Nohkalikai: India's Highest Plunge Waterfall

At 335 meters, Nohkalikai which literally translates to ‘Jump of Ka Likai’ is the highest plunge waterfall in India and the 4th highest in the world. The tragic tale behind the name tells the story of a Khasi damsel called Likai who lived in the village of Rangjyrteh upstream of the waterfall. Widowed with a young daughter, Likai remarried in the hopes of providing a father figure for her child.  Likai took over her dead husband’s job of a porter carrying loads of iron to Shylet and spent most of her day working. What little time she could spare back home was spent showering her young daughter with her attention and love. The new husband was envious and resentful of the fact that Likai paid more attention to the child than him and decided to take matters into his own hands. One day while Likai was off to work, the husband chopped the child into pieces and cooked her flesh throwing away the head and bones but forgot one of the severed fingers in the kwai (betel nut) basket.

Hungry and tired after a long day’s work, Likai devoured the delicious curry prepared for her. Noticing the absence of her daughter, Likai decided to go look for her after she finished off her meal with a piece of kwai. To her horror, she discovered the severed finger in the kwai basket and the realization dawned on her that she had eaten her own child. Stricken with grief and dismay, Likai ran out of the house brandishing a wait (hatchet) to prevent people from stopping her as she ran towards the edge of the waterfall. At the point where the waterfall leaps off the precipice, Likai threw herself over the edge and plunged to her death.

Just 5kms from the main town of Cherrapunji (locally known as Sohra), Nohkalikai waterfalls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the town. The short drive from the centre of town through a high tableland will take you to the View Point where you can park your vehicle and then take pictures from a few excellent viewpoints. The viewing gallery provides a panoramic view of the waterfall surrounded by lush greenery. Just near the viewpoint, you will find the steps from where you could trek down the hill to get a better and closer view of the Nohkalikai waterfall, cascading down into a pool-like formation of clear turquoise water. The steps end almost halfway down and to get a closer view, you must be prepared for a fairly long trek and the likelihood of getting wet.

Remaining at the viewpoint will not do justice to the complete experience of Nohkalikai and can only be further explored by two treks – one that takes you to the edge of the falls, while the other takes you to its bottom. The trek to the edge of the falls takes about 2 hrs and is a once in a lifetime experience worthy of your time. It involves an initial walk across flat open grassy fields followed by a descent down a hill covered with green forests after which you will find yourself jumping and crawling over huge boulders on a fossil covered river bed. Along the way, clear streams flow along the river bed interrupted now and then by natural blue water pools that entice and invite you for a quick dip. What awaits you at the end is a breathtaking view of India's highest plunge waterfall. A number of wooden ladders have been placed by the locals to ease the climb up and down the boulders and reduce most of the crawling and climbing. Though at one point during the walk, you might have to literally crawl through a hole in the rock formed by the flowing water and also crawl back up.

En-route to the mouth of the Nohkalikai waterfalls, you will come upon a beautiful three-tier waterfall known as the Tlai waterfalls. To take in the full beauty of this falls, you need to venture to the top and perch yourself on the edge as the milky white water flows down through the rocks and random jet of clear freshwater sprays you occasionally. This is an ideal spot for a break before continuing ahead to the mouth of the Nohkalikai Falls. From the Tlai waterfall, you will need to walk for another 30 mins on the river bed to reach the mouth of Nohkalikai. Once you reach the mouth of the waterfall, you will dumbstruck by the sheer drop of the falls. Going and sitting literally at the edge of the falls where Likai jumped to her death might be thrilling but not advisable. Local Volunteers will ensure that selfie-seekers do not venture too near to the edge especially since it is quite slippery and one small slip might lead to disastrous results.

The other trek that takes you to the bottom of the Nohkalikai Falls is way trickier, especially during the rainy reason. It is a steep climb down boulders and rocks along the mountain path with the occasional flat grassy spots. The path can get extremely slippery after the rains and you will find that you will have to practically crawl your way down. Once you reach the bottom and you are greeted by the inviting turquoise water of the pool-like formation at the bottom of the falls, all thoughts of the trek down will dissipate. Instead, you will be enticed to jump into the water as you stare up the waterfall and get enveloped in the magical, cleansing spray. You can even take a picnic hamper with you down to the base. Tucking into your lunch seems so much more fulfilling with the roar of the waterfall and a gurgling stream for company. The entire trek up and down will take about 4 hrs, including waiting time at the bottom.

POPULAR FOR: Nature Lovers / Photo Fanatics / Experience Seekers / Adventure Seekers
HOW TO GET THERE: This waterfall can be reached from Sohra easily by cab or personal vehicle. Sohra or Cherrapunji also popularly known as the ‘ the Rainiest Place on Planet Earth’ is about 90kms from the city of Shillong. The three-hour drive from Shillong to Sohra is a magical drive through mist-covered hills along winding roads with sheer drops opening out to beautiful lush covered valleys.
COST OF GETTING THERE: The total trip may cost about Rs 2000-Rs 3000 for the day trip based on duration and type of vehicle hired to take you there. If you are planning to stay back, you will need to allocate an additional Rs 4000-6000 for food & lodging.
WHEN TO VISIT: Monsoon season is the best time to visit Nohkalikai when the falls is in its full form. However, the Trek Walk to the mouth and base of Nohkalikai can only be done in the winter months till the start of the monsoons when the flow of water is less (October to March). During monsoons, this area is inaccessible due to increased water level.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: It is advisable to start off the treks early and ensure that you keep at least 3-4 hours time before sunset at 5 p.m. If you plan only on checking out the where the clouds cease to clear the sky and drops of rains continue to fall on your windshield in the majestic viewpoint, then make sure you reach during the afternoon when it is most likely not to be covered in fog.
DURATION OF THE VISIT:  You would need a total of 2-3 hours to reach Sohra (Cherrapunji) from Shillong where you can visit the Viewpoint to see Nohkalikai Falls. If you plan to go on any treks, make sure you reach there early if you want it to be a half-day activity. However, a one night stay is recommended if you are looking at exploring the town of Sohra and going on some treks. Guesthouses, homestays and hotels that suit all types of budget are plenty and easily accessible with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options available.
WHERE TO EAT: At the Parking Lot near the Nohkalikai Viewpoint, you can get numerous items from the famous oranges and honey of Sohra to local spices and handicrafts. There are two small restaurants that provide tea and basic snacks. Packed snacks and drinks are also available, but you will be asked to pay more than the price printed on them.
NEARBY PLACES TO EXPLORE: Visit the nearby village of Nongriat, home to the Double Decker Root Bridge by taking the offbeat trail from Nohkalikai Falls. You could also take in the sights of other waterfalls in the region like the Seven Sisters Falls and the Dainthlen Falls, take a walk through the Mawsmai and Arwah Caves and have a nice picnic lunch at Thangkharang Park.
WHERE TO STAY: Guests are spoiled for choice at Sohra as it has ample lodging options to fit any budget ranging from basic homestays like La Kupar Inn, Guesthouses like Coniferous Resort and up to high-end Hotels like Polo Orchid Resort and Jiva Resort.
Tips :
  • You need basic fitness to go on the Treks to the mouth of Nohkalikai. Other treks will require more stamina and determination.
  • A one night stay is recommended if you want to trek to the mouth of Nohkalikai Falls as well as take in the sights of the Village of Sohra; A two-three day visit is highly suggested if you also want to explore the nearby village of Nongriat and Dainthlen.
  • Be sure to take a guide with you when you go on any of the treks since there is a high possibility of losing the way. Besides, having a local guide means that you get to hear the local stories, eat local food as well as explore places that might not be commonly known on the tourist circuit.

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