Located in the northeastern-most reaches of India, a whole world away from the megacities of Delhi and Mumbai, is the state of Meghalaya. This state tends to be a bit of a mystery to most travelers, but the places you must visit in Meghalaya are some of the most spectacular in all of India.
This relatively unknown state, known primarily for its tropical climate, biodiversity, and an extraordinary amount of rainfall, is like stepping into a different world. Here, tropical forests cling to the sides of hills and mountains as thick, dense mists hang over them. The landscape here is cut by rushing rivers with magnificent waterfalls.
In Meghalaya, the hospitality of the locals is unmatched. They’re friendly, warm, and excited to share their culture and way of life with foreigners. The cuisine, which actually consists of beef and pork, is a far cry from most of the rest of the Indian Subcontinent, and is very much unique to itself. It’s a wonderful place that I can’t wait to share with you. These are the 7 places you must visit in Meghalaya, India.
The capital and largest city in Meghalaya is Shillong, a hill station located on the Shillong Plateau between three hills that are revered in Khasi tradition. I suggest using Shillong as a home base, as it’s no more than two or three hours from nearly all of the points of interests around the state.
Your drive to Shillong (most likely from the city of Guwahati in Assam) will offer your first look at Meghalaya’s dramatic landscapes. They were draped with lots of fog, which is why the state’s name literally translates to “abode of the clouds.”
When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is explore local markets. It immediately gives you a sense of what local life is like, and you also get to take in what the people like to eat and shop for. For an extreme look at what Shillong is like, take a couple of hours to explore Iewduh Market, also known as Bara Bazar.
This traditional market is labyrinth of crowded, narrow passageways with a near-constant flurry of activity everywhere you look. The market is divided into smaller markets dedicated to selling fruit, beef, vegetables, dry fish, poultry, and more. As you take in the sights, smells ranging from animal blood to spices to tobacco will invade your nostrils.
One of the sources of the animal blood smell is the whole, skinned cow carcasses, which men carry to nearby stalls to be butchered. It’s raw, intense work, so if you’re sensitive to that type of thing, Iewduh Market may not be for you.
And yes, they eat beef in Meghalaya. I was told during my time there that since the main local tribes in Meghalaya identify as Christians, eating beef is not considered taboo.
Nat Khasi Restaurant
That said, it’s not the beef in Meghalaya that I recommend the most, although it is quite tasty. Instead, before you leave Iewduh Market, I suggest heading to Nat Khasi Restaurant, where you’ll be able to try some mouthwatering pork dishes!
These dishes include pork liver, which was tasty and chewy and full of the iron-rich flavor I crave. There’s also a tasty rice dish called jadoh, which contains big, juicy pieces of fatty and tender pork. It was almost like a non-veg biryani, which is a layered rice dish found elsewhere in India. I also loved the dohklieh, which is a salad made from creamy pork, potato, ginger, and onions. It’s one of the most popular dishes in Meghalaya and I ate it several times during my stay. Don’t miss the chewy pork intestine sausage!
If you’ve followed my travels for a while, you’ll probably know that one of my favorite things to do, no matter where I am, is to see the location from above. Usually, that means visiting an observation deck, but there are none in Shillong. But there is a mountain, so that’s even better!
Located just 15 minutes outside of the city, Shillong Peak offers the best views of the entire area. On my way up to the summit on the back of my friend Paul’s motorbike, we passed a small, Catholic graveyard that reminded me of one I’d visited in Guatemala.
Once you reach the top of Shillong Peak, you’ll get awe-inspiring views of the city and the surrounding area. The day I visited was kind of gloomy, so while a sunny day would have been even better, I couldn’t help but stand in awe of how breathtaking the vistas were. It needs to be on everyone’s list of places you must visit in Meghalaya.
Life in Shillong revolves largely around the main commercial area in the city, Police Bazar. There are quite a few things to see and do there, including shop for clothing and accessories. After some haggling, I bought four amazing Khasi shawls for the women in my family.
You can also find home goods and browse fresh fruits and vegetables. I recommend stopping by Trattoria Restaurant, which sells an outstanding Khasi thali. But for me, the real highlight of Police Bazar was the street food.
