Northeast Thailand with all of its rain, wet and lush green are referred to as the Scotland of the East. Since Shillong was the British headquarters of Northeast India before independence, the legacy is that the romanticism of the Raj is still in the architecture, culture and food habits of the townsfolk. The rolling hills that make the landscape, earned Shillong the title of being the ‘Scotland of the East’. This includes the wettest place on earth, Charrapuji and Mwayma villages. Shillong is a hill area in northeast India and capital of the state of Meghalaya. It’s known for the manicured gardens at Lady Hydari Park. Nearby, Ward’s Lake is surrounded by nature trails. Shillong is known for its waterfall the Elephant Falls to the southwest. East of there, forested Shillong Peak offers beautiful city lookout views. Shillong is a bigger city in the smaller villages of Northeast Thailand that are unknown in the tourism world. This city gives you an authentic experience of India and is a city with lots to see and do in the city and in the surrounding nature. This is a land famous for receiving the highest rainfall in the world and aptly called the ‘abode of clouds’, it is during the monsoon season when Shillong turns magical. Countless waterfalls and lakes come alive, and the whole land blooms and flourishes in green hills everywhere. There are many great day trips from Shillong as a central hub and it is a great place to stay the night when visiting the wettest place on earth and the natural root bridges.
How to get there
1. Fly into Guwahati
Take an early morning flight or make sure your arrival time is by noon at the latest. The Gopinath Bordoloi airport in Guwahati is located on NH-40 right on the way to Shillong. A right turn on the main road outside the airport will take you to Shillong and the left one will take you to Guwahati. The distance of Shillong from Guwahati airport is 120 kms. This can save you a lot of time not needing to go into Guwahati. By public transport you will travel to Shillong from the airport. There is no international airport in Shillong and so you must fly into Assam state in Guwahati city first.
2. Public Transportation from Guwahati Airport to Shillong
There are shared taxis available all the time just after you walk out of Guwahati airport (look for ML numbered – yellow number plate cars and SUVs). Rates are negotiable and are around 200-300 Rupees per person. Meghalaya Tourism buses also are between Guwahati airport and Shillong twice a day, ask at the MTDC tourism counter. If you wait on the main road you can catch one of the shared sumos (red normally open air jeeps) all day going between Guwahati and Shillong (170 Rs./- per person) – from Khanapara in Guwahati. Or, you can hire a private car for 3000 rupees. If you have a group or find travelers to split it between 4-5 people it could be worth it.
The road between Guwahati and Shillong takes around 3 hours. All shared taxis usually make a stop for snacks and food at Nongpoh (after entering the State border of Meghalaya). This journey is best to be made in the afternoon not at night.
Best Time to visit Shillong
There are 2 best seasons that offer different experiences. In the months of October-November, you can visit its many lakes and waterfalls and enjoy seeing the greenery and orchids and flowers in full bloom. This is the peak of the monsoon season and will guarantee downpours everyday but are the trade off for the beauty you will see. In the months of February-April, you can see more of the region and outside the rainy season.
How long to stay in Shillong
All the major sights to visit in Shillong can be seen in 2 nights and 3 days. This gives you a day to take a trip out to the natural root bridges in Cherrapunji and do some other half day trips outside the city to see waterfalls and potentially the Grand Canyon of India.
Things to do
Natural Root Bridges in Cherrapunji
The village of Cherrapunji in the Khasi Hills holds the world record for annual rainfall of 75 ft! In this rainy, wet climate the rubber fig tree grows. The tree has a secondary root system that grows up above the ground floor and lets the tree grow on top of boulders and in the middle of streams. Long ago, a tribe in Meghalaya area, used the roots directing them to make bridges to cross streams and rivers. The tribespeople use the trunks of a betul nut tree to guide the roots until they reach the other side of the river and can take root in the opposite bank. This process takes over a decade. Some of the bridges are said to be around 100 feet long and can hold the weight of about 50 people. This is one of the most beautiful and sacred natural wonders to visit while you are in Northeast India. This is only a couple hour trip from Shillong city and makes a great day or overnight trip.
