Meghalaya, as one of the seven sister states, has a lot of clouds floating around and rivers running through it. Some of its distinguishing traits are the lush flora and the heavy monsoons. The range of mountains, shrouded in mist and fog, is nothing short of spectacular. Shillong is the state capital and is charming in every way. The state boasts a long number of equally beautiful hill stations, and there is much to see and do for the nature lover in you, thanks to Meghalaya tourism.
Prepare to pack and shoot after reading our Meghalaya travel guide. The Bangladeshi divisions of Mymensingh and Sylhet border the state on the south, the Bangladeshi division of Rangpur on the west, and India’s State of Assam on the north and east. Shillong is Meghalaya’s capital.
The British imperial rulers dubbed India the “Scotland of the East” during the British rule. Meghalaya’s official language is English. Unlike many Indian states, Meghalaya has traditionally followed a matrilineal system in which women trace the genealogy and inheritance; the youngest daughter inherits all money and also looks for her parents.
The wettest places in the southern Khasi Hills receive an average of 12,000 mm (470 in) of rain every year, making it India’s wettest location. Approximately 70% of the state is forested. The state is covered by the Meghalaya subtropical forests ecoregion, which is distinguished from the lowland tropical forests to the north and south by its mountain forests. The woodlands are known for their diverse wildlife, including mammals, birds, and plants.
Meghalaya’s economy is primarily agrarian, with a sizable commercial forestry industry. Potatoes, rice, maize, pineapples, bananas, papayas, and spices are all major crops. Real estate and insurance companies make up the service industry. In current terms, Meghalaya’s gross state domestic product for 2012 was expected to be US$2.1 billion. The state is mineral-rich geologically, although it lacks large industries. There are approximately 1,170 kilometres (730 mi) of national highways in the state. It’s also an important logistical hub for Bangladeshi trade.
The International Commission on Stratigraphy divided the Holocene epoch into three stages/ages in July 2018, with the late Holocene being dubbed the Meghalayan stage/age after a speleothem in Mawmluh cave was chosen as the boundary stratotype, indicating a dramatic worldwide climate event around 2250 BCE.
The North Eastern Council Secretariat, one of the largest Central Institutes, is also located in Shillong. Meghalaya has long been a site of archaeological significance, as have its neighboring Indian states. Meghalaya has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. So far, Neolithic sites have been unearthed in high-elevation parts of the Khasi Hills, Garo Hills, and neighboring states, where Neolithic type jhum or shifting farming is still practiced today.
Flood protection and fertile soil were supplied by the highland plateaus, which were nourished by plentiful rains. Meghalaya’s significance stems from its potential role in human history as a result of rice domestication. Ian Glover claims that “India is the location of greatest diversity of domesticated rice with over 20,000 known species and Northeast India is the most favorable single place of the genesis of domesticated rice” in one of the contending ideas for rice’s origin. The meager archaeology found in Meghalaya’s hills suggests that humans have lived there from ancient times.
Shah Arifin Rafiuddin, a follower of Shah Jalal, went and resided in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills after the Conquest of Taraf in 1304, where he preached Islam to the indigenous people. His khanqah is still in Sarping/Laurergarh on the Bangladeshi border, but the part with his mazar is on top of Laur Hill in Meghalaya.
Bhaitbari is an archaeological site found and excavated by A. K. Sharma in 1993. A fortification of burnt brick with mud core was discovered at the Meghalaya-Assam border and is dated to the 4th-8th century AD. The city has been considered to have been one of Kamarupa’s capital towns. In 1834, the British found Camellia sinensis in Assam, and from 1839 onwards, corporations began renting land.
Until the British took over in the 19th century, the Khasi, Garo, and Jaintia tribes had their own kingdoms. In 1835, the British annexed Meghalaya and made it part of Assam. By virtue of a treaty arrangement with the British Crown, the territory had semi-independent status. Meghalaya became a part of the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam when Bengal was partitioned by Lord Curzon on October 16, 1905. When the divide was overturned in 1912, however, Meghalaya became part of the Assam province.
