Sailing on the Umngot River in Dawki, Meghalaya

posted in: Destinations, India, Meghalaya | 26

The Umngot river definitely fits the description of a river we encounter in fairytales. For, it is a river which becomes emerald blue – green in monsoons. But turns so transparent and crystal clear in the months of winter that you can see to its bottom. (Curious? just google for “Umngot River, Dawki” and look at the images you see). Moreover, it is surrounded by high mountains on both the sides, covered in lush greenery, with several streams of fresh waterfalls cascading through the steep walls of these mountains. Now where would you encounter such a river? Well, Here in Dawki, Meghalaya!

Umngot River Dawki

To Dawki

Dawki is a small town in Meghalaya. It is located on the border of India and Bangladesh. We visited Dawki on the 3rd day of our 4 day trip to Meghalaya. We headed here from the village of Mawlynnong, after having visited the living root bridge of Meghalaya there. And on the way, we passed through several waterfalls big and small cascading from the hill which was our constant companion on one side of the road. We invented a game of counting the waterfalls along the way. Big and small together there were 30 plus waterfalls that we encountered. Some were quiet massive, like the one in the picture above. It is named “Bophill falls”. We witnessed it right before reaching Dawki. The force of the water here was so strong that the water droplets were reaching us right on the highway although the fall was a good 500 meters away.

Umngot River Dawki
One of the countless beautiful spots along the Dawki River

While on the other side stretched the vast plains of Bangladesh. When we couldn’t contain our curiosity anymore we asked our cab driver if it was easy for people to cross the borders through these plains. His answer was a firm “No”. After almost an hours ride we reached the jewel of Dawki – Umngot river. The road runs along the side of the cliff on both the sides of the river. While the river itself lies deep down. We parked our vehicle on the side of the road. The views of the river from atop are just mesmerizing.

A steep descent to the Umngot River

Umngot River Dawki

From atop the hill, a narrow stretch of uneven stone steps lead to the river. Descending these steps with our kid was a little adventure in itself. Although, she didn’t seem to be bothered at all. Along the side of the steps you will see several colorful boats hanging with thick ropes. Some of the ropes cross the path of the steps, giving your adventure a little wing. Once down, we already found one boat ready and waiting for us.

A beautiful ride on the Umngot River

Soon we were seated onto our respective positions in the boat and it started sailing. And as soon as we were on the river, it was like entering into a new world. Surrounded by high cliffs on both sides with several waterfalls cascading through them, we felt like being in the middle of a tropical paradise. At times, we also encountered mysterious caves along the sides of the river, some of which had waterfall guarding their entrance. Soon we all got encaptivated in the beauty of the natural wonder that we were sailing on – the Umngot River and its surroundings.

A fairytale stop amidst the Umngot River

Umngot River Dawki


As we sailed through the Umngot River, we soon came across a beautiful small island. It is a stretch of sand covered with beautiful blue, grey and white pebbles big and small. The island looks so beautiful from the river. And the river looks equally mesmerizing when viewed from the island. You can stop here and explore this beautiful island for a while. Our boat took a turn from here and we started sailing along the other end of the river.

The countless rainbows on the waterfalls

As we sailed along the other side of the Umngot River, we started encountering a lot of small waterfalls along the side of the hill. And call it our luck or the perfect timing, the sun was at such an angle that we witnessed a rainbow along each of these waterfalls. And some had even double rainbows! Our little girl was totally hypnotized seeing so many rainbows in one shot. She had the best moment of her trip. While we tried to capture some of the rainbows in our cameras. This stretch of the boat trip was one of the most memorable one.

Umngot River Dawki
Can you spot the rainbow?

In fact, the impact of the tropical feeling is such that for a moment you will definitely feel like you are sailing in the sea between the islands of Thailand. The rocks, the steep cliffs, the vegetation on the mountains, the waterfalls and the color of the river all come together to create this feeling. We have done several other river cruises and boat rides on our trip to other destinations like Ooty, Yercaud, Kerala and others. But this river ride had something about it that we are going to vote it above all other experiences we had so far with river cruises.

And the river knows no bounds

Well, boundaries are for us, human. But nature doesn’t honor such boundaries. As was evident when we sailed over the Umngot river in Dawki. The river tends to get broader as it flows down and soon enters into the plains of Bangladesh. There is a thick rope tied across the river to mark the boundaries of the two nations. But when has a rope succeeded in binding a river!! We could see the Bangladesh check post across and tourist sailing on the river on the other side as well. The river tends to get much more vast as it enters the plains and expands between India and Bangladesh. The sight is definitely one to behold.

On to the land border of Bangladesh

Umngot River Dawki

After taking a full round on the river, we returned back to the point where we had started. And got down the boat, still thrilled from the ride through the tropical paradise that we had just finished. We once again ascended the adventurous steps and reached the top of the hill where our vehicle awaited us. From here, we proceeded to visit the Bangladesh – India land border before heading back to the highway for returning to Shillong. To visit the border, you need to cross the bridge on the Umngot river. Please note that photography is prohibited on the bridge since it is at a strategic location. After crossing the bridge there is a drive of about 10 minutes. And you will reach on the India Bangladesh Border.

The land border is just defined by a set of virtual doors, one on the side of India and another on the side of Bangladesh. You can see people across the borders. And meet some BSF guys on duty along the border. From here, you need to return back the same route to Dawki river and then proceed to the Shillong highway after crossing the river once again.

