The old and rickety Bajaj Pulsar 150cc painstakingly climbed a hill to reveal a landscape befitting the American South. Golden brown wheat fields dotted with wooden huts. It transported me to the Wheat Belt of the United States. But, here, in the ‘Abode of Clouds’, it looked out of place. The ride so far had taken me past majestic grey hills, picturesque green valleys, idyllic hamlets and an emerald green river. What lay in front of me was the ultimate prize – some of the best places to visit in Meghalaya.
Meghalaya has plenty of surprises for anyone with a trusty motorcycle or a rickety rented one.
Where to rent motorcycles and bikes in Meghalaya
Shillong, Meghalaya’s capital, has half a dozen motorcycle rental companies who rent out mopeds and motorcycles at economical rates. If you didn’t bring one along then rent one here and get ready to get smitten by the raw beauty of this magnificent state.
Best Places to Visit in Meghalaya
Kickstart your bike and tackle sharp curves with rising hills on one side and a scenic valley on the other. Stop at Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village. The village has healing vibes. Its slow-paced life, greenery laden roads, comforting tea and friendly locals will charm you into staying.
If you do manage to escape the charms of Mawlynnong then continue to Cherrapunjee. Visit the many jaw-dropping waterfalls around Cherrapunjee like Nohkalikai, Wakaba and Dainthlen.
From Cherrapunjee, ride to Tyrna. It is time to rest the weary machine and hike down to Nongriat, the village next to the Double-Decker Living Roots Bridge, one of the best places to visit in Meghalaya. After trying to contemplate on the genius of the Khasis who built these bridges, you can continue hiking to the Rainbow Falls. Spend the night in Nongriat.
It is time to battle the rain gods and ride to the wettest place on our planet. The near-constant rains have blessed Mawsynram and surrounding areas with flora that is hard to find elsewhere. The dark and devilish clouds add drama to your drive. Despite the year-around rains, there are a few places that don’t see a raindrop. The subterranean caves around Mawsynram, some as long as 10km, are a different world altogether. Neither the drops of rain nor the rays of sun trickle in. You can hike in these caves with guides readily available at the cave entrances. These caves are some of the little-known places to visit in Meghalaya, hence, keep them a secret.
A few miles south of Mawsynram lies a gem that very few know about. Mawlyngbna is a hidden paradise for nature lovers, solace seekers and adventure enthusiasts. You can camp under the stars to escape the crowds, hike the well-marked trails and partake in adventurous activities such as climbing, rappelling, canyoning, kayaking and snorkelling. The place has a true off-the-beaten-path feel to it.
The road to Shnongpdeng has everything for a motorcycle rider. Smooth curves, tall hills, majestic grey mountains, verdant valleys, time-warped villages, rolling wheat fields and, at the very end, the magical waters of Dawki River.
I have seen many crystal clear seas, oceans, rivers and lakes around the world. Still, the Dawki River took me by surprise. The emerald green river will make you believe in miracles. It is just surreal. Rent a kayak or take a boat ride to indulge in the magical waters of the river.
Shnongpdeng village on the banks of Dawki River has a very rustic and relaxing vibe. It is far away from the noise and nuisance of tourist hotbeds. You can start a bonfire with your feet in the crystal clear waters of the river and eyes set on the galaxy above.
If Shnongpdeng is off-the-beaten-path then we need a new term for Nongkhnum Island, Meghalaya’s largest river island. The three-hour road from Shillong to the island is a postcard in motion. Serene rivers, Khasi villages, smiling children and the evergreen trees. The last 15km add a thrill to the ride with the well-maintained road giving way to dirt and pebbles.
The uninhabited Nongkhnum Island is a gateway to another world. Two rivers frolic around the island inhabited only by rolling grasslands and trees. The rivers have also formed a natural beach ideal for some time in the sun and sand. The roaring Langshaing Falls provides music to the song of silence and solace. Bring a tent to sleep under a sky full of stars. Nongkhnum Island is one of the offbeat places to visit in Meghalaya, hence, keep it a secret.
Best time to visit Meghalaya
The best time to visit Meghalaya is from February to June. The temperature ranges from 16 to 28 Celsius and there is little rainfall during these months.
How to get to Shillong
By air: Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati (120km) is the nearest airport with regular flights to most major cities of India.
By train: Guwahati Train Station, 97km away, is the closest train station with good connectivity to other parts of India.
By road: There are plenty of public and private buses from Guwahati to Shillong along with shared sumos and private taxis.