staying overnight in Nongriat to rest your legs and enjoy the village's eerie remoteness is recommended.
Best places to stay in MeghalayaWhilst the hotels aren’t as good as other Indian states, there are still plenty of great places to stay in Meghalaya if you dig around.
ShillongShillong has a wide range of accommodation. Note that staying on GS Rd can be noisy; for a quiet and central location, look around the European Ward area.
Umiam LakeUmiam Lake offers scenic tranquillity with good-quality hotels.
MawphlangAt the village of Mawphlang you can gain an insight into Khasi life by staying in a homestay.
Browse the places to stay in Meghalaya.
How to get aroundThere aren’t as many trains in Meghalaya, so most visitors will rely on bueses or private taxies.
By busLocal buses operate on various routes connecting major towns, cities, and villages within Meghalaya.
By taxiGet to where you want to with a private or shared taxi. Drivers are also happy to double up as guides too.
By SumoSumos, or shared utility vehicles, are popular with traveller for intercity travel in Meghalaya. Note that they operate on fixed routes and leave when full.
By car or motorbikeGetting around Meghalaya by car, scooter or Enfield is an increasingly popular option. Ask at your Shillong hotel for a good rental operator.
How many days do you need in Meghalaya?To see Manipur's main highlights, you'll need around 4 to 6 days in the state.
This will allow you to visit popular destinations such as Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya, where you can explore attractions like Ward's Lake, Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, and the picturesque Shillong Peak.
You can also visit Cherrapunji (Sohra), known for its living root bridges, waterfalls like Nohkalikai and Seven Sisters Falls, and the Mawsmai Cave.
However, if you wish to delve deeper into Meghalaya's natural beauty and cultural heritage, you may consider extending your stay.
You can explore other places like Mawlynnong, known as the cleanest village in Asia, and Dawki, where you can witness the crystal-clear waters of the Umngot River.
You can also visit the village of Nongriat to experience the breathtaking Double-Decker Living Root Bridge and embark on treks to explore the surrounding forests and waterfalls.
Looking for inspiration for your trip? Check our India itineraries.
What is the best time to visit Meghalaya?Weather conditions in Meghalaya are best from November to April, although the high-altitude areas are extremely cold by December, and winter fog can disrupt road journeys.
It rains heavily from May to the end of September, but travel during this period has its own charm. In major cities such as Shillong, accommodation rates are not affected by the low season, but the remote parts of Meghalaya do offer off-season discounts.
Find out more about the best time to visit India.
How to get hereShillong in the main heart of Meghalaya, with most travellers arriving directly at the city and fanning out across the state.
By busPublic buses for Guwahati depart from the MTC bus stand on Jail Rd, which also has a railway reservation counter.
Private bus firms have offices nearby and run services all over the Northeast, often departing from the bus park in front of Shillong's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, north of Police Bazar.
By helicopterChoppers fly from Shillong to Guwhati airport. There's a 10kg luggage allowance, and you pay for each extra kg.
Book at the counter inside the MTC Bus station.
By taxiShared taxis run to Guwahati from Police Bazar and Kacheri Rd.
Private taxis to Guwahati airport run early in the mornings and Guwahati’s Paltan Bazaar, rates are much higher in the afternoons.
Book through agents around Police Point, at Meghalaya Tourismor at Khasi Hills Taxi Cooperative on Kacheri Rd.
Find out the best ways to get to India.