10 things to do in Shillong, Meghalaya

posted in: Asia, Cities, India, Meghalaya, Tips | 58

Earlier this year, I made my first venture to the unexplored paradise of India with Meghalaya as the focus. The stunning waterfalls, the mysterious caves and the thrilling wonders of nature like the Living Root Bridges made this trip an unforgettable one. Not just for me, but for my family as well. Particularly my daughter. While I have already shared some of my unique experiences in some of earlier posts, I did not really touch upon the charming capital of Meghalaya – Shillong. Time I do that before the year ends.

The charming hill station capital of Meghalaya - Shillong
The charming hill station capital of Meghalaya – Shillong

Shillong is not atypical city. It is a hill station with green meadows, beautiful parks and numerous waterfalls. The one thing that makes it enchanting are the vestiges of its colonial rule. Yes, the British absolutely loved this place and made it their station for a few years. Even today, there is some of that influence that still lingers – be it the manner of people there or the architecture. All in all, Shillong totally won me over and I for one, would love to consider this as my retirement home. With no dearth of things to do, chances of me getting bored are minimal. However, it could be confusing for you on where to start and thus, my top 10 things to do in Shillong.

1) Water sports at Umiam Lake, Shillong

Umiam Lake or Barapani in Shillong
Umiam Lake or Barapani in Shillong

Did you know that Shillong was called the Scotland of the East?  And one of the key reasons for it is Umiam Lake or Barapani as it is called. Enroute to Shillong from Guwahati, as we turned around the corner of a mountain, a vast expanse of blue stared back at us. The Umiam lake as I discovered, was one hotspot for all people visiting Shillong – for its sheer beauty and the little dash of adrenaline that one would desire. The lake is a man-made lake that is a result of a dam activity across Umiam river. The lake has been around since the 1960s and is quite a popular spot for picnics and day-outings in Shillong. For people like me, it is ideal for that adventure, for here is where you can do kayaking, boating or water skiing.

2) A hand at Golf in Shillong

Shillong Golf Course
Shillong Golf Course

Welcome to the “Gleneagle of the East” – one of the World’s largest natural golf courses. Set up by the British, this 18-course Golf Course, is quite a challenge as you direct your way past the beautiful rhododendron trees and green pastures. Miraculously the rains disappeared as we reached the Golf course and sprawled on the green grass to stretch out like cats in that sun.

The sheep grazing at the Shillong Golf Course
The sheep grazing at the Shillong Golf Course

The Shillong Golf course looked like a scene out of DDLJ or a Swiss landscape. With its green meadows dotted with people and grazing sheep and the street at the far end, there was no other way anyone could feel. We did not really have to play golf to enjoy the place. The fresh air and the greenery are enough to encaptivate you. And if you need more entertainment, sport a frisbee, join a football game that might be happening there or observe the kids doing acrobatics in its sand pit. You will not know how time flies.

Kids trying out somersaults at Shillong Golf course
Kids trying out somersaults at Shillong Golf course

3) A date with the ducks at Wards Lake

Wards Lake in Shillong
Wards Lake in Shillong

If the picture above makes you feel as if you are looking at a still from a movie like Mary Poppins, I will definitely not blame you. Right in the hub of Shillong, the Wards Lake is one gorgeous park for some quiet time. With that bridge and stunning flower beds, this is a paradise for the chronic Instagrammers. If you happen to visit this during Winter, you are treated to pretty pink Cherry blossoms. You can choose to head here for a leisurely walk or try some boating on the Lake that was built in the 1890s by Sir William Ward.

Date with the ducks at Wards Lake in Shillong
Date with the ducks at Wards Lake in Shillong

While I was here, I was quite envious of all the people in Shillong. I sure would have liked a date with those ducks every day when I used the park for my morning runs. Maybe, that is why I might want to retire here. 🙂

4) Catching butterflies at Lady Hydari Park

Lady Hydari Park in Shillong
Lady Hydari Park in Shillong

If butterflies and orchids are what you desire, you don’t have to go too far in Shillong. Another park in the heart of the city, this one is quite different from Wards Lake. Set by the wife of the first Commissioner of Assam, the Lady Hydari Park is not just fun for adults but has a lot of stuff for kids too. They have a mini zoo and a small play area for them to enjoy while you get your serene time with the refreshing atmosphere of the park.

At Lady Hydari Park in Shillong
At Lady Hydari Park in Shillong

5) Shopping at Police Bazar

Shoes on sale at Police Bazar in Shillong
Shoes on sale at Police Bazar in Shillong

While there maybe plenty of other places to shop in Shillong, my favorite is Police Bazar. Walking down that street, you can buy almost anything from trinkets to curios to carpets, winter wear, shoes and even local fruits. Bargaining and haggling is almost a part of the deal but what is amusing and interesting is observing and interacting with the locals. Land up on a Sunday and even though the main shops are closed, the streets are lively as ever. I would not say no to things from here for they are really value for money.

