Despite the natural beauty and progressive environment, Shillong remains an underrated Indian city There is no rail connectivity here like the rest of the country, perhaps, that is why it doesn’t get as many tourists.
That said, the inconvenience is worth the incredible trip. Quiet lakes surrounded by vibrant greenery is the trademark of Shillong’s tourism making it the perfect holiday destination.
Shillong Travel Guide
Shillong is overall very beautiful and besides trying out local ethnic cuisine, you have a lot to explore here. From British era monuments to natural lakes and waterfall, this city is beautiful in many aspects. Below are some of the highlights you should not miss.
Photo: View of the hills during monsoon on the way to Shillong / CC0
Bishop & Beadon Falls
Located in Suna valley, these two are very beautiful falls. Suna is the home to wild animals such as deer, leopard, langurs, wild cats, and numerous bird species.
There is a huge collection of different types of butterflies. Students of zoology will find them interesting. This place is also attractive for adults where they can see natural beauty and play with beautiful and colorful butterflies. This museum presents some of the finest and rarest species of butterflies.
It is in Upper Shillong area which also houses the Eastern Air Command of Indian Airforce. The scenic fall is not continuous and more of a collection of smaller falls.
It has footpath leading to bottom fo fall where it reaches a small lake. Its name elephant falls was given by the British. Because there was a rock by the side of fall which resembled an elephant. The rock was destroyed in an earthquake.
Photo: The mighty Elephant falls / CC0
Lady Hydari Park
The park has a variety of local flowering plants and orchids. It also has a small zoo within it. Children will like it as there are few swings, see-saws, slips for them.
It is a famous picnic spot for the local population. This park is named after the Lady Hydari, the first lady of the state, wife of the Governor of Assam. This park has a mini zoo and a deer park, which is spread over more than one kilometer.
Photo: Lady Hydari Park / CC0
Shillong Peak is the highest point in the state of Meghalaya (1965 meters above sea level). There is a view-point where you can get a breathtaking view of Shillong city.
The peak is easily accessible from the Upper Shillong or Jowai Road. The city view during the night is a scene to remember. It is host to a radar station for Indian Air force and tourists are advised to declare their cameras while reaching view-point and not to take pictures of radar facilities.
Photo: View of the capital city from the peak / CC0
Explore the forest around Shillong Peak
There are no large or dangerous animals and the forest is full of rare and exotic plants – orchids, pines, and others including the famous insect-eating pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana). So you can venture in to have a wonderful day amidst nature.
Located in Happy Valley, it is a very steep fall about 96m high. Extreme caution is advised as there are no barricades and rocks are nearly always slippery (due to rain or dew). It is often termed as the most beautiful yet most dangerous waterfall in Shillong.
Photo: One of the highest waterfalls in Shillong / CC0
A beautiful lake north of Shillong, resembling the ‘Lochs’, or lakes of Scotland, is a must-see for all tourists. This lake is man-made and is better known as ‘Barapani’ (big water) for its sheer size.
It was created by damming the Umiam river in the early 1960s. There is a water sports complex with sports such as kayaking, water cycling, scooting and boating. There is a garden (Lum Nehru park) by the side water sports complex.
Photo: The man-made Umian Lake / CC0
This horseshoe-shaped artificial lake is below the Raj Bhavan (Governor’s Residence). Boating facilities are available in the lake and surrounded by a fairly large garden. It has a wooden bridge in the middle.
The winding walkway around the lake’s periphery provides an enchanting experience of passing through flowerbeds and fairyland lighting with gradually undulating grounds, hemmed in by lush greens.
Lots of lotus plants with leaves are there on either side of a lake. One can find lots of colorful fishes (mostly grass carp) in the lake. A cafeteria is there to provide refreshment. A fountain dancing to the tunes of the song is also there.
Photo: An ornamental bridge at Wards Lake/ CC0
Experiences to have
- Take a walk through Iewduh (Bara Bazar) – Iewduh, which means Big Market (Bara Bazar), is one of the biggest markets in North-East India. There are separate areas dedicated to vegetables, fruits, iron works, fish, beef, betel and so on.
- Visit the State Central Library – it was started at the time of British Raj and holds many rare books and almanacs. For British searching for clues about ancestors in this area, it is a gold-mine. (Unfortunately, with time and poor management many books are being lost.)
- Shillong Golf course – located at an altitude of around 5200 ft. This is the first golf course in India which has 18 holes in it. This place is like a dream come true for the putters. This golf course is so beautiful and located at the unique location that sometimes it is compared with the “ Glen Eagle Course” of the United State.