Walking Tour of the city
Ward’s Lake & Botanical Garden
Ward’s lake is a city park with a lake and botanical garden that is an oasis from the bustle of the city. There are boats that you can rent and take out on the lake as well as beautiful bridges, gazebos and public seating in the park. This lake is right in the heart of Shillong. The lake is shaped like a horse-shoe. The garden around the lake is beautiful and has paved walkways surrounding the lake and a wooden bridge in the center. The trees bear yellow, red and purple flowers inside the park. The the lake water holds lotus flowers floating on its surface. I lived a close walking distance from this park when I lived in Shillong and this park is a peaceful oasis to spend time for the day.
Note: The lake park open hours are 8:30 AM – 6:30 PM; but it closes earlier at 4:30 PM in winter (from Nov-Feb). The entrance fee is INR 10 per person. The lake remains closed on Tuesdays.
Shillong View Point, Laitkor Peak
This is the highest point in Shillong (about 6,561 feet high). The entrance road passes through Air Force Base station. So there is a serious security check and identity check where you must have your passport before you are allowed to visit the peak, because the peak is in the Air Force property, you will have to provide a valid photo ID. The Shillong Peak has amazing, panoramic, 360 degree views of the Shillong town. A huge binocular is in one corner of the Shillong Peak where you can see the distant hills, waterfalls and the plains of Bangladesh. A store at the peak rents out traditional Khasi tribe clothes and accessories for taking epic family pictures at the overlook which is pictured below. There are lots of trails of Shillong forrest which connect up into the lookout from the city so it is a longer hike but totally possible to hike up to the lookout through the beautiful forrest beyond the city.
Note: The best time to visit is afternoon for visibility to be the most clear. The entrance opens at 9 AM and closes at 3:30 PM.
There are many waterfalls surrounding Shillong city and Elephant Falls is one of the largest and most known. There is also Bishop’s Falls and Spread Eagle Falls that are close to the city. The British named this waterfall ‘Elephant falls’ because a rock besides the falls resembled an elephant; but it was ruined in an earthquake in 1897. Most of the waterfalls in the Meghalaya region are rain fed and dry out a few months after monsoon, Elephant falls never dries up. Though you will find it best during monsoon (June – Sep) or soon after monsoon (Oct – Dec) as the flow of water is less in other months. Elephant falls is also called as a ‘Three step fall’ as the water falls into 3 different steps and there are 3 different viewpoints as you go down hill. At the first point, a big stream of water falls down a steep flat plateau. This is the only point one can see in case one is old and finds it difficult to climb stairs. The other 2 tiers you need to walk down the stairs. The second tier seems to be an extension of the first fall and the final tier is the most beautiful one with crystal clear water cascading over rocks.
Note: Entry to falls is from 9 AM – 5 PM.
During Monsoon season when the wettest time of the year comes alive, lakes and waterfalls come back alive in this beautiful lush city in Northeast India. There are many lakes to visit that are not far outside of the city including Umiam and Ward’s Lake. Umiam lake is better known as the Barapani Lake. It is 12 miles north of the city and is a part of the dam built. Umiam lake is an important source of water for irrigation, fishery as well as drinking. The road to Umiam Lake is very curvy, and is a dangerous road. Parking your car on the road for taking pictures is outlawed under armed forces surveillance. From the parking area, the lake is a 2 minute walk through lush green gardens. A wooden viewing point has been built at the banks of the lake. There is a water complex from where you can rent speed boats or bus boats. The lake is a great spot for a picnic and to watch the sunset.
Note: Entrance to Umiam Lake closes at 5 PM. The entrance ticket charge is INR 20 per person and INR 20 per vehicle. Boating can be done in lake but people generally avoid it because of the high cost. Speed boats cost around Rs.400 for 5 mins that fit 3 people, and boating for 10 mins costs around Rs.1200 for 10 people.