Strawberries and Raspberries at Police Bazar in Shillong
Strawberries and Raspberries at Police Bazar in Shillong

6) Get a Bird’s Eye view at Shillong Peak

Trek or Drive – completely your choice and both equally beautiful. Get up the birthplace of Shillong for a gorgeous 360 view of this city. Legend has it that Shillong was named after U Shyllong – a youth born out of a virgin mother. It seems he was stillborn and his mother buried him in the garden. A few years later, a young guy walked up to her and surprised her by declaring that he was the stillborn who she buried. A protector of the city, the place, and the peak was named after him.

Sunset enroute to Shillong peak
Sunset enroute to Shillong peak

We landed at the peak on a cloudy rainy day but got lucky for a few minutes that the clouds decided to part, allowing us a lovely view of Shillong below. On a clear day, they say that you can see the various waterfalls from here as well as the Bangladesh plains. However, I assure you that clear day or not, you will love what you see from here.

View from Shillong Peak
View from Shillong Peak

The Shillong Peak is controlled by the army and hence, there are some restrictions that you have to adhere to in terms of timings and things that you can carry. Remember to dress up in the local attire and get a photo clicked. You can hire the clothes from the shops up on the peak.

7) Refresh at Elephant Falls in Shillong

While there are plenty of waterfalls in Shillong itself like the Crinoline falls and the Sweet falls, the Elephant falls remains my favorite. For the simple reason that it is one stunning gush of water that makes you want to rush right under it. Why even PM Modi loved it for his picture greets you right at the entrance.

Elephant Falls in Shillong
Elephant Falls in Shillong

The story behind these waterfalls is also, quite interesting. I have shared this story in one of my earlier post on waterfalls of Meghalaya and you must click through to know why these falls are called so. And if you are keen for some more fun. why not go rappelling under those falls? I bet it will be one thrilling experience.

8) Discover the unique churches of Shillong

One of the smaller churches in Shillong
Caught Enroute – One of the smaller churches in Shillong

The one thing that filled my camera memory card was the lovely churches of Shillong. Small or big, they were all over the city and each one better than the other. If I had my way, I might have gone church hopping but sadly, as always, time ran out. The one church that we managed to see was Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians. Very close to the Hydari park, this church was first a wooden structure that got destroyed in a fire. The new church was built over 50 years ago and is one of the most popular ones in Shillong.

Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Shillong
Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Shillong

Its tall arches and stained glass artwork definitely had me curious but it was the Statue of Mary holding Jesus that totally enraptured me. The expression and haunt in her eyes tug my heart – very slightly but significantly.

Statue of Mary at Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Shillong
Statue of Mary at Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, Shillong

9)  Visit the Don Bosco Center for Indigenous Cultures

Jewelry used by the North Eastern Tribes displayed at Don Bosco Center for Indigenous Cultures, Shillong
Jewelry used by the North Eastern Tribes displayed at Don Bosco Center for Indigenous Cultures, Shillong

Warning! You need at least half a day to see this one properly. A museum dedicated to the lives of the North East Indian tribes, this places gives you a beautiful understanding of the culture of that entire region of India. It showcases the homes, the daily tools and the festivals followed in these regions. Each floor is a treasure trove of information. And once you are done with each level, you can treat yourself to a skywalk that allows you a spectacular view of Shillong city.

Check out my account of the pleasing culture of Meghalaya on this post.

Skywalk at Don Bosco Center for Indigenous Cultures, Shillong

Skywalk at Don Bosco Center for Indigenous Cultures, Shillong

10) Sample the Local food

Red Rice and Vegetable - Part of the Khasi vegetarian food in Meghalaya
Red Rice and Vegetable – Part of the Khasi vegetarian food in Meghalaya

If you are a foodie and a non-vegetarian, you will find yourself having the time of your life. The locals favor a lot of pork which with the local flavors is said to taste heavenly. I would know not but I can sure tell you that the vegetarian options though limited were quite scrumptious. Red rice with the local vegetable curries (Jhur Sdieh) is a definite try as is their local Radish salad. Don’t miss the Bamboo pickle called Lungsiej – you might find yourself wanting to take some home.  To get the best of local food, you can head to Police Bazar. There are plenty of options but I would recommend Red Rice Restaurant.

