Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya is the nature’s masterpiece and is home to several waterfalls giving it the name Scotland of the East. The British legacy is still visible in the wooden architecture, culture, language and food habits of the population. Christianity is the dominant religion in Shillong. It’s really interesting to see the less affluent people working as laborers, watchmen, etc. listening to Linkin Park in India.
A very interesting aspect of the culture of the major tribes Garos & Khasis in Meghalaya is that they are a matrilineal society, in contrast to the rest of the country. The mother’s surname is passed on to the children and the youngest daughter inherits the ancestral property. After marriage, husbands live in the mother-in-law’s home. When no daughters are born to a couple, they adopt a daughter and pass their rights to property to her. The birth of a girl is celebrated while the birth of a son is simply accepted. Most small businesses are managed by women. You will be witnessing most shops having a female on the counter as you explore Shillong.
Although, even after being a Matrilineal Society, the participation of women in Politics is quite limited, even now in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly or village councils or panchayats the representation of women in politics is minimal. Perhaps, it is a way of bringing some balance to the influence both genders have in the Khasi society.
Best Time to Visit Shillong
Shillong has a pleasant climate throughout the year with mild temperatures compared to the rest of the country. Yet, in monsoon when Shillong is at the top of its beauty, you won’t be able to get out much in the rains which makes monsoon the least favorable season for tourism in Shillong and Meghalaya..
March to June: The Summer time in Shillong is overall mild and a good time to plan a trip in Shillong with the temperature ranging from a maximum of 24°C to a minimum of 15°C. This is the perfect time to plan sightseeing and adventure activities.
June to September: These monsoon months witness average to heavy rainfalls in Shillong. The beauty in monsoons is at its peak as the terrain turns into a scenic paradise with lush greenery, lakes, ponds and waterfalls coming to life. July is the wettest month in Shillong. In spite of being the most beautiful months these months do not experience much tourist traffic as rains won’t allow you to stay out for long.
October to February: The weather begins to cool down as October approaches. Winters start setting in from November after which the weather can be quite cold with the minimum temperature going as low as 2°C. The town looks beautiful in the chilly months and is a good time to indulge in outdoor activities. It’s a particularly popular holiday destination for honeymooners.
How to Reach Shillong
Shillong is well connected via road and air to the rest of the country.
By Air: Domestic flights by Indigo, Air India and Alliance air connect Shillong with various Indian cities. Most flights do take a halt at the Kolkata Airport. Alternatively, you can take a flight to Guwahati and a bus/taxi further to Shillong.
By Bus: Public and Private buses are easily available between Guwahati and Shillong. The Meghalaya Transport Corporation (MTC) and Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) operates bus services from Shillong to Guwahati. MTC buses ply at different routes within the state of Meghalaya.
By Rail: The nearest railway station to Shillong is Guwahati, located at a distance of 90 kilometers from the Shillong. It is nearly 2 hours drive via NH 40.
Shillong is a fairly big destination and would require a week’s trip to be fully explored, enjoyed and covered. If you do not have any time constraints plan atleast a 6D-5N trip to Shillong. However, with time constraints you can go for a 5-D or 3-D trip and pick the best of the top attractions listed in the following section.
Things to do in & nearby Shillong
1. Local Sightseeing in Shillong
- Don Bosco Museum: Head to the largest cultural museum in Asia focusing on the local indigenous people & culture, with tools, clothing & artifacts on display, representing the culture of all north-eastern states.
- All Saint’s Cathedral: Constructed in the British Raj it is one of the oldest and most beautiful Churches in Shillong. The Church is very popular and draws a huge local crowd for Sunday Prayers.
- Ward’s Lake Picnic at this artificial lake surrounded by a lush green garden. Enjoy boating in the lake admiring the view of colorful fishes and a dancing fountain.
