One of the best things you can do during your stay in Shillong, the capital of the Indian state of Meghalaya, is take a day trip to the Dawki area. There are many things to see and do in Dawki, especially for nature lovers looking to take in the exquisite natural beauty that northeastern India is known for. From its stunning vistas to its crystal clear waters, visiting Dawki is something all travelers staying in Shillong should take some time to do.
Dawki is a town in the West Jaintia district of the state and the surrounding area is one of many semi-hidden gems in northeast India. There, you’ll find the cleanest village in Asia, as well as one of the most environmentally conscious communities in India. You’ll also get to experience mouthwatering local cuisine that will still be on your mind long after your final bite. It’s the perfect day trip destination for a curious traveler and was a highlight of my time in northeast India. These are the top 5 things to see and do in Dawki, India.
The Dawki area is a beautiful and pristine region of Meghalaya. Parts of the area are more heavily visited by tourists than others, but even the areas that are more popular are worth seeing. One such place is the village of Mawlynnong, which carries the reputation of being the cleanest village in Asia! The village is one of the best things to see and do in Dawki and is less than a three-hour drive from Shillong.
As you approach Mawlynnong, you’ll drive down a tight, winding road. As I watched the vegetation along the road whiz by, I was reminded of a similar road that leads up to Jaigarh Fort in the Rajasthani capital of Jaipur. The Dawki area is at a much lower elevation than Shillong, so the weather is warmer and more humid, almost tropical. Shillong will likely be a little chilly when you leave in the morning, so I suggest wearing layers on your day trip to Dawki so you can shed the heavier ones as the temperature rises.
Once you arrive in Mawlynnong, you must pay 50 rupees (or a little over $0.70 U.S.) to enter. Afterward, my friends and I crossed an unstable and slippery bamboo bridge in order to reach the town, but I was told there are other, safer ways to get there as well.
Mawlynnong’s cleanliness is evident from the moment you arrive, especially if you’ve traveled to other parts of India. The villagers pride themselves on keeping their home clean. There’s no litter or trash on the ground at all and plastic is banned there.
As you pass through the village and walk past houses, you’ll likely see locals sweeping the streets and paths of any debris. There aren’t many people in Mawlynnong. As of 2015, only 500 people called the village home, so it’s very quiet and extremely peaceful.
One of the more interesting local spots is All Saint’s Church, which was built in 1902 and is a mix of European and Meghalaya architectural styles. You’ll also likely see jackfruit growing on the trees, as well as edible berries hanging within arm’s reach. Most of them weren’t ripe when I visited, but I found a few that were further along and were quite sweet!
They’re similar to mulberries or blackberries and are really tasty when they’re ripe. See if you can find some ripe ones when you visit!
There is also a local homestay in case you’re interested in staying the night and exploring more. If you’re into souvenirs, be sure to check out the small, local market, though the selection is limited. There, you’ll find a mix of goods from other parts of India and a few local creations.
Some of the merchandise includes scarves, bamboo hats, clocks, wooden boat figurines, jewelry, a wooden mortar and pestle, and more. I didn’t see anything I wanted, but check it out and see if there’s something there for you!
All in all, Mawlynnong is very beautiful and has the feel of a tiny Caribbean or Central American community. I loved my time there and I think you will, too. There’s a reason why it’s one of the top things to see and do in Dawki!
See the India/Bangladesh Border at the Sky Walk
The tiny village of Mawlynnong, India is located just a stone’s throw away from the India/Bangladesh border. In fact, parts of the neighboring country can be viewed from parts of the community. To get the best vantage point to see the entire area, including Mawlynnong and a good look at this area of Bangladesh, you’ll have to visit the Sky Walk.
It requires a bit of a hike to get there and costs 20 rupees (roughly $0.30) to visit, but the view at the top is more than worth the small admission fee. The Sky Walk is a towering structure made entirely of bamboo poles. Jute and bamboo ropes hold it all together, but the structure is surprisingly sturdy!
The climb to the top is a gentle incline, but the bamboo walkway is fairly narrow, so you’ll likely have to press yourself against one side to let other visitors descend from the top. There are four circular layers of ladders made from bamboo in total, as well as a square-shaped lookout point at the very top, 80 feet above the ground.
The view is incredible. From the lookout platform, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the flatlands of the Bangladesh Plains. There was a bit of haze hanging over the plains on the day I visited, but the view of Bangladesh and the greenery of Mawlynnong was still spectacular.
I love getting a bird’s-eye view of the places I visit, so this was a real highlight of my trip to Mawlynnong. Visiting the Sky Walk is definitely one of the top things to see and do in Dawki!
Another of the top things to see and do in Dawki is to visit Shnongpdeng. Shnongpdeng is a small town along the Umngot River that, unlike the town of Dawki, is more of a hidden gem. Even though the town lies mostly off the radar of tourists, it is, without question, one of the best things to see and do in Dawki.
Among the underrated attractions in the area are gorgeous sites like the Krang Suri Waterfall and crystal clear river waters. In addition to the beautiful sites, this area is also a hotspot for camping, and there are campsites along the river that you can check out if you wish.
