The Meghalaya Odyssey - A Complete Travel Guide to Mawsynram and Mawlyngbna
Rain rain go away,
Come again another day,
Little Johnny wants to play.
We are sure that this rhyme must be sung by every child around the world but this rhyme would certainly have a different meaning for every child in Mawsynram town located in the state of Meghalaya, India. For some, rain is a blessing from the Gods, but who would love a constant downpour? Mawsynram (Pronounced - Maw-sin-rum where Maw rhymes with Law) lying in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya is titled ‘The Wettest Place on Earth’. It receives an average annual rainfall of 12,000 mm and holds a Guinness Book of World Records for 1985 monsoon when Mawsynram received 26,000 mm rain in an year. The title however was held by neighbouring town, Cherrapunji (Sohra), for quite a long time. But Mawsynram was successful in overtaking Cherrapunji in last few decades to secure this rank. So without a doubt we wanted to see Mawsynram. Mawlyngbna (Pronounced Maw - lib - na where Maw rhymes with Law) is yet another village close by which have some interesting folklore and places to visit which we realized is a must visit for any Meghalaya Itinerary. Read on to know why.
This article is a part of the series – The Meghalaya Odyssey, where we take you through various must visit places across Meghalaya along with detailed travel guides which help you plan your own trip. In this tenth blog of the series – The Meghalaya Odyssey, we will present a detailed travel guide to Mawsynram along with recommendations around stay and itinerary. Read on to know more about a remote destination – Mawlyngbna which surprised us in more ways than anything. Also note that thought this is 10th article in the series after Jaintia hills, the actual itinerary would be Shillong - Mawphlang - Mawsynram & Mawlyngbna - Cherrapunji - Mawlynnong - Dawki & Shnongpdeng - Jaintia hills.
'The Meghalaya Odyssey' is a series of 10 travel blogs and 2 photo blogs. Check out other blogs in the series by clicking on the below mentioned links or photographs:
12. Mawsynram & Mawlyngbna - This article
As we charted an itinerary to Meghalaya few months back, we wondered how the residents of the Mawsynram town attuned themselves to rainfall throughout the year. On researching, we did not find much to read about Mawsynram and that triggered our desire to include this offbeat place in our Meghalaya trip. Most tourists either do not visit Mawsynram or visit it for a day trip as there isn’t much to see around. But just the idea that not many people visit this tinted town, thrilled us. We were disheartened by not finding any good recommendations of places to stay in Mawsynram except a few dingy guest houses/ home stays. On further research we learnt about facilities for staying in a town named Mawlyngbna, another 15 kilometers drive from Mawsynram. We learnt that Mawlyngbna is a town rich in fossils and one can find natural geysers and ponds to swim in this place. Having learnt this, we instantly booked our stay with Mawlyngbna Traveller’s Nest.
Mawsynram is located about 60 kilometers from Shillong but it takes about 3 hours to cover this distance owing to hilly and narrow roads. We halted for a visit to Mawphlang Sacred forest on our way to Mawsynram. The plan was to touch upon Mawsynram, spend the night at Mawlyngbna and head to Cherrapunji the next day. Despite being ‘The wettest place on Earth’, we were surprised to see the roads were smooth and in excellent condition.
There are very few places to visit in Mawsynram – Mawjymbuin Cave and a hoarding declaring Mawsynram as the wettest place on Earth are the only areas of interest. One can however walk around the village or have a cup of tea in one of the local shops and see how locals go about their everyday lives.
Places to visit in Mawsynram, Meghalaya:
Mawjymbuin Cave at Mawsynram -
The giant stalagmite in Mawjymbuin Cave is formed after years of dripping of mineral enriched water and deposition of calcium carbonate, which is the main attraction of the caves. The opening of the cave is massive, just 15 feet high but 150 feet wide. The stalagmite is in the form of Shiv Linga which is revered sacred and is worshiped by Hindus. As per Hinduism, the Shiv Linga needs to be hydrated all the time, and here nature has taken up that responsibility. Pouring of milk on the Shiv Linga is strictly prohibited in the cave. We did not explore the various passages formed inside the cave due to complete darkness and foul smell but we are sure they must be worth a view. Visit to the cave requires just 15 minutes of one’s time.
