A day at the cleanest village in Asia: Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Mawlynnong won the status of being the cleanest village in Asia, in 2003
Image courtesy: Supriya Sehgal

Having lived my entire life in an urban jungle I love to get away to the mountains and staying at a village for a night was the cherry on the cake. Around 100km from Shillong there is a magical paradise – Mawlynnong – a small village which won the status of being the cleanest village (2003), not just in India, but in Asia. I could not wait to get there.

This is a time for many firsts – my first trip to Meghalaya, my first stay in a village and the first time I’m going to see one of the rare Living Root Bridges. After soaking in the beauty of Shillong for a couple of days I make my way to Mawlynnong, located in the East Khasi Hills, very close to Bangladesh.

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A traditional thatched hut.
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

I reach here and I am stumped. Not only is this village spotless clean but it’s one of the prettiest ones I have seen in the country. I am greeted warmly and taken to the guest house, my home for the night. I walk on cobbled streets bordered with thatched Khasi huts and go past gardens that are full of colourful flowers. To keep the village clean there is bamboo baskets outside every house.

A cup of tea at the machan is bound to rejuvenate you.
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

I reach the guest house which is entirely made of bamboo. Raised on stilts it almost seems as if I’m in a tree house with two tiny bedrooms, a living room, verandah and a machan which is connected to the verandah with long bamboo poles and jute. It resembles a typical Khasi hut and it’s serene and calming just sitting there amidst greenery with a gentle gurgling of the waterfall at the background. I ate my lunch and just wanted to laze there with no agenda, no mobile or internet (thank god). I’m enjoying every minute when it just gets better – it’s time to go and see the Living Root Bridges.

The fascinating Living Root Bridges
Image courtesy: Pallavi Pasricha

After a 15-minute walk I’m face-to-face with one of the most spectacular natural bridges I’ve seen that’s made by twisting the roots of the gigantic rubber tree. The roots make a pathway across a stream, making it easy for villagers to commute. These bridges are unique to Meghalaya. All around Cherrapunjee there are a number of such bridges fashioned by Khasi villagers who have, over decades, woven the roots of ficus trees across rivulets and streams. The hardy roots slowly grow to form a cantilevered and intertwined mesh that is used as a bridge over waterways. Many of these bridges can only be reached by hiking through the forest for several hours, so I skip those and choose to see this one instead.

Another interesting thing the villagers have constructed here is the Sky View, an 85 feet high viewing tower that’s made of bamboo. When I reach on top I get stunning views of not just the village but Bangladesh on the other side. It’s simply gorgeous.

After a simple meal of dal, rice, potato and red chilies I turn in early. Next day as I am leaving the children beam and wave and villagers happily see me off. That’s when I realise that it’s the simplicity and warmth of the people that makes Mawlynnong so special.

Getting there: There are regular flights from all metros to Guwahati. From here Mawlynnong is 190km away. You can break the journey at Shillong, 118km from the airport.

The article was first published in 2014, and has been updated since.

AUTHOR'S BIO: A traveller and foodie at heart, Pallavi Pasricha has explored many destinations across the world. But that never seems to be enough and she’s always ready to hit the road again. Her obsession for travel is combined with a love for photography. She is working as the Digital and Community Editor at Lonely Planet India.


    • sangita mukherjee

      June 17, 2014, 9:05:14 pm

    • ‘Mawlynnong’- Truely God’s Own Garden. It seemed perfect introduction of a village which has been acclaimed as Asia’s cleanest village by BBC,UNESCO and National Geography since 2003.

    +3 Reply

      • jayram

        November 25, 2014, 4:55:26 pm

      • its very nice place, but many of indian people not know this place

    • Krishna

      June 18, 2014, 8:24:19 am

    • I wish I could visit once in my life time such a beautiful and silent place in India

    • Leela PS

      June 18, 2014, 2:51:48 pm

    • North-east states are gifts of nature. I really want to be there. Not as tourist , but as an adopted daughter.

    • Rammohan

      June 19, 2014, 5:42:11 am

    • I had visited this village in 2011. Extremely clean and I am sure it did not cost them a fortune to maintain that too. This village is really remote but water is plenty and they live a quite life too. As in One advertisement of that Sharda University, I wish “one day all 500000 villages in India become a Mawlynnong too”

    • Arup Kumar Choudhury

      June 19, 2014, 8:36:29 pm

    • Why it has become so ? It is due to the high mentality of people living there

    • James selvaraj

      June 26, 2014, 10:15:27 am

    • I love to visit and spent a night enjoy the serene atmosphere and beauty

    • manojkumar

      July 5, 2014, 12:16:41 pm

    • Will sure try to Once at least with in year end. Above detail narration is quite exellent. Will happy on if I’d listen more details by a verbal discussion.

    +1 Reply

      • Pallavi Pasricha

        July 8, 2014, 1:14:14 pm

      • Hi manojkumar, glad you liked the article and want to visit the place. You can e-mail us your queries at contact@lonelyplanet.co.in

    • Dornadula C

      December 26, 2014, 9:09:53 pm

    • I visited this village a day before (24 Dec 2014). It is indeed a clean village with 100% literacy and managed by women.


      March 10, 2015, 9:56:31 pm


    +1 Reply


      March 22, 2015, 5:21:45 pm

    • I am keen to visit & stay in this village. Will U pls guide me how to reach this village from Shillong airport and where to stay. Any trekking possible in nearby forest.

    • Dr K Lakshman

      April 9, 2015, 9:25:55 am

    • The Northeast of India is indeed lovely place to visit. Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh, which we visited recently made for a great holiday. The personalized conducted tour organised by Rhinojungle was enjoyable with good places to stay in, good accommodation and knowledgeable guides showing us the places.

    • sandhya nayak

      July 10, 2016, 12:55:00 pm

    • Hi, can u pls share the details about stay?

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