Chasing the gorgeous waterfalls in Meghalaya

posted in: Asia, India, Meghalaya, Nature | 71

One of the most obvious things to do in the Abode of Clouds is to chase waterfalls. I say “obvious” as waterfalls in Meghalaya are ubiquitous. Whether you are in the capital city Shillong, or on a highway to some other place like Sohra or Mawlynnong, you are bound to find plenty of cascades lining your path. It seems a little exotic to us, city folks but for the locals, it is pretty much a part of their home landscape.

Welcome back Lata. And rightly said - One gesture, one person at a time!
Chasing Waterfalls in Meghalaya`

The waterfalls in Meghalaya are largely rain-fed and one can see them in their full glory during Monsoons. I was lucky to find them brimming in their pre-monsoon months – April to be precise for it had been raining for over two weeks when I visited these waterfalls. When I did my trip planning, I was stumped with the multitude waterfall options that I had. Chasing all of them seemed impossible during a single trip. That is when Rajiv from North East Explorers came to my rescue and helped picked some of the best waterfalls in Meghalaya for me to chase. The best part about this whole chase – it wasn’t just the scenic beauty of these cascades that intrigued me, but the stories that went with them!

Elephant Falls – 1st of the waterfalls in Meghalaya

Step one of the Elephant Waterfalls in Shillong
Step one of the Elephant Waterfalls in Shillong

Chasing the waterfalls in Meghalaya started with the Elephant falls in Shillong. Located on the outskirts of the city, these waterfalls were one of the few that I was pretty sure I wanted to see. This three-stepped waterfall is considered to be one of the must-do things in Shillong. On reaching here, we were greeted by a picture of our Prime Minister Modi, posing at the bottom-most step of this waterfall. Naturally, this went on the “happening” list of places in my daughter’s diary!

Story behind the Elephant Falls

Level one and two of the Elephant falls in Shillong
Level one and two of the Elephant falls in Shillong

With a name like Elephant falls, one would expect the shape of the waterfall to resemble the animal. Interestingly, that is not the case. The original name of this waterfall is Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew – which essentially, means “3-steps waterfall”. However, the British found it quite complicated and decided to call it Elephant falls after they discovered a rocky ledge From that resembled an Elephant. That ledge no longer exists as it fell down during an earthquake in the 1800s. However, the name has stuck on!

The beauty of the Elephant Falls

Level Two of the Elephant falls in Shillong
Level Two of the Elephant falls in Shillong

The three steps of the Elephant falls are at right angles to each other. Hence, you cannot, really see it all from a single vantage point. The first step itself is quite stunning with the waterfalls spread wide across the hills. It then becomes narrow and faster as it falls over the 2nd step. The steps to explore this waterfalls lead you along the 3rd step, allowing you to walk alongside the gushing stream. It is a heady feeling to get those water sprays on your face and to top that, it was raining as we made this descend to the bottom of the Elephant falls.

Walking alongside Step 3 of the Elephant falls
Walking alongside Step 3 of the Elephant falls

The 3rd step is the epitome of this waterfall. After seeing it for ourselves, we knew why PM Modi chose this step for his photograph.

The bottom most point of Elephant falls, Shillong
The bottom most point of Elephant falls, Shillong

Wah Kaba Falls

Wah Kaba falls in Sohra
Wah Kaba falls in Sohra

Though Shillong has plenty more waterfalls like the Sweet falls, we had to drop those in favor of the ones that lead us into Sohra – the Wettest Place on Earth. The first significant waterfall of Sohra appears just before you hit the main town and is called the Wah Kaba Falls. The most amazing thing about this waterfall is that you can trace it down from its fall into the valley below. It pretty much reminded me of the drawings of hills and valleys that we used to make as kids.

Wah Kaba falls that continue through the Sohra Valley
Wah Kaba falls that continue through the Sohra Valley

Legend of Wah Kaba falls

There lived two fairies – one fair and one dark in this Wah Kaba region. They would mingle with the regular folks and lure men to visit them by hypnotizing them. The young men would disappear for months together and return back only later as if they were never gone. They say that the men used to get married to the fairies. Our cab guy said that the legend still lived on here .

Close up of the Wah Kaba falls in Sohra
Close up of the Wah Kaba falls in Sohra

Nohkalikai Falls

Nohkalikai Falls - one of the must-see waterfalls in Meghalaya
Nohkalikai Falls – one of the must-see waterfalls in Meghalaya

The next part of my chase of waterfalls in Meghalaya led me to one of the highest waterfalls in India (5th I am given to understand). The Nohkalikai Falls had us awestruck as it plunged from 340m, in a single stream that bounced off the rock below. The force of the water was quite overwhelming and the sight stunning. We trekked down to the lowest point possible to see this fall, which again is not anywhere close to it but does allow you to experience the majestic cascade.

