town of Meghalaya, India

Cherrapunji (also spelled as Cherrapunjee and Charrapunji, but almost always called Sohra by locals), is a town in East Khasi Hills district in the Indian state of Meghalaya. The town receives 11,777 mm (463.7 in) of rain per year, but that is less than half as much rain as in the days a few decades ago when it was still known as the wettest place on Earth. The winter (non-monsoon) season can be quite dry.

Understand

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View onto the Bangladesh Plains below, from Cherrapunji

History

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The original name for this town was Sohra, from the days when it was the capital of a local chieftainship. The town's name was pronounced "Churra" by the British before morphing into Cherrapunji ("punji" means "village" in the Khasi language). There is a monument to David Scott (British Administrator in NE India, 1802–31) in Cherrapunji Cemetery.

Geography

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Cherrapunji is in a dramatic location, on a plateau 600 metres above the surrounding valleys which, given the amount of rainfall, are naturally lush and full of diverse vegetation. However, the flat area at the top has a limited water supply, and looks surprisingly desolate in the dry season. Although Cherrapunji still receives a lot of rainfall, locals in some areas nevertheless have to walk for several kilometres for potable water and also face agricultural difficulties associated with topsoil erosion.

Climate

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Cherrapunji receives both the Southwest and Northeast Monsoons, which combine to form a single monsoon season locally. The months with the highest rainfall are June and July, followed by August, September and May, but effectively, April through October can be considered the monsoon season. November through February constitutes the dry season, with March a transitional month of moderate rainfall. The dry season is also the cooler season, with average low temperatures at approximately 5°C (41°F) during January, the coldest month.

For waterfalls, it's best to visit in the monsoon season, but for other attractions, such as caves, trekking and swimming holes, the dry season is normally better. The views may be better in the monsoon season too, when the clouds clear - the air during dry season is often hazy, likely because of smog coming from the plains Assam and Bangladesh.

Get in

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By plane

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Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is the nearest airport to Cherrapunji, and is accessible from Guwahati.

By car

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As of March 2023, shared Sumos are available from Anjali Stand, Barabazar in Shillong, for ₹150 per seat. Smaller cars, where you'll be slightly less squished, are ₹200 per seat if shared. In the other direction, shared sumos and taxis to Shillong are available from Sohra Market in Upper Cherrapunji for the same price. There may be some available from Saitsohpen village in Lower Cherrapunji as well, across the street and just uphill from the intersection with all the shops.

Local taxis also travel to Cherrapunji from Shillong, and give you the option of stopping at a few viewpoints and sights on the way from Shillong to Cherrapunji (Elephant Falls, Mawkdok Dympep Valley View and others), as well as visiting spots in Cherrapunji (the Mawsmai Cave, Cherrapunji Eco Park, the Nohsngithiang Falls or Seven Sister Falls).

Get around

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Cherrapunji is actually a collection of various villages more than a town, with the hilltop northern areas known as Upper Cherrapunjee (Upper Sohra) and the lower-elevation southern areas known as Lower Cherrapunjee (Lower Sohra). The main commercial center and transport hub is in Khliehshnong village of Upper Sohra, centered around Sohra Market, with a smaller hub in the Lad Thanad neighborhood of Saitsohpen village in Lower Sohra. These two areas are separated by about 4km. Both locations have a Sumo stand and local taxis.

Most of the sightseeing locations are around the edges of the plateau, in both Upper and Lower Sohra, farther from town than most people would want to walk, but local taxis will take you there for reasonable prices. You can also find accommodations closer to some of the tourist sites. Mawsmai village in particular has a bit of a "tourist town" vibe, with a few restaurants and various accommodations within easy walking distance of the Seven Sisters Falls viewpoint and Mawsmai Cave.

Talk

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The vast majority of locals here speak Khasi among themselves. Varying degrees of English and Hindi are also spoken - it's common to meet people who speak only one or the other or neither.