Laitlum Canyon (Grand Canyon of India)
To get a bird’s eye view of the magnificent surroundings of Shillong, there is no better place than Laitlum Canyons. It is an hour’s drive away (25 kilometers) from the town of Shillong. Laitlum meaning – End of Hills give justice to the name of the Canyon as it opens up to an expansive valleys, golden meadows and breathtaking green path. A trek down to the village involves descending about 3000 steps. It takes about 4-5 hours for the round trip trek. From the village, you can get amazing views of the gorges with lush greenery, hugging mountains and tiny streams flowing here and there. The rope trolley that the villagers still use to transport food and other necessary items is antique and quite interesting to see.
Note: Laitlum Canyon should be visited before 5 PM after which it starts getting quite dark.
Apart from these, Lady Hydari park is popular among kids though adults might not find it interesting. A relatively new trekking trail – Rhododendron Trek is slowly gaining popularity. And there are some more seasonal waterfalls and few other museums which you can visit in case you have more time.
Shop at Police Bazaar
Police Bazaar is the main shop market in the city and the other one nearby to it is called Bara Bazaar. Experiencing a bazaar is one of the key experiences to have in India in the packed markets with a mob of people shopping for local product, clothes and other goods. This is one of the cheapest ways to buy and find local goods and handmade artisan products from the community. Be prepared for lots of people and bartering. Watch your purse or bag this is where lots of stealing happens as well as street beggar children who will approach you as a scam.
Tips for exploring the bazaars in Shillong
- Language: Khasi is a popular language in Shillong as you’re near the Khasi Hills in this side of Meghalaya. Hindi as well they would recognize but very little English. You will need to be creative to barter other ways. Sometimes showing the money you want to pay.
- Get taxis in between markets: There are city taxis that are pretty cheap when you split the fare. By each market place there is a taxi stand. Sharing taxis will cost 10-20 rupees for a single journey dependent on the distance. I lived about 15-20 minutes from the bazaar and the taxi would cost around 20 rupees.
- Don’t lose each other: The markets in Shillong are a crazy maze. It can be so easy to get distracted by a stall and then lose your group. Trying to ask the locals for directions can be a challenge with English so definitely take numbers to call each other and have a meeting point set up.
- Ask before you take photos: Although the majority of people here love the fact you’re capturing their stall. Some are shy and really don’t like photos. So, just ask politely or show them your camera before you snap!
- Leave enough time to explore: As before, Shillong and the markets are vast. I couldn’t believe the time it takes to look around. Beyond the main streets, there are a few underground clothes markets as well. The markets are open into the evening.
- Bartering: When you barter make sure you smile and laugh and that you are not angry with the vendors. This is a part of the culture and is a respectful way to engage. The best starting point is normally half of what the vendor asked for the item.
- Theft: This is a place with a lot of people mobbed together and it can be easy to get robbed or get your purse or wallet taken. Be careful! The personal space bubble is not a thing in India and people will be bumping into you all the time. Keep your bag or purse close and on your front not back.
Cafe Shillong is one of the largest most modern coffee shops in the city hands down. This coffee shop is air conditioned and has comfortable leather couches and beautiful wood elements. The shop is owned by a famous musician in India and is a gathering for live music nights and sports matches being shown. This cafe is a hub of the city and a great place to grab some upper end local food dishes.
Hours: 12pm-10pm daily
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|| Spaghetti Carbonara || . . Shillong mornings are happy with breakfasts like this. Cheesy spaghetti with bacon with a view of the mountains, what else could I ask for? . . . Also, it’s a cafe recommendation in Shillong, located in Don Bosco Square. Save the pictures that I’m posting, visit these places in Shillong. Trust me, you’ll love it. . . #spaghettii #spaghettiicarbonara #foodblogger 😍 #indianfoodblogger 😋 #blogger #shillongfoodblogger #shillongfoods #bacon #shillongblogger #travelblogger #foodandtravelblogger #indiatravel #foodtravel #travelersnotebook #traveler #thehungrytraveller #traveller #travelforfood #travelandfood #munchiesshillong #breakfast #mountainfood #shillongfoodie
Munchies is a cool street food bamboo hut with a second level overlook you can sit in with views of the mountains. This cool bamboo hut is a gathering spot for the youth of the city with killer burgers, shawarma and pasta dishes that are a taste of home on your travels. The restaurant is always playing Coldplay with music videos on repeat and has a cool bar seating area as well as tables below and above the bamboo lookout of the city. This was one of my favorite restaurants in the city that was cheap and delicious.
