Shillong the Scotland of East is a famous hilltown in the state of Meghalaya. The city is also the state capital. With its ardent beauty, the city lures tourists from all over the world to pay it a visit and rest in the lap of mother nature. Shillong is situated at the state’s highest elevation and is abided by the clouds throughout the year. However, being the most important city and the capital of the state, Shillong is a bit touristy and is always under the black cloud of pollution and chaos.
City dwellers may not wish to spend their own sweet time under such chaos as their life is previously full of it. For you guys here’s an idea of some offbeat destinations near Shillong that are worth paying a visit and will leave your jaws opened. So come let’s take a look through some of the offbeat destinations of Shillong that will mesmerise you through its bewildering nature and beauty.
The Offbeat Destinations
Mawphlang an offbeat Khasi village is located 25kms away from the main city of Shillong. The word Maw connotes Stone and together Mawphlang connotes grassy stones. Mawphlang is a heritage village and plots one of the Khasi sacred groves. The village is considered to be the hub of the Khasi tradition and culture.
Though there is nothing much to do in the village except a pleasing hike through the Mawphlang Sacred Forest and the well known David Scott Trail (will detail it later), the village itself is picturesque. From a distance, it seems that a green carpet has been rested evenly over the meadows. Being free of pollution and population one can experience a glorious sunrise and sublime sunset from the village. It is the perfect place for photographers to try out their photographic skills. During the evening one can spend their own sweet time over a cup of tea under the shelter of stars and moonlight.
Now let’s gain some idea about the Sacred Forest hike and David Scott trail.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest:
There are many sacred forests located throughout the Khasi and Jaintia hills. Mawphlang Sacred Forest is the most famous one amongst them. It lures a huge number of tourists because of its age-old legends. The tribal people of the region believe that their local deity, Labasa, resides in this forest. Thus there is a strict rule that none is allowed to take a single thing out of this forest and not abiding by it may even lead to death.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest covers nearly 192 acres and is preserved by the locals for more than 1000 years as according to them their local deity resides here. According to their belief Labasa, their local deity protects their community and the forest from any kind of mishaps. According to their say, the local deity roams around in the form of a tiger or leopard and keeps a watch on them. To please their deity the locals still now sacrifice animals in the stone temples that are placed within the forest.
Some meters of grassland needs to be walked through before you can enter the forest. The entry to the forest is marked by some monoliths where one needs to seek blessings before entering the forest. Once you enter the forest you can find gigantic green trees that form like a shade throughout the forest area. Some of these trees are believed to be more than 1000 years old. Even according to the locals some of the trees inside the forest possess medical resources and even the rarest of rare diseases can be cured with the usage of it. According to the locals, there are multiple monoliths placed inside the forest, which are the place for sacrificing the animals.
One needs to hire a guide to enter the forest. There is an option for half trail or full trail which one can select according to their wish. However, almost everything is covered within the half trail and thus one can opt for a full trail only if they want to take a round tour throughout the forest. The walk through the forest is quite pleasurable because of its nature. The forest is open every day from 9:00 AM TO 4:30 PM and the guide charge for the half trail is Rs 300 and in addition to that, you need to pay another Rs 100 for the maintenance of the forest which accordingly is a good cause.
David Scott Trail:
David Scott Trail is one of the ancient and most well-known trails of Meghalaya. The trail starts at Mawphlang and ends at Lad Mawphlang. The trail has been named after a British officer, David Scott. The trail route was unearthed in the first half of 1800 by the officer. The actual distance of this route is near about 100kms and has been a mule route from Assam to Bangladesh which could be covered in 5 days. Presently, the route between Mawphlang and Lad Mawphlang is followed as a trek route of this famous David Scott Trail.
David Scott Trail covers the ravishing terrain of the East Khasi Hills. The trail is 16km long and can be completed within 4 hours. While covering up this trail one can see many wonders of nature, like scenic valleys, crystal clear streams, cascading waterfalls, beautiful wide stretched meadows and typical Khasi Villages.