- Air Force Museum: Learn about the history of Armed Forces, especially Air Force and its operations, check out the collection of Planes, anti-aircraft guns and missile holds in the compound of the museum. It is one of the few defense museums in the country offering a unique opportunity to know more about the defense forces.
- Police Bazaar: Shop, eat and take a stroll in the famous Police Bazaar of Shillong. It has a number of hotels, shops and eateries serving all needs of the locals and tourists. It is an ideal market for leisure seekers, shopping enthusiasts. Additionally, you can buy gifts and souvenirs from various handicrafts shops.
- Lady Hydari Park: You may explore Lady Hyadri Park, another picnic spot in Shillong, blossoming with flowers. Kids are going to love the swings here.
- Shillong Peak: Catch a bird’s eye view of the entire city, the Himalayas, its waterfalls as well as of the Bangladesh plains here at the highest point in Shillong at a height of 1965 m above sea level.
- Elephant Falls: Visit the most famous waterfalls of Shillong where the water rushes down the three major steps from the edge of the hill, creating a splendid view.
Attractions Nearby Shillong
2. Umiam Lake
Enjoy the vivid scene of a huge reservoir surrounded by the lush-green hills, an ever sweetening eye candy and one of the best panoramic sights in Shillong. Try your hands on kayaking, boating or you may just go for a cruise in this man-made lake.
Umiam Lake was initially built as a reservoir for the purpose of a dam but today it attracts a large number of tourists in Shillong. It is located at a distance of 15 kilometres north of Shillong on the Guwahati- Shillong Route. The lake opens daily for various water sport activities between 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. However, its panoramic sights can be enjoyed anytime..
You can have a unique and serene experience by staying at the boathouse on Lumpongdeng island, a small island located in the middle of the Umiam lake and hence, only accessible by boat.
Take a trip to Cherrapunjee aka Sohra which is famous as being the wettest place on Earth (but for now nearby Mawsynram currently holds that distinction). In Cherrapunjee you will get a chance to literally walk through the clouds.
Cherrapunjee is about 65 Km from Shillong and the best way to reach there is to take a taxi.The major attractions in Cherrapunjee are the Nohkalikai waterfall, Mawsmai Caves and Living Root Bridge.
Nohkalikai waterfall, at an estimated height of around 1,100 ft, is the highest single-drop waterfall in India. You can only view it from far off and is only good for a photo-op.
Visit the Mawsmai Caves, a fast emerging tourist destination few Kms further away from Cherrapunjee. Water constantly drips down from the roof of limestone caves. While at some places, the openings are big enough for a person to just about crawl through, at others, the roofs as high as 40 feet. You can also enjoy in the river stream flowing only nearby to the caves.
Next you can stop to discover the Root Bridges- bridges formed from the roots of rubber trees. Actually, Khasi people guided the roots of rubber trees growing on the banks of rivers to create natural bridges. Over the years, these bridges have grown in strength and are still used by the local people everyday. The nearest such bridge in Cherrapunjee is over the Umunoi River, and the trek can take about 3-4 hrs.
4. Mawphlang Sacred Groves
Get your mind fascinated and excited by the myths and lore of the Mawphlang Sacred Groves and get dripped in the peace that this place offers.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest is the most sacred among many such sacred forests in the East Khasi Hills and the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. The local Khasi tribes believe it to be the abode of the local deity, called Labasa. As per their belief Labasa protects this forest and their community from any mishap. The deity takes on the form of leopard or tiger, and protects the village. Villagers perform animal sacrifices in the stone temples located within the forest to appease the local deity. It is located at about an hour’s distance from Shillong. Also, there is one strict rule – NOTHING is allowed to be taken out of this Sacred Grove, not even a leaf, stone or a dead log.
5. Trek on Mawphlang David Scott Trail
If you enjoy trekking, this is the place to be in Shillong. Go for a 16 Km long trek on the David Scott Trail, named after the person who discovered it. You can cover it in four to five hours depending on your pace. Enroute, you will be greeted by waterfalls, sprawling meadows, tribal villages and breath-taking valleys. The trail starting point is very close to the Mawphlang Sacred Groves and both can be covered on the same day.