Hours: 10:30am-9pm daily
Visit Guwahati City
In order to visit ancient temples pilgrims sojourn to, see the holy river, the floating peacock island with an ancient Hindu temple, and shop at the local bazaars in a more rural village filled with animals this is an authentic little city to do that.
Where to stay
Accommodation in Shillong
There are many budget as well as higher end hotels available for stay in Shillong. Prices range from INR 500 per night for backpackers choosing to stay longer to upwards of INR 10,000 per night for the more luxurious rooms in high end resorts.
Homestay’s are simple accommodations that are the most budget to stay with a family and rent a room. The bathrooms will be squatty potties maybe even outside. The showers will consist of mainly buckets you fill up with cold water. Washing your clothes is done with the local well and washing dishes is a normally simple set up like you will see above using tubs of water to rinse them. This is a great way to experience locals life and save money. Most likely the family you are staying with will teach you to cook, make chai and you will be invited in.
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“The face is the soul of the body”– Ludwig Wittgenstein The solemn expression on the face of Buddha with his features downcast in quiet reflection at the Asian Confluence center. A wooden face of Buddha at Asian Confluence. #ascon #asianconfluence #shillong #Meghalaya #india #boutiquehotel #buddhism #buddha #ommanipadmehum #aesthetics
This is a serene guesthouse in the hills. This hostel is one of the most city center budget friendly at $50USD per night. This hostel doubles as the main center for India connecting to Southeast Asia and their center.
The Pear Tree
This is a new bed and breakfast named after the huge pear tree on the grounds. It’s an intimate and cozy space with only three rooms, tucked away in the tranquil residential area of Lachumiere (which was formerly part of European Shillong) about a 10 minute walk from the main road and 1 mile from Police Bazaar. The cost is 3,850 to 4,400 rupees ($63USD) for a double, plus tax. Breakfast is complimentary.
This bungalow, built in 1950, has been restored and converted into a boutique guesthouse. It combines modern amenities with heritage features such as wood panels and bamboo plastered walls, decorated in Colonial-style. It has the perfect cottage garden to relax inside. Yoga and meditation programs and Ayurvedic treatments are also offered. If you’re looking for a comfortable homely stay, this is your place. Rates start from around 4,000 rupees per night for a double, including breakfast ($60USD about).
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#Repost @banditakalita • • • • • Interior ❤️ . . #meghalaya #barapani #rikynjai #northeastindia #whereisnortheast #wanderlust #traveldiaries #iamnikon #nikond5200 #indiagram #iiframe #yourshot_india #yourshotphotographer #pixelpanda_india #igramming_india #mypixeldiary #igersofguwahati #moodygrams #resort #lakeview #umiamlake #shillong
This is a luxury option on Umami lake outside of the city that is peaceful oasis on the lake. This is a luxury eco resort made of bamboo with views above the trees. If nature is your thing, you’ll love Ri Kynjai. Meaning “serenity by the lake” in the local Khasi language, this resort is across 45 acres of lush land bordering Umiam Lake. It’s about 20 kilometers before Shillong, on the way from Guwahati. The road will take you through pine trees, paddy fields, small organic tea gardens, and vegetable gardens. Architecture at the resort is tribal-inspired and based on the design of Khasi thatched huts. Continuing with the tribal theme, the resort has a textiles emporium featuring Northeast handicrafts, and hosts folk music and dance in the evenings. Guests can also get a traditional Khasi massage and herbal treatments from the resort’s spa. Room rates start from around 7,000 rupees ($100USD) a night, plus tax. Breakfast is included.