Nohkalikai Falls, located about 7.5 km from Cherrapunji (Sohra) in East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, is the most dramatic and tallest plunge waterfall in India. You should and must add Nohkalikai waterfalls to your Meghalaya itinerary.
Cherrapunji, (once upon a time) one of the wettest places on Earth, is insanely famous for its living root bridges in the village of Nongriat (they have three of them), Double Decker Living Root Bridge (Jingkieng Nongriat) being the most impressive and most visited. And, more often than not, they steal the limelight from Nohkalikai Falls.
With a drop of about 340 m, Nohkalikai is counted among the highest waterfalls in the world.
The sight of falls plunging over red-rock cliffs enveloped with a lush forest into the clear turquoise pool makes its visitor’s jaw drop. Dangerously beautiful! This is what I call nature at its best!
The pool at the base of falls dramatically changes colors from blue to green to aqua with time and season.
Can you even wrap your mind around the fact that such a breathtakingly gorgeous waterfall is associated with a disturbingly ugly legend? I couldn’t.
Our guide started narrating the extremely unpleasant story behind the waterfall’s name origin, while I was not even done (you’ll never get enough of it!) taking in the mystic sight of the falls. The intensity of the emotions washed away the beauty of the waterfall, at least for a while.
Nohkalikai literally translates to “Jump of Ka Likai” wherein ‘Noh’ means jump, ‘Ka’ is a prefix used for a female, and ‘Likai’ is the name of the Khasi woman behind the ghastly legend.
The Legend of Nohkalikai
Once in the village of Rangjyrteh, a young widow with a little baby girl worked hard to sustain their lives. She found it hard to take care of her little one along with a load of job. On perusal of village women, she remarried thinking her daughter would get a father and she would get time to look after her daughter.
The new husband turned out to be one nasty mean fellow. Jealous of all the attention little girl gets from Likai, he did something so horrendous we can’t even believe a human being can even think about it. He chopped the little soul and cooked her for dinner.
Assuming her baby might be playing at the neighbor’s house, Likai, starving after day’s hard work, ate the meal cooked by her husband. As she was eating her after-meal betel leaves and nuts, the sight of tiny fingers petrified her. It took her a minute to understand what exactly has happened, and when she did, she was filled with rage and grief. As helpless as her baby, Likai ran madly, until she reached the edge of waterfalls, and jumped to death.
That’s when the waterfall is renamed as ‘NohKaLikai.’
When to Visit Nohkalikai Falls
As it’s a rainfed waterfall, May to September (monsoon) is the perfect time to visit Nohkalikai Falls. It’s when you can witness the falls in its full glory.
If you are keen to take the trek to the edge and base of the falls, October to March (winter) is the best time to visit.
Best Time of the Day to Visit the Falls
The best time of the day to visit the waterfall absolutely depends upon what you expect from the falls. If you want to enjoy the beauty of the falls from the viewpoint, then I’d say go in the late afternoon when the mist is cleared and maybe stay till evening to witness the majestic sunset over the falls.
If hiking the falls is on your mind, early morning is the best time to start off as the trek can take anywhere between 4 to 5 hours depending upon the weather conditions and your stamina.
Getting to Nohkalikai Falls
The Nohkalikai Falls is accessible by a cab or car from Cherrapunji (Sohra). You can even walk all the way to the falls from Sohra.
Cherrapunji is about 54 km from Shillong and takes approx. 2 hours to reach. It’s a beautiful drive through the mist-covered hills featuring slim waterfalls cascading into the deep lush valleys.
The nearest airport and rail-head is in Guwahati, Assam. We flew to Guwahati from Delhi and then hired a taxi with a driver from there for our entire Meghalaya expedition.
Related Read: Best Places to Visit in Delhi
How to Experience Nohkalikai Falls
There are many ways to enjoy the Nohkalikai Falls. The view-point along the cliff gives you the panoramic view of the falls.
There’s a steep flight of stairs that take you near to the waterfall but they end into a dirt path quite before they reach the base of the falls. We didn’t take a risk to follow the dirt path but there were brave boys who did.
Outside the rainy season, you can trek to the edge as well as the bottom of the falls.
The trek to the waterfall’s edge through lush grasslands, forested hills, huge boulders over a fossil covered river bed, and clear streams, takes over 2 hours and it rewards you with the unique views of Nohkalikai. You can’t miss the Tlai waterfalls, on the way to the mouth of the falls. The three-tier waterfall leaves you spellbound. Another 45 minutes walk on the river bed from Tlai falls takes you to the mouth of Nohkalikai Falls. You might feel adventurous to sit at the edge of the falls but, remember it can be utterly risky.
The trek to the waterfall’s bottom isn’t easy, especially with kids as it involves a lot of climbing down the rocks and boulders along the mountain path. Once you’re at the base, the clear blue waters of the pool look inviting. You’d surely want to spend some time admiring the falls from a different perspective after the tedious trek.
Where to Eat near the Nohkalikai Falls
There are not many decent places to eat near the falls. There are two hole-in-the-walls that serve tea, coffee, and basic snacks.
Where to Stay in Sohra (Cherrapunji)
From budget to mid-range to luxury, Sohra has quite a good number of accommodation options for every kind of traveler. We stayed at Ibankordor Jungle Resort and enjoyed our time there. The property boasts a viewpoint that offers amazing views over the neighboring country, Bangladesh. Though we couldn’t enjoy the views over Bangladesh clearly as it was a foggy day!
Next time around, I’d love to stay at Jiva Resort Cherrapunjee, one of the most luxurious properties in Cherrapunji.
Other Places to Visit Around Nohkalikai Falls
- Double Decker Root Bridge in Nongriat (there’s a beautiful trail from Nohkalikai Falls that takes you to Nongriat provided you’re in for a long walk)
- Seven Sisters Falls (Nohsngithiang Falls)
- Dainthlen Falls
- Mawsmai and Arwah Caves
- Thangkharang Park
- We recommend hiring a licensed guide for the trek.
- You’d need almost an entire day if you want to trek the falls.
- Rain or shine, carry a raincoat as you’ll most likely get wet while trekking.
- A little walk further from the Nohkalikai viewpoint will treat you with a view of Bangladesh.
- You can shop for the local spices, honey, and handicrafts to take back home from the local market at the parking lot near the Nohkalikai Viewpoint.
However tragic the story behind its name, Nohkalikai Falls never seizes to be stunning! There’s a reason it’s listed among the best waterfalls in the world.
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