Note the plastic bags for waste disposal
Chaat in Shillong – Note the plastic bags for waste disposal

Besides the local flavors, go for a quick snack with chaat on the streets. It is quite a different version from what you get in the other parts of India and pretty safe to. The one thing you will notice and appreciate is how clean they are before making it, while serving it and post serving it. Almost every vendor has a plastic bag attached to his cart to ensure that you dispose waste responsibly. 🙂

Well, those are my top 10 things to do in Shillong. Frankly, the list is endless but these can be your start. Let me know which of these would be your favorite and why.

Shillong

Getting here

  • The nearest airport to Shillong is Guwahati, which is around 100 Kms away. However, as the roads are pretty decent, you should be able to get to Shillong in 3 hours.
  • There are cabs that you can hire directly at the airport to take you to Shillong.
  • As for Guwahati, there are regular flights from Airlines like Air Asia that get you here from any major city in India.
  • There is no railway connectivity to Shillong.
  • A helicopter ride is another option that can get you to Shillong from Guwahati.

Travel Tips

  • Shillong is best visited from September to April. The monsoon months have a heavy downpour and it becomes difficult to visit many of these places.
  • It rains throughout the year and a raincoat or umbrella is a must-have. Being a hill station, it is quite chilly here, especially in winter when you may need a few layers.
  • Go for closed flat shoes to beat the chill, the rain, and the long walks
  • Most of the tourist places close by 5 pm

 

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58 Responses

  1. binay bhatera

    Appreciating the time and energy you put into your
    site and in depth information you provide. It’s awesome to come across a blog
    every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed material.

  2. Eric Gamble

    When we go back to India, Shillong is definitely on our list of areas to explore. I love all of the outdoor activities like the butterfly garden or the view point or that Skyview. I could do without the golf course but definitely sign me up for the Police Bazaar. Not that I want to shop but I love people watching and its always interesting to see how cultures and food and people come together in the outdoor markets.

    • Ami

      Even if you don’t play Golf, you must go see this one for its lovely green meadows.. It’s really so beautiful. Shillong stole my heart and it will do the same for you too, Eric

  3. Fiona Maclean

    Shillong has such vibrant colours – the houses, the flowers and of course the markets! The parks are not what I associate with India at all – definitely somewhere to put on my wishlist

    • Ami

      Shillong is one of the lesser known jewels of India and very unlike the rest of the popular places. You must visit Fiona. Thanks for the comment

  4. Megan Indoe

    What a picturesque place! I love all the lakes, park, and waterfall! The flowers are pretty to, I think I’d want to visit the same time of year as you. Shopping in the bazaar seems like a fun experience too.

    • Ami

      April is when I did and it was lovely. I hope you can plan it in 2018. Thanks Megan for stopping by

  5. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    I have seen a lot of cities that claim to be the Venice of the East if they have canals but I think this is the first Scotland of the East I have come across. Looking at the people in jackets and the flowers, it looks like it would be cooler than much of India. It almost reminds me of Chiang Mai in Thailand where a lot of European ex-pats live to take advantage of the weather.

    • Ami

      It is amidst the mountains and it is cool Through the year. It is one of the wettest places in the world too. I hope you can visit soon. Cheers

  6. Suzanne

    This place looks absolutely amazing. It does not look like the typical/stereotypical Indian tourist attraction. It looks so clean I would have loved to visit when I went to India a couple of years ago.

  7. Bailey Mills

    I would love to visit here.. water sports, butterfly catching, markets, AND golf? You’re right about how green it is, it definitely doesn’t resemble a capital city. I could definitely see why they call it Scotland of the East. This article was the perfect guide to a city I hadn’t heard of before, thanks for a great read. I’ll be adding it to my bucket list!

  8. Dada

    I can understand why you would like to have your retirement in Shillong…its gorgeous! Looks like having everything you need are there! The nature is lush and beautiful, there are waterfalls and even a lake. I love hiking so walking up to the Shillong peak would be something for me especially with that view, it would be a total motivation!

  9. Bhushavali

    I’m yet to explore the eastern side of India. We made a plan once which flopped.
    I do remember your posts on living root bridge and mysterious caves.
    Hope I’ll get to explore them myself soon.

  10. Erin

    I’d never heard of Shillong before reading this, and from your very helpful tips on getting there, it does sound off the beaten track! A three hour cab ride or a helicopter the only way to get there! I do love off the beaten track little visited places! I’d love to see the cherry blossom at Wards lake, and I wonder: why is the police bazaar so named? The shopping there looks very interesting but so too is this enigmatic name!

    • Ami

      When I tried to find out, I was told that there was the police or army stationed here would come here for their shopping. Not sure if that was true. But am curious too. Thanks for stopping by, Erin

  11. enidhi

    Mention timings also…Couldn’t visit some of these as they would open late and I didn’t have the time to wait.

