Have you been tempted by the picture-perfect destinations of Europe with green rolling hills, fabulous and clear blue skies, but money constraints held you back? Well, you don’t have to look yonder for such holidays, as India is replete with destinations that are relatively untouched and undiscovered. Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya is one such place with crystal clear skies and clear flowing streams, which will mesmerise you. The rich culture of the Jaintias, the tribe that inhabits the eastern part of the state, is also worth knowing.
Getting there: Jaintia Hills
You can get to this place from Guwahati, Shillong or Silchar. There are several buses available from these places for Jowai, the district headquarters of Jaintia Hills. You can also hire a private car from these places and head straight to Jowai.
If you are going through the picturesque Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, often referred to as ‘The Scotland of the East’, barely minutes after crossing the city, the different set of hills start taking its effect on you as you cross Smith, a village reputed for its enchanting beauty. You can drive into this village and explore the breathtaking Jongsha Valley and Laitlum Valley – they will make you feel as if you are in the Steppes of Russia and the hills of Poland
Once you enter Jowai, places to visit are far too many to describe. However, a couple of must-see places include the Nartiang Monoliths and Thadlaskein Lake. The Nartiang Village is famous for its 27-feet long and 6-feet wide monoliths, said to be have been erected by Mar Phalyngki – a local hero. These structures are of immense cultural value for the Khasi-Jaintia tribes. The Thadlaskein Lake on the way to Jowai from Shillong is another attraction. It is said to have been constructed by a chieftain, Sajar Nagli, along with his followers with the ends of their bows before fleeing a dreaded raid from Jaintiapur (now in Bangladesh, then a cultural capital of the Jaintias). It is a picturesque sight ideal for outings and picnics.
As you pass Jowai and head towards Silchar in Barak Valley (South Assam), you will witness a series of tall green hills with streams down below. Heading towards the Narpuh Reserved Forest will take you past narrower roads and gigantic hills. The most important spot in this area is a tiny village called Sonapur which has a small Shiv temple. Legend narrates that this route, in the middle of a jungle and high hills, was a bastion of ghosts and demons. Travellers who dared pass this way would meet with accidents. One fine night, Lord Shiva appeared in the dream of a local priest and asked for a temple to ensure travellers’ safety. Thus, the temple was built and ever since travelers stop-over and pray at the temple. Beneath the cliff adjacent to the temple lies the beautiful blue Lubha river, which heads straight into the Sylhet district (once a part of Assam) of Bangladesh.
A little further south is the village of Ratacherra from where you can see the beautiful vast plains of Sylhet (Bangladesh) while riding along the National Highway 44. If you can get a glimpse of the sunset over the Bangladeshi plains, you will realise what you have been missing in life. There are several view-points built on hill-sides to help tourists enjoy the view.
The government-run Orchid Inn in Jowai is the best place to put up. With a tariff of Rs 1,500, it is comfortable for the pocket as well. Just make sure that you book your rooms in advance.
When to Travel:
If you want to travel to Jaintia Hills, avoid travelling during the monsoon, as it is prone to deadly landslides. The best time to visit would be October-February. Just bear in mind not to hang out alone after dark in these areas. A little caution and the area will be a treat for you to remember forever.
Check out for your bus tickets at www.ticketgoose.com.