Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Meghalaya – Best Tips and Itinerary

North East India is filled with unique destinations. The landscape, the food and the culture of all 8 states of North East Indian states are worth experiencing and exploring.

Among all the states of North East India, Meghalaya is one of the most popular among backpackers. The Khasi Hills of the state has a well planned route for the tourists. Some of the destinations in this route also fall in Jaintia Hills but can be done in a single backpacking trip of North East India.

Waterfall meghalaya

This backpacking guide will help you understand the state, the culture and ways to make your travel experience better. Keep in mind that I am writing a detailed guide for backpacking in Meghalaya that will take you 15 to 20 days. But you can always shorten it down to a week but anything less than that will not be worthwhile.

How many days do I need to travel in Meghalaya

If you want a quick trip then you will need a minimum of 1 week and a maximum of 20 days to explore the travel trail of Meghalaya. 1 week trip will take you across some of the highly popular (and crowded) tourist spots of the state and if you increase your number of days then you can easily add some more treks and explore hidden waterfalls and villages.

How is Meghalaya as a region

Meghalaya 21

Meghalaya is primarily made of three major tribes, The Khasis, The Garos and The Jaintias. They have their own dominated regions in the state. The Khasi Hills are easily accessible and most of the tourist spots are located here. The tourist spots of Jaintia Hills include Dawki, Shnong pdeng and Krang Shuri Waterfalls. Garo Hills is known for its festivals and scenic beauty but is not popular among travellers because of less vehicles and lack of basic amenities.

So in this Meghalaya backpacking blog, I’ll share details of a trail that includes the popular destinations of Khasi and Jaintia Hills so that you are able to plan your travel experience in a better way.

15 Day Meghalaya Backpacking Guide

Meghalaya new

Note 1 – You’ll only find basic details of important locations in this blog. Detailed posts on individual destinations are WIP and will be updated on my blog soon

Anyone who is travelling in Meghalaya will have to reach Guwahati. Guwahati Railway Station is one of the major train stations of North East India and gets trains from all over the country. Guwahati has an airport with many domestic and international flights arriving on a daily basis.

Regular shared taxis run between Guwahati and Shillong. There are a few taxis available around airport but if you can’t find any then you’ll have to come to Paltan Bazar (Near Guwahati Railway Station) and you’ll find a taxi. Shared cars charge around INR 250 to 300 and have 4 people on the seat. There are shared jeeps that charge only 180 but have around 10 people.

Note 2 – Keep in mind that timings in North East India are different. It gets dark at 4 PM and most of the shops and hotels are shut by 6 PM. If you arrive in Guwahati after 2 PM then it is a better idea to spend that day in the city itself and start for Shillong Early morning.

Short Itinerary for 15 day backpacking in Meghalaya

Day 1 – Guwahati to Shillong

Day 2 – Explore Shillong

Day 3 – Shillong to Cherrapunjee

Day 4 – Explore Cherrapunjee

Day 5 – Cherrapunjee to Nongriat via Tyrna

Day 6 – Trek to Living Root Bridge

Day 7 –  Nongriat to Cherrapunjee via Tyrna

Day 8 – Cherrapunjee – Shillong – Dawki – Shnongpdeng

Day 9 – Explore Shnongpdeng

Day 10 – Return to Shillong via Mawlynnong

Day 11 – Visit Elephant Falls, Sacred Forest and Khasi Heritage Village

Day 12 – Shillong – Smit – Laitlum – Shillong

Day 13 – Shillong – Wahkhen – Shillong

Day 14 – Rest in Shillong

Day 15 – Shillong to Mawlyngot

Day 16 – Mawlyngot – Shillong – Guwahati

Meghalaya backpacking detailed route

 

Day 1 – Guwahati to Shillong (Keep Note 2 in mind)

Day 2 – Explore Shillong. If you stay near Police Bazar, many of the local tourist destinations will be close to you. You can walk to Saint Paul Church and Don Bosco Museum, later go to Polo Ground and Ward’s Lake (which is also the venue of Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival).

Ward's lake

Don’t forget to go café hopping in the city. Shillong has some of the amazing cafes with live music and great food. Just keep in mind that you are back to your hotel by 6 PM because if you are solo travelling in Shillong then it will get really spooky. Shillong is one of the safest towns I have been to but why take a risk and venture out late (unless you have a car of your own but this blog is for budget backpackers and not for rich travellers).

