First Published on June 28, 2017
That feel of mist on your face, the sight of the green hills and the music of the flowing stream – how can one resist chasing waterfalls!
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.
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 of Meghalaya waterfalls. 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
Chasing the Meghalaya waterfalls 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!
The Story behind 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 in Meghalaya
The three steps of the Elephant falls are at right angles to each other making it difficult to see it all from a single vantage point. Emerging from a thick net of green is the first step of the Shillong waterfalls. The sight of the waterfalls spread wide across the hills is so captivating that I almost forgot that this was just the first level. It was only when I followed the flowing water that I remembered to explore the rest.
The cascade 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.
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.
Best time to visit Elephant Falls in Shillong
Just avoid the peak monsoon months between June to September as the place gets really slippery and hard to navigate. It is also, prone to landslides. The rest of the year is perfect to experience this three-stepped Meghalaya waterfalls. Head to place during the day to get capture the best of the place.
How to get to Elephant falls in Meghalaya?
Elephant falls is 12 km from the center of Shillong – namely Police Bazaar. To get to it, you can hop into a cab from the city. Opt for a round trip as it is difficult to get a ride back from the site of the waterfalls. Combine it with a visit to the famous Shillong peak that falls on the way.
Wah Kaba Falls in Meghalaya
Though Shillong has plenty more waterfalls as the Sweet falls, we had to drop those in favor of the ones that lead us into Cherrapunji or Sohra – the Wettest Place on Earth. The first significant waterfall of Cherrapunji appears just before you hit the main town and is called the Wah Kaba Falls. The notable 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.
The Wah Kaba falls are around 180 m high. It is possible to hike down to the waterfalls but given the light drizzle and the fact that it was a little slippery, we chose to stay at the first viewpoint and enjoy it. The hike to the waterfall is not difficult but it did seem scary to stand at the edge and watch the water fall over a rocky ledge to a bottomless gorge. Sure, there are safety barriers to keep you safe but it still gives you a little chill in your spine. If you do decide to take on the short hike to the waterfall, remember to look out for a smaller cascade on the way.
Legend of Wah Kaba waterfalls in Cherrapunji
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 in this part of the world. They are said to reside in the Wah Kaba falls in Meghalaya.
Best time to visit Wah Kaba Falls in Sohra
Wah Kaba falls can be visited throughout the year. If you do happen to get here during monsoons, just avoid going close to the origin of the waterfalls as it can be quite precarious, despite the safety fences. It is best to view it from a distance during this season. The only obstacle is the low-floating clouds that tend to cover the Wah Kaba falls in Sohra. However, with a little patience, you should be able to glimpse the sight.
How to get to Wah Kaba falls?
Wah-Kaba falls are on the way to Cherrapunji from Shillong. In fact, it is just 8 km from the Cherrapunji bus stand. You can stop by when you are getting into Cherrapunji.
Nohkalikai Falls in Meghalaya
The next part of my chase of the Meghalaya cascades 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, though overwhelming made the sight stunning. We trekked down to the lowest point possible to see this waterfall in Sohra, which again is not anywhere close to it but does allow you to experience the majestic cascade.
Nohkalikai Waterfalls in Cherrapunji is supposed to be one of the highest plunge waterfalls in the world. In fact, there is a board at the entrance of the waterfall proclaiming it to be the highest one in the world. The cascading water collects into a small green pond, which is sometimes, lost in the misty impact of the waterfall.
While we only managed to use the steps to get to the base of the waterfall, you can also, discover the mouth of the falls with a small hike. Head to the Tlai waterfalls and walk along the water bed to reach the origin of these plunge falls. Something I could not attempt this time but promise to get to the next time I visit Nohkalikai falls in Meghalaya.
Legend of Nohkalikai Falls in Sohra
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.
Quite a gruesome tale to know but interesting in the 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!
Best time to visit Nohkalikai Waterfalls in Sohra
This Cherrapunji waterfalls can be seen throughout the year. The waterfalls are evergreen owing to the forest area through which it flows. The viewing gallery of the Nohkalikai waterfalls is open from 7 am in the morning to 6 pm in the evening. You will need to pay INR 10 as the entrance fee. If you are carrying a camera or a mobile phone, you will need to shell out INR 20 per device. Video cameras are charged INR 1000.
It is pretty common for the clouds to descend into the valley and obscure your view of the waterfalls. This is common throughout the year, especially in monsoons. There is no avoiding the same. You will have to just keep patience and wait for them to clear. If you are here in monsoons, you will not be able to do the hike to Nohkalikai falls as the water bed around the Tlai falls has quite a bit of water and ends up blocking the approach to the origin.
