Assam and Meghalaya - God's Own Abode

India is a country full of surprises with so much diversity in its geography, culture and heritage. There are places with which you will instantly fall in love with. North-east is one such region. Each state is unique, with its own cultural identity, liberally blessed by nature.


We started planning for our trip in January 2019 along with our friends our friends Srihari and Anu. We explored different options, finalised plans, and did all the booking. Finally, we visited Assam and Meghalaya in March 2018. We pre-booked our transport, Innova crysta, for the entire journey. Nripen was our driver and companion who took us to the wonderlands of Assam and Meghalaya. His expertise about the region helped us cover everything that we planned for.

While across India there is common timezone (IST), do keep in mind the changed (early) routine of sunrise and sunsets if traveling here from western part of India.

Reaching Assam and Meghalaya

  • Guwahati has a military airport where domestic flights also operate. There are regular flights to Guwahati from all major cities of India.
  • There is an excellent road connectivity between Assam and Meghalaya. It is a 4 hour road journey from Guwahati to Shillong.
Best time to travel
  • Every season offers different reason to travel this beautiful world. Monsoons starts April onwards, and it is a good time for monsoon lovers who want to witness heavy rains. But some of the places, like Kaziranaga remains closed during monsoon, and Dawki river may not be as clean as it is during summer. February/March is end of summer and is generally a good time when most places can be explored.
We started our journey from Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport of Guwahati. We explored Guwahati, Kaziranga, Shillong, Cherrapunji (Sohra) and Shnongpdeng. These places are well connected by road. While Assam is mostly flat lands, majority journey through Meghalaya is on mountain roads.

Guwahati


Guwahati as seen from Bhubneswari Temple

Guwahati is one of the major cities in north-east region, located close to the capital of Assam, Dispur. Located on the banks of Brahmputra, this city is known for its temples. Our stay here was at Baruah Bhawan, a walking distance from the riverbank.

Places to see
  • Kamakhya Temple : Kamakhya is one of most famous temple of north east India. It is located on a small hill, where one can reach by car. It is usually very crowded and takes 5-6 hours for the darshan. We were lucky to do it within 2 hours. Try to reach early in the morning. Further on top of the hill is Bhubneswari Temple, from where a beautiful view of Guwahati is visible.

We also went to Navagraha temple and Umananda temple (on the peacock island in Brahmaputra) here, and crossed Saraighat bridge and IIT Guwahati. Guwahati market is good for Assamese Mekhla saree shopping, and delicious rasgullas.


Kaziranga National Park


Rhino at Kaziranga National Park

215 km from Guwahati, is World Heritage site of Kaziranga National Park. Famous for its Indian one-horned rhinoceros, the sanctuary is also a home to a wide range of animals and birds like Royal Bengal Tigers, Wild Elephants, Swamp Deers, Wild buffaloes, King cobra, tortoise, hornbills, eagles, vultures and stokes. Kaziranga is a part of Golaghat and Nagaon district, and spread across the area of 430 square kms along the Bramhputra river.

There are three major entry gates, western (Bagori), central (Kohora) and eastern (Agaratoli). Decent stay options are available here. We stayed at Sneha Bhawan which was closer to Kohora gate.

Things to do

  • Elephant safari : Exploring the forest on the back of an elephant is an experience to remember. Every morning there are safaris that need to be pre-booked. Elephant safaris covers appx 15 sq km area, and takes us very close to rhinos and other animals. 
  • Jeep safari : Jeep safari covers much larger area, and takes us deep inside the forest. We did multiple jeep safaris, from Bagori and Kohora gates respectively. This is enjoyed best by remaining quiet, observing the surroundings and listening to forest movements. Though we missed tiger by 10 mins, We saw hornbills, eagles, vultures, monitor lizard, rhinos, swamp deers, wild elephants, stokes, variety of tortoise and many different birds.
  • Cultural Program at Kaziranga National Orchid And Biodiversity Park : After the hectic day that was spent mostly in the forest of Kaziranga, this cultural program provides a soothing relief. The group here performs various traditional dance forms and live music, and they are exceptional. There are souvenir shops to carry back memories.

Kaziranga remains closed for visitors during monsoon, May 1 to Oct 31.