Police Bazar in the Morning
In the morning, you can find fantastic dishes like the dohklieh I mentioned earlier. As you continue making your way through the food stalls, you’ll find a lip-smacking squash sabzi with onion, a jerky-like smoked beef curry, jadoh, and pickled bamboo shoots with chilies. Don’t forget the pitha, which is a dense, sweet rice patty with coconut and sugar, and the divine and spicy egg toast!
Police Bazar at Night
At night, different fare is offered. After dark, wander back through the vendors to find some smoky and tender barbecue chicken and skewered and grilled pork stomach, which is fatty with a nice char on the outside. Keep exploring to find some pulled chicken momos with a mild red sauce and a chow that’s very similar to Thai glass noodles. Another highlight was the Indian version of nasi goreng, a traditional Indonesian fried rice dish. It’s served with prawn chips and a fried egg on top!
Dine at a Local’s House
If you’re touring Shillong with the help of a local guide, don’t be surprised if you find yourself invited into their home (or someone else’s) for a meal. I had such a pleasure when my guide Paul’s friend Jordan invited us over for a home-cooked Khasi feast that included mouthwatering beef patties and wonderful pork with sesame curry.
Naga Mandarin Restaurant
If your palate loves a good kick of heat as much as mine does, take a cautious visit to Naga Mandarin Restaurant in town. There, you’ll find dishes from the nearby state of Nagaland, where spice is king. I’ll share a word of warning now: I’m a spice aficionado and can handle a lot of heat. But the heat level in the dishes at Naga Mandarin Restaurant was too much even for me! The pork and bamboo curry and smoked beef chutney were certainly flavorful, but they came with a fiery price. My lips and tongue were still ablaze long after I left!
The Homestead B&B
Finally, you’ll need a good place to stay while using Shillong as your home base, so I recommend the Homestead B&B, a beautiful, a three-story building just 10 minutes away from Police Bazaar. It features a very nice terrace on the second level and units that are essentially cozy studio apartments. They feature two twin beds, a marble bathroom, a flat-screen TV, ample space for your clothes, and WiFi!
On the grounds is an Assam-style cottage, where you’ll find a large living room and master bedroom, a huge kitchen, a very nice bathroom, and a smaller second bedroom with a smaller bathroom. Whether you choose to stay in the cottage or one of the units, these accommodations are the best in Shillong and help make it one of the top places you must visit in Meghalaya!
Check out the Top 10 Things to See and Do in Shillong, India
The town of Mylliem may not appear on many maps, but it is a must-visit when traveling to and from the sites and towns south of Shillong. This tiny town roughly 45 minutes south of Shillong is a foodie paradise! It offers tons of high-quality Khasi options that are sure to have your mouth watering after just one bite!
Street Food Stalls
At the street food stalls in Mylliem, you’ll find a wide array of tasty options that are worth trying, but one of my favorites was the pork momo. These meaty little morsels are filled with tender pork and onions, and come with a wonderfully spicy sauce. You’ll also want to try the blood sausage, which is soft, smoky, spicy, and full of iron-rich flavor. I’ve been eating blood sausage my whole life and this is some of the best I’ve ever had!
One thing I learned during my time in Meghalaya is that Khasi thalis are very different from their counterparts in other places in India. They’re so unique but are still just as flavorful as any other thali I’ve ever had. There’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall in Mylliem that offers one with tender roasted beef, a light salad with mixed vegetables, pickled bamboo, fermented beans, a strong fish chutney, and an extremely flavorful dehydrated wild apple. The highlight of the meal was an earthy mushroom chutney that blew my mind!
Kharbangar Tea Stall
One of my favorite places to eat at in Meghalaya was a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Mylliem called R. Kharbangar Tea Stall. My friend Paul and I stopped at this small, cozy restaurant for breakfast before your journey down to the Cherrapunjee area. The food there blew me away!
Because pork is king in Meghalaya, so I recommend going all-out with some tasty pig! The soft and chewy pork intestines with liver are simply divine and are bursting with that organ meat flavor I love so much.
The gingery dohklieh contains pork, potatoes, and onions and was like a cross between Russian salad and ceviche. The light chicken curry is sensational and is best eaten with the putharao, which is a steamed rice patty with jaggery. The flavor and texture of the putharo brought to mind a Venezuelan arepa!