Note that it costs 50 rupees (roughly $0.71 U.S.) to enter the Shnongpdeng. Once there, the next thing you must do is set off across the suspension bridge over the river. Crossing the bridge can be a little unsettling, as it wobbles and shakes as you move across it.
Only seven or eight people are allowed on the bridge at a time, so be mindful of that when you visit. The bridge itself is a fantastic spot to view the stunning and lush river valley around you.
Take a few moments to take in the view and get some great shots of the hills and mountains, as well as the boats down below. The landscape reminded me strongly of the time I spent in Bosnia. From there, continue along the path on the other side of the bridge. There are still a lot more things to see and do in Dawki!
Carefully make your way down the rocky path. There’s another bridge up ahead. This one is made of bamboo and is situated just inches above the surface of the river. When I visited, I could see locals bathing and swimming in the water. It’s frigid, as it comes from the mountains, but swimming in it seems like a great way to beat the heat.
Too bad I forgot to bring my bathing suit! When you go to Shnongpdeng, don’t forget to bring yours along!
Take a Boat Ride Down the Umngot River in Shnongpdeng
Don’t leave Shnongpdeng just yet! There are still many more things to do there, especially down by the water. One of the best things to see and do in Dawki is to head out on a boat to cruise down the Umngot River! It costs 700 rupees, or roughly $10 U.S., to rent a small, wooden boat for a short, roughly 30-minute ride down the river, with a local boatman serving as your guide.
You’ll be outfitted with a life jacket before you get in the boat. Once you get in, the boatman will take you on a peaceful and relaxing ride down the river. There, you can admire the clear waters, which are even more stunning up close.
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The depth of the river’s water will vary depending on which time of year you visit. I visited in March, during the dry season, so much of the river was only 10 feet deep, but I was told that during the rainy season, it will be much deeper.
From the boat, you’ll also be able to admire the beautiful stone cliffs that line the river. If you’re lucky, you might even catch some people diving from them! As you ride down the river, you’ll be able to watch locals going about their day to day activities: children swimming and splashing around and adults doing some fishing.
It’s hard to put into words how beautiful the Shnongpdeng area is. With all of the dense greenery around me, I felt like I was in Central America or the Amazon! Taking a ride down the Ungmot River is easily one of the best things to see and do in Dawki. After you return to shore, head over to one of the riverside huts to taste the local fare, including the fish from the river!
Eat at a Riverside Hut
You’ll likely build up an appetite on your way to Shnongpdeng, so I suggest getting lunch there. One of the best places to grab a bite to eat is a riverside hut, which serves as a restaurant. There are many delicious options to try there, including the local river fish.
Start off with some rice and add the phenomenal fish curry, which contains huge filets of river fish and has a greenish tint to it. I recommend trying the curry with some rice first. The curry itself is very light but fishy.
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Next, go for the fish meat. Be careful, though—it has bones in it, so do your best to eat around the big ones and remove any smaller ones you find. Despite my aversion to bony fish, I loved it. The meat was so tender, juicy, and flavorful!
Speaking of tender and juicy, your riverside feast also contains a marvelous and fatty beef curry. It was so moist and buttery that it practically fell apart in my mouth! The flavor reminded me a lot of oxtail. This is the way beef should be: soft, tender, and bursting with incredible, mouthwatering flavor. If you love good, quality beef as much as I do, you have to try the beef curry at this riverside hut. It is out of this world! Eating this beef curry is easily one of the top things to see and do in Dawki!
Another component of the feast you’ll be served at the hut is jackfruit. Jackfruit has a sweet flavor when it’s ripe, but when it’s unripe, it has a much more neutral flavor and an almost meaty texture. This jackfruit is mixed with spinach, bamboo, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. It’s an earthy mix of lots of different plant-based textures and was another highlight of the meal! Try it; it’s incredible!
There’s also a tasty fish fry, which is essentially fried fish, almost like a fish fritter. Like the fish curry, you have to be very careful while eating it, because it contains both large and small spines that you’ll need to remove. Once you’ve done that, dive in! It’s crunchy, salty, and a little dense, and is quite good!
Try the fish fry and jackfruit with the tomato chutney that is served on the side. Be warned, the chutney is quite hot and contains onions and chilies. It’s very similar to salsa and felt like something I would eat in Mexico. It’s incredible with both the fish fry and jackfruit and makes both dishes even better!
Also served in this feast are a jungle vegetable, which was a little bitter and reminded me of spinach, and a dal that had a light and fruity flavor. They’re both great, but the beef curry, jackfruit, and tomato chutney were the winners for me. Try them all and see which dish you like the best!
When I say the Dawki area of Meghalaya is one of the most gorgeous and most pristine areas of the country I’ve ever visited, I mean it. The natural beauty of the Umngot River has to be seen to be believed and the food you’ll enjoy along its banks is among the best you’ll find in northeast India. The village of Mawlynnong is a spotless oasis with a remarkable view of neighboring Bangladesh. Take a day trip down to Dawki during your stay in Shillong and experience this amazing place for yourself!
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