- Caving – There are many beautiful caves in Shillong.
- Mawsynram – about 56 km from Shillong and is known for the Giant Stalagmite formation shaped into a “Shivalinga” and found inside a cave known locally as Mawjymbuin. It also gets the heaviest rainfalls in the world in recent years.
Photo: Caving at Meghalaya is an exciting adventure activity / The Art of Travel Partners
Temples and Churches
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Shillong which covers the Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya. The Cathedral is the principal place of worship of the over 300,000 strong Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese which covers the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills of Meghalaya.
It is one of the most beautiful churches and is perched on a hill. It is located in the Laitumkhrah locality in Shillong. This Cathedral is named after Mary the mother of Jesus Christ. Besides being the pride of the Catholics of the region, the church has also become a great tourist attraction.
Photo: Cathedral of Mary / CC0
Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous North East Culture
Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures is run by the Salesian order of the Catholic Church, the Don Bosco Museum is a truly amazing repository of information on the entire North Eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Tripura.
Located within the precincts of the Sacred Heart Church, Mawlai, the edifice itself is shaped like a spiral and its distinct form is discernible from quite some distance away. It has an amazing collection of attire, accouterments, weapons, ornamentation, and rare photographs.
This is also the largest cultural museum in the whole of Asia. Fr Sebastian is the priest who has taken up the cause of preservation of art and culture with ‘missionary zeal!
Photo: Different attires of North East displayed at the museum / CC0
Nightlife Hot Spots
Shillong may be nestled in the hills, but its nightlife is buzzing all through the year. There are plenty of pubs in and around Shillong where tourists and locals can hang out and party. Some of those places are :
- Cloud 9
- The Cocktail Bar
- Deja Vu
- Mikado Longue
Day Trips From Shillong
There are many interesting places for outing from Shillong. All of these can be visited on a day trip.
Cherrapunji – called as “Sohra” locally is around 60 km south of Shillong. It holds the world record for the highest rainfall ever in a calendar year. It is famous for its various waterfalls (most famous of all Noh Kalikai Falls) and limestone caves. The monsoon is the best time to enjoy thundering waterfalls. Limestone caves are full of stalactites and stalagmites and you will find many adventurous souls venturing deep into them.
Jaintia Hills – typically not crowded, there is a beautiful lake, a 700 hundred years old Durga temple and a rock garden.
Jakrem – about 64 km from Shillong, is a hot-spring of sulfur water, believed to have curative medicinal properties.
Sacred Forest – called as “Mawphlang” locally are groves around 25 km away from Shillong. These are considered sacred by Khasis and people were forbidden to enter them earlier.
This ensured the protection of the dense growth of several kinds of trees including the Khasi pine. The heavily covered grounds around the forests facilitating the growth of ferns and orchids most of them endemic.
Photo: Mawphlang Sacred Groves / CC0
Most of the Shillong population belong to Khasi tribe, who are predominantly Christian. There are significant Bengali and Nepali minorities.
An interesting aspect of Khasi culture is that they are a matrilineal society – the mother is head of the family, the youngest daughter owns all the property and the mother’s surname is passed on to the children.
Photo: Cultural festival taking place / CC0
How To Get Here
From Indira Gandhi National Airport, domestic flights to Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport( Guwahati) connect regularly. After reaching Guwahati, there are Tata Sumos and Wingers to take you to Shillong.
It takes 3 hours to reach your destination. There is also a Shillong airport, but it is a military base and operates flights only from Kolkata.
Best Time To Visit Shillong
Shillong rests higher than the rest of the country. It, therefore, has a lower temperature than the rest of the country. Monsoon brings heavy rainfall to the city.
It is the reason waterfalls gush in full force. And thus it is the perfect time to visit it. Though it is the off-season and umbrella is a must, but the beauty of Shillong during monsoon is unrivaled. You can’t expect any less from “The Scotland of the East”.
Shillong receives heavy rainfalls during monsoon and the rainy season usually lasts longer than in the rest of India. An umbrella is, therefore, a necessity while packing your bags.
Although people avoid the rainy season, it is generally the time when the city is clean (rains wash the streets of all garbage) and waterfalls are in full strength.
Where to stay
The capital city never runs out of places to stay. It has places to suit all budgets, from 5-star hotels to budget hostels. Airbnb also is a good option in the city.
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November 1, 2018 1:35 pm