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Guide To Nongriat And The Double Decker Root Bridge

A photo essay and guide about the idyllic village of Nongriat and the living root bridges of Meghalaya, one of the highlights of traveling in Northeast India.

 

In the far northeast corner of India lies Meghalaya, the “abode of the clouds”. The title is fitting: Meghalaya is the wettest state in India. Every year, more than 12 meters of rain pour down upon its lush green mountains and river valleys.

But the abundant rainfall isn’t the only natural wonder drawing tourists to this northeastern “sister” state. Deep in Meghalaya’s forests grow its most famous attractions: the living root bridge.

Root bridge and waterfall

Crafted by the local Khasi people, the bridges are made from the roots of rubber trees. Traditionally, the roots are carefully guided across spaces using the straight trunks of betel nut trees…

Betel nut trees in Nongriat, Meghalaya, India

… and are sometimes tied for increased support.

Looking for more inspiration in Meghalaya? Check out this article on the Mawsmai Caves!

Tied rubber tree roots in Nongriat village, Meghalaya, India

But these days, cables are also used as the base for some root bridges.

Cable guiding tree roots in Nongriat, Meghalaya, India

 

How to trek to Nongriat and the living root bridges

There are root bridges scattered all throughout Meghalaya, the bridge in Mawlynnong being the most famous. We chose to skip the crowds and visit the grandest of them all: Umshiang, the double decker bridge in the village of Nongriat, and one of India’s finest offbeat destinations.

Getting there, however, is no simple task. Though visitors’ ways are guided by a newly-minted cement pathway, the journey to Nongriat is a steep one. For information on getting to Cherrapunjee and then to Nongriat, check out our article on how to get to Cherrapunjee from Shillong.

The steep stairway to Nongriat village

And so our journey begins…

The cement stairway to Nongriat

Do look down!

We were plagued by heavy rains as we wound through the forest. Knees wobbled from carrying our packs down the 2,500 stairs, and legs shook as we inched across slippery suspension bridges. But the landscape more than made up for the strain:

 

The winding path down to Nongriat

Luckily, the slog was mostly downhill (in this direction, anyway), and in about 1.5 hours, we emerged into the paradise that is Nongriat village, Meghalaya.

Homes on a mountainside in Nongriat village

Talk about a house with a view!

Houses in Nongriat

Serene Guesthouse in Nongriat

Serene Guesthouse, our temporary home in Nongriat

Torrential downpour trapped us inside for the first day…

Heavy rain in Nongriat

A boy reading in the rain

… but with a bit of luck and some dances to the weather gods, the pre-monsoon rains let up enough for us to venture out into the forests surrounding Nongriat village, including a short trek to one of the waterfalls nearby.

The living root bridges of Nongriat

We didn’t have to stray far to find the main attraction. Umshiang, the double decker living root bridge, is only a stone’s throw away from the village of Nongriat.

A local village girl walking past Umshiang double-decker root bridge

The lower level of Umshiang double-decker living root bridge

Waterfall below Umshiang living root bridge

This was taken during some seriously torrential downpour. Sebastiaan held a backpack rain cover over me and the tripod while I set up the shot. #teamwork! Note to selves: purchase umbrella for next time.

The Umshiang double-decker root bridge

Gah, just look at it! How is this even possible?

But, of course, there’s more to Nongriat than just the double decker bridge! Take the time to hike an extra hour, and you’ll be treated to all kinds of stunning views.

Cable suspension bridge near Nongriat

Not sure if heights or tetanus were a bigger concern while crossing this…

Waterfalls and clouds over Nongriat village

Crossing a suspension bridge near Nongriat

Don’t slip!

… and eventually come to the grand finale: Rainbow Falls.

Rainbow Falls near Nongriat

You can go swimming here, too! But beware—the water is not particularly toasty.

No matter what direction you walk, or which way you look, Nongriat is a treat. If you’re traveling Northeast India, mark it on your map for your next Indian adventure!

Practical tips for visiting Nongriat

How to get to Nongriat

Most travelers begin their trip to Nongriat in Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya state.

From there, travelers need to head to Cherrapunji (also known locally as Sohra) first. Shared Sumos and taxis run to the town from Shillong. For more detailed route information, check out our post on how to reach Cherrapunji from Guwahati (Assam) and Shillong by public transportation.

Where to stay in Nongriat

There are several guesthouses in Nongriat, Serene Guesthouse being the most popular choice. At the time of writing in 2017, rooms were 300 Rs per person. Reasonably priced meals and snacking materials are available from the guesthouses.

Tours to Cherrapunji and Nongriat

If you’re short on time, or don’t want to go through the hassle of arranging everything yourself, we recommend Greener Pastures. They’re a knowledgeable responsible tour company based in Northeast India, and offer great tours of Meghalaya as well as other neighboring states.

Extra tips for Nongriat and visiting the living root bridges

Bring an umbrella and a cover for whatever bags you have. Serious downpour is a good possibility, and you don’t want your valuables to get wet! Plastic bags are, for once, your friend. See our monsoon travel packing list for more packing tips. If you want to know more about the Indian state, check out this backpacking guide to Meghalaya.

Responsible travel in Nongriat

Nongriat is many things: a testament to human ingenuity, a peaceful natural environment, a home to many Khasi people. All of those demand respect. When visiting Nongriat, please treat the environment as you would your own home.

  • Do not throw waste on the ground. Either bring it back to your guesthouse or carry it home with you to dispose of in the cities. Khasi people go to great lengths to take care of the environment, but tourists have the power to ruin it. Don’t be that person.
  • Treat local people with respect. Ask permission before taking photos of anyone in Nongriat. Speak with them, don’t boss them around. Listen to their stories, and respect their advice. They know the land better than you.
  • Don’t make too much noise. Nature has its own songs to sing, you don’t need to be blasting music in the middle of the night. Enjoy the peace.

Read more: 27 easy ways to travel more responsibly

More blog posts on travel in Northeast India

 

 

In loving memory of Dr. BJF. I know you would’ve been all over this.