Nestled in the heart of the state of Meghalaya, Cherrapunji is a town that has gained popularity as one of the wettest areas on the entire planet! In fact, it held the place of the wettest place in the world for a while, before being beaten by a neighbor that goes by the name of Mawsynram. While it no longer ranks first on that list, Cherrapunji is still just as gorgeous as it was. With the plains in Bangladesh serving as a backdrop to most of your stay in Cherrapunji, not a single moment is dull.
However, rain and green cover aren’t the only things famous in this town. The bamboo and cane artifacts sold in this area are famous throughout the world. Moreover, the cuisine in this area is a culmination of Punjabi, Bengali, and Chinese cuisine, the result of which is something you cannot miss. There is a lot more than this town offers in terms of things to do and see. Find out all about it all in this Cherrapunji travel guide!
Also Read: Kolkata Travel Guide
The first mention of this area and its people can be traced back to the 16th century, when the Khasi people lived in different tribes and kingdoms, with ‘Syiems’ looking after the kingdom. Up until the 18th century, the Khasis, along with their neighbors Ahoms and Kacharis, lived a rather secluded life in the area.
In the early 19th century, the British Raj intended to build a road through this area to connect Assam to Bangladesh. In order to go through with the idea, they first struck a treaty with the system of the Khasi Principality in 1827. However, this was opposed by quite a few locals who protested the work of the British. This resulted in a militaristic take over of the political and administrational powers, which the British held until the freedom struggle ended.
In 1947, when India was liberated, the rulers in the area decided to accede to the newly independent country. The first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, then developed a policy that helped the tribal people to preserve their culture and way of life. This continues even today - around a decade ago, the name of this town was changed to Sohra, which was its original name before the British came along.
If you want to see some evidence of the past of this town, you can find some in the Cherrapunji Cemetery. In it, you will find a monument dedicated to David Scott, the British administrator appointed to overlook Northeast India between the years 1802-1831.
If you’re wondering about the culture that is followed in this part of the state, the Khasi people have done a great job of preserving it. The Khasis are an ethnic group that makes up a large chunk of the population in Meghalaya. They are one of the few communities that still speak Austroasiatic languages (a family of languages spread across Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Southern China).
One of the most interesting things about this community is that they follow a matrilineal system. In this system, the child takes the mother’s last name and the husband of the youngest daughter comes to live with his wife’s family, instead of it being the other way around. In fact, the transfer of inheritance also goes down the matriline.
Cherrapunji, or Sohra, is also famous for its living bridges. The people of the place have developed techniques of growing roots of trees into large bridges. This process has taken more than hundreds of years and it generally takes about 10-15 years to make one complete bridge. The oldest one that is currently in use is more than 500 years old.
Lastly, the locals are a very happy people and will be amazing hosts to every traveler that comes to the town. Moreover, there are a lot of mythical and historical stories in this town that are best heard from the locals who grew up listening to them. To get an insight into their culture, make sure to strike up a conversation with a local over multiple meals, if possible.
Once you get to the state of Meghalaya, the only way to enter Cherrapunji is by road. You can choose to drive yourself. However, the quality of roads goes up and down with the roads themselves. You also have a lot of buses coming to this city from Guwahati, which is 180 kms away, and Shillong, which is 55 kms away. In fact, if you manage to get on a bus run by the Meghalaya government’s tourism department, you can make this commute for a fairly cheap price.
That being said, you also have plenty of options with cabs. You can find some once you get off in said cities, or book one to have it waiting for you. Although more expensive than any bus available, this is the most comfortable mode of transport to get to Cherrapunjee.
The closest railway station to the city of Cherrapunjee is in Guwahati. It is about 180 km away from the city. However, Guwahati is very well connected to the rest of the country by rail. So, regardless of what part of the country you start from, getting down at Guwahati is going to be the easiest option for you.
There are two airports close to Cherrapunjee. Of course, one is in Guwahati, about 181 kms away. However, the other one is much closer - Shillong Airport is only 50 kms away from Cherrapunjee and has a good frequency of domestic flights.
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On most of our travel guides, you’ll see that the best time to visit any place is decided on the basis of seasons. However, Cherrapunjee is famous for having only one season: monsoon. The amount of rain does vary throughout the year but you won’t find a single month without rain in this part of the country.
That being said, the city sees the least amount of rainfall between December and January. If you want to avoid the rain as much as possible, this is the window you’re looking for. On the other hand, maximum rainfall in Cherrapunji happens in the month of July, where you may get to witness rains getting up to 121 inches. However, it mostly rains at night. So, while the roads are wet, your day-to-day exploration isn’t disturbed a lot.
Getting around the city of Cherrapunji is fairly easy. You have a network of government-run buses going through the city as well as to all the tourist attractions near it. Moreover, you can easily find an unmetered black-and-yellow cab going around. You can also ask the hotel you’re staying at to arrange a chauffeur-driven rental for you. They will arrange a taxi or a Tata Sumo to take you wherever you’d want to go.
Speaking of Tata Sumos, you can find one at a ‘Sumo-Stand’, which is like a taxi stand but only has rental Tata Sumos. However, if you get into one at a stand, you’ll have to share it with other passengers. It is a little more expensive than a bus but much faster.
Seven Sisters Waterfall, also known as Mawsmai Falls or Nohsngithiang Falls, is a waterfall that is segmented into seven streams that jump about 1,350 feet to the jungles below. This waterfall is located about one kilometer away from Mawsmai Village in East Khasi Hills District.
These falls flow over the limestone walls of the Khasi Hills. However, you can only see them in all their glory during the monsoons. If you manage to catch a glimpse of this waterfall in full force, make sure you stay there until the sun sets, so that you can see the many shades of yellow-gold the whole area is painted by the sun rays hitting the falling water.
