About the Blog: Meghalaya is undoubtedly beautiful, blessed with eye-catching landscapes, waterfalls, caves, rivers and sacred forests. And all these make Meghalaya a sought-after tourist destination in India. While tourists have mostly explored the destinations in the Khasi Hills and to some extent, the Jaintia Hills, the Garo Hills are relatively untouched and unexplored. Recently a few places in Garo Hills have gained popularity, all thanks to social media. But there are a lot to see in the Garo Hills, many places to visit in Garo Hills and definitely a lot to experience. Read this blog to know about the places to visit in Garo Hills, How to reach and other details that will introduce you to the beauty of this underrated destination in Meghalaya.
Garo Hills had been on my radar for a long time. And I got the opportunity to visit the place when I was in Shillong attending the 2nd Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival in 2017. While in Shillong, I heard about a festival in Garo Hills from a stall owner at the Cherry Blossom Festival Fair. She was from the Garo Hills. With the thought of visiting another festival in Meghalaya, I made an impromptu decision to travel to Tura.
Surprisingly, there were a few who discouraged me from visiting the Garo Hills, mostly because I was a solo female traveller and also there was news of insurgencies in the Garo Hills. But somehow, I decided to carry on with my plan to visit the Wangala Festival in the Garo Hills. I simply took a night bus from Shillong to Tura.
And I am glad that I did so. I simply fell in love with the place and its people. It was that time I decided that I would come back to the Garo Hills again, along with Agni. Well, it took us almost 5 years to come back to the place, but we finally made our second trip to the Garo Hills.
Garo Hills the land of the A•chiks
Located in the western part of Meghalaya, Garo Hills are blessed with abundant verdant forest cover. It is one of the places on earth that has a significant population of Hoolock Gibbons. We had seen Hoolock Gibbons at Hoollongapar Wildlife Sanctuary at Jorhat in Assam. There are waterfalls, caves and peaceful nature to enjoy here.
Garo Hills is also the home to Citrus Indica or the Indian Wild Orange, which is considered to be the most primitive citrus. The National Citrus Gene Sanctuary is located inside the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve.
The best, however, are the Garo people, who also call themselves A•chiks. They are one of the friendliest people I have met, always with a smile on their face. The Garos are among the few societies that follow the matrilineal order, taking the clan title from their mother. Here, the youngest daughter of the family carries forward the clan name and the properties. The Garos are also quite close to nature, just like the other tribes in Meghalaya.
With so many things and places to visit in Garo Hills, this place is definitely a delight to its visitors. And we hope that this Garo Hill Travel Guide will help you to plan a trip to this unexplored region in Northeast India.
Where are the Garo Hills Located?
Garo Hills is located in the western part of Meghalaya, adjacent to the Khasi Hills and bordering Assam. The region is divided into several districts – East Garo Hills with headquarters at Williamnagar, West Garo Hills with headquarters at Tura, North Garo Hills with headquarters at Resubelpara, South Garo Hills with headquarters at Baghmara and South West Garo Hills with headquarters at Ampati.
How to Reach Garo Hills?
Garo Hills can be reached both from Shillong and Guwahati. The nearest airport is Guwahati Airport, which is 200 km from Tura town. Tura is the biggest town in Garo Hills located in West Garo Hill district.
Usually, a trip to Garo Hills is based out of Tura. You can reach Tura either from Shillong or Guwahati. Reaching from Guwahati is easier. Local buses are available from both Shillong and Guwahati.
You will get local buses from the bus stand near the Polo ground in Shillong. As for Guwahati, you will get buses from the bus stand at Paltan Bazar and also from ISBT Guwahati. You can also hire a car from either city to reach Tura.
The last time I visited in 2017, I took a bus from Shillong to Tura. At that time, roads were in bad conditions and the bus took a route via Guwahati. However, in our recent trip, we found that the roads are in better condition and the road from Shillong to Tura via Mairang and Nongstoin was fully operational. This definitely reduced the driving time considerably.
Places to visit in Garo Hills
Garo Hills is a huge area. Each of the districts in the region has its own specialty. In this article I will mention the popular places to visit in Garo Hills. We hope to add to this list as we travel more.
1. Tura Peak
As the name suggests, Tura Peak is located about 4 km east of Tura Town. Lying at 872m above sea level, Tura Peak is a haven for nature lovers and birding enthusiasts. You will find hornbills and gibbons in the forests of the Tura Peak.