Legend of Nohkalikai Falls

They say there lived a lady called Likai in a nearby village. Her husband died leaving her behind with one infant. To help herself and the child, she got married again. Remember that the Khasi women are the key breadwinners of the family and quite as expected here, Likai worked herself off as a porter to earn for the family. The remaining time, she spent tending to her infant daughter. Her 2nd husband did not like the fact that he was not getting his due attention. Jealous of the child, he cut the kid up and cooked her, just leaving behind her fingers. Likai came home tired and devoured the meat. As she finished her meal, she came across the fingers of her child and realized what her husband had done. Upset and angry, she threw herself off the cliff, just like the Nohkalikai falls does.

Plunge of Ka Likai
Plunge of Ka Likai

Quite a gruesome tale to know but interesting in context of the waterfall. The name “Noh-Ka-Likai” refers to “Jump of Ka Likai”, Ka being a respectful term in Khasi to address women. Try saying this name – Nohkalikai. I found it quite musical! I wonder if you do too!

Nohsngithiang Falls or the Seven sisters falls

Nohsngithiang Falls in Cherrapunji
Nohsngithiang Falls in Cherrapunji

I cannot still pronounce this name – but that does not matter for these falls are also, called the Seven Sisters Falls. One look at the waterfalls and you will guess why. The 7 streams that flow together over the hill in parallel formation. These waterfalls are right opposite the Mawsmai caves – another popular sightseeing spot in Sohra. Given the location, they are also, termed as Mawsmai falls. There is no unusual legend behind this waterfall -except that I have my own story here.

My Story of the Nohsngithiang Falls

As the curtains close over the Nohsngithiang Falls in Cherrapunji
As the curtains close over the Nohsngithiang Falls in Cherrapunji

No legend but a true version of what happened.  As we reached here, we could well see the 7 falls its full glory. Within minutes we snapped up the waterfalls and then, started goofing around with some fun family shots. I think the clouds here realized that we were done seeing the waterfalls and quickly (within seconds) they descended around the waterfalls, completely obscuring the view. It was nature’s way of dropping the curtain on the stage and telling us that the show was over :-). Such is the magic of Meghalaya.

Dainthlen Falls

Dainthlen Falls in Meghalaya
Dainthlen Falls in Meghalaya

The Dainthlen Falls was my favorite in the entire list of waterfalls in Meghalaya. I frankly, did not have this on the list but added them on after Rajiv’s suggestion. It is not one of those extremely popular waterfalls and one of the reasons why it is not visited often lies within its legends. The waterfall experience here was just unusual – with no trekking required nor a distance viewing of the waterfall. The Dainthlen Falls allows you to walk on its bed till it becomes a waterfall!

Legend of Dainthlen Falls

The Dainthlen waterfalls were named so owing to the demonic snake called U Thlen. The snake used to eat humans and as the story goes, met its end with the village getting together to kill it. Legend has it that the snake had to be cut into pieces and devoured such that not a single part of it remained. The villagers had a feast but unknown to them, an old lady saved a piece of meat and took it home for her sick son. Sadly, she missed giving it to him and the demonic snake was reborn to reside within the women and her clan. The snake is said to take various forms and they say that the tribe from the woman still resides in the Khasi hills.

The enchanted river bed of Dainthlen Falls
The enchanted river bed of Dainthlen Falls

The Dainthlen Falls is said to be the place where the serpent was slaughtered and the markings on the hills are said to be reminiscent of the snake fight. I did not know of this tale till I got back to Bangalore and heard it from my friend Pradeep Bahirwani, who had incidentally, written a lovely story set in the hills of Meghalaya. After I heard this tale, I looked back at my pictures to see if I could see those markings – well! Must have been quite a gigantic serpent – isn’t it?

The magic of Dainthlen Falls

The visibility of the river bed of Dainthlen Falls as we reached here
The visibility of the river bed of Dainthlen Falls as we reached here

The aura around the Dainthlen Falls was just magical. When we reached here, there was 100% visibility till we stepped out of the car and started walking towards the waterfall. Suddenly, we could not even see our car for the wind swept the clouds over the entire terrain. Since we had driven so many miles to arrive here, we decided to wait out and enjoy the little water streams that gushed past us.

The cloud covered river bed of Dainthlen Falls
The cloud covered river bed of Dainthlen Falls
The cloud covered river bed of Dainthlen Falls
The cloud covered river bed of Dainthlen Falls

The three of us spend time jumping into the water, walking through the cold streams, collecting smooth stones and generally, splashing around till we won our battle of patience against the mighty clouds. As the clouds lifted, we realized that all the fun we had was actually atop the same waterbed that rushed to fall over a cliff into the giant Dainthlen Falls.

