A travel guide to Mawlynnong Village – Asia’s cleanest village

posted in: Asia, Culture, India, Meghalaya, Nature | 26

Just 90 km from the capital of Meghalaya, lies a quaint hamlet that has earned the title of being Asia’s Cleanest Village. Mawlynnong welcomes you with its unnatural calm. You could attribute it to its clean and peaceful lanes or maybe the pretty little houses or perhaps, it is its playful inhabitants. I leave it for you to decide where the serenity emanates from as you join me in my journey through this travel guide to Mawlynnong Village.

Travel Guide to Mawlynnong - Asia's Cleanest Village

Most people tend to visit Mawlynnong in Meghalaya as a day trip from Shillong. I chose to stay for a day and having done so, I highly recommend it. Through this guide to Mawlynnong, you will get the reasons for my recommendation. These go beyond the obvious Mawlynnong attractions. Best you experience it yourself.

About Mawlynnong – the cleanest village of Asia

Sometimes it is not the history of the place that makes it famous. Nor is it any kind of significant incident. In this case, it is a simple way of life that brought fame to Mawlynnong.

Located in the Khasi Hills, this small village consisting of 900 odd residents and 95 households has been declared as the cleanest village of Asia. This title first was first awarded to them by Discover India Magazine in 2003. With the recent Swachh Bharat Abhiyan movement, even Prime Minister Modi declared it as the cleanest village of India – one that everyone needs to take inspiration from.

Mawlynnong means a cluster of rocks

Cleanliness is a part of the village DNA and has been their philosophy from the time the Christian missionaries from Bangladesh arrived in the village. Before they came in, the village was called Ri Kharpangkaat. The missionaries described the village as a place filled with huge rocks that had a crater in them. Hence, they called it Mawlynnong (meaning Cluster of rocks). The villagers attribute various teachers like Rev. Richard with many of their cleanliness practices that have now become a part of their lives.

With that brief introduction of this unique hamlet, it is time to dive into what made my tour of Mawlynnong village special.

Things to do in Mawlynnong Village

A Mawlynnong village tour is not about seeing things but is about experiencing it. A strange feeling of bliss accompanied me through my entire stay in Mawlynnong. I did see some unique sights but more importantly, I felt them. Time seemed to fly past. I felt that I had done so much and yet, nothing. And when it was time to leave, I felt reluctant because I felt I still needed to do something- but I know not what!

This is the classic slow travel feeling that you can only experience!

Meet the residents of Mawlynnong Village

Mawlynnong is about experiences

Warm, sunny smiles greet you in every corner of this green village. The villagers of Mawlynnong are a happy lot who for most part left us alone but when engaged, proudly shared the tales of their hamlet. Meeting Nora (name changed) over a cup of hot tea and piping bowl of Maggi introduced me to the tale of missionaries and Richard that brought about the change in their village.

One of the things to do in Mawlynnong is meet its residents

Eric and his 5 year old daughter welcomed us into the warm haven of their home. Not only did they make us comfortable but helped us navigate around the village for our meals. Along the way I met Julie and her little baby and a brief walk with her introduced me to the matrilinear culture of Meghalaya.

School girls starting their day in Mawlynnong

Mawlynnong village has managed to achieve 90% literacy and most of its residents know little English. The pride of their home shines in their eyes and speaks to you through their actions. They will never admonish you for littering. Instead, they will walk to the trash, pick it up and dispose it in front of you – setting the right example!

Experience the eco-friendly ways of Mawlynnong

Natural green hedges surrounding simple houses in Mawlynnong village

One of the most charming things about the homes of Mawlynnong was the natural fence of gorgeous plants around it. Highlighting those greens were colorful orchids and flowers of all possible colors. Some of these seem to be growing naturally while others were grown in pots created out of plastic cans.

The lush green around the village homes
The natural curtain of orchids shielding a house in Mawlynnong village
Reuse of plastic to grow plants in Asia's Cleanest Village

As a rule, plastic is not allowed anywhere in Mawlynnong. Right next to the Welcome board are the rules that every visitor needs to follow. In fact, it explicitly states that any plastic brought by the tourists have to be taken back with them. Only organic waste like fruit peels and small plastic wrappers of candies can be thrown in the bamboo dustbins of Mawlynnong village.

The Bamboo trash cans outside every home and around every lane are called Koh. The organic trash collected through these and in the homes is carefully collected and transferred to a central pit on the outskirts of the village to create manure, which is used in their homes and fields.

Koh - the bamboo dustbins kept at every corner of the village

The villagers will proudly tell you about how they raised funds to make toilets and stop the open defecation in their hamlet. Such is their green awareness that they have managed to install solar street lamps in their village. With the ample rainfall that they receive, their streams are perpetually full and yet, they do some conscious rain water harvesting.