There are multiple trek routes that will take you to the Tura Peak. The trek is moderate and it will take you about an hour to ninety minutes to reach the peak. A morning trek is recommended as you will be able to spot birds as well because of the weather.
There is a watch tower on top of the Tura Peak from where you will get stunning views of the Tura town, valleys and the mountain ranges. You will also get a view of the Jinjiram River as it winds down through the hills into the plains.
2. Nokrek National Park
Nokrek Peak is the highest point in the Garo Hills at an altitude of 1412 m. Located about 40 km from Tura town, this is another place for nature lovers. The place was designated as a Biosphere Reserve in 2009, and as such it is one of the bio-diverse hotspots in Meghalaya. Nokrek is the home of the elusive red Panda. We had previously seen red pandas in the wild during Varsey Trek.
Darjeeling Zoo also has a Red Panda Breeding Centre.
Nokrek National Park is also the habitat of Asiatic Wild Elephant, marbled cats, clouded leopards (the state animal of Meghalaya) and other species of cats. Several endangered species like the slow loris, Giant Flying Squirrel, Pig-tail Macaque, stump-tailed macaque and one of the most endangered primates in India – the Hoolock Gibbons are found in the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve. The national park is also a bird sighting area with several migratory birds like Siberian stonechat Siberian rubythroat, and some rare species like the mountain bamboo partridge and the flavescent bulbul have found their home in the Nokrek National Park in the winters.
While tourists are not allowed inside the core area of Nokrek National Park, you can definitely visit the surrounding biosphere reserve area. A trek to the Nokrek Peak can also be done. Daribokgre village is the starting point of Nokrek Peak Trek. The trek will take you through the lush countryside with thick plantations and groves and quaint villages before entering the forests.
Where to Stay?
There is a forest Inspection Bungalow at Daribokgre. You will also find homestays at the village. There is another beautiful eco-stay at Chandigre, about 10 km away. You can take a day trip to Nokrek Peak from Tura.
3. Pelga Waterfalls
Pelga Falls is located about 7 km from Tura town and is a hotspot for angling. It is a beautiful waterfall and is an absolute paradise for nature lovers. The waterfall is best visited during the monsoon season. On visiting the waterfall, you will see the locals enjoying fishing at the pool at the foot of the waterfall.
4. Rongbangdare Waterfall
Another beautiful waterfall in the region, Ronbangdare is located about 37 km from Tura town. The waterfall is located amidst lush greenery right in the middle of emerald green hills. The waterfall drops down to finally form a stream. You can follow the stream and hike up to the top of the waterfall. The hike is a bit tricky in some parts.
5. Chandigre Village
Chandigre is basically a resort village located at the foothills of the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve. Quite naturally, it serves as a base camp for many who want to do the Nokrek Peak Trek.
Chandigre Rural Tourist Resort is run by the local Garo people. The main highlight of this resort is the traditional architecture of the houses. These houses are made entirely of local materials. The tourists are also accommodated in these traditional huts.
You can roam around the village, enjoy the views, talk with the locals and get to know about their life. Also taste the amazing Garo food. You can also visit the local brewery and get a taste of the rice beer there.
Chibagre is essentially a picnic spot located at the confluence of two rivers, Rongram and Gangol. The place is pristine and peaceful surrounded by greenery. Although Chibagre is more popular to the locals, you can also visit the place and soak in the beauty of the rivers and the surroundings. The place is located about 14 km from Tura.
7. Balpakram National Park
All the places mentioned above are accessible from Tura. Balpakram, however, is located in the farthest corner of South Garo Hills. Also known as the land of the perpetual winds, Balpakram forms an important part of Garo folklore. There are several tales of the paranormal kind related to Balpakram. The place is called “the land of spirits” by the locals.
Balpakram National Park is also known for its diverse flora and fauna. The Simsang River defines the landscape and you will find local waterfalls along the way. The view of the canyons from the plateau top is also spectacular.
Where to Stay?
There is a forest Rest House at Balpakram. Alternatively, you can stay at Baghmara, 50 km away. Baghmara is also the largest town in South Garo Hills.