Cheap food in Shillong – Police Bazar is a great place to enjoy cheap food. Egg rolls only cost INR 30 and chicken rolls are INR 50. You can also have noodles and soup for as cheap as 30 rs. You can get an omelette on your noodles for INR 10 and chicken or beef for INR 20 extra.

Shillong cheap food

If you are doing café hopping then you should visit Café Shillong which is close to Don Bosco Museum, Swish Café, Little Chef Café and Munchies. Dylan’s Café is a little far but has live music.

Where to stay in Shillong ­– Police Bazar has many cheap hotels that start from INR 500. But as a solo traveller in Meghalaya, you should consider Silver brook hostel that is a little far away from the town but it has its own advantages.

  1. You’ll find other travellers with whom you can visit all the tourist locations and save money.
  2. You’ll also find travel partners for other locations
  3. The hostel is at a very scenic location and is away from the crowded market area of the city. You can also do stargazing from here

Day 3 – Shillong to Cherrapunjee/Sohra

Keep in mind that Cherapunjee and Sohra are same place. Sohra is the old name for Cherrapunjee, so don’t get confused.

nohkalikai waterfall

Shared taxis for Sohra run from Bara Bazar. You’ll have to walk a little but you’ll find the place from where you’ll get a taxi. Per seat is INR 70 and it takes almost 2 hours to reach the destination.

Start in the morning so that you can explore the place a little bit. Cherrapunjee doesn’t have any backpacker hostel but many homestays have dormitory for INR 500 per person. You can stay at Traveller’s Cottage in Sohra which is cheap and the owner Batista will help you out in planning your trip.

Day 4 – Explore Nohkalikai Falls, if you are interested in trekking then you can go down to the mouth of this waterfall. The trail starts from outside the entrance gate. A huge board shows direction for the trekking trail.

Garden of Caves and Dympep viewpoint are also popular attractions.

Day 5 – Cherrapunjee to Nongriat

DSCF 08255
This pic was clicked in 2014. That’s why it is in such a poor quality

Nongriat is famous for its double decker root bridges. It is also a popular trek spot that involves climbing a number of stairs. So make sure that you have enough stamina to go on this trek.

How to reach Nongriat

You will find shared taxis from Cherrapunjee going to Tyrna. These taxis run in the morning and take almost 40 minute to reach the destination. Shared taxis charge INR 100 per person. From Tyrna, you’ll have to trek to reach Nongriat and it will take 1.5 hours to reach there.

Note 3 – Almost no taxis run in the interiors of Meghalaya on Sundays. So make sure that you keep Sundays for local exploration and don’t plan traveling from one place to another.

If you want to go to Tyrna from Cherrapunjee on Sunday then you’ll have to hire a taxi and pay INR 500.

Spend this day in Nongriat. Wander around and give your legs some rest. Planning trek to living root bridges on same day will exhaust you.

Where to stay in Nongriat

Serene Homestay is very popular among backpackers. Charges are 300 per night for a dorm and 800 for a private room. The owner Byron is very nice. I would suggest you to go here and if the place is full then the owner will help you find another place to stay.

DSCF 08613

Day 6 – Trek to living route bridge and rainbow falls. Return to Nongriat, chill and relax.

You can also hike from Nongriat to Cherrapunjee. This route takes about 4 hours and is very steep and difficult.

Day 7 – Nongriat – Tyrna (Trek 3 hour)

Tyrna – Cherrapunjee (Shared Taxi 45 min)

Spend your day in Cherrapunjee. Visit Seven Sisters Falls and Mawsmai Caves.

Mawsmai Caves is an amazing place to visit. This place is locally known as Krem Mawsmai. ‘Krem’ means ‘cave’ in Khasi, and ‘Mawsmai’, meaning as ‘Oath Stone’. The cave is 820 feet long which is lit up with halogen lamps, it is an adventurous spot and is not recommended for people who are suffering with claustrophobia. You can keep an additional day in Sohra to explore this place.

Day 8 – Cherrapunjee – Shillong – Dawki – Shnongpdeng

Cherrapunjee – Shillong (1.5 hours) 70

Shillong – Dawki (2.5 hours) 120

Dawki – Shnongpdeng (1 hour) 200

Dawki

Start early morning for Shillong so that you don’t miss the last taxi for Dawki. You’ll find shared taxis from Bada Bazar but finding the place can be a little difficult.

