Popularized in mainstream Indian cinema by Rock On 2 and recently the location for the shoot of the global music video by New United, Laitlum literally translating to “ End of Hills” offers some of the best views in the world and the freshest air one can breathe. True to its name, the hilltop of Laitlum provides breathtaking landscape views of gorges and deep canyons etched with a winding steep stairway cut out of the mountains and leading to a hamlet tucked deep into the valley of the Laitlum Canyons.
You can take your car right up into the hilltop and then make your way along rocky pathways surrounded by meadows that become a golden hue during the winters and then turn lush green during the summers. Find a suitable spot on the edge of the flat grassy hilltop and savour the feeling of being in an amphitheatre as the stunning and exquisite sceneries unfold before your eyes. The deep canyons and breathtaking gorges are bathed with a hue of vibrant colours that change as the day goes by with a gorgeous panoramic view of the hamlet known as Rasong.
During most of the summer season, the Laitlum Canyons are usually blanketed in a white shroud of mist that gets thicker as the day progresses but if you are patient enough, the sunlight breaks through the fog of clouds giving you a sneak peak of the valley below. Also be prepared for the gushing winds that can literally sweep you away. Yet on a fine sunny day, the breathtaking views make a good set-up for an idyllic picnic with friends and family, a heart-to-heart conversation with your sweetheart and even as a solo meditation spot.
For the more adventurous, the steep 3000 steps stairway lined with fern-covered rocks winding its way through bamboo plantations, beautiful meadows, small slate-roofed houses perched at great heights of the canyon and wild exotic orchids is a trekker’s dream. Rasong lies at the end of this winding staircase, the only route for the residents to reach the nearest village of Smit. Besides the staircase, an old ropeway pulley is the only other lifeline and is used for transporting food commodities and other essentials down to the valley and up to the hilltop. On days when the rusty old pulley is out of order, the locals use traditional bamboo baskets slung over their backs to carry the required commodities. The broom plant is the main cash crop of Rasong and the locals use it to make traditional brooms that are sold in the markets of Shillong.
The 3-4 hour trek to the hamlet of Rasong might be arduous for some and the terrain is difficult to navigate but the sight of the gurgling Laitlum stream flowing amidst the grassy meadow makes up for the ordeal. A quaint wooden bridge over the stream provides the perfect spot for shutterbugs with a 270-degree viewpoint of the four nearby waterfalls. The meadow serves as an excellent picnic spot and for those who may have forgotten to pack their food, the one lone shop in the vicinity is the only resort for red tea and simple snacks.
Laitlum Canyons is relatively less crowded and less commercial than other tourist spots in Meghalaya. It offers a serene, secluded spot for some quiet, peaceful moments while viewing the fascinating panorama of Meghalaya’s natural beauty. As you sit there enveloped by the fog and taking in a breath of fresh air, the tranquil surroundings interrupted only by the whistling of the wind, the landscape painted with a myriad spectrum of colours will make you feel as if you’ ve been transported to somewhere magically surreal.
POPULAR FOR: Nature Lovers / Photo Fanatics / Experience Seekers / Adventure Seekers
HOW TO GET THERE: About 20-25 kms from Police Bazaar in Shillong, Laitlum lies ahead of the village of Smit. To reach there, you need to follow the NH 44 to Jowai, Jaintia Hills and then take a diversion to your right to reach Smit Road.
COST OF GETTING THERE: The total trip may cost about Rs 1500-2500 for the day trip based on duration and type of vehicle hired to take you there.
WHEN TO VISIT: Laitlum can be visited round the year but the best time is from March to August when the hilltop gets transformed into varying shades of green.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Laitlum Canyons is accessible from 6 am to 5 pm but the best time to go there is in the afternoon as the place is covered with fog in the morning and in the evening.
DURATION OF VISIT: You would need a total of 2-3 hours if you are only interested in going to Laitlum Canyons for the views. However, if you have the whole day, then spend 5 to 6 hours trekking down to the village and back to explore an amazing trail into the valley.
WHERE TO EAT: There are no eateries as such but you will find locals and one or two makeshift shacks selling packaged chips, tea and hot steamed momos occasionally. The nearest village of Smit has numerous local tea shops offering tea and local snacks made from pounded rice.
NEARBY PLACES TO EXPLORE: The village of Smit in Laitlum is the traditional seat of power of the Hima Khyrim, a sub-tribe of the Khasis. At Smit, one can visit the ‘ Iing Sad’ which is the royal abode of the Syiem Sad, Queen Mother or High Priestess of Hima Khyrim, who is the custodian of the indigenous religion. The traditional house believed to be more than 100 years old is made completely with wood and bamboo and no metal nails. It is also the venue of the famous Khasi traditional dance ' Ka Pomblang Nongkrem' or ' Shad Nongkrem' (Nongkrem Dance), an annual festival held at the courtyard of the Iing Sad usually in autumn.
- Make sure to pack your own food & water if you want to set up a picnic
- Do carry a mat to avoid the slushy grass during monsoons.
- Carry a Jacket to protect yourself from the wind.