The eastern part of Meghalaya is known as the Garo Hills. The hilly tracts of Meghalaya are known as the Shillong Plateau and are divided into three parts, the Jaintia hills on the east, the Khasi hills in the centre and the Garo Hills on the western part of the state. The area is named after the local Garo people. The Garo hills cover an area of about 8000 square kilometres. The area offers beautiful sightseeing places, dense forests and different species of animals and birds.
The area is divided into five districts, The East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, North Garo Hills, South Garo Hills and the South West Garo Hills. Nokrek is the highest peak in the region. The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve is a very important national park. Tura is the main town in the area.
One can reach East Garo Hills from Guwahati airport / Railway station. This is the nearest airport/railway station for this region. It is about 220 km and roughly takes about 5 hours to reach. The second nearest airport is Shillong which will take about 7 hrs to reach.
Nokrek Biosphere Reserve – It is one of the most important National Parks in the state. UNESCO included it in its list of biosphere reserves in 2009. Unique and highly endangered species such as the red panda, Asian elephants and the rare Slump-tailored Macaque are found here. Garo Hills is also home to the wild orange (Citrus Indica). This is considered to be the ancestor of all cultivated citrus fruits and is considered the most primitive. The citrus Indica is not found anywhere outside the Garo hills.
Balphakram National Park – It is situated in the West Garo Hills and is famous for its canyon. Wild water buffalo, marbled cat, deer, tiger, red panda and many more animals are found here along with different species of birds.
Rongbang Falls – It is a tributary of the Simsang river with a breathtaking view which attracts tourists.
Siju Caves –It is one of the longest cave systems in India which is made of limestone. It is situated by the beautiful Simsang River. It is also known as a Bat cave as different species of bats are found over there.
Pelga Falls – It is located at a distance of 7 km from Tura. It is a happening place for tourists. People interested in fishing and doing a picnic are also attached to this place.
The best time to visit Garo Hills is in the month of September to May as the weather is quite pleasant and appropriate for sightseeing whereas the monsoon receives heavy rainfall.
Local People and Culture
The Garo people came here from Tibet centuries back. They speak the Sino-Tibetan language. It is a matriarchic society where the mother’s clan title is taken by the next generation. During the last couple of centuries, Christianity has taken root among the Garo people as among other North-Eastern states. Today majority of the Garos follow Christianity as their religion.
The staple food of the local people is rice along with millet, maize, vegetables and roots. Like all other tribes of the North East, the Garo people are fond of non-veg food including beef, pork and goat meat. Minil Bichi is their homemade rice liquor. These local homes are mostly built with natural materials such as timber, bamboo and cane. The harvesting festival Wangala of Asanang village is the biggest celebration of the Garo people which takes place in the month of October or November every year. Christmas is also celebrated with a lot of fanfare.