This might be one of the most interesting tourist attractions in the world. Created by a tribe in the Eastern Khasi Hills, these living root bridges are exactly what they sound like. However, they are a tiny trek away from the city of Cherrapunji, in a village called Nongriat.
In order to get here, you need to first reach a village called Tyrna. Thankfully, it is only a 30-ish minutes away from Cherrapunji. From Tyrna, you’ll have to walk about 3,000 steps through the forest to Nongriat.
While walking through the forest, you might get used to all the trees and wildlife around you. However, once you get where these bridges are, you’ll take some time to get used to what you’re looking at. Built over 10-15 years, these bridges keep on growing even after and fully support a tree as well! Moreover, these bridges become strong enough to take the load of almost 40 people at once. So, even though it takes a little bit of a drive and a walk away from Cherrapunji, it is totally worth visiting.
Located about 45 kms away from Tura in West Garo Hills, Norek National Park is an experience that you cannot afford to miss. This national park is listed as UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve and is home to a lot of unique flora and fauna. In fact, it is also home to the last remaining red pandas.
Some of the animals you can expect to see here are the fishing-cat, clouded leopard, capped langur, pangolin, Asian elephant, python, wild buffalo, serow, and tiger. There are also birds like peacocks, hornbills, hollocks, pheasants, and many more.
While there is enough beauty for you to spend a lifetime swooning over, you need to realize that there are some very strict rules to exploring this national park. Make sure you ask the authorities about places you’re allowed to visit and which ones are off-limits.
Beyond the flora and fauna, you have a lot of beautiful places to explore in Norek National Park. While there are enough places to become an article of their own, places like the Nokrek Peak, Ronbang Dare Waterfalls, and Norbugang Park take the cake. If you’re around Cherrapunji, take a day or two and experience the Nokrek National Park as much as you can.
Dainthlen Falls are one of the most popular waterfalls near Cherrapunji. The waterfall flows through the hard rocks of Sohra to plunge about 80 meters to the bottom of the mountain. From either side of the waterfall, you have railings to keep you safe as you see the serenity and strength of the water.
Once you start exploring the area around the falls, you’ll fall in love with the amount of life that comes around to enjoy the falls. You have everything from wild animals to cows and crows hanging by the water.
The best part is, Dainthlen Falls is only a short detour right before you enter Cherrapunji. However, we suggest you get to the city, talk to a few locals, and then visit the falls because they have great stories around this place. In fact, Dainthlen Falls has a fair amount of mythology itself. It is said that a giant serpent called Thlen, who was the embodiment of evil, was beaten in battle by the people of an ancient village, which now happens to be called Sohra.
Krem Phyllut is a cave system located near Mawmluh. It is amongst the most famous places to visit in Cherrapunji. Situated at a height of 4,503 meters and about 7 kms long, Krem Phyllut is considered to be the fourth-longest cave in the Indian subcontinent.
The entrance to this cave is located behind the Cement Works in Mawmluh. You can follow the river downstream to take you towards the entrance. After a while, the river disappears, but you’re in the company of a gorgeous forest. Walking for another 30 minutes takes you to the entrance of the cave.
You might have to squeeze through the rocks at the entrance. However, once inside, you’re welcomed by a myriad of passages, massive caverns, waist-deep pools, and various kinds of calcite formations. You might have to climb at a few sections and belly crawl on a few others. One thing to note is that due to its geographical location, the climate inside the cave might make you feel dizzy. So, if you’ve got any sort of respiratory disorders, be extra wary of how deep you’re going, or whether you want to go in at all.
What Is Cherrapunji Known For?
First and foremost, Cherrapunji is known for the amount of rain it receives. It has one of the highest average annual precipitation levels in the world. In fact, it rains about 450 inches annually on average! Of course, there are many beautiful natural attractions in the area as well and you should definitely experience them, namely the living bridges!
Does It Rain Everyday In Cherrapunji?
Yes. Cherrapunji receives rain every day. However, the amount of rain does go up and down through the year, with December and January receiving the least amount of rainfall and July receiving the most.
Is Cherrapunji Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Cherrapunji is a haven for adventure junkies and nature lovers. If you love rain, this place is even better for you. It rains throughout the year and the climate it creates is beautiful. Moreover, the culture in this area is very rich and you can see a few of the festivals if you visit the place at the correct time.
What Should I Buy In Cherrapunji?
If you’re in Cherrapunji, you have a bunch of souvenirs to take home. The handicrafts made from cane and bamboo are the best known. You can find stalls lining the streets of this city. Also, you have to check out the orange flower honey in this area.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Cherrapunji?
Being a place that receives rainfall over the year, Cherrapunji offers a cool and pleasant climate all around the year. But, during the monsoon season, it receives excess rainfall, and sightseeing during the time would be difficult. So, it's best to visit Cherrapunji between October and March when the temperature is 5 to 15°C or between March to May when it is 15-23°C.
Which Is Better Cherrapunji Or Shillong?
Both Cherrapunji and Shillong come with their own essence. While Shillong along with its natural wonders comes with lively markets and cafes, Cherrapunji has a plethora of waterfalls, flora and fauna, and an all-time pleasant climate to boast about.
How Far Is Cherrapunji From Shillong?
If you're considering taking the airway, then Shillong would be 38 km away. In the case of the road, it will take you about 1 and half hours to cover the distance of 54 km.
What Is Special In Cherrapunji?
One of the special things about Cherrapunji is its living root bridges. Built with the help of roots of trees, these bridges are nature's wonders and can bear the weight of about 50 people at a time. It truly is a fascinating sight to see.