Places To Visit In Cherrapunji
Cherrapunji nestles in the East Khasi Hills, high above misty valleys and foaming rivers, ensconced in swirling clouds and perched on an escarpment at a distance of about 56 km from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. Better known as the ‘Jewel Crest of Meghalaya’, this stunning location has been known as a place in Meghalaya, India for receiving the highest rainfall each year. Earlier the first, but now it is the second wettest place on earth after Mawsynram, also in the same state and the place where the rainfall can be recorded in feet rather than in millimeters. Though climatic changes have edged Cherrapunji out of the topmost ‘wet’ slot, it still retains its pristine beauty, its unusual facets, the perpetual clouds, and the perpetual mist!
Cherrapunji holds two Guinness World Records; for receiving the maximum amount of rainfall in a single year between August 1860 and July 1861 and for receiving the maximum amount of rainfall in a single month in July 1861. The original name for this town was Sohra (so-har-a), which was pronounced “Churra” by the British. This name eventually evolved into the current name, Cherrapunji, meaning ‘land of oranges’, which was first used by tourists from other parts of India.
Valleys around Cherrapunji, are covered with lush and very diverse vegetation, containing numerous endemic species of plants, including Meghalaya subtropical forests. Although there is heavy rainfall in Cherrapunji, there is a high scarcity of clean water. Despite abundant rainfall, Cherrapunji faces an acute water shortage and the inhabitants often have to trek very long distances to obtain potable water.
Climate in Cherrapunji
Cherrapunji is perhaps the only place in India, which has just one season: the monsoon. The rainfall varies from heavy to medium to light, but there is no month without rain and therefore this is known as one of the best monsoon destinations. Another surprising fact about Cherrapunji is that it rains mostly at night. Day-to-day activity is not really disrupted by the rain. Cherrapunjee can be visited in summer, monsoon or winter.
How To Reach Cherrapunji
Cherrapunji is 58 km from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. A steep motorable road, almost perpetually bathed in mist as it climbs upwards on the last lap, leads up to Cherrapunji. Buses and taxis ply to Cherrapunji from Shillong.
Tourist Attractions in Cherrapunji
Though this place is quiet unknown from the travel point of view, Cherrapunji is a great place to visit. A tourist has many waterfalls, limestone caves and breathtaking scenic locales to enjoy. It is also famous for its living bridges. Over hundreds of years the people in Cherrapunji have developed techniques for growing roots of trees into large bridges. The process takes 10–15 years and the bridges typically last hundreds of years, the oldest ones in use being over 500 years old.
Listed below are few of the attractions worth visiting in and around Cherrapunji :
Double Decker Living Foot Bridge
This root bridge is located in Tyrna village. Made using Indian Rubber Tree, also known as Ficus Elastica, this bridge is one of the popular attractions of the place. It is considered as a unique and innovative mix of nature and engineering. The two–tier bridge is more than 100 ft long, which has a carrying capacity of around 50 people at a time. With the Umshiang River flowing beneath the living root bridges, it has been estimated that these are around 500 to 600 years old.
Falling from a height of 1,100 ft., Nohkalikai Waterfalls, located at a distance of 5 km from Cherrapunjee, is one of the highest waterfalls in India. Tucked in between the evergreen rainforest of the Khasi Hill and flowing with all its majesty and might, the falls plunges into a lagoon which is as blue as the afternoon sky. The ideal time to visit Nohkalikai is during the monsoon season when the falls are at its most spectacular. A viewing gallery allows the visitor to take in the scene,which is often, at the mercy of the mist that sweeps in frequently. A flight of stairs also takes tourists down to more viewing points. For those who are adventurous, a trek from the iconic double root bridge also leads to the base of Nohkalikai, followed by the climb back up the stairs to the viewing gallery.
Krem Mawsmai Cave
Considered to be the most popular of all the caves in the region, Mawsmai Cave is a beautiful sight to behold. Located just 6 km away from the heart of Cherrapunji, Mawsmai cave is a breathtaking maze of caves in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. The well-lit caves are beautiful when the glistening lights meet with the limestone to create countless hues and patterns of light. There is plenty of flora and fauna within the cave to catch one ‘s attention. The length of the cave is just 150 meters which is not the longest compared to the other caves in the region but it surely provides one a glimpse of life in the underground.
Located in the East Khasi district, this village has won the title of Asia’s cleanest village in 2003 and India’s cleanest village in 2005. This village is also referred to as God’s own garden. It is very pretty, especially during the monsoons when there is lush greenery all around. The waterfalls along with abundant flowers in the area adds to the natural beauty. The secret of this village to be so clean is that every local here is responsible to keep the place clean. This village also offeres breathtaking view of the fields of Bangladesh as the border is very nearby. This place is 92 km from Cherrapunji and 90 km from Shillong.
Eco Park, a great attraction for locals as well as tourists, has been created in the plateaus by the Meghalaya government. The Shillong Agri-Hoticulture has given this park many beautiful orchids which can be admired by the tourists and are housed in the Eco park’s green house. In addition, they can also enjoy views of the massive and beautiful Sylhet Plains of Bangladesh.
Nohsngithiang Falls, Cherrapunjee is an attractive sight. Also known as the Seven Sister waterfall, seven streams combine to create this enormous force. As it is located very close to Mawsmai Village, it is also known as the Mawsmai Waterfalls. The 1035 feet fall makes it the fourth highest waterfall in India. When the sunlight strikes the water, a prismatic effect happens. Waters seems to glow. The south westerly location of the waterfall is a delight as the sun illuminates the beauty from sunrise to sunset. A rainbow is a frequent sight and the lucky ones may be blessed with the benevolence of nature.
Nokrek National Park
Listed as UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, the national park in Meghalaya, located nearly 45 km from Tura, has some strict rules for exploring. Few of the last remaining red pandas call it their home. From wild elephants to beautiful orchids, this park has it all. The Leopard cat and Hallock too can be spotted in this park. Meghalaya being the wettest place on Earth enjoys a climate perfect for wilderness and their inhabitants. Nokrek National Park, Cherrapunjee is a haven of bio diversity. Varieties of species survive easily and the region and the national park is a thriving sanctuary for the wild population. The ideal weather conditions and lush vegetation of North East let the species of wildlife, flora and fauna survive.
PICTURE CREDIT : commons.wikimedia.org (Native Planet)