Wilder by Far and wild logo

India's Living Tree Root Bridges

Beautiful bridges that take decades to make - but can last for hundreds of years

Nathan

Nathan

India Specialist
Published on

07 Dec 2018

Read time

5 minutes

A Living Root Bridge

Living tree roots bridges originated in the East Khasi Hills district, a mountainous, forested region of India’s North eastern state of Meghalaya. They were created by a tribe native to the area, the Khasi tribe. The area is one of the wettest on earth with the monsoon season starting in April and lasting until October, with the wettest months being June and July. The bridges were built to enable the tribe to be able to cross the rivers and streams, that are always raging torrents during the rains, in safety.

Meghalaya
Hills of Meghalaya

The bridges were initially made out of bamboo, but when this building material proved itself to be prone to decaying and breaking in heavy storms, the Khasi tribe had the idea of using trees that were growing naturally to build bridges.

The bridges are built by training the roots of native rubber trees to grow over the river or stream. This feat is achieved in a number of ways: by pulling and twisting the roots and encouraging the separate roots to intertwine and grow in the right direction by hand, or by using a scaffold made out of wood or bamboo as a base and training the roots to grow around it, taking the scaffolding materials out when they start to rot. Another strategy for training tree roots is by using the hollowed out trunk of a betel nut tree to act as a guide. The roots are placed inside the trunk, which in turn prevents them from fanning out and causes them to grow in the desired direction.

Once they have grown enough to reach the other side, the roots are lodged into the soil, supported by sticks and stones packed tightly around them.It is 15-20 years before the bridge has the strength necessary to support heavy weight, and continues to grow stronger as time goes by, with a life expectancy of five hundred years. Nowadays, cables are sometimes used as a base to provide extra stability. The Khasi tribe then fashion handrails our of more roots to provide support and something to hold on to for the people crossing the river or stream.

Living Root Bridge In Meghalaya
Living root bridge in Maghalaya

The bridges can be over 250 feet in length and can support over 35 people at any one time. No one knows exactly how old the oldest living tree root bridges are, but there are records written about them from as early as 1844. These bridges are still being made today, with several in various stages of completion across the region. They can take such a long time to create that the people who originally started them will not get to see the end result. All of the hard work that is put into forming these structures is done purely so that the next generations can benefit from it. The craft of bridge building is past down from father to son to ensure that the method is not forgotten.

Tree Root Bridge
An inventive way to cross a river

As beautiful as they are useful, these unique bridges are definitely worth going to see. Two bridges that we recommend are Umshiang, a double decker bridge in Nongriat village, soon to become a triple decker (by soon, we mean forty years). Another bridge is the one at Wahthyllong, just outside the village of Mawlynnong. Both places are in remote places that require quite a bit of travelling to get to. However, there are several other tourist attractions in Meghalaya, so you will be able to spend a few days here. A lot of hiking is involved in order to reach these bridges, especially the Umshiang bridge, whose journey involves climbing up more than 2,000 steps so a level of fitness is required.

The best time to visit these bridges is during the dry months, from November to March, although the trip can also be made in the rainy season. If you do visit in the monsoon season, it may seem like a good idea to where rainproof clothing. However, you may get very hot and uncomfortable in this attire, especially if you are hiking to one of the bridges, as raincoats and waterproof trousers are not made of a very breathable fabric. Therefore, wearing normal clothes may be a better option and simply carrying an umbrella if you want to keep the rain off you.

Speak To A India Expert Today

  • Nathan

    Nathan

    India Specialist

Call an expert on

01768 603 715

Far & Wild Customer Reviews

Find out what our customers think of their adventures!

Read all reviews

Our brief was 'Unknown Adventure' and they delivered!

Michael & Teresa travelled to São Tomé and Príncipe in December 2018 on a trip organised by .

Michael Foster Bom Bom Bridge

An amazing experience showcasing the sights in India

Karen, Judy & Rachel travelled to India in August 2019 on a trip organised by .

Even in the middle of the Serengeti our Travel Co-ordinator was on hand to sort any hiccups.

June & Steven travelled to Tanzania in February 2019 on a trip organised by Alistair.

A real trip of making memories

Heidi & Family travelled to Malawi in July 2018 on a trip organised by .

A Family Selfie In  Majete

First class travel company

Kathy & Family travelled to Kenya and Mauritius in July 2018 on a trip organised by .

On Holiday At  Il  Moran

Excellent service from start to finish

Sam & Nick travelled to Kenya in February 2019 on a trip organised by Ben.

Sam And Nick On Honeymoon In Kenya

Plan with an Expert Plan with an Expert

Have a look at our original holiday experiences and then contact us with your brief, or call 01768 603 715

A detailed itinerary in 24hrs A detailed itinerary in 24hrs

Our experts will send you a detailed holiday itinerary within 24 hours. It's our service promise to you.

Value Guarantee Value Guarantee

Tailor-made doesn't mean expensive! Ask about our price promise and book with financial security.