The governor-general-in-council proclaimed the lands presently in Meghalaya, other than the Khasi states, as “backward tracts” on 3 January 1921, in accordance with Section 52A of the Government of India Act of 1919. Following that, the British government passed the Government of India Act 1935, which divided the backward tracts into two groups: “excluded” and “partially excluded” territories.
Present-day Meghalaya was divided into two districts of Assam at the time of Indian independence in 1947, and it had limited autonomy within the state of Assam. In 1960, a movement for a separate Hill State arose. On September 11, 1968, the Indian government announced a plan to create an autonomous state within Assam, consisting of the territories listed in Part A of the table appended to paragraph 20 of the Constitution’s Sixth Schedule. As a result, the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act of 1969 was passed, establishing an autonomous state in Assam.
The United Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills, as well as the Garo Hills, were carved out of the state of Assam to form Meghalaya. The name ‘Meghalaya’ was proposed and accepted for the new state by geographer S.P. Chatterjee in 1936. The Act took effect on April 2, 1970, and the independent state was given a 37-member legislature in conformity with the Indian constitution’s Sixth Schedule.
The North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, was approved by Parliament in 1971, giving the autonomous state of Meghalaya full sovereignty. Meghalaya became a state on January 21, 1972, with its own Legislative Assembly. Meghalaya is one of northeast India’s Seven Sister States. Meghalaya is a mountainous state featuring valleys and highland plateaus, as well as a geologically diverse landscape. It is primarily made up of Archean rock formations.
Coal, limestone, uranium, and sillimanite are among the precious minerals found in these rock formations. There are numerous rivers in Meghalaya. The majority of these are seasonal and rainfed. Ganol, Daring, Sanda, Bandra, Bugai, Dareng, Simsang, Nitai, and Bhupai are the major rivers in the Garo Hills region. Khri, Umtrew, Digaru, Umiam or Barapani, Kynshi (Jadukata), Umngi, Mawpa, Umiam Khwan, Umngot, Umkhen, Myntdu, and Myntang are the major rivers on the plateau’s central and eastern sections. These rivers have carved deep canyons and multiple waterfalls in the southern Khasi Hills region.
The plateau’s elevation varies from 150 meters (490 feet) to 1,961 meters (6,434 ft). The highest heights are found in the center part of the plateau, which includes the Khasi Hills, and the eastern section, which includes the Jaintia Hills region. Shillong Peak, a notable IAF station in the Khasi Hills overlooking the city of Shillong, is Meghalaya’s highest point. It is situated at a height of 1961 meters. The plateau’s westernmost part, the Garo Hills, is essentially flat.
Nokrek Peak, at 1515 meters, is the highest point in the Garo Hills. Meghalaya is the wettest place on Earth, with annual rainfall averaging 12,000 mm (470 in) in certain parts. The western half of the plateau, which includes the Garo Hills region with lower heights, has hot weather for the majority of the year. Temperatures are often cold in the Shillong area, which is at the greatest height. The maximum temperature in this region rarely exceeds 28 °C (82 °F), although sub-zero temperatures are normal in the winter.
About 70% of the state is forested, with dense primary subtropical forest covering 9,496 km2 (3,666 sq mi). The forests of Meghalaya are considered to be among Asia’s most botanically diverse environments. These forests get a lot of rain and support a lot of different floral and faunal species. In Meghalaya, there are a few “holy groves” that cover a small fraction of the forest.
These are little sections of an ancient forest that have been kept for hundreds of years by local people due to religious and cultural beliefs. These forests are used for religious rites and are normally off-limits to exploitation.
Many unique plant and animal species can be found in these sacred woods. The most biodiversity-rich locations in Meghalaya are the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in the West Garo Hills and the Balphakram National Park in the South Garo Hills. Meghalaya also has three wildlife sanctuaries. The Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, the Siju Sanctuary, and the Baghmara Sanctuary are all home to the insect-eating pitcher plant Nepenthes khasiana, also known as “Me’mang Koksi” in Garo.
Meghalaya forests sustain a wide range of floral diversity, including parasites, epiphytes, succulent plants, and shrubs, thanks to a variety of climatic and geographical conditions. Shorea robusta (sal tree) and Tectona grandis are two of the most important tree species (teak). A wide range of fruits, vegetables, spices, and medicinal plants can be found in Meghalaya. Meghalaya is also known for its vast number of orchid species (almost 325). The Mawsmai, Mawmluh, and Sohrarim forests in the Khasi highlands have the most variety of them.
