During my school days I remember reading about Cherrapunjee a small town in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya where it rained the most in the world. Sohra was known as Cherrapunjee for more than a century when the British mispronounced it as “Churra /Cherra” and the “punjee” got appended. Punjee means Capital in Hindi and Collection in Bengali and so the name Cherrapunjee translated to Sohra the Capital. The Christian missionaries who came to India on the heels of the British; spread Christianity in the hills and the Khasis adopted English Letters as their script. I finally managed Sohra Trip in January when it has lost its pride of place as the rainiest place on the planet to nearby Mawsynram.
It was not that cold in January, there was no sight of rain and everything was pretty except that the waterfalls were trickling down waiting for the monsoon to infuse exuberance in their rhythm. I could imagine the beauty that would unveil in the months of spring, summer and monsoon. Located about 2 hours away from Shillong (56 kms); Sohra at a height of approximately 1500 metres receives nearly 2 to 3 meters of rain in peak monsoon months of June/July. Sohra is one of the most popular destinations in Meghalaya with waterfalls, caves, living root bridges, parks and adventure activities. Here is my list of 5 Must See, Must Do activities to complete a Sohra Trip.
Adventure in Mawkdok
Mawkdok is mid-way between Shillong and Sohra. We stopped at the view point for the Mawkdok Dympep Valley view where clouds float around amidst the endless green. Soon I got attracted by the Zipline adventure across the valley as people zoomed from one end to another in a jiffy. After a few minutes of dithering; I decided to take the plunge and go zipping. I could feel the fear in my legs while I was getting hooked to the harness and being instructed on the operation. Once the initial moments of fear subsided; I enjoyed zipping to the other end and am glad to tick this adventure off my bucket list.
Pricing & Timing: They have 2 circuits priced at Rs 300 and Rs 700. The activity is closed on Tuesdays so please plan accordingly. Children below 14 are generally accompanied by an instructor.
Waterfalls of Sohra
Sohra is the land of waterfalls. During the monsoon months every trickling stream suddenly attains youth and gushes down with exuberance. The important ones are included below and apart from these there is Kynrem, Mawsmai, 7 Sisters etc which were dry in winter and I did not visit. If you are there during the summer or monsoon months do include them in the itinerary
- Wah Kaba Waterfalls is located very close to Mawkdok. Sit by one of the rocks on the edge of the valley and watch the water gushing down in all its might. During monsoon, the clouds float so low that you can feel them cross over your head.
- Dain-Thlen Waterfalls is located at the outer edge of Sohra. We took a short detour at the suggestion of our driver since this was not on our agenda. This is a picnic spot for locals during winter since the area around the falls is pretty much flooded during the monsoon months. The waterfall is named after “Thlein” the giant snake who terrorized local people and was finally slaughtered in their hands. We walked around and then gorged on some lunch from a Ja Cha Shack and was in a mood to nap on the grass but the caves beckoned
- Noh- Ka-Likai Waterfalls plunges down more than a 1100 feet into the deep gorge making it the tallest waterfall in India. In Khasi legend it means “Jump of Ms Likai” ~ Noh (Jump) ; Ka (Ms) ; Likai (name). This young woman jumped out of grief from this point when she came to know her baby daughter was killed by her second husband
Caves of Sohra
The limestone caves of Sohra are a must visit.
- Mawsmai Caves is the most touristy and the entire pathway between rock formations is well lit. I had to squeeze in through some nearly narrow passages to move from one chamber to another. Some of the limestone forms (stalactites and stalagmites) are spectacular
- Arwah Lumshynna Caves are not as well lit as Mawsmai. I had to watch my step at every level since there is a stream of water trickling through, making the pathway slippery. The real beauty of the cave is beyond the lit part where a torchlight is necessary to navigate through. The phone flashlights do not serve the purpose as much. The walls and roof is covered with fossils of different organisms
Living Root Bridges of Sohra
Living Root Bridges are seen in different parts of Meghalaya. These man made wonders are an innovative response to natural adversity. The single decker and double decker root bridges are about 1-3 hours trek away in Nongriat Village from Tyrna Village near Sohra.
Parks in Sohra
- I visited Eco Park overlooking the vast plains of Bangladesh. The grass was dry in winter but the swings and slides on green would be a great place to unwind with kids.
- Thankarang Park is a huge open green space with Kynem waterfalls gushing down on its side. A perfect place to let the children be with nature; see butterflies, orchids and take a peep at the grassy lands across the border in Bangladesh
Is it worthwhile to do a day trip to Sohra?
I would always recommend an overnight stay but if there is paucity of time then a day trip it has to be. While caves, waterfalls and parks can be visited as mere sightseeing points it may not be feasible to trek to Double Decker Root Bridge or indulge in some adventure.
Is it worth going to Sohra if I dont intend to trek to the Double Decker Root Bridge?
Sohra is much more than Living Root Bridges. Sit around the waterfalls sucking on juicy oranges, walk through the caves, laze around the parks or simply walk around taking in a lung full of fresh air.
What kind of fitness is required to Trek to Double Decker Root Bridge?
It is a descent from Tyrna to village Nongriat in the valley which has the bridges across the streams. Fairly active person with no cardiac or asthmatic issues can make it to the bridges and back. Ascent may be challenging, take it slow and easy.
Where to Stay in Sohra?
There are primarily homestays and resorts in Sohra. By the Way is an ideal back packer accommodation and Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort is perhaps the oldest and luxurious in the given and a lot of circumstances. There are new ones coming up and Trip Advisor/ Make My Trip may be the ideal places to look for them
Which is the best time for visiting Sohra?
All through the year; it has a different appeal in every season. Winters are dry but easy to trek and move around; it turns a beautiful green in spring and by monsoon the waterfalls are in full flow. Choose your month based on your need. April to June is high tourist season.
What kind of food is available in Sohra?
The local restaurants serve a variety of vegetarian and non vegetarian food. For Khasi cuisine visit one of the shacks in the local market. Oranges and Bananas are all over the place since Sohra is indeed the land of oranges.