How to reach Nohkalikai falls in Meghalaya?
Nohkalikai Falls is 5 km from the town of Sohra. You should stop by at this waterfall in Cherrapunji before you hit the main town from Shillong. In case you plan to do it during your stay in Cherrapunji, you can opt for a taxi from the town of Cherrapunji.
Nohsngithiang Falls or the Seven sisters falls in Meghalaya
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 Cherrapunji. Given the location, they are also, termed as Mawsmai falls.
The Seven Sisters falls in Cherrapunji is also, considered as one of the highest waterfalls in India. The locals consider the seven streams as a symbol of the seven sister states of North-East India (Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Sikkim and Nagaland). The seven separate streams of water plunging down 314 m along the limestone hills into a valley of green is a sight to behold. There is no unusual legend behind this waterfall -except that I have my own story here.
My Story of the Cherrapunji Seven Sisters Falls
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.
Best time to visit Nohsngithiang Falls in Cherrapunji
The Nohsngithiang Falls is best during monsoons when the water is in full force. The Seven sister falls can be seen through the rest of the year as well but they will appear comparatively leaner, especially in winter when the water gets denser and flow slower.
There are a small eco-park and viewing gallery that is open throughout the year. There is no fee to use the same.
How to get to Nohsngithiang Falls in Meghalaya?
The Seven Sister falls are just a km from the famous Mawsmai caves of Cherrapunji. In fact, one of the viewpoints is right on the Sohra Main Road, just before the turn to the caves. It is best to combine it with your visit to the caves. You can use the same cab that you hire to take your around to the caves. Cabs can be hired from Shillong to Cherrapunji or even in Cherrapunji.
Dainthlen Falls – My favorite Cherrapunji Waterfalls
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 in Cherrapunji was just unusual – with no hiking 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 Waterfalls of Meghalaya
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 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 in Sohra
The aura around the Dainthlen Falls of Meghalaya was just magical. When we reached here, there was 100% visibility until we stepped out of the car and started walking towards the waterfall. Suddenly, we could not even see our car for the wind had 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 gurgling streams.
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.
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!
Best time to visit Dainthlen Falls in Sohra
Pre-monsoons or Post monsoons are the best time to visit this magical waterfall of Cherrapunji. During the monsoons, the river bed gets submerged partially and one cannot really walk on the rocks as we did. There is no opening and closing time, but given the nature of the terrain, it is best visited during the first half of the day.
How to reach Dainthlen Waterfalls in Meghalaya?
To reach Dainthlen waterfalls, you will have to go along an off-the-course road from the main road to Cherrapunji. The turn will be around 2 km before Cherrapunji. It is quite deserted and hence, you have to make sure you have your own car or cab. The trip will have to be a round trip.
Bophill falls in Dawki, Meghalaya
There is no missing this gushing cascade on the way from Mawlynnong to Dawki. In fact, the very sight of the Bophill falls in Jowai, near Dawki river will make you stop for a picture. There is no major viewing deck for this waterfall nor is there a hiking trail. Unlike all the previous Meghalaya waterfalls in India, this one has no legend attached to it. It is just a scenic detour to your Dawki River expedition.
Other significant Meghalaya waterfalls
It is impossible to cover all the major waterfalls of Meghalaya. However, if you do choose to explore beyond the ones that I have mentioned, then consider some of these Meghalaya waterfalls.
Locally it is called Kshaid Ur Nar, the Langshiang falls is 90 odd km from Shillong. You can embark on a lovely hike to yet another waterfall that might be one of the highest in the country. The waterfall is formed owing to the splitting of the River Kynshi.
Krang Suri Falls
This well-developed waterfall in the Jaintia hills is something that I wish I could have seen. The Krang Suri falls have this gorgeous backdrop of smooth colored stones – something similar to the ones which bewitched me near the Dawki River.
The Countless & Anonymous waterfalls of 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 was her first major waterfall chasing experience.
Aren’t you tempted now to try one of your own?
- 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 Mawlynnong.
- 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 and Bophill 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.
- Booking.com has a few options for your stay in Shillong or even Sohra. Consider using this link to book your accommodation.
- North East Explorers is my recommendation for any tours in North East India. They offer you complete packages but you can also, avail of their private cabs or just their stays.
- Amazon is a great resource to buy your travel and photography accessories. Consider clicking through to it from my website.
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Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.