Mammalian, bird, reptile, and insect species abound in Meghalaya. Elephants, bears, red pandas, small Indian civets, mongooses, weasels, rodents, gaur, wild buffalo, deer, wild boar, and a variety of primates are among the major animal species.
Bats can also be found in abundance in Meghalaya. Some of the country’s rarest bat species may be found in Meghalaya’s limestone caverns, such as the Siju Cave. The hoolock gibbon may be found in all of Meghalaya’s districts. Lizards, crocodiles, and tortoises are common reptiles in Meghalaya. Snakes such as the python, copperhead, green tree racer, Indian cobra, king cobra, coral snake, and vipers can also be found in Meghalaya.
The woodlands of Meghalaya are home to 660 bird species, many of which are indigenous to the Himalayan foothills, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. 34 of the birds found in Meghalaya woodlands are listed as globally threatened, while 9 are listed as critically endangered. Phasianidae, Anatidae, Podicipedidae, Ciconiidae, Threskiornithidae, Ardeidae, Pelecanidae, Pelecanidae, Phalacrocoracidae, Anhingidae, Falconidae, Accipitridae, Otididae, Rallidae, Heliornithida There are numerous species in each of these families.
In Meghalaya, the great Indian hornbill is the largest bird. The grey peacock pheasant, huge Indian parakeet, and common green pigeon are among the other regional birds present. Meghalaya also has about 250 butterfly species, accounting for approximately a fifth of all butterfly species in India.
Meghalaya is blessed with abundant natural resources. Minerals such as coal, limestone, sillimanite, Kaolin, and granite are examples of these. Meghalaya has a lot of trees, a lot of wildlife, and a lot of water.
The low level of industrialisation and the comparatively weak infrastructure base operate as a barrier to the state’s economy benefiting from the use of these natural resources. In recent years, two huge cement manufacturing plants with a production capacity of more over 900 MTD have opened in the Jaintia Hills district, with several more in the queue to take advantage of the district’s vast source of very high-quality limestone.
In Meghalaya, the matrilineal system, in which lineage and inheritance are traced through women, is followed by the majority of the people and the major tribal groups. The youngest daughter receives the entire estate and is responsible for caring for her aging parents and any unmarried siblings. When there is no daughter in the family or for other reasons, the parents may name another female, such as a daughter-in-law, as the successor to the house and any other property they hold.
The Khasi and Jaintia tribesmen follow the ancient matrilineal system, in which the Khun Khatduh (or youngest daughter) inherits the entire family’s property and duties. The male line, particularly the mother’s brother, may, however, have indirect influence over the ancestral property because he may be involved in significant property choices such as sale and disposal.
The Khasi and Jaintia (also known as Syntengs) have a ceremony called ia rap iing, in which a family adopts a girl from another family, performs religious ceremonies with the community, and she then becomes ka trai iing (head of the house). Unless the parents choose another daughter to inherit the family property, the youngest daughter inherits the family property by default in the Garo lineage system. She is subsequently given the name nokna, which means “for the house or household.” If there are no daughters, the property is passed down to a chosen daughter-in-law (bohari) or an adopted child (deragata). The adopted girl child becomes the household’s leader.
Civil society in Meghalaya views the state’s citizens as a collective community that exists through civil society organizations (CSOs) and supports the public’s general interests. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), other community associations, and foundations all fall into this category.
Scholars discuss the current state of Meghalaya’s civil society and the efficacy of its several projects. There are currently approximately 181 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Meghalaya, ranging from charity to volunteer services and social empowerment organizations. Most civil society organizations are ethnically related, as each organization champions the interests of different populations.
As a result, they become representatives of ethnic communities throughout the state, because members of these communities also join in organizations that safeguard their ethnic interests. Three student organizations representing Meghalaya’s major ethnic groups, the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Jantia Students’ Union (JSU), and Garo Students’ Union (GSU), follow this pattern by exerting pressure on the local government to guarantee that certain rights are respected.
