In the heart of Nongriat, where bridges come alive

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:

Alex standing at the end of a suspension bridge
A boy trekking through the jungle
A wobbly suspension bridge over a river on the path

 

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!

Living root bridge in detail
A waterfall and root bridge in the works
The Umshiang double-decker living root bridge near Nongriat

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

 

The village of Nongriat in Meghalaya state, India, is the perfect place to escape into nature in the northeastern states. Home to waterfalls, mountains, and the famous living root bridges, Nongriat is not a place to be missed! Read on for more stunning photos of Nongriat.
The village of Nongriat in Meghalaya state, India, is the perfect place to escape into nature in the northeastern states. Home to waterfalls, mountains, and the famous living root bridges, Nongriat is not a place to be missed! Read on for more stunning photos of Nongriat.

 

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

Alex Reynolds

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

33 thoughts on “In the heart of Nongriat, where bridges come alive

    What an incredible place!! I didn’t even know that was there! I knew Meghalaya was rainy and lush, but this is simply beautiful! The more I read, the more I realise how little of India I saw thaw I was there…

    You know what they say: you need more than one lifetime to fully discover India.

    Wow! Those are some incredible photos, and it sounds like quite the adventure. It’s always fun getting lost in gorgeous places like that. Thanks for sharing! I’ve got to add this spot to my bucket list 🙂

    You’re welcome. Hope you get to visit one day!

    Ate furian says:

    Nice to read your blog…
    I’m tour guide from Indonesia.
    we have a same bridge like that on Baduy.
    Baduy is one of village in Indonesia.
    we call jembatan akar (root bridge).

    Sebastiaan says:

    Really? That’s great to hear. Indonesia is really high on our wishlist. I went twice a couple of years back, and totally fell in love with the country. On which island is Baduy?

    Sherab Tenzin says:

    Nongriat surely can be one of the best parts of India that represents harmonious coexistence links between nature and mankind. It looks so beautiful.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Absolutely! It is great to see that some people still value nature and try to work together with it.

    Dr Mansij Biswas says:

    hey…thanks for the detailed and beautiful depiction. I am planning to visit nongriat for one day (I shall be having a business trip in shillong, shall extend it by one day). do you think it is possible to make this trip shillong-cherrapunjee-nongriat-trek to double bridge-back to shillong same day?

    Alex says:

    If you leave very early—or hire your own transport—it could be possible. However, I highly recommend taking an extra day to stay in either Cherrapunji or Nongriat. You won’t have time to enjoy it otherwise!

    Eashita says:

    Hi, I’m 19 years old and planning a trip to the north east this June with a friend of mine. Wanted to know how many days would be ideal to visit shillong Cherrapunjee and Nongriat. Also if it’s safe for 2 girls to be traveling alone. Your posts are very helpful, thanks 🙂

    Alex says:

    At least 2 days for Nongriat, a couple more to see the surroundings of Cherrapunjee. And it’s definitely safe for two girls two be traveling on your own 🙂 Though things can technically happen anywhere, people are very respectful in Nongriat.

    Ruchi says:

    Hi amazing pictures =) would you recommend booking the accomodation in advance at Nongriat? Or can 4 people just reach there and expect to find a guesthouse with unoccupied rooms? 🙂

    Alex says:

    I’d say you should just show up earlier and hope for the best! Room can always be made in some shape or form. You can always bring a tent just in case.

    Faizan says:

    What time of the year did you visit Shillong,cherrapunji? Also would you recommend a visit in monsoon here?

    Giribaba says:

    The Sumo Stand for Shared Sumos to Sohra ( Cheerapunjee ) is locally known as “”Anjalee “” Sumo Stand

    Ajay Ramaseshan says:

    had been here in Sep 2018. Wow. ! Beautiful place… visited Mawsmai Cave, Cherrapunji, Dawki in 2 days from Shillong. Then a couple of days in Guwahati. Was a great trip, brought back awesome memories 🙂

    Gaurav says:

    Hi,

    How much is the walk to reach Serene Guesthouse, Nongriat after we park our car. Also, do they help with luggage if it’s a long walk?

    Regards
    Gaurav

    Hi Gaurav. Expect to walk for several hours (it took me almost 2 hours) on steep steps and hills. I wouldn’t count on luggage help – you’re expected to carry in what you need.

    Namrata says:

    is this trek possible with kids of 2 years and 10 years…??

    You’d have to carry your 2 year old child, the 10 year old child could make it if they’re active. It’s about 2 hours of walking up steep steps, so make sure they’re prepared for that.

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