A Meghalaya trip remains incomplete without the awesome trek towards Double Decker Living Root Bridge. Definitely, the journey is not easy, but hiking through such a deep dense tropical forest is a lifetime achievement; an adventure lover should not miss it in any situation.
It is amazing to walk through the evergreen forest that remains shrouded by the cloud and rain throughout the year, exploring unique plant species and butterflies; in addition, passing through several hanging bridges, watching deep blue stream from far top, listening to unstoppable waterfalls, swimming at the beauty of natural swimming pool, and after all, witnessing the Double Decker Living Root Bridge, its a package full of excitements.
I am happy to offer you a detailed overview based on my personal experience, so that you can make your best plan to visit this ever enchanting place.
What are living root bridges?
The name itself explains the simplest answer, the bridges are made of the roots of living trees. In fact, these are man-made natural wonders, far stable alternatives to the common wooden bridges, and can survive during long monsoon seasons in Meghalaya.
Certain areas of Meghalaya are extremely interior and very expensive to construct roads due to the presence of steep hills all around. Local Khasi and Jayantia tribes learned to utilize the aerial roots of ancient rubber trees for building bridges over the rivers.
They chose years’ old riverside rubber trees which contained longer and stronger aerial roots, and mounted those roots to either side of the river, near another ancient rubber tree. When the Arial roots of two trees from both sides of the river crossed together, a solid structure formed. Other small roots also support the main structure from different angles. Local tribal people made some manual modifications to these natural constructions to make those stronger.
A root bridge cannot become strong overnight; rather it needs almost 13-15 years to bear the load of a human. But they grow up continuously, get more stable and solid. The average lifetime of a root bridge is not less than 500 years until the death of the trees. However, the double-decker root bridge, which is our topic of interest also constructed 150+ years back, nobody knows the exact number.
Exact Location of Double Decker Living Root Bridge
Within Meghalaya, several root bridges and bamboo bridges were prepared by the local villagers in West Jaintia Hills district and East Khasi Hills district, mainly to stay connected to the main market.
The legendary Double Decker Living Root Bridge is situated at the wettest place in the world, at Nongriat village near Cherrapunji, India. To reach the bridge you have to follow the trekking route from Tyrna village to Nongriat through the evergreen forest of Cherapunji.
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Let’s start trekking towards Double Decker Living Root Bridge!
The trekking route to Double Decker Root Bridge is not very smooth but still, extremely pleasant. There are two options for you to start your journey.
- Start from Cherrapunji or Sohra: You have to leave your hotel room very early in the morning to reach the starting point at Tyrna village. It takes around 1 hour to reach Tyrna from Cherrapunji or Sohra.
- Start from Tyrna: An alternative and better option is to stay overnight at Tyrna and start trekking in the late morning, which we did.
If you stay overnight at one of the homestays in Tyrna, you are suggested to start your trekking not later than 8:00 AM in the morning. We were a bit late as we had babies with us, but you must start earliest to avoid the hot sun. It’s a long 5-9 hours trekking route depending upon your speed and places you decide to cover.
This is not a natural rocky trekking route, rather from the very beginning you have to hike through the steep stairs. Not only the tourists but also the local villagers (near the root bridge) use the same route to stay connected.
Just for your caution: Trekking through these steep stairs are much difficult than normal trekking through the trails, so get prepared accordingly.
It’s an extreme pleasure to hike through the silence of the dense forest of Meghalaya, watching Nongriat village far below, experiencing the flow of the waterfalls far away in the front, and listening to intense voices from unknown insects. The beauty of colorful flying butterflies over the unknown plants and melodious tune from singing birds will really let you explore your soul into nature.
After 45-60 minutes of trekking, you’ll reach the single root bridge (Ritymmen Root Bridge) situated at Nongthymmai village. If you are interested to experience the beauty of the living root bridge, but can’t trek a long way, you are suggested to visit a single root bridge and return; on our way we have seen two older families did the same thing. You can reach the single root bridge within 40 minutes to 1 hour after starting.
You have to trek far below to reach the Double Decker Living Root Bridge and get back again. You may feel it’s a tough job but I’d say, try your best, and don’t miss the legendary one. Many common people aging above 50 do it every year.
Well, click some photos at the single root bridge and have some cold drinks (or maybe energy drinks), and start again.
On the way, you’ll see several bamboo and metal wired bridges and a blue water stream far below. All are truly amazing!
The region remains wet throughout the year, but in winter and spring, most of the days remain sunny. Trek on a sunny morning is awesome; also the colors are very much photogenic on a sunny day.
You’ll reach Nongriat village after another 1.5-2 hours of trekking. You have to pay a minimum price per person at the entrance of the Double Decker Root Bridge. Digital cameras and video cameras are chargeable, but no fee required for smartphones.