Exploring Dawki

Dawki is 80 km from here and you’ll easily find a share taxi. The taxi will drop you near Umgot River Viewpoint. Assuming that you are in Dwaki before 12 PM, you’ll have ample time to do boating and visit the Bangladesh border.

Dawki sunset

You won’t find any cheap stay in Dwaki. Catch a shared taxi and head to Shnongpdeng. Make sure that you start by 2 or 3 PM so that you are there before it gets dark.

Where to stay in Dawki / Shnongpdeng

I would not recommend a solo budget traveller to stay in Dawki. Head to Shnongpdeng and find Brightstar Camps (also called Toshan Guest House). The rooms are 1500 per night and the tents are 1000 per night. Speak with the manager at 9862602776 to reserve a place for you. Fabiano Camps are also located here and the prices are almost the same.

There are some small homestays in Shnongpdeng that charge around INR 400 to 800. Finding one depends on luck. I ended up staying at the campsite and when I met some travellers next day, they told me about a pretty home stay nearby for INR 500 per person only.

Note 4 – Shnongpdeng is not recommended in rainy season. If you go there then make sure that you don’t stay in tent. I almost drowned during my stay and it was really scary.

Day 9 – Spend a day in Shnongpdeng

This day is totally options. Shnongpdeng is popular for adventurous activities so you can spend some time doing cliff jumping and snorkelling.

Day 10 – Return to Shillong via Mawlynnong

Head to Shillong on a shared taxi from Dawki early morning. Ask your driver to drop you at Mawlynnong – Asia’s Cleanest Village.

How to reach Mawlynnong

Mawlynnong is 18km off the main road to Dawki. You can take a taxi from Dawki or ask the sumo to drop you at the turnoff and try hitching a ride down to the village.

Mawlynnong clean

Spend an hour in Mawlynnong and then head to Shillong. Keep this day to rest in hostel and mingle with other travellers.

Day 11 – Visit Elephant Falls, Sacred Forest and Khasi Heritage Village.

You’ll have to change multiple shared taxis to reach every spot but you can try your luck and find some co-travellers to join you for local sightseeing.

Day 12 – Shillong – Smit – Laitlum

Catch a bus for Smit from police bazaar. After reaching Smit, find a shared taxi to Laitlum. Enjoy your time around Laitlum Canyons. You won’t find this view anywhere else in the world.

Return to Shillong by 2 PM

Day 13 – Shillong to Wahkhen

This destination is only for trekkers and hikers.

How to reach Wahkhen from Shillong

Go to Bada Bazar in the morning, find a shared taxi till Pomlum Village (will cost you around Rs 90). Wahkhen is 15 kms from Pomlum.

wahkhen trek

Note 5 – Most of the people in Meghalaya don’t know any place by name of Wahkhen. Tell them that you want to go to the bamboo bridge of the East Khasi hills.

U Mawryngkhang is a legendary stone and its stories have passed through generations. The bamboo bridge goes to this point. When you reach Wahkhen, ask for broomstick farm from where the trek begins. The entire trek takes 3 to 4 hours. On your way return don’t forget to take a break at natural pools of River Wahrew.

Pick a shared taxi to Shillong via Pomlum Village after you are back.

Day 14 – Rest in Shillong

The trek is tiring so better relax in Shillong

Day 15 – Shillong – Mawlyngot

A small village which is famous to tea plantations and scenic beauty can be visited on this day. Photographers would love this place.

Reaching Mawlyngot from Shillong

Shared taxis are available from Lewduh in Shillong. It takes almost 45 minute to reach Mawlyngot. It is one of the offbeat places in Meghalaya. If you are interested in trekking and hiking then you can spend an extra day over here.

Where to stay in Mawlyngot

Tea Estate Bungalow is the only place to stay here. The prices for the night are INR 1200 on AirBnb.