As far as possible, they use natural products for their needs. Be it their dustbins or the village benches, they are made of natural bamboo. In fact, you can even buy some of their bamboo souvenirs from the little stalls in the village.

Solar lamps that light up the streets of Mawlynnong
Bamboo benches to enjoy the quiet corners of Mawlynnong in Meghalaya
Cleaning common areas is not a chore but pretty much a norm

The Mawlynnong village community has its own norms. Every Saturday, each one of them come out to their extended homes and clean the various corners of the village. As a rule. every Friday, the children have to clean the Church gardens. I was lucky to witness this and was amazed with the group enthusiasm among the kids. Where one bunch raked up the dry leaves and collected them in a heap, another picked it up and a third helped with the weeding. Truly a sight to behold!

Community cleaning in progress at the church
Kids involved in their weekly cleaning at the Mawlynnong church

Wander around God’s own Garden

Discover the secret groves in God's own Garden

Mawlynnong has earned the sobriquet of being “God’s own Garden”. Rightly so, given the numerous secret groves that echo with the melodious sound of water flowing. Follow the call of the birds and leap over the rocky lanes to suddenly encounter a small cascade.

Exploring the forests of Mawlynnong
Leisure hikes to discover God's own Garden
Pitcher Plants in the village
Enjoy the little streams when in Mawlynnong

If you walk along those streams, you might just find a lush green garden filled with butterflies flitting around the fragrant orchids. You might even see an innocent bumblebee being trapped in those innocuous looking pitcher plants.

Sitting by one of these hidden streams and enjoying the wet and cool atmosphere of Mawlynnong is definitely something that should be on your Mawlynnong things to do.

Spot Bangladesh from the Sky View of Mawlynnong

Sky View in Mawlynnong

No doubt that the unmissable tree-house you are bound to see when on a tour of Mawlynnong village is a picturesque setting. The Bamboo perch is actually a Sky View that offers you a glimpse of India’s neighbor – Bangladesh. Built and maintained by the villagers, the 85 feet high deck is worth a climb for that view of the plains. You can access the same for a minor sum of INR 10 per person.

Bangladesh Plains as seen from the Mawlynnong Sky View

I however, did not attempt it. Not because I was scared of its rickety path but for the fact that my own home-stay had newly built their own tree house from where I could spot the waterlogged plains of Bangladesh along with an aerial view of Mawlynnong.

Visit the Church of Epiphany

Church of Epiphany in Mawlynnong

The Church of Epipheny is a century old place of worship in the village of Mawlynnong. It has not overtly exquisite architecture to boast of. However, it is its pleasant green settings that make it alluring. The little cobbled pathway leading to its entrance makes you forget that you are in India. And the little stained glass windows enclosing the calm and peace within will urge you to enjoy those few moments of serenity.

Join a game of football

Mawlynnong football field

“Can I have a go at the wheel?” asked my hubby and the trio grinned impishly while handing over the wheel and the wooden stick to him. It was fun watching them run behind my hubby as he tried to roll the wheel with a stick. The children had a good laugh while teaching him the trick of their trade and we – just had a blast participating in their childish game together.

The new game we learnt in Mawlynnong
Kids teaching us how to play with the wheel
Join the fun in the football field- My hubby with the kids

Such is the atmosphere in the large football ground behind the church. If it is not a game of football, then there are tons of others. All you have to do is sit on the stone ledge and enjoy the fun. Better still, you can just join in with them and create some lovely memories for yourself.

Grab an authentic Meghalaya Meal

Nothing is more scrumptious than the taste of fresh, organic vegetables. At Mawlynnong, you will realize how the simplest of dishes tastes exotic owing to the use of the fresh produce. Couple that with their local dishes, and you have a treat waiting for you.

Guide to Mawlynnong - grab a meal at one of the food stalls near the parking

Besides the typical Meghalaya food that I have shared in this post, I managed to try a soyabean and bamboo dish called Tungrymbai with red rice. If you are a non-vegetarian, then there are plenty of options for you in the little Mawlynnong cafes. They specialize in pork but also, have plenty of chicken on the menu. Like the organic vegetables, the fowls are home-bred.

The best place to eat in Mawlynnong are the few cafes in the main square and parking area of the village. If you are not keen on trying the local dishes, you can even grab a bowl of Maggi noodles and basic parathas at the cafes.

Hike to the Jingmaham Living Root Bridge

Jingmaham Living Root Bridge in Mawlynnong , Meghalaya

Experience the unique collaboration of man and nature at one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Meghalaya. The Living Root Bridges are a must-visit when in the state and if you are in Mawlynnong, then you are in for a treat. The Jingmaham Living Root Bridge is just 500 m from the village.

The sturdy bridge is made from the living roots of a rubber plant that are directed by the Khasi tribes. They take over 15 years to give you a sturdy structure – strong enough for an army of 50 to march over. You should read this post my own hike to this Living Root Bridge and definitely add this to your list of Mawlynnong Attractions.