8. Siju Cave and Siju WildLife Sanctuary
Siju Cave is one of the longest caves in Meghalaya as well as in India. Located about 30 km from Baghmara town, it is undoubtedly one of the major places to visit in the Garo Hills. The Siju Cave, also known as the “Bat Cave” because of its huge colony of bats, is located near the Napak Lake and Simsang River Game reserve. It is a limestone cave having impressive structures inside.
Entering the Siju Cave is like entering the belly of the earth. The cave system is almost 4 km long and is full of passages and labyrinths. You will also have to wade through water inside the Siju Cave. And the water is said to contain electric eel! It is entirely dark inside the cave and you will require torches or headlamps to visit the caves.
You will be able to see the Simsang river just opposite the Siju Cave. And on the other bank of the river lies the Siju Wildlife Sanctuary. Many migratory birds are found in the Siju Wildlife Sanctuary. It is also the home of the Hoolock gibbons, slow loris and langurs.
Where to Stay?
You can stay at Siju Tourist Lodge, located just by the Siju Caves.
9. Wari Chora
Wari Chora is the latest addition in adventure tourism at the Garo Hills. Located in the South Garo Hills, Wari Chora is a hidden paradise. To reach the place, you have to first come to Baghmara and then travel to Emnagre village. from Emangre, you have to off-road for another 15 km and then trek for an hour to reach the Wari Chora Canyons. It is basically a canyon with the river flowing between the towering gorges. The main activity here is rafting or canoeing on the Rongdik River in between the narrow gorges.
Where to Stay?
There is a homestay at Emangre and Dabangre village.
10. Fish Sanctuaries
Fish Sanctuaries are an interesting place in the Garo Hills. You will find them in many places across Garo Hills. These are basically created in natural water bodies like the rivers and streams with the main objective to protect the decreasing population of indigenous fish species in the river. These sanctuaries are the breeding places of the fishes and in recent times, these have also become tourist spots.
A few Fish Sanctuaries in the Garo Hills are Rombagre Fish Sanctuary in West Garo Hills and Jadisil Fish Sanctuary in the South Garo Hills.
Festivals of the Garos
The most important festival of Garos is the Wangala Festival. It is a post-harvest festival where the Garos pay their reverence to the “Great Giver”.
Though this festival is celebrated at different times at different Garo villages, a grand festival is celebrated every year at Assanang for 3 days. People from the various Garo villages come to celebrate their cultural uniqueness. The major attraction of this festival is the grand dance performed on the last day of the festival. 30 dancers and 10 drummers form a group and there are 10 such groups performing at the dance. Hence the festival is known as 100 Drums Wangala Festival.
Wangala Festival usually occurs during the month of November every year. It is a spectacle to watch 300 performers dancing to the rhythm of 100 drums.
Garo Hills Travel Guide (FAQs Answered)
Yes, Garo Hills are safe for tourists. The Garo people are one of the friendliest people you will ever meet and they are always ready to help you without any expectations. Stick to the main areas and always pay heed to your guide and the locals in case of any problems. Political disturbances and insurgencies are a thing of the past. The area is now quite safe for tourists.
You can reach Garo Hills either from Guwahati or Shillong. The nearest airport is Guwahati Airport. You can hire a cab from Guwahati or Shillong to reach the major towns. Local buses are also available from Guwahati and Shillong to Tura, the biggest town here.
All the major towns in the Garo Hills like Tura, Williamnagar and Baghmara have hotels and guest houses. There are homestays available also in this region.
Compared to previous years, the road conditions in the Garo Hills have improved considerably. The road from Shillong to Tura is now complete and in good condition. There are stretches near Siju and Balpakram where the roads are in bad shape.
You can plan a trip on your own to the Garo Hills. 6-7 days are enough to explore most of the attractions in Garo Hills. However, keep in mind that the region is still developing as a tourist area. Local transport is available, but they are not frequent. The best plan would be to base your trip from Tura and visit the attractions in the West Garo Hills. You can also take the help of local tour operators to plan your trip.
The best time to visit the Garo Hills is in the winter and spring months between November to March.The weather remains best during this time for outdoor activities. Summers are warm and humid and thus it becomes a bit difficult to go around in the sun.
Garo Hills is still an unexplored destination in Meghalaya. We have explored only a part of the place and intend to revisit there in future as well. Hope you liked our blog and found it helpful. If yes, please share it with your family, friends and neighbours.
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