There are also a variety of community associations centered on the concept of community building. Sports, religious, educational, and other clubs are examples of organizations that try to place people into distinct social circles based on their interests. In Meghalaya’s civil society, philanthropic foundations work to improve the residents’ general well-being.
The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) has recently teamed with the government of Meghalaya to promote public health in many rural areas of the state by first enhancing non-government organizations’ ability to provide such services. Scholars disagree about how effective Meghalaya’s civil society is. Some argue that CSOs play a crucial role in state development, while others argue that their impact is constrained not only by the central government and its military, but also by rebel organizations from below.
Meghalaya’s economy is primarily based on agriculture. Agriculture and related activities employ roughly two-thirds of Meghalaya’s workforce. However, this sector only accounts for around a third of the State’s NSDP. Low productivity and unsustainable farm methods characterize agriculture in the state.
Despite the fact that agriculture employs a big percentage of the people, the state imports food from neighboring Indian states. Infrastructural constraints have also impeded the state’s economy from producing high-paying jobs at a rate comparable to the rest of India. In current terms, Meghalaya’s gross state domestic product for 2012 was expected to be US$2.1 billion. According to the Reserve Bank of India, around 12% of the state’s population is poor, with 12.5 percent of rural Meghalaya residents living in poverty and 9.3 percent living in urban regions.
How To Reach Meghalaya
When translated, Meghalaya means ‘the dwelling of clouds,’ and the state is true to its name. The state contains a plethora of surprises waiting to be discovered, including intense monsoons, huge stretches of pine trees, and some of the world’s rarest flora and animals. Not to mention the well-known Shillong, sometimes known as the “Scotland of the East,” and other unique hill stations.
The state’s official language is English, and it is home to various tribes. Welcome to this lovely state, where you may enjoy the tranquility of nature, the friendliness of the residents, and a variety of fascinating activities to satisfy your wanderlust.
1. By Air
The Umroi airport is roughly 35 kilometers from Shillong. You can fly into this airport and then take a taxi to a local location or a hotel that you have pre-booked. You can also take advantage of state bus service, which is well-connected and makes commuting around the state simple.
In Guwahati, there is also Gopinath Bordoloi Airport, which can be used. This is a 128-kilometer drive from Shillong. You can take shared taxis from the airport, which is a practical choice. A helicopter service is also available, which is a plus. Except on Sundays, the services are available every day. These rides will be enjoyable and inexpensive.
2. By Train
Meghalaya does not have a train station of its own. The nearest location in Guwahati, from which you can take a shared cab or taxi to any nearby destination. The buses that go to several locations, including New Delhi, are timed to coincide with train schedules, making it a convenient choice. You can instantly check the rail schedule and make your reservations.
3. By Road
The Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) offers excellent connectivity both within the state and to neighboring states. The NH40 is a route that connects Shillong and Guwahati. If you want to go sightseeing, you can book a cab for the entire day, or you can take a regular kaali-peeli taxi for a fast trip around the city. Getting to some spots may be difficult during the monsoons, but you are free to visit at any time and discover the sights of this lovely state.
Weather In Meghalaya And The Best Time To Visit
Meghalaya, a part of India’s north-eastern gem, is likely to surprise you with variety of unexpected sites, from the world’s strongest monsoons to one of the cleanest villages. Long winding roads, peaceful tiny towns, the rich culture and legacy of the tribes, and the state’s delicacies will pique your wanderlust and leave you wanting more.
The weather in Meghalaya is generally pleasant throughout the year. Explore nature’s hidden beauties and absorb up the serenity that has infected this region. Read on to learn about the best time to visit Meghalaya and how to arrange your trip around it.
1. The season of summer (April to June)
In the summer, when the temperatures range from 11°C to 30°C, you can enjoy some beautiful days. The days are enjoyable since they provide you with additional opportunities to explore.
You may perform a wide range of things in this weather, from trekking to camping to gentle walks and calm picnics. If you’re feeling steamy in the middle of the day, stay inside and unwind. Around this time of year, there are numerous local events in which you might join. The season runs from April through the end of June.