Another of the top places you must visit in Meghalaya is the town of Sohra in the Cherrapunjee area, roughly 2 hours from Shillong. This area of Meghalaya is well-known as one of the wettest places on Earth. It holds the world records for the most rain in a month (30.8 feet in July of 1861) and the most rain in a year (86.8 feet between August of 1860 and July of 1861).
Because of the amount of rain that falls in and around Sohra, the surrounding valleys and forests are a vibrant green. You’ll notice the vivid vegetation on your ride to Sohra. It reminded me a lot of my time in Lesotho in southern Africa!
In the town’s central market, you can buy fresh beef, poultry, pork, and fish. Inside the market’s open-air stone restaurant, you can also enjoy a traditional Khasi lunch containing pork liver, dohklieh, salad, and rice dish cooked in blood called jadoh snam. Trust me, no one does pork dishes quite like the people of Meghalaya. They’ve really perfected the art form. The food in Sohra helps make it one of the top places you must visit in Meghalaya!
Check out the 5 Things to See and Do in Cherrapunjee, India
In the Cherrapunjee area around Sohra are lots of awe-inspiring valleys and forests. Sprinkled around these areas are several stunning waterfalls. Some of them are harder to get to than others, but they’re all worth the time and trouble it takes to reach them.
Wei Sawdong Waterfalls
The first of the two Cherrapunjee-area waterfalls I visited was Wei Sawdong Waterfalls, a gorgeous gem deep in the forest. It requires quite the hike to get there, and it gets treacherous in places, but I believe it’s well worth the trouble.
Part of the journey to the falls requires a steep descent down a rocky path, so I implore you to wear proper footwear like hiking boots. You’ll have to navigate tricky rocks and a sideways ladder with no guardrails, so take it slow. For that reason, I also advise avoiding this area during the rainy season, as the rainwater will make the path nearly impossible to traverse.
The first glimpse you get of Wei Sawdong Waterfalls will assure you that the trek was worth it. The falls are comprised of pools on three different levels, which cascade down beautiful brown rocks onto the tier below. The water empties into a gorgeous, blue pool at the very bottom. To get an unmatched view of the falls, stand on the rocks by the pool’s edge. You can only do this during the dry season, though, as the water level is much higher during the rainy season.
Anyone who is looking to visit the best waterfalls in the Cherrapunjee area should take the chance to visit Wei Sawdong Waterfalls. There is no doubt in my mind that they are among the places you must visit in Meghalaya.
Just five minutes away from Wei Sawdong Waterfalls is another spectacular set of falls called Dainthlen Falls. Unlike Wei Sawdong, you won’t have to go on a hike through the jungle to reach Dainthlen Falls.
The falls consist of a narrow stream that cascades down a tall, steep cliff overlooking a breathtaking green canyon straight out of Jurassic Park! It’s one of the most epic views in the entire Cherrapunjee area and had me at a loss for words.
When you visit these falls, you realize very quickly why the British fell in love with Meghalaya and referred to it as the “Scotland of the East.” Take a few moments, or longer if you wish, to take in the incredible vista. There’s even a large, flat rock on the side of the drop-off where you can lie down and get a unique perspective of the falls and canyon below. It’s without question, one of my favorite places you must visit in Meghalaya!
Check out the 10 Places You Must Visit in Northeast India
Living Root Bridges
Arguably Meghalaya’s biggest draw for tourists are the living root bridges that can be found in the Cherrapunjee area. These one-of-a-kind attractions are part natural and part man-made and are some of the most incredible marvels I’ve ever seen with my own eyes.
Southern Meghalaya is a wet, humid area with lots of streams and rivers running through it. In order to get across these streams, the locals found ingenious methods to permanently solve their problems. They took the roots of nearby rubber trees and intertwined them so they would continue to grow together. Over time, the intertwined roots would form surprisingly strong bridges that could be used to cross the waterways, and they only get stronger over time.
Hike to the Living Root Bridges
The bridges in the Cherrapunjee area, which include the famous Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge, are located about a 45-minute drive from Sohra Market. Once you arrive, buy a walking stick for 20 rupees, which will assist you on the 45-minute hike ahead of you.
The hike consists of stairs descending down a hillside and through the jungle and will require you to cross a pair of suspension bridges. The first living root bridge is located just past the second suspension bridge. It’s an awe-inspiring sight for sure, but there are even more up ahead, past the upcoming guest houses.
Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge
As you continue on, you’ll reach a spot where you’ll have to pay admission to continue onward. Children only pay 10 rupees, while adults pay 20 rupees with additional fees if they’re carrying a camera. Past that is a second, larger living root bridge.
The main attraction, of course, is the Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge, a truly unreal double-layer bridge of twisting, intertwining tree roots above a pool of water. It’s one of the most incredible places you must visit in Meghalaya and should be on everyone’s itinerary!
Check out the Top 5 Things to See and Do in Dawki, India
Located within a three-hour drive from Shillong is a small village that has gained an increasing amount of recognition over the past several years, Mawlynnong. This village south of the capital has become famous for its cleanliness, so much so that it now carries the title of the cleanest village in Asia. It’s also one of India’s most environmentally conscious communities and made headlines worldwide for completely banning plastic.
As you enter this small village near the India/Bangladesh border, keen-eyed visitors will notice that there is no debris on the ground at all. Not even a stray leaf or a speck of trash. That is because the residents pride themselves on keeping their town clean.
You might even come across locals cleaning debris from the walkways and placing it in bamboo bins that serve as trash receptacles. It makes this unique town yet another of the most interesting places you must visit in Meghalaya.
There’s more to admire in Mawlynnong than its cleanliness, though. As you explore the town, you’ll find All Saint’s Church, which is a beautiful amalgamation of European and Meghalaya architectural styles. There’s also a guest house where you can stay the night and a small market that sells a smattering of local creations and many others from around the country.
The other main attraction in Mawlynnong is the Sky Walk, a towering bamboo structure that offers fantastic views of the plains across the Bangladesh border. You’ll climb a very narrow path to the top of the open-air structure, 80 feet off the ground. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to an observation deck in the area, and is well worth the journey, even if your view of Bangladesh is hazy like mine was!
Unlike the nearby towns of Dawki and Mawlynnong, Shnongpdeng is much more of a hidden gem. It’s not visited by many foreigners and there isn’t much information available online about it. There is a small fee to enter the town (50 rupees/$0.71 USD), but trust me, the experiences you can have there are worth so much more.
You’ll have to cross a long suspension bridge across the Umngot River on foot in order to see all that this minuscule village has to offer. The bridge offers amazing views of the Umngot river valley, but be sure not to cross the bridge in large groups. Only seven or eight people are allowed on it at a time. The view reminded me of my time in Bosnia.
Continue across the bridge and follow the rocky path to a low, bamboo bridge close to the river’s surface. Here, you can choose to join the locals swimming and bathing in the river, or you can enjoy lunch or a boat ride!
Boat Ride Down the Umngot River
For just 700 rupees, or about $10 USD, you can hire a local boatman to take you on a roughly 30-minute ride down the Umngot River. The river’s water is extremely clear, which you can see up-close on your trip down the river and back. The depth of the mirror-like water will vary based on which time of year you visit.
Further down the river are cliffs where you may be able to watch locals leaping into the water. You’ll also find people fishing and swimming as you slowly cruise along. Its beauty truly blew me away. The river, in particular, brought to mind Central America or the Amazon!
Lunch at the Riverside Huts
Before you leave Shnongpdeng, you’ll want to get a taste of authentic Meghalaya village food, and the best place to do that is to have lunch at one of the huts along the Umngot River.
There, you can enjoy a tender, juicy, and bony fish curry; a buttery and fatty beef curry; and some earthy and meaty jackfruit with spinach, bamboo, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. This sensational meal will also come with rice, a crunchy and salty fish fry, a fruity dal, a bitter jungle vegetable, and a tomato chutney that was almost exactly like Mexican salsa!
The flavors were vibrant and exciting and the textures were nothing short of fantastic. Everything was cooked to perfection and made me realize why Shnongpdeng is among the places you must visit in Meghalaya. If you love good, tasty food, you have to have a meal there!
Check out the Top 15 Places to Visit in India
Meghalaya may be an Indian state that not many people know about. But even so, it is brimming with wonderful and welcoming people, magnificent sites, and remarkable food. Over 160 years after the British first fell in love with it, Meghalaya is still shocking and enticing new visitors. It’s so different from other parts of India and visiting it truly feels like you’ve stepped into a different world. This state will change the way you think of India! To experience the 7 places you must visit in Meghalaya for yourself, book a trip to northeast India today!
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