Mawlynnong made an appearance on the travel itineraries of people for the first time in 2003, when travel magazine Discover India declared it the “Cleanest Village” in Asia. The road from Shillong to Mawlynnong passes through such diverse terrain that it takes time for one to come to terms with the fact that you are still within the geographical bounds of the same state. A sharp turn leads past an enormous range of tablelands, while another through meadows. Just as you begin to get used to these landscapes, a third turn leads you past a hamlet and the next past a quarry. In the midst of this changing terrain, finding Mawlynnong might not be an easy task, owing to the lack of signage along the route to the village. Hence, it is advisable to be accompanied by someone who knows the location.

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A living root bridge, Meghalaya’s one-of-a-kind natural wonder
A living root bridge, Meghalaya’s one-of-a-kind natural wonder

Orientation

Located in the Pynursla block of East Khasi Hills, the picturesque village of Mawlynnong stretches along the India-Bangladesh border. Shillong serves as a good jumping-off point to Mawlynnong. The drive to the village might appear longer than anticipated to the weary traveller, but the pretty landscapes, stunning vistas and the hospitality of the locals make it all worth the effort. Although the village can be visited as a day trip, it is a good idea to spend a night or two here.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Walk Around

Even though the state of Meghalaya is blessed with unprecedented natural beauty, this fairy-tale village raises the bar even higher. The narrow winding road leading to Mawlynnong takes you past fields, hills, streams and stark wilderness.

As you enter the village, you will be greeted by the 100-year old Church of the Epiphany, an elegant black-and-white structure surrounded by orange and palm trees. You may have to park your vehicle in the field adjacent to the church and start walking from here. Don’t miss the treehouse nearby. This seemingly fragile-looking, but charming, tree-house affords stunning views of the plains of the neighbouring state of Bangladesh. Note that it takes great agility to climb the three bamboos that form the pathway from the ground to the treehouse.

The concrete road cutting through the village will take you past small wooden houses with colourful gardens, unravelling why Mawlynnong is known as the cleanest village not only in India, but also in Asia. The village is made up of around 80 households, a majority of which are on a mission to keep the village spotlessly clean. There are bamboo baskets tied to trees outside every house to prevent people from littering. All this waste is collected in a pit, and later used as manure. Residents take turns to clean the roads, which are lined with creepers and flowering plants. Littering is a punishable offe-nce and plastic has been completely banned in the village.

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Mawlynnong Guest House
Mawlynnong Guest House

Boasting a 100% literacy rate and being extremely environment conscious, villagers are devoted to protecting the surrounding forests. The concrete road ahead of the village leads to a clearing where stands the village’s only eatery, Halathygkong. The thatched sitting area looks out over to the clearing and one could not ask for a more serene setting. The eatery serves the most flavourful rice thali around.

After a hearty meal, resume your walk. The region awaits you with its numerous gurgling streams, majestic waterfalls and several viewpoints that provide far-reaching views of the plains of Bangladesh.

Tip Be sure to keep your camera handy, for the place offers plenty of photography opportunities.

Living Root Bridges

There are a number of living root bridges across the state, most of which can be reached by undertaking a long trek. These formations are unique to the state of Meghalaya. The most easily accessible of these is the Living Root Bridge, located in the neigh-bouring village of Riwai.

This hamlet is only a couple of minutes away from Mawlynnong, and has found its way on the tourist map because of the spectacular living root bridges. As you enter Riwai, a small clearing serves as a parking lot, and it is surrounded by many eateries selling local dishes. A paved road takes you to the ticket counter.

Set in verdant environs, this single-decker bridge at Riwai spans over a gushing stream peppered with rocks. The living bridge was fashioned from the roots of the rubber fig tree by the Khasi villagers in order to cross over the stream. Such root bridges become stronger with time, and take 10 to 15 years to become fully functional. The bridges are, however, strong enough to hold the weight of upto 50 people at a time. Visitors can even descend to the stream below and take a dip in the cool waters.

Entry ₹10 Timings Sunrise–sunset

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Waterfalls, a common sight in the hills around Mawlynnong
Waterfalls, a common sight in the hills around Mawlynnong

Sky View

Another attraction is the Sky View, or ‘Machan’, a 26-m-high watchtower made of bamboo. The structure was fashioned by Rishop Khongthongreh, a local school teacher. The steep climb to the top will lead you to a spot offering a bird’s-eye view of the village, as well as distant views over the lush plains of Bangladesh.

Although there are other vantage points that offer panoramic vistas of the Bangladesh plains, but this particular spot must not be missed, simply because of the thrill that the climb involves.

Entry ₹10 Timings Sunrise–Sunset

WHERE TO STAY

Mawlynnong Guest House (Tel: 2502420; Tariff: ₹3,000) has two rooms on offer. The facilities are basic, but comfortable.

Inputs by Shreya Sarkar

FAST FACTS

When to Go June and July get the heaviest rainfall, it rains till September

Tourist Offices

The Directorate of Tourism, 3rd Secretariat Nokrek Building, Lower Lachumiere, Shillong, Tel: 0364-2226054, 2502166, 2500736

Tourist Info Centre, Police Bazaar, Shillong. Tel: 2226220, W megtourism.gov.in, STD code 0364

GETTING THERE

State Meghalaya

Location In the southern part of the state near the India-Bangladesh border, in the East Khasi Hills District

Distance 80km S of Shillong

Route from Shillong NH40 via Nongpiur, Umlympung, Mawkajem, Pynursla and Pongtung

Air Nearest airport: LGB Airport, Gu­wahati (128km/ 3hrs) is a convenient option. Taxi charges ₹1,500–3,500 from the airport to Shillong and then ₹18–25 per km (depending on the size of the vehicle) from the tourist taxi stand in Police Bazaar for your onward journey to Mawlynnong (92km). Umroi Airport (32km from Shillong), is con­nected only to Kolkata

Rail Nearest railhead: Guwahati Railway Station is served by trains from Delhi and other metros Bus Me­ghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) runs bus services to Shillong (3hr), coordinated with train arrivals

Road The Tourist Taxi Association at Shillong offers taxis for Mawlynnong and around for ₹18–25 per km