The trek route is situated at an elevation of 4, 890ft and is of easy to a moderate gradient. The first one hour of the route needs to be gradually descended proceeding which there is a flat walk for 2hours and then finally a gradual ascent for 1 hour. The best time to take this trek is during the driest months of October and November. One must hire a guide for the trail as there are various diversions at unexpected places.
Mawlyngbna is one of the hidden gems of Shillong city. It is located at a 20kms distance from Mawsynram, the current wettest place in the World. From Shillong, it is just a mere 2 hours drive to Mawlynbana. The most suitable time to visit Mawlyngbna is during the months of November to April. The place is worth visiting for its historical value and adventurous activities.
The village of Mawlyngbna is nuzzled up above the Bangladesh Plains and is bounded by lush green hills. Mawlyngbna is well known for the perseverance of its animal fossils which dates back to 200 million years ago. Apart from the animal fossils, the village holds rushing streams, hot water springs, enticing waterfalls and caves. In addition, this offbeat destination of Shillong also offers some adventurous activities like zip-lining, hiking and kayaking.
Let’s take a glance through some of the places that are worth paying a visit at this offbeat destination.
Mawjymbuin cave is located at Mawsynram. Though it’s a cave but it seems more like a temple. The cave holds a natural rock which is in the form of Shiva Linga. Another naturally formed pointed rock above the Shiva Linga rock from which water constantly drops on the linga. This rock formation resembles the same as the famous Amarnath except that this is only formed of rock and not ice.
There is a story associated with this place. Long years back milk used to drop on the Linga from the pointed rock above it. One day some British people tried to find out the source of the milk and formed a hole for the same. From that time onwards water started to drop instead of milk. Also in addition to this story, one can hear the sound of a waterfall throughout the cave but none to date have found the source of it.
Umkhakoi is a beautiful reservoir cum lake formed by creating a dam. The natural potholes with water within them are something worth striking. This is the place where one can relish the thrilling adventurous water activities like Kayaking and Ziplining.
Split rock is just a few km ahead of Umkhakoi. One needs to make a small hike to reach the top of the split rock. This huge rock is naturally formed and split from the middle. If one wishes then they can go down till the base of the rocks and visit the cave beneath it.
Pitcher Plant Park:
Most of you must know about the Pitcher Plant that catches insects and feeds on its own. It is one of the rare plant species. Mawlynbna holds a small park of this plant known as Pitcher Plant Park. One must visit the place which is worth paying a visit. As a topup you can also taste the nectar of this plant in this park.
Iew Luri Lura:
Iew Luri Lura is a famous trek in Mawlyngbna. The trek takes around 3 hours which starts through a canopy walk from Mawlyngbna Travellers Nest (the only option to stay at Mawlyngbna) and ends at the Pitcher Plant Park via Umdingkain Waterfall. This trek is famous as it gives an option to view the 200 million years old animal footprints that are preserved as fossils. It is believed to be the animal marketplace since the time the animals evolved. Apart from the famous animal footprint fossils, one can find other different types of fossils too.
The trek through the green grasslands and massive plateaus with open blue sky above is worth your effort. However one must be careful of the slippery paths and the waterfall edges. However, if one cant effort up for the trek then they can make a small hike of about 30 minutes and pay a visit to the Umdingkain waterfall from the Pitcher Plant Park end. Even in this small hike, it is recommended not to take any elderly or too young people as roads are missing and one needs to climb down big boulders even in this part of the hike.
Mawphanlur is a tiny Himalayan hamlet placed upon the lush green hills of Meghalaya. It is about 70kms from the main town of Shillong via Markasa. However, from Markasa one needs to travel uphill by a jeep or land rover (arranged by the homestay owners) as the condition of the road is at its worst. But as we all know to get something good we have to sacrifice something otherwise you won’t feel that happiness within yourself.
Bounded by green hillocks and quaint lakes the place offers a breathtaking view of mother nature. Once you reach this offbeat destination of Shillong it will make you feel like landing upon a paradise. Though there is nothing much to do in this place you can just relax your day by enjoying nature and by adorning the natural green-carpeted valley over a cup of tea. Truly speaking words can’t elucidate the beauty of this little hamlet.
