Back in 2016, the Meghalaya government, in collaboration with the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, introduced Cherry Blossom Festival to showcase the unique natural beauty of the cherry blossoms in Meghalaya. The primary aim behind the organization of this festival was to attract tourists to the state and boost tourism. The festival quickly gained popularity among locals and tourists. The event also received three awards at the WOW Awards Asia.
The festival goes beyond mere celebration of beauty, encompassing the vital message of highlighting the significance of conserving and safeguarding the environment. Cherry Blossom Festival includes cultural events, traditional performances, exhibitions, educational programs, workshops, and talks about biodiversity.
Since 2016, Meghalaya Cherry Blossom Festival is being held in the capital city of Shillong during the autumn season. The festival provides a platform for cultural exchange in the state. It is because it attracts thousands of tourists from different parts of India and different countries. In this manner, the festival also aids the local economy by creating income streams for hotels, restaurants, local artisans, and various other businesses.
This festival celebrates the blooming of cherry blossoms, similar to the famous cherry blossom festivals in countries like Japan and South Korea. The festival typically takes place during the months of November or December, depending on the blooming season of the cherry blossoms.
Key features of the Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival include:
- Cherry Blossom Viewing: The festival is centered around the blooming of cherry blossoms, and visitors have the opportunity to witness the breathtaking sight of cherry trees covered in pink and white flowers.
- Cultural Performances: The festival showcases the rich cultural heritage of Meghalaya and the northeastern region of India. Traditional dance performances, music concerts, and other cultural events are organized to entertain and educate visitors about the local culture.
- Food and Craft Stalls: The festival grounds feature a variety of stalls offering local cuisine, handicrafts, and products unique to the region. Visitors can indulge in local delicacies and shop for souvenirs.
- Outdoor Activities: The festival often includes outdoor activities such as guided nature walks, trekking, and adventure sports, allowing visitors to explore the natural beauty of the region.
- Photography and Art Exhibitions: Many photographers and artists take advantage of the stunning backdrop provided by the cherry blossoms to showcase their work during the festival.
- Cultural Workshops: Workshops related to the local culture, arts, and crafts are often organized to engage visitors and give them a hands-on experience of traditional practices.
- Beauty Pageant: Some editions of the festival have included a beauty pageant to showcase the traditional attire and talents of local contestants.
Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 dates
This year, Cherry Blossom Festival 2023 will be held from 17th November 2023 to 19th November 2023.
Although the start date is 24th Nov 2023, the celebrations will start with some pre-festival events. Here’s a list of pre-festival events:
- Road To Cherry Blossom: From 15 Oct to 29 Oct
- Mega Music Contest: From 17 Nov to 19 Nov
- Shillong Literary Festival: From 21 Nov to 23 Nov
There is another important update for tourists who are planning to attend the Festival. This year, the Meghalaya government changed the venue from Shillong to Ri Bhoi.
Ri Bhoi is situated close to the state capital, Shillong, and is well-connected by road.
How to reach Ri Bhoi
By Air: The nearest airport to Ri Bhoi is the Shillong Airport (also known as Umroi Airport). However, this airport has limited connectivity and is primarily used for military and government purposes. The most practical option is to fly to Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, Assam, which is the nearest major airport with regular flights. From Guwahati, you can proceed to Ri Bhoi by road.
By Train: There is no direct railway station in Ri Bhoi. The nearest major railway station is Guwahati Railway Station in Guwahati, Assam. From there, you can continue your journey to Ri Bhoi by road.
By Road: The most common way to reach Ri Bhoi is by road, and the journey is often completed from Shillong. Here’s how you can do it:
- From Shillong: Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and is well-connected to Ri Bhoi. The distance between Shillong and Ri Bhoi is relatively short.
- Private Vehicle: You can drive from Shillong to Ri Bhoi by taking the NH6 highway. The drive takes approximately 1-2 hours, depending on the exact location within Ri Bhoi.
- Public Transportation: You can also find shared taxis, buses, and other public transportation options that operate between Shillong and Ri Bhoi. These can be found at various taxi stands or bus stops in Shillong.
- From Guwahati: If you are arriving in Guwahati by air or train, you can then proceed to Ri Bhoi.
- Private Vehicle: The distance between Guwahati and Ri Bhoi is around 60-70 kilometers, and you can drive via the NH6 highway. The journey usually takes around 2-3 hours.
- Public Transportation: You can find buses or shared taxis from the ISBT (Inter-State Bus Terminal) in Guwahati that connect to Shillong. Once you reach Shillong, you can follow the directions mentioned above to reach Ri Bhoi.
The Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival has gained popularity over the years, drawing tourists from various parts of India and beyond. It’s not only a celebration of nature’s beauty but also an opportunity to promote tourism, showcase local culture, and boost the economy of the region. The festival’s vibrant atmosphere, combined with the stunning backdrop of cherry blossoms, creates a unique and memorable experience for attendees.