6. Mawjymbuin Cave
Enhance your admiration for Meghalaya by visiting to the must-visit, mysterious and intriguing Mawjymbuin Cave in Cherrapunjee. Located about 60 Km from Shillong, it is a great place to be for nature enthusiasts, geologists, pilgrims and photographers. You will experience the adventure as you will cross many rift passages while exploring this cave. A giant stalagmite in the shape of Shivling is present in the cave which is consistently bathed in water dripping from a stalactite which has a shape of cow’s udder.
You will have to hire a cab to reach here. Avoid visiting the cave in Monsoon as heavy rains block the passages of this cave with water.
7. Mawlynnong– The Cleanest Village in Asia
Explore Mawlynnong – a small village which won the status of being the cleanest village (2003), not just in India, but in Asia. Take a trek to the rare natural wonder of roots from rubber trees woven into a bridge at Mawlynnong. This should be a must-see on your list.
Taxi will drop you at a a higher location and you need to climb some steps down to the bridge. There are 2 entry point to reach the bridge, one requires 30+ minutes of trek from Mawlynnong village, another trek takes 10+ minutes from Nowhet village which is the easier way to reach. Those who want to see a live root bridge, believe me this is the easiest of treks as compared to the ones in Cherrapunjee. You can walk on the bridge but not allowed to halt on it.
8. Laitlum Canyons
Float in the serenity at Laitlum Canyon which is a picturesque mountain ridge situated near Smit in Meghalaya. Situated in the East Khasi Hills of Shillong, it is one of the top places of trekking in Meghalaya. The whole place is so majestic that makes you just relax in the awe of the natural landscape in front of your eyes.
Visit Dawki, a small town located in west Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya on the Indo-Bangladesh border for an amazing offbeat experience. The centre of attraction here is the Umgot River aka Dawki River separating India and Bangladesh. Water i this river is very clean and becomes Crystal clear in winters. This is the perfect river for adventure seekers to do water sports in fresh water. Indulge in cliff jumping, snorkeling and kayaking and camp in Dawki for the night.
For best prices head out to village named Shnongpdeng (7.6 km from Dawki) .They charge only 500/- for boating and 1000/- for camping. Villagers are very supportive and the place is completely safe.
Public Buses: For places within city limits, city buses are a good option and are easily available.
Taxi: Black yellow and white cab un-metered shared taxis ply in city. These are faster and are always shared; rates may vary from Rs.10 to Rs.20, Rs.50 to Rs.100 maximum.
- Local Sight Seeing: Rs.2000 for Shillong Peak, Elephant falls, Don bosco Museum, Umiam Lake, Ward Lake, Lady hydari park, Golf course, Cathedral church.
- Cherrapunji(Sohra): Rs.2500 for Duwan singsyiem (Mawkdok) view point, Wahkaba falls, Nohkalikai falls, Eco park, Mawsmai cave, Seven sisters falls.
- Mawlynnong & Dawki: Rs.3000 for Wah bnoh view falls, Mawjngih view points, Living roots bridge, cleanest village- Mawlynnong and Dawki’s Lake, zero point (Bangladesh border).
A week’s trip to Shillong will cost you about Rs.10k per person including all major costs- transport, food and accommodation excluding your transport cost to Guwahati.
- Shared Taxi from Guwahati airport to Shillong: Rs 400 per person .
- Accomodation: In the heart of the city (Police Bazaar, Keating road etc): Rs 2000 per night (good decent hotel) or Choose Homestays in the outskirts at a cheaper price at about Rs.1500/- per night.
- Local Transport & Sightseeing Cost: Specified above in Local Transport Section.
- Food: Atleast Rs.500/- per person per day for three meals.
Happy Travelling !!