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The natural wonder: Double-decker Root Bridge
The famous double-decker root bridge at Nongriat village offers the outdoor enthusiasts a great opportunity to experience a 150+ years old man-made natural wonder, which is unique and also astonishing. On the way, you’ll discover several single-layered root bridges, but only this one appears with two layers and there are definite reasons for that.
The water level that is flowing below the Double Decker Root Bridge increases abnormally during monsoon which swallows the lower level and thus restricts the connection to either side. These types of natural disasters forced the villagers to build up another level with a similar aerial root method.
Not only the root bridge but the beauty of this place blossoms as an overall thematic view. Busy waterfalls just beside the bridge, extremely clear water stream below, and calm nature all around always inspire you to spend hours at this enchanting place; swimming under the waterfalls, sitting mindless, walking over the crystal clear water… it’s an amazing place far away from the city! But your time is limited, you have to move on.
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Let’s move forward towards the Natural swimming pool
After spending 1-1.5 hours near Umshiang Double Decker Living Root Bridge, you can choose to return back or move forward towards the natural swimming pool.
You have to trek another 40 minutes to reach the natural swimming pool. Many travelers avoid this place due to unawareness, but I’d suggest you to must visit this place. It’s another hiking experience through a more dense forest; the beauty and calmness of nature are simply not explainable unless you become the eye-witness. On the way, you’ll cross two more bridges, one made of living roots and another by wire.
The Natural swimming pool is splendid in real sense. On the one side a waterfall is meeting the natural reservoir producing the natural swimming pool of crystal clear blue water; it a splendid view!
You can swim there to get refreshed, but caution! Go move deeper to the middle, it’s streamy and deep inside.
You can easily spend an hour beside the natural swimming pool if you have time.
When we reach that place, only a few foreign backpackers were relaxing there, but no Indians; even on our way from the double-decker root bridge to the natural swimming pool, I discovered only a very few foreign travelers were returning back. I guess Indian adventure lovers are missing this place due to limited information (foreigners collect more information before visiting a place).
In true sense, this place will remain beautiful as long as it remains less crowded. However, difficult trekking root keeps this place away from the bad crowd and thus maintains its calmness, beauty, and clarity.
Would you like to explore more? – Head towards Rainbow Waterfalls
You have to trek 1.2 hours more to reach Rainbow waterfalls. That’s another beautiful place and the very last milestone of this trekking route. It is a more lonely place because you have to trek more upwards to reach this place, and thus many people avoid trekking further. Sometimes, limited time also becomes a factor.
The beautiful waterfall is pretty high and the appearance of “Rainbow” over the waterfall is the reason behind the nomenclature. The waterfall is situated in such a position that sunrays reach from a typical angle on the water particles to produce a rainbow offering a splendid view.
You must have to reach there before sunset on a sunny day to get a chance to experience this heavenly beauty. It is suggested to visit there in winter or spring when the weather remains mostly clear.
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It’s a long road to trek back to the homestay. For sure, it is a much difficult job to return through the same route when you are tired from the whole day of trekking. However, traveling with an infant or child is even more difficult unless you get support.
Are you thinking to avoid this long trek with an infant? We didn’t avoid. In fact, we enjoyed this full-day trekking together with our 2 years old babies, me and couple of my travel partners, including our 2 years old babies.
You are suggested to hire a baby carrier (porter) to carry your baby at least one way (preferably for the return journey). We took porters for our return journey as we absolutely realized things might be worst without their assistance; they are very polite and dedicated to their job. It is true that your little baby may not stay on others’ lap for a long time but it will provide you at least some relief during your long hiking through the mostly upward return route.
If you start your return journey from the Rainbow waterfalls it needs around 3-3.5 hours to return back to the starting point at Tyrna, depending upon your trekking speed. If you feel, you can’t hike a long return route on the same day, you have an alternative option. You may pre-book a homestay at Nongriat village; there are many.
Caution: You shouldn’t expect a well-furnished hotel room at Nongriat, because the village is situated in an interior place; but you’ll definitely get a neat and clean environment.
However, several adventure lovers prefer to stay at Nongriat village before-night due to having easy access to the double-decker root bridge, natural water-falls, and also the rainbow waterfalls.
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Life of the local villagers near Double Decker Living Root Bridge
Maybe it’s a bit off-topic, but I feel it’s worth having a little knowledge about the local villagers who are associated with the Double Decker Living Root Bridge.
There are several root bridges in Meghalaya, and the double-decker Root Bridge is the most popular and beautiful. As tourists, we visit there only to experience the beauty of nature, but for the local villagers, each and every root bridge is very important; all those bridges connect them to the main market and they cover the long trek route on a regular basis.
As per my personal feelings, definitely, it’s difficult and expensive to build roads through those steep hills, but it is not impossible! Building up the road might be greatly helpful to the local villagers; they might get rescue from their daily up and down routine. Unfortunately, due to some unknown reasons, it didn’t happen; maybe to keep the trekking path alive or something else.
However, tourism and local homestays are one of the main sources of income for the villagers.
