If Dawki River in Meghalaya is a top tourist destination and Meghalaya is proud, then tourism in Meghalaya has gone in the wrong direction.
Like most tourists, my initial fascination with the Dawki River was evident. I was captivated by the Instagram photos of a boat floating over a river that was so clear you could see through it.
I discovered that the Umngot River was one of the most beautiful and cleanest rivers I have ever seen in India.
The river is so clear on a good day that you can see the pebbles below. This is how I found it in my two-hour, but no less-lucky, visit.
The beautiful Umngot River (or Dawki River) was breathtaking in both reel and real.
Many floating boats created the impression that they were being pulled on a glass surface rather than sailed.
But that’s only one part!
You can reach me via Instagram if you have any questions. You can also see my Youtube Channel videos to understand the place better.
My Journey from Cherapunji To Dawki
After my disappointment with Nongriat Cherapunji, I went to Dawki in Jaintia Hills, northeast India.
After more than five years, I returned to Nongriat and the living root-bridges. This visit revealed that Overtourism was causing this area of Meghalaya to spiral downwards. It felt like the town was dying. The natural beauty of the place seemed to be fading away.
Please find out more about my experience with living root bridges in Nongriat.
Feeling sad and heartbroken, I left Nongriat in Cherapunji at dawn and rode straight to Dawki. It was about 100 km, but it took me almost 5 hours.
It can be tiring to ride in Meghalaya. You will want to stop every 10 kilometers and take photos.
The sun was beginning to set when I arrived at Dawki. It was around 4 p.m., so I had enough time to scan the town and find somewhere to stay.
As I crossed the Dawki bridge I saw only confusion and crowds. The scene at the border of India and Bangladesh was more frightening from a distance.
Dawki River is Not Worth Visiting
I was warned before I arrived in Dawki that it wasn’t worth staying in Dawki village. My friend, who I met during a trip to the Dwijing festival in Bodoland, told me, “Rather go to Darrang or Shnongpdeng.”
I made a quick detour from Jowai Dawki road to reach Shnongpdeng. I parked my bike at the Shnongpdeng parking lot and walked towards the Dawki river.
Shnongpdeng offered homestays and camping sites right next to the river. It was not a place I would choose to stay. Shnongpdeng is described as ‘filthy and messy’ and ‘disappointingly unorganized’ in five words.
It all, from plastic waste to human feces, was there. A tourist campsite that charges 500 Rupees per night is right next to the filth.
Dawki River was identified as one of the tourist spots that has fallen prey to overtourism and human greed. Authorities and locals did not care about the potential harm to the ecosystem and only wanted quick cash.
The place was disappointing and one of the worst examples of poor tourism in India for me.
Within a matter of hours, I realized I would not stay there. It was too late, it was dark, and I didn’t have a place to sleep by the time I had scanned Shnongpdeng and Dawki. But I decided to leave this place. Mawlynnong became my home for the night as I rode 40km in the same direction that I had come. You can find accommodation deals at Dawki River.
Although you may have already guessed that I don’t recommend this area during your Mehalaya trip, I still recommend you visit between September and December.
Winter is the best season to visit Dawki. The river is at its cleanest, and the weather is the best. This is peak tourist season, so everything is overcrowded. You want your family to be able to travel to a place where there is already over-tourism during peak tourist season.
Although monsoon is a beautiful time to visit, it’s not advisable to go during it because rain can bring mud to the river.
May and June are peak seasons. I recommend taking a tour to make your experience more memorable and enriching.
How to Travel To Dawki River
Here are some ways to get there if you still want to go, despite my warnings not to.
Shillong is the nearest airport. The best deals to Guwahati are for those who fly from Delhi, Bangalore, or any other major Indian city. Book a flight from Guwahati airport.
Guwahati to Shillong takes only 2 hours. You can hire a bike or book a bus or taxi to travel from Guwahati and Shillong at midnight. Book a flight from Guwahati to save money. For the cheapest flight deals, check out CheapOair.
Search for Flights
Meghalaya does not have trains, so the closest train station to Meghalaya is Guwahati railway station. You will find taxis; both shared and private, and buses to Shillong as soon as you leave the Guwahati railway station. A bus costs 200 Rupees, while a shared taxi costs about 350.
Shillong to Dawki
A bus can be found at the Shillong government bus stop for 200 Rupees. You can take the bus to Dawki village, from which you can walk or take a taxi to Shnongpdeng. A boat ride can be taken from the bus stop to Shnongpdeng.
You can take a shared taxi to the Shillong police bazaar or the private bus station if you’ve missed the bus. The cost of a shared taxi is approximately 500 Rupees per head.
Renting a bike or car is another way to get from Shillong and Dawki. A Royal Enfield Motorcycle can be rented in Shillong and Guwahati for 1000 Rupees per day. Having your own vehicle is a great way to save time in Meghalaya.
I rented my motorcycle at Wanderlust Bicycle Rent in Guwahati and rode all over Meghalaya, including Dawki. It takes about five hours to complete the trip, but it can be longer if you stop to take pictures. Google Maps will allow you to navigate the route and then follow it.
You don’t have to pay green or toll taxes if you rent a motorcycle. However, you may pay more in taxes if you rent a vehicle.
You can travel from Guwahati to Shillong on a 4-way highway. It is also possible to travel during the night. It is best to travel from Shillong to Dawki during the day. Although roads in Shillong are in good condition, this mountain region has narrow curves.
Where to Stay in Dawki
You can choose to stay in Dawki village or Darrang village. Let’s now talk about all three.
It is available to tourists who have booked a group tour but need to know where their agent has made arrangements—people who went on a day trip to Dawki but were stranded.
Darrang set up guesthouses and homestays when Dawki village became too crowded. Over time Darrang became more crowded, and tourists began to look for deeper places. Shnongpdeng village was born. If you are looking for places to stay in Darrang, check out Frankenstein Camps and Betelnut Resort.
Shnongpdeng has a range of homestays and riverside camping options for budget travelers. Prices start at 500 Rupees. However, this price means you will get dirty and unsafe accommodations. If you are still looking for a place, it is possible. You can find several good spots in Shnongpdeng by crossing the river using the suspension bridge. Check out Fabian Adventure Camp and Riverside Hot Camping.