Compass

Daily Destination: Meghalaya, India

Compass

(Photo: Sun-anda / Flickr)

In the heat of summer, a little rain might seem like a refreshing break — but what about a whole lot of rain?

Towns in Meghalaya, a state in northeastern India, trade rainfall records from year to year ("Meghalaya" means "abode of the clouds"). Cherrapunji, known locally as Sohra, bills itself as “the wettest place on earth.” It holds the record for rainfall in one month (370 inches in July 1861). In the average July, Cherrapunji  averages 29 days of rain. Nearby Mawsynram claims the most rainfall in a single year — a whopping 1,000 inches in 1985.

The rains pose challenges for both locals and tourists. But for waterfall fans, this is a place of pilgrimage.

Meghalaya is perched on the edge of rocky plateaus, known as the Khasi Hills, that shoot up suddenly from the plains of Bangladesh they overlook. During monsoon seasons, rivers swell and spill over cliffs as massive waterfalls that pour into verdant subtropical valleys. Vegetation there can be tough enough that locals fashion long, strong roots into bridges.

The extreme weather isn’t the only draw. The region is rich in history, with remnants of previous cultures evident in megaliths, giant stones carved out and arranged by people centuries ago. When they established a hill-station in the state's capital, Shillong, the British called it the "Scotland of the east" for its combination of geography and history.

More modern culture is unique as well: people live by a matrilineal system in which children take their mothers’ last names and men go to live with their wives’ families after marriage.

If you’re looking to see the mountains without all that rain, visit in December, January and February. During this cool, dry season, the region gets almost no rain for weeks at a time.

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