Shillong


Airforce Museum
Shillong is a capital of Meghalaya and 3 hr journey from Guwahati. It's a scenic journey as most part of it is in hilly regions. We took a halt at Umiam lake to see the wonderful sunset. Shillong was the coldest place in our trip, and temperature drop is significant. We stayed at the wonderful and well maintained Pine Hill Homestay.

Places to see
  • Elephant falls : This is one of landmarks of Shillong. You'll see couple of waterfalls along the small trek.
  • Airforce museum : Shillong is the head quarter of eastern airforce, and a visit to airforce museum is highly recommended. Museum also has a souvenir shop.
  • Shillong View Point: On top of the hill, within airforce area is a point that provides scenic view of Shillong city. It takes some time getting the entry here due to security reasons. Remember to carry id cards while going here.
We also went to Ward's lake, and explored Police Bazaar area for shopping. City Hut Dhaba is a recommended place for lunch/dinner.

Police Bazaar market remains closed on Sunday, so plan your trip accordingly if you are interested in shopping.


Cherrapunji/Sohra


Nohakalikai Falls

65 km south of Shillong is Cherrapunji, which is locally known as Sohra. It is famous for its rainfall, and we did get a glimpse of it during one of the nights.

On the way from Shillong to Cherrapunji, there are some good places to explore. Meghalaya comprises of large number of caves in Jaintia, Khasi and Garos hills, and few of them are a must visit.

  • Arwah Lumshya Cave : Arwah Lumshya is a natural cave formed within the limestone rock. Along with stalactites and stalagmites, this cave has presence of fossils along its walls and roofs. Journey to the entrance of this cave from the parking is also quite scenic within the forest.
  • Mawsmai Cave: This is another limestone cave that provides good view of the natural formations. Some of the passages are very narrow, and adds to the thrill.
  • Nohakalikai Waterfalls: Nohkalikai Falls is the tallest plunge waterfall in India with the height of l115 feet. It is located quite close to the main town.
There are other waterfalls as well like Wah Kaba and Seven sisters (which is actually beyond Cherrapunji) in this region. Our stay here was at La Kupar, which was quite well maintained, offers campfire and provides amazing night sky view. Orange roots restaurant on this way offers good food.

Nongriat - Double Docker Living Root Bridge


Double Decker Living Root Bridge

Meghalaya is a land of living root bridges, and double decker living root bridge of Nongriat is a special one that has two levels. It is a trek down of 3500 steps to reach here. It is recommended to start the trek very early in the morning. Guides are available for hire here.

We started the trek at 8:00 am and carried breakfast with us. The trek has cement stairs at more places along the slopes of the hill. Along the way, we cross few small streams and couple of single level root bridges. It took us 1:45 mins to reach the double decker bridge. There is a small waterfall and a stream near the double decker bridge. From here, you can trek further to reach Rainbow and NohaKalikai falls though we didn't do that in the interest of time. After exploring the bridge and doing photography, we started the return journey upwards. There are small shops along the way, as well as drinking water outlets. We finally reached the top at 1:15 pm, headed straight to Jiva resort for a well-earned lunch!

There are students here who do this trekking everyday to reach their school.

Dawki/Shnongpdeng


Wah Umngot (Dawki River)

Further south of Cherrapunji, along the Bangladesh border is the town called Dawki. The road is along the hills, and as we reach near Bangaldesh, climate will be a bit hotter.

Along the way, we stopped at Mawlynnong, Asia's cleanest village. It's small village, and also has a living root bridge. Dawki is the last town on Indian side of the border, which is connected to Tamabil of Bangladesh by  road. We visited India Bangladesh Friendship Gate which is the entry point for either country.

From here, we went to Shnonpdeng, a small village established along the Wah Umngot (Dawki River). The stay here was in wooden cottages constructed along the slope, though one can book tents as well. Cottages provides direct view of river. This is one of the cleanest rivers, with river bottom visible. We did boating in this river for close to an hour. There are also options for kayaking and snorkeling. Crossing the suspending bridge over the river is a must act, and gives a good view of the river. River is full of pebbles and stones, and sitting here with feet soaked in river water is a calming experience.

During rains the river becomes muddy, but January onwards the river has crystal clear water. 


At Kaziranga Cultural Center
More pics can be found at - https://www.instagram.com/nimeshddesai

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