Check out the Balancing Rock of Mawlynnong

The Mawlynnong Balancing Rock

When you go to a destination whose name refers to a cluster of rocks, you got to see some unusual ones. Close to the Nohwet village (your start point for the Living Root Bridge of Mawlynnong), is a large rock that balances itself on a really small stone. Aptly called the “Balancing Rock”, this rock has been in this position since times immemorial. You can see the Mawryngkew Sharalia – Nature’s wonder rock for a small price of INR 10.

Other places to visit in Mawlynnong

This travel guide to Mawlynnong will not be complete if I don’t add in the few places that can be visited while staying in the village. These places to visit in Mawlynnong include –

Dawki River

Must visit places in Mawlynnong - Dawki River

From the cleanest village of India to one of the cleanest rivers of India. The Dawki river flows through Meghalaya into Bangladesh. On a clear day, the water is so transparent that you will feel as if you are floating on glass. On other days, the river appears like a stream of flowing emerald. The drive from Mawlynnong to Dawki is just around an hour. The 30 km drive is well worth your time to see this gorgeous landscape.

Mawphlang Sacred Grove

I regret not having visited this amazing destination. The Mawphlang Sacred Grove is 65 km from Mawlynnong on the way to Shillong. You can either visit it when you are heading back from Mawlynnong or arriving from Shillong. The forest has one sacred rule – nothing (not even a leaf) can be taken out of it. The tribals believe that it upsets the forest deity -Labasa. The deity is said to protect the forest and takes the form of a leopard to destroy the ones harming it.

The Mawphlang Sacred Grove is full of rare flora – including medicinal herbs that are rumored to cure cancer. But one can only enjoy the mystical landscape and have to leave it as it is.

Mawlynnong as a destination, stands for something ethereal and pure. Whether it is the culture, or its people, or its way of life, the best way to enjoy it is to feel every moment that you are there. Given that, don’t you agree that you need to at least stay the night there? Let me know in your comments.

How to reach Mawlynnong in Meghalaya?

Mawlynnong is 73 km from both – Shillong and Sohra (Cherrapunji). The only way to get here is by road from either of the two places. You can easily find a private cab or a sharing one in the main taxi stands.

The closest airport is in Guwahati (Assam). One can get a taxi or a bus from the airport to Shillong . The journey takes around 3- 4 hours by road to cover 100 km. Guwahati is also, the closest railway station to Shillong and Mawlynnong.

What is the best time to visit Mawlynnong?

Just avoid the peak monsoon months from June to September. The rest of the year is perfect to visit Mawlynnong. Plan to attend the Nongkrem dance festival that takes place in October- November every year. The other festival to note is Wangala that takes place between September to December.

Where to stay in Mawlynnong?

Guide to Mawlynnong stay

There are no fancy hotels or resorts that offer you a stay in Mawlynnong. The only option here are home-stays. You cannot book these through the internet. You will have to call the listed numbers and book with a call. Here are some home-stays that I noted during my visit to Mawlynnong.

  1. Sah Pyngngad Home Stay – +91 9615724352
  2. Harud Wahduid – +91 8575440446

The best way to confirm your stay in Mawlynnong is through local tour companies. I booked mine through North East Explorers.

Our comfortable and clean room at Mawlynnong

They are highly recommended for their professional services. The place I stayed in Mawlynnong was not only comfortable and clean but offered some amazing views of the Bangladesh plains. The down-to-earth home-stay does not have a name for me to quote 😉

Travel Tips

Guide to Mawlynnong Shopping - the little souvenir stalls in the hamlet
  • Mawlynnong is a strict no-smoking and no-plastic zone. Any violations on these are fined.
  • The residents of Mawlynnong are simple people who like their privacy. Please ensure you respect that and seek their permissions before taking any pictures of venturing in any territory that they might own.
  • Rain is pretty common in Mawlynnong and it does get quite chilly here. Hence, make sure you have adequate layers packed and have your rain-gear sorted.
  • While you may get your basic meals here, there are not many options. Hence, be mindful of the same.
  • You can buy some bamboo curios in the little shops in the parking area of Mawlynnong . These bamboo artifacts are made by the villagers and by purchasing them, you are supporting the local craftsmanship.

Do leave your comments on how you found this unusual destination in India. And would you spend a day or an overnight here? Waiting to hear from you. In the meanwhile, do pin this Mawlynnong travel guide to your boards.

Booking Resources

  • You can use Booking.com for any hotels or stays in Shillong. They do not have listings for Mawlynnong.
  • I highly recommend North East Explorers for any tours in North East India. They offer you complete packages but you can also, avail their private cabs or just their stays.
  • Consider buying your travel accessories or even home needs by clicking through to Amazon from my website.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
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