 
Seven Sisters Falls
  • Living Root Bridges. The Living Root Bridges created by people of Khasi tribe is one of the most amazing examples of bio engineering. Created over years by carefully guiding the roots of Ficus benghalensis these bridges can last up to 500 years. The most famous Living Root Bridges are in the village of Nongriat and Mawlynnong.
  • Mawlynnong Village - Asia's cleanest village. Must see for the amicable relationship between humans and nature and for the clean environs that's offered.
  • River Canyoning
  • Trekking, Multiple treks exist in and around Cherrapunji. One of the most popular one is to the "Double Decker Living Root" bridge in Nongriat village starting from Tyrna. Stairs are constructed from the beginning of the trek to Nongriat village, and the trek takes about 2 hours each way.
  • Swimming - several treks into the surrounding valleys take you to beautiful blue-water swimming holes in the dry season, or you can take a day drive down the mountain to Wahrew Bridge, on a clear-water river near the Bangladesh border.
  • Waterfalls: There are several, including the multi-stream Seven Sister Falls (dry in the winter) and the spectacularly long-drop Nohkalikai Falls (thins out in the winter, but usually still has some water)
  • Caves: There are at least two different caves with easy casual tourist access, and others that can be visited on guided tours.
  • 1 Mawsmai Cave. An exciting and beautiful for adventure seekers. Most tourists explores the caves bare foot as the floor is damp. Some passageways are narrow and steep so a minimum level of fitness is required to view the cave in its entirety.

There are a handful of restaurants in near the commercial centers of both the Upper and Lower areas, and at hotel resorts farther afield. You can also try the local Khasi "tea stalls" (small indoor eateries where you choose what you want on your rice; generally non-veg). These are much more casual than proper restaurants and about half the price, but may not speak English or have the kind of customer service you're used to.

  • 1 Avron Restaurant, Sohra-Shella Rd (Opposite Metrological Office), +91 87947 13223. Good vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Diverse range of India, Chinese and international.

Drink

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Bars are available in some of Cherrapunji's hotels.

Sleep

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There are homestays/guesthouses everywhere, as well as a few actual hotels in town and several in more remote locations. "Guesthouses" here often are small operations with no reception desk, so make you'll have to contact them in advance.

  • Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort, Village Laitkynsew, Cherrapunjee Pincode, +91 94361 15925, +91 96153 38500, +91 98630 79856. ₹3000.
  • Nongriat Guest house, Nongriat (In front of Double Decker Root bridge.), +91 8575913994 (Mary). The guesthouse is very basic but reasonably priced. Recommended for people who can tolerate little discomfort to enjoy pleasures like taking bath in natural swimming pool and spot beautiful butterflies. ₹400 for two people.
  • 1 Saimika Park, Wahshari, Khliehshnong (3 km before reaching the marketplace, there is a diversion to the right. Drive for 500 m to reach saimika park), +91-98-62-22-1718. Saimika Park is a 65-acre plot of land with a restaurant, 7 guest rooms, two of which are made in traditional design using locally available construction material,a dormitory is available for backpackers. A conference hall is also available. Some of the amenities include a plunging pool, a basketball court,tennis court, fishing pond and trekking guides to take you to visit community forests. There are also indoor board games available. From ₹2,800.
  • By the way, Sohra-Shella Rd, Lower Cherrapunjee (near Indian oil), +91 98566 30274. Great place for backpackers. Both rooms and shared bathroom (hot water) are well maintained and clean. The owner is very knowledgeable local who knows the area well. Do not bother trying to make reservation, just show up and he will find you a spot. As of March 2023 they no longer have hostel dorms, but there are probably a couple of rooms to rent.
  • Polo Orchid Resort, +91 8794 701 636, . Rooms with elegant decor and a magnificent view of Nohsngithiang Falls. A jacuzzi and spacious balcony facilities are also provided. On-site, there is an open-air grill restaurant, the Sky Grill, and a multi-cuisine restaurant called Sohra House Bar and Bistro

Respect

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Though the tourism industry calls this area "Cherrapunji", locals overwhelmingly call it "Sohra", and most will appreciate it if you know and use this second name, which they generally consider to be more correct.

"Thank you" in the local Khasi language is "khublei".

Go next

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This city travel guide to Cherrapunji is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.