  12. James

    As a golf player I’d love to play on the Gleneagles of the east. There are lots of Indians on the Asian tour now so it would be interesting to play there too. I can imagine fitting a round in during monsoon season proves hard work though. The statue of Mary at the Mary help of Christians Cathedral looks like something which could be in Italy!

    • Ami

      I am sure you will enjoy the Golf course for more than just the course. And as for the churches, they are really amazing. Hope you can visit Shillong soon.

  13. Tamara Elliott

    I love how colourful all the buildings there are! And wow those waterfalls are gorgeous- looks like the perfect place to cool off and beat the heat 🙂

    • Ami

      Actually, this place has no major heat. It is cool through the year but still those waterfalls are just amazing. Thanks for stopping by Tamara

  14. Brianna

    With sweeping views and pretty colonial architecture (love the purple building in your first picture), I can see why you are drawn to Shillong. I personally would love to check out the vendors at the Police Bazaar.

    • Ami

      The vibe of the city is something that is so calming and yet energetic. You should visit here and I bet you will love it too. Thanks for stopping by Brianna.

  15. Abhinav Singh

    I love visiting touristy places as much as I love visiting offbeat places. My dad had always wanted to see Shillong. Maybe I will plan a trip with him soon. I didn’t know Shillong has so many beautiful churches. As always loved your pictures, Ami.

    • Ami

      Once in Shillong, you cannot miss a trip to Sohra and the other offbeat places. So, you would have got the best of both if you visit here. Plan soon.

  16. Indrani

    Shillong is close to my heart… my mom was born there. And I had been there for couple of days for work. Shillong does have good number of activities that can keep a tourist busy and soak in whole of it. I am keen to visit the elephant water falls some day again. Loved these captures.

    • Ami

      Thanks Indrani. I think you will enjoy Shillong given your connection, besides of course the other things to charm one. Cheers

  17. Sandy N Vyjay

    What an enchanting place Shillong is. The place seems so like Switzerland, especially the area around the Golf course. The beauty of the place makes you think that it is handcrafted personally by God. The Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians looks really impressive. The replica of Michael Angelo’s Pieta looks so lifelike.

  18. Urvesh Bhatt

    This place is so pretty and I am so unlucky. I am planning for this destination for last 8 months but still no luck.
    It a good insight which I can refer to when I visit there.

  19. Christopher

    I can not get over how beautiful the scenery is here. I can see why the British did want to leave. I think I would totally love Wards Lake, it’s totally picturesque as is the Lady Hydari Park. I know I’m a big tough man but I really like butterflies. Maybe it’s the traveller in me 😉

    • Ami

      Nothing wrong with liking butterflies. They are just so loveable. And Shillong charms… So avoiding falling in love with that too… 🙂 Thanks Christopher for stopping by

  20. Valerie Wheatley

    I’d never heard of Shillong prior to reading this post and I have to say, now I’m pretty bummed that we missed it during our 5 weeks in India! It does look like it would be a beautiful and peaceful place to retire. I love all of the greenspace – I’d love to spend an afternoon gazing at Wards Lake. Your photographs are absolutely stunning as well – thank you for sharing!

    • Ami

      Not surprised if you missed it for this is the untapped north east part of India which is not your regular circuit. You can always come back though to experience this entire region. Trust me… It’s all worth it

  21. Carol Perehudoff

    I’d never heard of Meghalaya or Shillong, so this is an eye opener. There is so much nature to see, the butterfly garden and Elephant Falls. Ward’s Lake, epescially, looks beautiful.

    • Ami

      Shillong is not on your usual tourist circuits for it is in the North East part of the country. However, slowly a lot of people are looking at it. You should visit, Carol.

  22. Holly

    Didn’t know it was called the Scotland of the East. Another place i also need to visit. I have heard mention of Shillong, but it has never been on my radar and I’ve not really see or read what it is all about. I have to get to India.

    • Ami

      You mist definitely have to and if you enjoyed this post, then Shillong has to be on your plan. Trust me, it is worth it

  23. Kate Storm

    I always learn new things about India from your posts! Shillong looks beautiful, especially from those high viewpoints. I love exploring markets all over the world, so the Police Bazar definitely caught my eye as well! If we schedule a trip, we’ll definitely make sure to go outside of monsoon season–thanks for the tip!

  24. Ayushi

    The pictures are very beautiful…I would surely love to go there again:)

  25. Siddhartha Joshi

    Nice post Ami…reminded me of my own trip years ago 🙂 I would like to add one more to the list – attend a rock show if it’s happening in town. I attended one and was completely mesmerized by the energy of the crowd 🙂

    • Ami

      Oh yes, Shillong is the unparallel rock capital of India. That does add up to one more thing to do here

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