Note: Cave remains open from 9 AM to 5 PM and an entrance fee of INR 10 per adult is charged
'Wettest place on Earth' hoarding -
We saw this hoarding declaring Mawsynram as the ‘Wettest Place on Earth’ on our way to Mawlyngbna. Two green colored milk cans are kept in front of the board which possibly seem to collect the rain water that is then measured. Unfortunately, it wasn’t raining while we were there; but just the idea of getting clicked with the board delighted us and we rushed to take selfies. It took our imaginations thirty years back when there were no paved roads to reach Mawsynram, no electricity or running water, which made the 7-8 month long monsoon an insufferable experience. Today, just the title of being the wettest place of Earth has given Mawsynram and its residents so much to rejoice for.
Note: The hoarding, though lying on road, is difficult to spot. Ask your driver or any local for its exact location.
Having visited the above two sightseeing spots in Mawsynram, we headed towards Mawlyngbna where we were about to spend the night in Traveller’s Nest. Mawlyngbna is considered to be the ‘Edge of India’, being located in the extreme interiors of the state of Meghalaya where Khasi Hills merge with the plains of neighbouring country, Bangladesh. Mawlyngbna, regardless of being a smaller village than the Mawsynram town, had more places to see and visit.
Places to visit in Mawlyngbna, Meghalaya:
Umkhakoi Lake at Mawlyngbna -
Mawlyngbna is blessed with several natural water springs that provide clean and fresh water throughout the year. Umkhakoi Lake is one such water reservoir which was artificially built by the villagers by constructing a small dam that allows water to be stored between several large boulders. The lake thus formed is half a kilometer long and quite deep. Several varieties of silver fishes are found in the lake that makes it an ideal place for fishing and angling. The government set up a kayak station at the lake a few years ago and since then this place is known for the recreational and adventure sports it offers. Natural potholes are formed in the rocks surrounding the lake which makes it extremely scenic and remarkable. The potholes were filled with stagnant clear water and we had to hop around a few rocks to reach the kayak station. It was surprising to find life jackets and the well maintained kayaks in such a remote place. Kayaking in Umkhakoi Lake was a stress reliever and absolute fun. We even saw the silver fishes splashing in the water.
In monsoon, canyoning activity is set up which starts with trekking from the forest named Pung Bahshait and ends in the Umkhakoi reservoir. Zip-lining and rope walking activities are also set up in the area surrounding the lake making this place a great camping site.
Note: Charges for kayaking – INR 50 per adult for 15 minutes
Split Rock at Mawlyngbna -
A small trek over a hill in Mawlyngbna took us to the Split Rock. The rock formation is such that it looks as if the rock was split form the middle. Our guide Welbert told us that we can even go down by rappelling and explore the caves beneath, which we did not! Strong and sturdy bamboo logs were laid at one end of the split which enabled us to cross the split and view it from the other side. We even lied down on our stomachs to check out what’s inside and what we found was great depth and then darkness.
Pitcher Plant Garden at Mawlyngbna -
Another peculiar revelation of this small picturesque town was a Pitcher Plant garden. For those of you who don’t know what a Pitcher plant is – it is an endangered predaceous species of plant which survive by preying on insects. It is also known as a carnivorous plant. The leaf of the plant develops into a deep cavity pit which is filled by digestive juices or the nectar. This nectar attracts insects that are trapped inside the pit and due to slipperiness are not able to climb back. The digestive juices convert the insects into a solution which is nutritious to the plant. While we were trying to make sense of this puzzled mechanism of the plant, our guide, Welbert, plucked a pitcher leaf and drank the nectar from the pit which he declared was sweet in taste and is believed to provide strength to the body – bizarre!! The garden was full of Pitcher plants – hundreds of them, small and large and is a must visit. Note that this is not a normal garden where you can walk in. It is a bunch of plants besides the road barricaded by bamboo. However you can find many a pitcher plants around you in forest when you return from Iew Luri trek.
