Clouded Hills of Mawsynrum
Eco-Park near Seven Sister Falls
Cloud and the hills
Cherrapunji is arguably the second most popular tourist destination of Meghalaya after Shillong, the capital town. It is situated at a distance of 53 km from Shillong. The small village is famous as the place with highest rainfall in the world. Until recently the town of Cherrapunjee, 56 km south of Shillong, held the record for the greatest rainfall within a 24 hour period. Unbelievably, 104 cm of rain fell here on June 16 1876; even more unbelievably, the record has recently been broken by the nearby village or Mawsyn. The only realistic way to see Cherrapunjee, which has little local transportation and a very few accommodation, is by guided tour.
The hills abruptly erupting from the Sylhet plains of Bangladesh at almost sea level to 4500 feet within a short distance of 2 to 5 km, the clouds start embracing the mountains and scores of frothing waterfalls leap from lofty mountains in free abandon, down precipitous gorges thickly covered by tropical forests – has thrilled many a nature enthusiasts of all ages, down the ages.
Guwahati is the nearest railhead and major airport for entire North East India including destinations in Meghalaya.
From Guwahati, Cherrapunji is about 200 km and takes about 6 hours to reach. Due to heavy traffic in the route, it might take up to 8 hours.
Shillong is situated between Cherrapunji and Guwahati. Many tourists stay at Shillong and visit Cherrapunji as part of day sightseeing. From Shillong the distance is about 53 km and takes a couple of hours either way.
Cherrapunji is not a typical sightseeing destination although there is a plenty to see and experience. The place is so romantic that even the clouds start shedding rain in torrents to deluge these mountains. The view of the flooded plains of Bangladesh till the horizon is a sight to behold in the monsoon months. The dry months from November to February throw open abundant trekking, birding, canyoning, camping, rock climbing and caving opportunities for the adventure and nature lovers. Enrich your holiday with baths in cool mountain springs, streams and waterfalls and swims in natural swimming pools. Romance in the rain with your head in cloud and feet firmly on the ground, Walk through the clouds, take time off from your never ending hectic work schedule to share your children’s fleeting childhood. Teach them young to appreciate Nature. Challenge them with adventure.
Cherrapunji is a place where nature is at its pristine best untouched by pollution. Winter is the best time for Bird Watching in this area with migratory birds from as far as Siberia coming here to escape harsh winters. The co-existence of these faunal elements in a small region in the humid southern flank of the Khasi hills makes it an Ornithological hotspot. Rare birds like Dark Rumped Swift, Green Cochoa, Crested Finch bill, Blue winged Laughing Thrush, Tawny breasted Wren Babbler besides Great Barbet, Blue-throated Barbet, Long-tailed Broad bill are some of the about 200 species of birds spotted here.
Though Cherrapunji is a heaven in itself, but tourist can pay a visit to many places in and around Cherrapunji, which will leave them with awe. There are a number of falls, namely, Dainthlen Falls, Nohkalikai Falls, Nohsngithiang Falls and many more. The sights at Cherrapunjee are spread out over several kilometers on the outskirts.
Noh Kalikai Falls
India’s second-highest waterfall, which plummets into a lush valley. On a clear day, the deserted floodplains of Bangladesh are visible. Not exactly known but the height of the fall is estimated to range from 1500 to 2000 ft. This fall drops at one single step and forms a pool. The natives associate a story to the naming of this fall. They say that a woman named Kalikai, who had a daughter, after the death of her first husband got married to another man, who could not tolerate the daughter of Kalikai. So one day while Kalikai was out, the man killed the daughter and cooked her flesh as a dish and served it to Kalikai when she returned home. Later when Kalikai got to know that it was her daughter’s flesh that she ate, she could not tolerate the pain and committed suicide from where the fall starts and died. So the fall has been named as Noh Kalikai Falls which means ‘fall of Kalikai’.
Dain Thlen Falls
One of the most beautiful waterfalls of the north eastern state Meghalaya, Dain Thlen Falls is a soft waterfall as it doesn't’t make any roaring noise while falling and that is the reason that it doesn't seem like falling from a great height. The quiet and pleasant surrounding of the Dain Thlen Falls is an ideal place for all those who want to be away from the hustle and bustle of city-life.
Situated at a distance of 12kms from Cherrapunji, Thangkharang Park is in the border area of India and Bangladesh and thus provide a full wide view of the Bangladesh plains. Tourists are mesmerised by the cool shades of the long trees that grow inside the park.
Also known as the ‘Giant Basket’, Khoh Ramhah is a fantastic creation of nature. ‘The Pillar Rock’ is a massive rock that naturally took the shape of a basket that the native Khasi people use. It is even more astonishing to see that the huge rock basket has been resting on a comparatively small years since so many years.
Which are flooded during the monsoon; more adventurous guides will let you strip down the wade through to the jungle on the other side.
Other local spots to visit include:
You can visit Cherrapunji any time of the year. But different seasons have different attractions for Cherrapunji.
May to October – For scenic beauty – mesmerising clouds, milky white frothing waterfalls and lush green forests – and to experience the monsoon – Romance in the Rain, Bathe in Waterfalls, Springs & Mountain Streams – Good for Photography, Angling (September – November) Study of Insects, Moths, Butterflies.
November to February – For Outdoor activities – Nature treks, Bird watching, River canyoning, Geo caching, Rock Climbing, Botanical studies, camping, adventure caving, Open air picnics, swimming in natural pools.
March – First Pre monsoon showers – to admire nature eagerly awaiting the first rains and bursting forth in exhilaration after the showers.
April – To enjoy a grandstand view of tropical thunderstorms accompanies by severe lighting and thunder as they approach the Khasi Hills from Bangladesh Plains and let loose their awesome fury- They are known as Bordoi Sila / Kal Baisakhi. Warm days precede rainfall.
Cherrapunjee continues to receive the highest recorded rainfall in the whole world despite cyclical below average rainfall in some years. The place is locally known as ‘Sohra’ which name has now been declared as the official name of the place by the state Government. The fact that Cherrapunjee / Sohra falls directly on the path of South West Monsoon and the geography of the hills about Cherrapunjee helps funnel the monsoon clouds of a wide area to a relatively small area and deflect them upwards to cooler climes contributing to heavy rainfall. The heavy rainfall area indicated by Cherrapunjee is estimated to cover 100 to 200 sq km. Compare this to the heavy rainfall zone of only 5 sq km at Mount Waialeale in Hawaii (USA), which is located in the middle of the Ocean. The aerial distance between Cherrapunjee and Mawsynram, which are situated on the two ridges running around the same valley is about 15 km.
The average annual rainfall at Cherrapunjee from 1973 – 2006 is 11931.7 mm. In 1974, it rained 24555.3 mm, highest recorded rainfall ever in any place in the world. On 16th June 1995, it rained 1563 mm in 24 hours. 98% of the rainfall at Cherrapunjee is received in just eight months from March to October. About 47% of the annual rainfall is received in just 2 months, June and July.