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Who should choose to visit Double Decker Root Bridge
Meghalaya is a very popular destination for any adventure lover throughout the world. However, the Double Decker living root bridge shouldn’t be missed out, if you are visiting Meghalaya, specifically Cherrapunji. In fact, this is a lifetime achievement.
Still, certain physical conditions may not allow you to trek towards Double-Decker root bridge; it’s unfortunate.
If you are young, you can do it. But in case, you are among the older people, you just need to be strong from the inside, which may help you reach the place. If you feel you can’t, just get back to the homestay after visiting the single root bridge; at least you’ll get an idea, how the natural root bridge looks like.
If you are young and you have certain physical restrictions, such as asthma, hysteria, etc., you should avoid this long trek; you can cover other beautiful places in Meghalaya.
If you are physically fit, I must recommend you to visit this place. The Double-decker Root Bridge is among the must-visit places in Meghalaya.
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When to visit Double Decker Living Root Bridge?
November to April is the best time to trek towards Double decker root bridge because this season is relatively dry in Meghalaya. However, October and May also be considered; these are pick seasons for Meghalaya tourism due to the festival and summer vacation in India. Meghalaya remains crowded during October and May, but Double-decker Root Bridge remains less crowded, because of the limited knowledge about the place and tough trek route.
If you visit there in peak winter, you can enjoy the trek very well, you can experience clear deep blue water in the natural swimming pool and the beautiful rainbow shade at Rainbow waterfalls, but you may miss several waterfalls all around Meghalaya as many of those get dried in these months.
It is suggested to avoid visiting Meghalaya from June to September. In this monsoon season, you can miss out on many outdoor activities and maybe set back in the hotel room throughout the day. But if you are looking for a leisure trip, and wish to enjoy the rain and greenery of the world’s wettest place, you can choose the monsoon time.
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How to visit Double Decker Root Bridge?
Earlier in this article, I already mentioned the routes for visiting this awesome place. Here I am rewinding along with more details.
Firstly, you have to reach Shillong by air or by road or even by train route.
There is no direct train route to visit Meghalaya, in fact, railways are lacking in this state of India. You have to reach Guwahati railway station (Assam) if you prefer the train route. Then book a car to reach Shillong.
You have two options,
Guwahati Airport: All the International airports in India and also several domestic airports are connected to Guwahati Airport. If you are traveling from a foreign destination just search out the flight availability from your preferable airport. After reaching Guwahati take a cab to reach Shillong.
Shillong Airport: It definitely looks like a better option. But there are two negatives. Firstly, only one flight is available in a day and that starts from Kolkata Airport. So, if you are from West Bengal or you can reach Kolkata (West Bengal, India), you can avail this flight. Secondly, due to frequent rain, sometimes Shillong flight gets canceled or starts very late. Bad weather sometimes diverts the landing platform to Guwahati. However, in every situation, the airline’s authority will refund you fully or partially (depending upon the situation).
From Shillong take a cab to reach the nearest destination to the Double Decker route bridge. You have two options to start your trekking:
- Start your car very early in the morning from Cherrapunji, and land on the trekking point at Tyrna.
- You can stay at Tyrna and start your hiking the next morning.
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Where to stay for reaching Double Decker Living Root Bridge?
You have three options:
Stay in Cherrapunji / Sohra
You’ll get many resorts and homestays at Cherrapunji, and most of those are very comfortable. After spending a night at Cherrapunji, you can drive towards Tyrna in the next morning very early; it takes 1 hour. Then start trekking towards the Double Decker Route Bridge.
Stay at Tyrna
I think, this is the best option. Instead of wasting a night at Cherrapunji, you can check-in to a homestay at Tyrna. But don’t expect a lot of comfort and great foods at Tyrna. This is a small village, from where the trekking route starts. In Tyrna homestays you get some rest overnight and start hiking the next morning.
Stay at Nongriat village
This is the village where the double-decker route bridge is situated and you have the trek for 2-2.5 hours to reach there as I mentioned above. If you stay here you can cover all the nearby spots easily; you’ll get the root bridge just beside you, then trek a lesser distance for visiting natural swimming pool and Rainbow falls. This might be a nice option to break down your trek route. However, don’t expect the comfort of a hotel room at Nongriat Homestay, but if you are interested to experience the village life in north-eastern India, this is a great option for you.
Most Adventure lovers and foreign travelers prefer to stay either at Nongriat Village or at Tyrna. If you ask my personal choice, I’d prefer Tyrna for the first night, and Nongriat for the second night; that means after enjoying the beauty of the rainbow waterfalls, it is better to stay at Nongriat rather than perform a long hike for returning Tyrna/Cherrapunji.
So, have a nice hike!
So, Ladies and gentlemen, that’s all about the Double Decker root bridge. Hope this helps you out for a better planning.
If still, you have any queries, please let me know by posting a question below. I’ll be more than happy to help you out.
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