Iew Luri Lura Fossil Trek at Mawlyngbna -
Many secrets are believed to be embedded in the rocks of Mawlyngbna village. We discovered a few while on the trek to Iew Luri Lura with our guide Welbert. It is assumed that the village was once under the sea and as the sea receded the fossils of the sea creatures were embedded in the rocks. As per another belief, Iew Luri Lura was a market where the animals used to meet weekly. During one such meet, a volcano erupted and the animals died and were buried in the lava, whose fossils are still a common sighting in the village. The fossils are 450 million years old and no one is exactly clear of the history behind its existence. During the trek we found the footprints of the animals lodged in the rocks. The trek to Iew Luri Lura was through snaking creek covered with high golden grasses - with streams passing by and a lot of natural potholes in the rocks filled with water. We still doubt the stories that we heard, but nevertheless the trek was extremely beautiful and scenic.
Umdiengkain waterfall at Mawlyngbna -
The Iew Luri Lura trek also took us to Umdiengkain waterfall. A bridge is being constructed over the stream of the waterfall as a viewpoint to see the falls from a distance. As we went in a dry season and the water was less, we were able to trek down to the vertical drop of the fall. The water was cold and refreshing after a strenuous trek. Our trek was a unique experience which ended at the Pitcher plant garden from where we headed back to our place of stay – The Traveller’s Nest.
Where to stay when visiting Mawsynram and Mawlyngbna:
As we highlighted before, there are very few places to visit in Mawsynram and hence travellers generally prefer to explore everything in a day trip from Shillong or Cherrapunjee. However, Mawlyngbna is an off-beat destination not to miss out on; therefore at least one night stay is needed. We failed in our search to find decent accommodation in Mawsynram and hence nominated to stay in Traveller’s Nest, Mawlyngbna after a lot of research. Apart from Traveller's Nest, you can find one or two Airbnbs listed around this region.
Traveller’s Nest, Mawlyngbna:
If you wish to stay very close to nature that too at a really affordable price, then Mawlyngbna Traveller’s Nest is a place for you. This place is a hidden gem in the interiors of a forest. The first look of Mawlyngbna’s Traveller’s Nest will amaze you and you will be surprised of how such facilities are made available at such a remote place. It has been developed by the village’s co-operative society to flourish tourism that can benefit the locals. They have 3 spacious cottages with attached bathroom that can accommodate 3-4 people with an extra bedding. The cottages are very basic with just the bed, sofa and centre table as furniture. The bathroom is equipped with a geyser. The surroundings are natural and quiet; so much that the eerie silence in the night can be worrisome for someone who is not used to it. The food is basic, freshly made and delicious. The staff is extremely friendly and double up as guides. The only staff that we came across during our one night stay was a teenager named Welbert who also served as our guide. All in all, it was a completely different experience having stayed in Traveller’s Nest, Mawlyngbna.
A few points to note:
There is no mobile network except BSNL in Mawlyngbna.
It would be good if you make prior bookings if you opt to stay in Traveller’s Nest. They do not ask for any advance payment, just an intimation is enough. Also, call them a day or two before you reach Mawlyngbna and they will help you with directions.
If they run out of cottages during peak season, they arrange for comfortable tents for you that you can pitch anywhere amongst the trees. A village home stay can also be arranged as well.
Do not expect any luxury. Pre-order for lunch in the morning and for dinner in the afternoon itself.
The charges for the guide is separate but reasonable.
Be patient with the staff, guide and villagers; they do not understand your language too well.
Contact Details to Book Traveller's Nest, Mawlyngbna:
Our host cum guide's name was Welbert: You can reach him on +91 80140 49039
Apart from above mentioned attractions, you can also try visiting the recently discovered Krem Puri cave system which is also claimed to be world's largest sandstone caves.
We hope this information on travelling to and staying in Mawsynram and Mawlyngbna was helpful. We would love to hear what you think or feel about these places. Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below; and we would be glad to answer.
Note: All opinions expressed in this blog are our own and not influenced by Traveller's Nest in any manner.