Living Root Bridges
Probably the most spectacular natural wonder in Cherrapunji is the hundreds of years-old living root bridges, where the architectural and natural prowess is evident. There are single and double-decker living root bridges that have survived the wear and tear of time, and the most appealing feature of them is their unique formation process. The roots of Ficus Elastica rubber trees (native to the region) are intermingled and further bonded to the trunk of hollow betel nut plants to grow in the same direction, which is over the stream. Once the roots reach the other end of the riverbank, they are firmly established into soil, and stones and pebbles are used to stabilise the bridge. It takes about 15-20 years to become stronger, and can carry up to 50 people at a time.
The must-visits include Umshiang Double-Decker Bridge (Nongriat Village), which is a 180-year-old and 20-meters long bridge; Ritymmen Double-Decker Bridge (Nongthymmai Village), which is the longest of all, extending 30 meters in length; and the Ummunoi Bridge (Nongkroh Village), which is a single root bridge and 17 meters in length. These bridges are accessible by trekking, which varies in difficulty level and duration.
Another gorgeous natural spectacle of Cherrapunji are its wide array of picturesque waterfalls. One of the most impressive waterfalls is the Nohkalikai Falls, which is perhaps the tallest plunge waterfall in India. The water plunges 340 meters (1,115.9 feet) down, thus forming a waterhole beneath, which is azure in winter and turns a green tone during the summer. As the water hits the surface, it forms a mist down below, and it’s easily a postcard-worthy image. After being mesmerised by the stunning waterfall, you can explore the surrounding locales, which are just as beautiful.
Another beautiful natural sight is the Seven Sister Waterfalls, also known as the Nohsngithiang Falls or Mawsmai Falls. The water gushes down from an altitude of 315 meters into seven segments. It looks gorgeous during sundown, when the setting sun rays illuminate the waterfall with oranges and reds – a sight to behold.
Another spectacular waterfall in the area is the Dainthlen waterfall, which has a cave behind the flowing water. Legend has it that an evil snake was killed here and there are carvings on the cave that depict the entire episode, thus attracting visitors from far and wide.
Dainthlen waterfall, Nohkalikai Rd, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India, +91 84140 86411
Located about seven miles from Cherrapunji lies the scenic Kynrem Falls, which drop from a prodigious height of 305 meters into three cascades – its scale and magnificence leaves visitors awestruck.
Cherrapunji is not only famous for its living root bridges and waterfalls, it is also home to some of the largest and deepest caves in the country. Some of the most spectacular ones include Mawsmai Cave, the Arwah Lumshynna Cave, and the Krem Mawmluh.
The Mawsmai Cave is very long however, the length of nearly 150 meters is only open for tourists to explore. Plus, it’s the only cave in the region that is well-lit. It’s particularly appealing feature is the impressive chambers and passages, replete with beautiful stalagmite and stalactite formations of different sizes and shapes that hang down from the cave wall. The entrance to the cave is huge, but as you explore its intriguing labyrinths, the path gets narrow on the lead up.
Mawsmai Cave, Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 7:00am-5:30pm
The Arwah Lumshynna Cave is often overlooked as it sits at a higher altitude, but is a must for the bucket list. The entrance to the cave is wide, but as you proceed deeper, it gets narrow, tight and dark – you might well have to crawl your way out. The cave is adorned with fossils in the shapes of birds, butterflies and marine creatures etched on the rock. Its most impressive feature, besides the fossils, is that a cold water stream runs through the cavern creating a mysterious wonderland, waiting to be discovered. The path leading to the cave is equally impressive that involves crossing a scenic wooden bridge leading to the entrance of the cave. When visiting, a torch is essential to navigate. We suggest taking a guided tour. The guide will take you through the narrow and dank passageways and bizarre limestone and fossil formations along the way.
Arwah Lumshynna Cave, Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 9:00am-4:00pm
Thrilling and enigmatic, the Krem Mawmluh Cave is located less than a mile from Cherrapunji, and is India’s fourth longest cave. Set at a height of three meters above the sea level, this cave is not for the faint of heart. To enter, you need to wade your way through the water, which turns into a black quicksand during dry season. However, those less adventurous can enter through a high level bypass adjacent to the main passageway. The major drawcard is the pool within the cave, which is formed by five different rivers running through it. It’s best to visit the cave in a group and with torchlight, as there are some parts that are complex.