Tips on visiting Umngot River in Dawki

  • Wear comfortable rain proof sandals since there will be water everywhere – on the steps to the river, in the boat and as you step in and out of the boat.
  • Wear life jacket. The sailors might tell you they are not required as the river is quiet swallow. But it’s better to be safe always.
  • Carry some food and water with you as you don’t get any near the river.
  • There is no restrooms nearby.
  • You can visit Dawki and Mawlynnong together in one shot. Good to have lunch at Mawlynnong and then proceed to Dawki.
  • In the tourist season, expect a good traffic jam on the road besides the river. Since, the road is narrow and parking also happens here, so, often the road gets blocked. You will need to have patience to get in and out of the last stretch of few hundred meters.
  • Photography on the bridge across the river is prohibited, as it is at a strategic location.


Umngot River | Dawki | Meghalaya | India | Bangladesh border

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26 Responses

  1. Yukti

    Sailing in Umngot river must be a heavenly experience as it is truly beautiful and surrounded by lush greenery. Also there are really innumerable beautiful spots in between. Dawki on border of Bangladesh and India also looks a fairy tale type of place.

    • Neha

      To be honest, the kind of beauty of this landscape is something I have seen nowhere else in India

  2. Amrita Sen

    Meghalaya is such a beautiful place. And Umngot is such a beauty! The post reminded me of our trip to Dawki and Shnongpdeng. It is such a beautiful post with so much details about one of my favourite places, Neha. Really loved reading through it. Did you visit Shnongpdeng while you were there?

    • Neha

      Thanks Amrita, we had to miss Shnongpdeng. We were there for only 4 days. But we intend to plan another trip here so that we can see the transparent river

  3. Sandy N Vyjay

    The Umngot river indeed looks straight out of an enchanting fairy tale. Have read a lot about this river and its crystal clear waters,hope to get there someday. The cruise on the river must have been an enthralling experience. The waterfalls are so lovely adding to the overall dreamlike quality of the experience.

    • Neha

      Totally. The river is beautiful in both it’s clear water or torquoise water form.

  4. Jim Jones

    Oh my, this looks beautiful! I love being on or near the water, and waterfalls are simply magnificent. Thank you for including some very helpful tips in your post as well!

  5. Doreen Pendgracs

    Your post on sailing on the Umngot River really rang true with me, as I have just returned from a trip to Cuba and we did the same thing. Leisurely boat rides along a beautiful and quiet river create long-lasting memories. Thanks for sharing yours.

  6. alison netzer

    The Umngot river is a nature lovers paradise especially with all of those waterfalls nearby. What a great trip down the river for you. I love the “virtual” door border to Bangladesh. I always expect these big fancy border crossings, and so many times it is not the case.

    • Neha

      Right…nature doesn’t love a wall (Quoting from the famous Robert Frost poem) and it is proven on Umngot river that flows right between India and Bangladesh

  7. Shweta

    With the border to Bangladesh close by, this sounds like a really remote part of north-east. Kudos to you going there, that too with your kid. That rocky descent does look a tad difficult.

    • Neha

      Thanks Shweta. It was a bit difficult with the kid when it came to the rocky and slippery terrains. But the fun and beauty of the place more than made up for that

  8. Claire

    Lovely rainbow captured on the waterfalls! And, it is certainly interesting to see so many boats “parked” alongside the steep stairways…
    It must be great be able to explore the beauty of Mother Nature! 🙂

    • Neha

      Right Claire. It’s an absolute pleasure to explore such delightful places as Meghalaya. It’s right in the lap of mother nature

  9. Teresa "Tess"

    When I was younger, I used to go on these type of adventures, but it’s a little daring for me now. I”m so glad that I can join in with you and follow along with your beautiful photos and writing!

    • Neha

      Thanks Teresa. The best adventures are the one which we take up at the younger age.

  10. Kavita Favelle

    So intrigued by the changing colours of the river waters according to the seasons, what a great reason to revisit at different times of years. Beautiful photos, love that one of the boats on the stone stairs down to the riverbank.

    • Neha

      Thank you Kavita! This river is definitely one of a kind in India. Particularly when it’s water is crystal clear

  11. The Girl Next Door

    We visited the Umngot river on our trip to Meghalaya over a year ago, and had a disappointing experience. It had rained heavily, the waters were muddy and threatening to overflow the banks. The river was not at crystal clear like we’d expected it to be. Maybe we’d have had a much better experience, had we visited in the summer or winter.

    • Neha

      Right, in monsoons as the rainfall happens, the mud is unsettled from the bottom of the river. So the transparency of the river is lost. You could visit in winter for the transparent river.

  12. Valentini

    This is a very beautiful place I had never heard of! I loved particularly the colourful traditional boats! Your daughter is very brave too ☺

    • Neha

      This is like a fairytale place. And yes, daughter seems to be much more brave than I was at that age 😀

  13. Marge Gavan

    First, why were those boats hanging in there? I don’t get it. Is this how they “park” their boats?

    I looked at the picture of the river and I was like, why is it so green. So when you said it’s crystal clear in summer I almost didn’t want to believe it. Following your advice, I googled and I was like whoa, they are like two different rivers! The water is so clear it’s like the boats are floating. The view in there is amazing, including the falls, would definitely want to go there and see the river for myself, but I will make sure to go when the water is clear because it’s just wow.

    • Neha

      For your first question, since you see there is a steep slope off the mountain to the river. So, there is no better place for the locals to park their boats. Thats why the boats are kind of hung from the ridge. And yes, it’s difficult to believe that it is the same river when it is crystal clear vs when it gets not so transparent in monsoons. You should definitely visit here.

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