Cherrapunji is a small town located 54 kms east of Shillong. Known most widely for being the wettest (rainiest) place on earth, Cherrapunji has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the North-east India — not because of the rain however, but for its waterfalls, living root bridges, monoliths, caves and the journey en route to this magical land.
While travelling to Cherrapunji is as much about the destination, it is also very much about the journey. Have you ever walked among the clouds? You will when you travel to Cherrapunji. The green grasses and the pine trees that line the winding roads, the clouds above and below you, the air so fresh it makes you forget about your city worries — these are only some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences you will meet when you visit Cherrapunji.
Cherrapunji (or Cherrapunjee) is known locally and officially as Sohra. It is about 2 – 3 hours drive from Shillong. It is inhabited by the War-Khasi people. While the local inhabitants speak the Khasi language, English and Hindi are also widely popular, thanks to the increasing number of tourists.
HOW TO VISIT CHERRAPUNJI
The most ideal way to visit Cherrapunji is by doing a two-day and a one night stay.
Travel by air or train to Guwahati, take a taxi to Shillong and check in at a hotel for the night (if you have time, visit Ward’s Lake, Golf Links, Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak and shop at Police Bazaar in Shillong).
DAY 1: Early next morning, hire a cab to take you to Cherrapunji. Make sure you stop by at ## for breakfast. Take a ride on the ropeway there. It’s absolutely thrilling. Also, don’t forget to take in the sights as you travel towards Cherrapunji.
Check in at one of the popular hotels in Cherrapunji town or at the Cherrapunjee Hill Resort (located 30 minutes away from Cherrapunji). Leave your luggage there. Take your camera and basic necessities and head on towards ECO PARK; this is where the ## falls start. Once you have taken in the view, ask your driver to take you towards THANGKHRANG PARK. On the way, make sure you stop by to admire the ## falls from afar. Have lunch at THANGKHRANG, shop at one of the make-shift stalls for memento and catch a view of the seven sister falls.
PLACES TO SEE IN CHERRAPUNJI
While the journey to Cherrapunji is already an experience in itself, there are several places to see in and around the area. Here are the most popular:
1. Living Root Bridges (Double Decker Living Root Bridge)
There are about 11 living root bridges in and around Cherrapunji. Except for the famous ‘Double Decker Living Root Bridge’, all of these other bridges are single decker. There are also other living root bridges scattered all over Meghalaya, including one near Mawlynnong (Asia’s cleanest village), but the Double Decker Living Root Bridge at Nongriat village is the most popular of all.
A trip to Cherrapunji is never complete without a trek to the 150 year-old Double Decker Living Root Bridge. This natural wonder is located on the Umshiang river at Nongriat Village. It takes a full day to visit the place, but no visitor has ever returned disappointed.
To get there, take a cab ride to Tyrna village, which is about 30 minutes away from Cherrapunji town. There are no roads leading to the bridge so you’ll have to trek downhill from Tyrna village. The 3 kilometre long trek takes 2 – 4 hours depending on your physical fitness. The entire route is cemented and consists of 3500 stairs. There are signs at almost every turn so you won’t need to take a guide. It is advised to carry as little luggage as possible as the return journey could get arduous.
Along the way, you’ll come across Nongthymmai Village, roughly 45 minutes walk from Tyrna. And just 5 minutes away from Nongthymmai Village is the longest living root bridge at Ritymmen. Another hour and having passed two narrow steel bridges, you will have reached Nongriat village which is where the double decker living root bridge is located.
Within the vicinity of the double decker living root bridge are other interesting sights, including the natural swimming pools and other living root bridges.
(If you’re travelling with an elderly, it is advisable to visit the living root bridge at Riwai village, near Mawlynnong as the walk involved there is only 15 minutes.)
BEST TIME TO VISIT CHERRAPUNJI
While some may argue that the dry seasons (November – March) are the best time to visit this rain-heavy land — and arguably so, because the endless rain and cloud-laden skies make it unable to see the waterfalls — but the beauty of Cherrapunji truly becomes visible during the wet seasons.
Rain starts pouring in Cherrapunji from early May and continues upto September or October. This is when the waterfalls bring forth their majesty and splendour. But summer and monsoon seasons here are marked by heavy rainfall and thick clouds, making it near impossible to see the falls. However, the sun comes out once in a while almost everyday to show you the falls, making the whole thing all the more worth it.
A complete strip-down of the best time to visit Cherrapunji on a month-by-month basis with reference to tourist hot-spots around the area is given in another page, but here’s a preliminary guide.
Dry Season (November – March):
Waterfalls run dry, Caves are dry and less slippery, Parks are dry, Streams below living root bridges are clear and undisturbed, trekking is easier as the steps are dry. Temperature ranges from 5°c – 15°c. It’s cold, so wear a jacket. The skies are clear and the grasses less green.
Ideal for families with kids. Except for the waterfalls running dry, this season is ideal for visiting all tourist hotspots.
1st Rainy Season (April – May):
The summer months here are marked by rainfall and sunshine. Rains are a frequent visitor to the sunshine. It rains almost everyday, but never all the time. You get more sun than rain in a day. But you always need to carry an umbrella. The waterfalls begin to see some action. When it doesn’t rain, the parks are beautiful. Temperature ranges from 13°c – 28°c. You get both clear skies and thick clouds all in a day. You get to experience all seasons of the year in a day during this season. The nights are cold, the days are hot and sometimes wet.
This season is also ideal for kids and Adults. The waterfalls have only just started to fall again, all other tourist hotspots are accessible. The caves may start to get a little slippery.
2nd Rainy Season (June – August):
June, July and August see the most rain here in Cherrapunji. Most days during this time are marked by continuous rainfall. Temperature drops to 12°c – 19°c. The heavy rains and the thick clouds sometimes make it impossible to see sights. But sometimes, the sun would creep out despite all of it. The caves sometimes are clogged with water so it may be a little challenging to pass through. The living root bridges are beautiful, maybe a little dangerous for kids. The natural swimming pools can be dangerous. The waterfalls are visible a few times a day. If you go out to the parks while the sun shows, it’s likely the rain will catch up on you by the time you had your picnic.
This season is ideal for adventurists. Taking your kids to the caves and the bridges may be a little dangerous. The waterfalls are majestic during this time. Most times, you will feel like you’re walking among the clouds.
Semi-Dry Season (September – October):
The rains start to go away, becoming infrequent visitors. The waterfalls still retain their waters. The clouds linger on. The current of the water beneath the living root bridges begin to go away. You get more sun than rain. But it’s never hot.
This season is ideal for all. You get the waterfalls, the caves, the bridges, all of it. In fact, October is the ideal month to visit Cherrapunji.