Dainthlen Fallsin Sohra
Dainthlen Falls in Sohra

Once the mist lifted, we could see that the terrain was quite unlike the other river beds we had encountered. Rugged and beautiful, a brilliant contrast to the surrounding, these definitely seemed enchanted!

The Countless & Anonymous waterfalls in Meghalaya

Along the waterfalls in Meghalaya
Along the waterfalls in Meghalaya

Seeking waterfalls in Meghalaya is hardly a challenge for they are everywhere. However, this does not take away the thrill of chasing waterfalls for each one of them is just so refreshing and charming. Among the many that I encountered along our journey through Meghalaya, there were two that I hold quite dear. The first one I have already mentioned in my post on Dawki. The 2nd one was a small one right across the Wahkaba Falls. We saw some small cascades when crossing the road and decided to just walk to them. It was fun perching by them and dipping your feet in the cool cascades of Meghalaya. An experience that my hubby and I absolutely relish and one that my daughter will never forget for this were her first major waterfall chasing experience.

Aren’t you tempted now to try one of your own?

Travel Tips

  • The best way to visit these waterfalls is to hire a cab either in Shillong or Sohra. You can even do a day trip from Shillong to Sohra and catch all of these waterfalls. On the best way to reach Shillong from any part of the world, please refer to the getting here section of this post.
  • Please be careful when trekking to the waterfalls as it is extremely damp and slippery here. There are only bamboo fences that line the steps
  • Except for the Dainthlen falls, all the others are quite popular and have restroom facilities available around them. You can also, get some basic snacks and beverages in the tiny shops here.



Share the Thrill of Travel

71 Responses

  1. Urvesh Bhatt

    Wow! This post is a perfect answer for those who say there is nothing much to explore in India.
    This is so mesmerizing.

  2. Rajiv Verma

    Fantastic stuff, more so because you have talked about all these gorgeous falls in one single post.

    And I am so glad that you liked your time exploring all the falls when they are at their best 🙂


  3. The Krazy Butterfly

    Lovely post and incredible pictures of Elephant Falls Ami 🙂 Also, your expressions in the first picture, are exactly the same as your profile DP 🙂

  4. Tales of travelling sisters

    Its tough to decide which waterfall is the most beautiful one, truly mesmerizing and the legends they carry for centuries is so interesting! Hope to explore this part of this country soon.. Absolutely loved the pictures..:)

  5. Jyotirmoy Sarkar

    This post has really mesmerized me….the views, the falls….the beauty of nature…mind blowing.
    It was really a very nice read and photography is awesome…superb captures.

  6. Amrita Sen

    Meghalaya is truly beautiful and enchanting. And I saw your post just before our trip! I guess it will help me now to plan my trip. 🙂

  7. Rahul

    The waterfalls of Meghalaya are spectacular and the stories and legends add to the beauty of the post. The pictures are brilliant!

    • Ami

      🙂 It would be a tough one given the hike down to the waterfalls 😀 Thanks for dropping by Blair

  8. Jodie

    I love learning about new places through travel blogs. Dainthlen Falls looks like a place I’d really enjoy, especially because I love rock climbing, exploring the rocks and just enjoying some headspace and fresh air!

    • Ami

      Am pretty sure you will enjoy all of them given your interests. They are just so stunning. Thanks for stopping by Jodie.

  9. Tom @ Adventurous Travels

    This is so breathtaking, and it’s not as well known as other popular places in India. Thank you for showing us those less famous places, I absolutely love it and when i’m back in India, I will definitely visit this region (as well as the north – full of mountains!)

    • Ami

      Oh I am so glad to take you to the corners of India. There are just so many gems waiting to be discovered. Hope you plan a trip here soon.

  10. Miriam Ernst

    Your pictures show absolutely stunning landscapes… I now have to plan to go there and really interesting stories in addition to that 🙂

  11. My Travelogue by Bhushavali

    Such gorgeous waterfalls and such beautiful nature! Funny how the Elephant falls has nothing that resembles elephant today!
    OMG! The story behind Nohkalikai waterfalls is so depressing!!!

    • Ami

      You bet, Nohkalikai is depressing while Dainthlen is a little gruesome. But well, they do add the charm to the whole place. Thanks for stopping by Bhushavali.

  12. ambujsaxena05

    Each and every post of yours is a treat to the eyes! Love the pics in this one too! Among all the falls you have mentioned, I loved the story behind Nohkilikai falls and the pictures of Elephant falls! They are absolutely wonderful sights accompanied by an engaging story!