However, if one doesn’t want to spend the whole day idly (though that would be the best thing to do over here) then they can take up the option of boating and kayaking in the nearby lakes. Even one can make a small uphill hike of an hour to Mawthadraishan Park which offers an enticing view of the valley downward. You can also take a stroll around the village paths and relish the charm of it.
How To Plan:
If escaping the chaos of a town or city is the main preference for you then the above mentioned offbeat destinations of Shillong is exactly what you are looking for. These destinations are well connected by road from the main city of Shillong and thus apportioning your weekend here will be a considerable one.
These destinations being in closer proximity to Shillong, you can either plan for a weekend trip or include these destinations while making your way into Shillong as a part of your Meghalaya trip. Shillong is well connected with Guwahati by various regular Shared Cabs, Private Cabs and Buses. You may also choose to fly directly to Shillong, however considering the high altitude, most of the time the flights are delayed or cancelled at the last moment causing pain in your veins.
Depending on your availability and the number of days you can afford you can either plan for any of these destinations or all of them together.
If you are planning to pay a visit to these destinations as a part of your Meghalaya Trip then, while making your way into Shillong, you may choose to proceed further to Mawphlang on Day 1 instead of Shillong which is just 25Kms from Shillong, for the night. Take this opportunity to get indulged in the local culture and tradition of this Khasi Heritage Village and enjoy some Khasi delicacies. On the same day, you can go on the trail to the Sacred Forest. Ill-fatedly if you don’t have many days to proceed to the next offbeat destinations of Shillong then you can opt for the David Scott Trail on the same day and finally proceed towards Cherrapunji or Shillong as per your plan.
Next day i.e. on Day 2, start early in the morning and proceed to Mawlyngbna which is a mere 50Kms from Mawphlang and on your way explore Mawsynram – the wettest place on earth and various other points such as Mawjymbuin Cave, Welloi on your way indulging into various local Khasi stories. However, according to the credence of the local people, you should not consume anything at Welloi otherwise you may need to repay it even by the cost of your own life. After reaching Mawlyngbna take your own sweet time to settle down and then move ahead to explore and experience the adventures such as Forest Trail, Kayaking at Umkhakoi Reservoir, Pitcher Plant Park, Iew Luri Lura, Umdingkain Waterfall, Mih-Um-Spring etc. In the evening, make your way to the Lawbah market to explore the local delicacies.
Next morning i.e. on Day 3 begin your day early, as you need to travel almost 105Kms to reach Mawphanlur. You have to drive your way back to Welloi and take the diversion towards Markasa. On your way take the right turn at Mawkyrwat-Shillong junction to experience the Jakrem Hot Water Spring. Once you reach Markasa, you need to park your vehicle there as it can’t make it further to Mawphanlur due to adverse road conditions. Your homestay would arrange a 4 wheel drive for you to proceed beyond Markasa to Mawphanlur.
Once you reach your homestay, take your time to settle down and get glued to the beautiful green carpeted meadows around. There’s no traditional sightseeing point as such, however, the main attraction of Mawphanlur is to go for a village walk and experience the local culture and traditions. You may choose to do Kayaking at the high hill lakes of Mawphanlur.
On Day 4, start early from Mawphanlur and proceed to Shillong or Cherrapunji (Sohra) as per your plan. If you wish to proceed to Cherrapunji (Sohra) and experience the David Scott Trail as well, this is your best chance to do so as Lad Mawphlang which is the end of the David Scott Trail is very close to Cherrapunji. However, even if you are not proceeding to Sohra (Cherrapunji) and leaving for Shillong still you can opt for the David Scott Trail. In both, cases, start early from Mawphanlur, drive back to Mawphlang to the starting point of David Scott Trail. Ask your driver to wait at Lad Mawphlang to pick you up while you make your way through the David Scott Trail. At the end of the trail, you can relax and relish yourself through the beauty of Mawkdok Dympep Valley for some moment and finally proceed towards your planned shelter for the night be it at Cherrapunji or Shillong.