Day 16 – Mawlyngot – Shillong – Guwahati

End of the trip

 

Cost of 15 day solo backpacking trip in Meghalaya

Day 1 – Guwahati to Shillong

  • Cab – INR 300
  • Hostel stay – INR 500
  • Local sightseeing – INR 200 to INR 300
  • Food – INR 200

Day 2 – Explore Shillong

  • Sightseeing – INR 200
  • Stay – INR 500
  • Food – INR 300

Day 3 – Shillong to Cherrapunjee

  • Taxi – INR 70
  • Dorm stay – INR 400 to INR 600
  • Food – INR 200
  • Sightseeing – INR 200 to INR 400

Day 4 – Explore Cherrapunjee

  • Stay – INR 400
  • Food – INR 200
  • Sightseeing – INR 400

Day 5 – Cherrapunjee to Nongriat via Tyrna

  • Cab – INR 100
  • Food – 300
  • Stay – INR 300
  • Misc – INR 200

Day 6 – Trek to Living Root Bridge

  • Food – INR 300
  • Stay – INR 300

Day 7 –  Nongriat to Cherrapunjee via Tyrna

  • Taxi – INR 100
  • Food – INR 300
  • Stay – INR 400 to 600
  • Sightseeing – INR 400

Day 8 – Cherrapunjee – Shillong – Dawki – Shnongpdeng

  • Taxi – 70 + 150 + 200
  • Food – 200
  • Stay –1000
  • Sightseeing – 200

Day 9 – Explore Shnongpdeng

  • Food – INR 300
  • Stay – INR 1000
  • Misc – INR 500

Day 10 – Return to Shillong via Mawlynnong

  • Taxi – INR 200 + 150
  • Stay – INR 500
  • Food – INR 200
  • Misc – INR 200

Day 11 – Visit Elephant Falls, Sacred Forest and Khasi Heritage Village

  • Taxi – INR 150
  • Stay – INR 500
  • Food – INR 200
  • Misc – INR 100

Day 12 – Shillong – Smit – Laitlum – Shillong

  • Taxi – INR 400
  • Stay – INR 500
  • Food – INR 200

Day 13 – Shillong – Wahkhen – Shillong

  • Stay – INR 500
  • Taxi – INR 200
  • Food – INR 200
  • Misc – INR 100

Day 14 – Rest in Shillong

  • Stay – INR 500
  • Food – INR 200

Day 15 – Shillong to Mawlyngot

  • Stay – INR 1200
  • Food – INR 300
  • Taxi – INR 250
  • Misc – INR 100

Day 16 – Mawlyngot – Shillong – Guwahati

  • Taxi – INR 250 + 200
  • Food – INR 200

Travel responsibly in Meghalaya

Meghalaya has promoted eco-friendly tourism before any Indian state adopted it. Yet, travellers don’t really follow the guidelines issued for responsible travel in the state. As a solo traveller, you should make sure that you don’t leave carbon footprint in the state.

Mawlynnong 2

  • Avoid chips and mineral water bottles. Meghalaya has very clean water and absolutely drinkable.
  • Don’t litter. There are dustbins on the road where you can deposit your waste.
  • Share taxi wherever possible.

Apart from this, you should take care of a few more pointers to make sure that you only come back with lovely memories and do the same for the natives of the state.

Respect Local Culture

Meghalaya’s tribal culture is unique and worth preserving. When you travel around Khasi Hills or Jaintia Hills, you’ll come across many unique customs and traditions. When you enter a village, understand the local culture and behave accordingly.

Don’t pitch your tent without permission

Many solo travellers and budget backpackers carry their own tent. While pitching your tent, look around and check if there are other campers nearby. Pitching tent alone can be dangerous because a lot of wild animals roam around during night. You may be pitching tent on someone’s private land for which you may have to pay.

Don’t pay money for portraits

Villagers in Meghalaya may look different and worth clicking a portrait and many photographers who come here to travel pay villagers for clicking their photos. It is wrong and will promote a culture where locals will start exploiting more travellers in return of their photos. This is the right time to avoid promoting this culture.

Best time to visit Meghalaya

Best time to visit Meghalaya is between late September and Early March. Monsoon season starts from May and continues till October. But the quantity of the rainfall goes down after September. October to January is the best time to plan treks around the state as well as catch some festivals in the region.  November is also the time of NH7 Weekender Music Festival so you can plan your trip accordingly.

Hope this Meghalaya solo backpacking guide and itinerary helped you plan your future trip in a better way. For any queries, connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

 

12 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Backpacking in Meghalaya – Best Tips and Itinerary

Add yours

  1. Wow , such an informative and amazing piece . Even though I have been there a couple of times I now realise that I might have missed some amazing places . Your blog just brings all the nostalgia back .

  2. I love going water falls adventure and this place is really beautiful and I’am surely to add this on my bucket list beautiful photos!

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