2. Monsoon season (July to October)
It’s only logical to return to the fact that the state has some of the country’s highest rainfall. Do you recall Cheeranpunjee? Even Mawsynram has strong rains during this season, making it a difficult terrain.
Though the lush greenery all around may allure you, you will be unable to get out and about and may wind up curled up in your bed. The season runs from July through October, with the rainy season beginning in late June.
3. The season of winter (October to March)
This time of year, the weather is almost like something out of a fairy tale. The temperature fluctuates from 3 to 15 degrees Celsius. The days can be misty, yet they are absolutely stunning and will leave you speechless.
Tura, Nongpoh or Umiam Lake, Lalong Park, and other tourism destinations are also worth seeing. Apart from daring activities, the state has a lot of intriguing things going on. For those who are interested, there are cuisine festivals, rock shows, fishing tournaments, and kite flying competitions. You can join in and gain a sense of the place.
Tourist Attractions in Meghalaya
The Northeast of India is beautiful, and Meghalaya, or the Land of the Clouds, stands out. Meghalaya, which was once a part of Assam, is known for being the wettest location on Earth and for having a plethora of natural beauties and must-see tourist destinations. To give you an idea of how welcoming the people of this region are, the majority tribes are the Khasis (the largest group), Garos, and Pinars. Meghalaya is a destination you will want to visit because of its tradition and way of life.
1. Living Root Bridges
Meghalaya’s most famous attraction is located deep in the lush tropical forest, which is cloaked in fog and rain for much of the year. The Khasi tribe uses the roots of ancient rubber trees native to the northeast region to create these man-made natural wonders known as living root bridges. These can be found in Cherrapunji and Mawlynnong.
Mawlynnong has been dubbed “Asia’s Cleanest Village.” It is lovely and clean, and when you see it for yourself, you will agree. This model town, often known as “God’s Own Garden,” is a shining example of community-based ecotourism.
Also, be amazed by the extraordinary 80-foot-high Sky View platform, which is built of bamboo and provides a panoramic view over Bangladesh (the border is just a few kilometres away). Mawlynnong is a 3-hour trip south of Shillong in the East Khasi Hills where you may enjoy the East Khasi Hills. You have the option of staying in a homestay or a treehouse while having fun in the woods.
The border village of Dawki is an hour’s drive from Mawlynnong, amid the West Jaintia Hills, where the magnificent emerald waters of the Umngot River trickle through silently. You may take a boat ride along the river, which is really scenic. On your journey, you can stop at Bophill Falls. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of water. This is without a doubt one of Meghalaya’s top vacation attractions, and you should not miss it at any cost.
4. Mawphlang Sacred Forest
The sacred forest of Mawphlang, located 45 minutes southwest of Shillong in the East Khasi Hills, is home to a sacred plant grove of the Khasi tribe. These medicinal plants have incredible healing powers. As a mark of ceremonial, tribe members here burn the bodies of their ancestors.
Many distinct forms of imitation tribal cottages may be found in the Khasi Heritage Village, which is located near to the sacred forest. If you want to get a close look at nature, take the David Scott track from Maphlang to Lad Mawphlang, which is part of an old horse trail from the British era.
5. Laitlum Canyon
Laitlum Canyon, about an hour from Shillong, offers several beautiful gorges. Hike down a steep stairway to the settlement of Rasong, which has a population of barely 350 people. A rustic cable pulley moves food and other needed commodities up and down the valley, which will astound you.
Meghalaya offers a plethora of caverns, around 1,000 to be exact! Mawsmai, in Cherrapunji (2 hours from Shillong), is the most well-known, although there are others that can be explored with adequate caving equipment, including Siju, Mawmluh, Mawsynram, and LiatPrah (India’s longest cave). The Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association, based in Shillong, offers week-long caving adventures.
The mystery monoliths of Meghalaya may be found distributed across the Khasi and Jantia hills, erected by the region’s people as a symbol of remembering. The most concentrated concentration of these memorials may be located in the Jaintia Hills, around 2 hours east of Shillong, near Nartiang hamlet. Previously the summer capital of the Jaintia monarchs, it is now a lesser-known tourist site, although it is worth visiting if you don’t want to go off the main path. This could be the ideal spot for you to get away from the crowds.