    • Ami

      Thank you so much Ambuj. I am glad you are enjoying my posts. These waterfalls were quite enthralling owing to these stories. Could not resist sharing them . 🙂

  13. Chalapathy Rao C

    Very Nice Narration and pictures.It brought back my memories 10 years back when we first visited these falls.Superb.Keep it up.Please give your mail id so that I can send my travel blog post of recent Nepal trip covering many places and take your feed back


    Gorgeous photos. Waterfalls are so enthralling – a perfect representation of nature’s beauty. I’ve never been to India, but I hope to visit someday soon.

    • Ami

      Thank you so much. I do hope you get to India soon. lots to be discovered here.

  15. Ana Ojha

    Meghalaya is surreal and all those falls are just breathtaking! Looks like a perfect destination where serenity meets tranquility!

    • Ami

      Could not have put it any better. It is indeed that. Thanks for stopping by Anamika.

  16. Indrani

    One! Just one I have seen of these! Why Meghalaya, it should be named Jharnalaya!!! 🙂
    Your post is forcing me to plan a trip there. Hopefully soon!

  17. Sandy N Vyjay

    For someone who loves waterfalls, Meghalaya is surely heaven. So many of them cascading down in silvery glory. I am sure we would revel in the spray of the waterfalls. The legends and the myths associated with the falls make it all the more charming. Meghalaya beckons us and we hope to get there real fast.

  18. neha

    The views of Wah Kaba falls through the valley are stunning. And equally interesting is the story behind the name of elephant falls. So, looks like the falls of Meghalaya have pretty much their own stories to tell. I will definitely not miss these when I visit here.

  19. Zhanna

    Wow, its absolutely incredible. The waterfalls and their surroundings look stunning. I’m sure you enjoyed your trip very much. Thank you for sharing! It will definitely go to my bucket list.

  20. chantae

    The legend of Nohkolikai Falls is going to give me nightmares. My face was like :O after reading it. It’s really interesting that the cliff for Elephant Falls fell off… maybe they can explain that since the falls are so wide, that’s why they call it elephant falls ;). I love learning the little legends and stories behind places like this! Such a unique perspective for travel.

    • Ami

      The legends do add so much color to a place -don’t they? Glad you enjoyed these. Thanks for stopping by.

  21. Cathy Salvador Mendoza

    Each waterfall has its unique own beauty and charm. True. So refreshing. I love waterfalls! I had my first ever nude photography on a waterfall in the North of the Philippines! X

    • Ami

      Now that is adventurous though am pretty sure you won’t be able to do that here. Nonetheless, these are some stunning falls for you to enjoy. Thanks for stopping by Cathy.

  22. asoulwindow

    I have never been to North east, let alone Meghalaya. It’s interesting how many waterfalls in India have a legend or a mythological story attached to it. I didn’t know Meghalaya had so many waterfalls.

  23. kopikang

    I thought I’ve seen all kinds of waterfalls but no! I am pleasantly surprised with the falls in Meghalaya. They seem to be BOTH enchanting and enchanted! I’d love to go there. I wonder if it is possible to get healed or to make my wish come true if I have a brave dip! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Ami

      There are a few therapeutic ones that allow you that dip but these ones are just too high. Nonetheless, you will love them.

  24. AllGudThings

    We love chasing waterfalls and I guess this place is perfect for us. I loved your story of Seven sisters falls. The Nohkalikai waterfall is beautiful but the story behind it is equally sad. The Dainthlem falls too looks different and huge.

    • Ami

      The legends are what make these waterfalls so interesting. Glad you like them too…hope you visit soon.

  25. teny

    I have never seen so many of beautiful waterfalls! 🙂
    They could make part of a wonderful fairy-tale 🙂

    • Ami

      THey are a part of a fairy tale Tennyson. They are just so amazing. Thanks for stopping by

  26. Alok Singhal

    Wah kaba looks an absolute beauty, maybe because you can track the flow through the valley.

    Coincidentally, just yesterday I was reasearching the best waterfalls at a location we hope to cover early October. I can’t get enough of them, we went to Niagara just a month back ☺️

  27. Indeco

    That’s a fantastic article about waterfalls in Meghalaya, Ami Bhat. The photos are really stunning and great eye treat. Meghalaya has been always my favorite spot on my bucket list. It is one of the best place in the North East.

    Ami, can you suggest What is the best suitable month to explore Meghalaya?

    • Ami

      Thank you. Glad you liked the post. It definitely is a treat to go waterfall chasing here. Meghalaya is great through the year. Now is a good time too

  28. Bhramana

    This blog about the waterfalls in Meghalaya is very knowledgeable. Many more to explore.. The best time to visit all the waterfalls are from May to Sept during the rainy season. Keep up the good work. Keep exploring North-East..

    • Ami

      Thank you, I could see so many more that I needed to stop by but well, will come back for them later.

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