Mystic mountains, amazing waterfalls, friendly people
Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya takes its name from the deity Shyllong or Lei Shyllong. This city used to be the capital of Assam for over century since 1874 till Meghalaya became a separate state.
The city is based on an elevated swathe which lies almost 1500 mtr above the sea level. The city is picturesquely located within the Umiam ravine from north and the Diengiei hills from the north-west making it a prey to natural blessings as well as vagaries (incessant rains during June-September). One such incident almost wiped out Shillong from the face of earth in 1897 when a strong earthquake destroyed the city. The hard working people of Meghalaya reconstructed the city completely.
Shillong was born in the laps of nature and offers everyone its bequeathed element for exploration. The amazing series of waterfalls, the mystic mountain peaks, crystal clear water lakes, breathtakingly beautiful golf courses, museums and zoo; Shillong has a different façade for everyone. Behdienkhlam, one of the famous and recreational festivals of Meghalaya is held in the Jowai Town every year during the months of June and July.
The itchy feet may decide to venture a little farther and discover the limestone caves and the oldest Presbyterian Church. The People of Meghalaya are extremely courteous and friendly and any interaction with them is bound to end in a laugh riot. These wonderful people are full of life and the same is reflected in the products they offer. The hand-woven shawls, cane works, handicraft decoration and the special orange flower honey; each offering is special and unique.
Places to visit
One of the most amusing sights even for an adult is to watch a delicate little butterfly land on hands and perform a balancing jig before it takes off again to regale another bystander. The Butterfly Museum at Riatsamthiah presents some of the finest and rarest species of butterflies and moths. The museum had initiated the breeding program for butterflies with an eye on the mounting commercial market. However, the program has now developed into a full fledged butterfly and moth anthology. The museum also provides a rare insight into the life cycles and habitat of these fragile mortals.
Waterfalls in Meghalaya are unique. They are always at their full glory and rarely dry up or become a trickle as the case with waterfalls in rest of the country. The Beadon Waterfall is surrounded by verdant forests from every side. The sight of the creamy torrent gushing down almost 100 feet to crush the resilient rocks below is awe inspiring. The clear water stream and the picturesque surroundings make for a memorable sight. It provides an excellent opportunity to relax and enjoy a half day trek cum picnic with the entire family. An operational hydroelectric powerhouse is situated at the base of the falls.
The Bishop’s Waterfall is often referred to as the twin brother of the Beadon Waterfall since both tumble down the same escarpment into a yawning gorge. As the gushing stream of water plunges and crashes into a cavernous lagoon the sprinkled droplets create a mystic rainbow that stretches across the spectrum. The emerald pool formed at the bottom is inviting and it’s a fantastic idea to trek up or down the hills along the stream discovering the marvels of nature. Although a few hotels and local vendors offer grub for the famished, do not expect a five star spread from these simple souls who are untouched by the mean grasps of bottomlines and profits
Smack in the middle of Shillong City is another natural splendor. The Crinoline Falls cascading down the luxuriant woodland creates a graceful waterfall. The pool created by the fall has been creatively carved out to serve as a well sustained swimming pool. An attached restaurant provides relief for the tired spirits and the adjacent area nourishes the heart with some soul stirring cultural programs.
The Elephant Falls located 10 kms outside Shillong City provides a unique sight where the water column carves out its way and surrenders to gravity at two successive locations. The gigantic stream accumulated just at the pinnacle comes crashing down the terrain and rebounds only to cover a short distance and once again leaps into a daunting gorge. The very sight of natural pandemonium is enough to make one miss a heartbeat and leap with joy. The surrounding basin sheltered by the sky like greenvegetation provides a perfect backdrop to this enchanting picnic spot.
The Shillong peak stands at a whopping 2000mtr above sea level. The peak dedicated to the city is also the highest point in the state. An ideal picnic spot, the Shillong Peak offer breathtaking bird’s eye view of the city and the scattered villages around the peak. A sanctum offering curtsy U Shulong is located at the peak’s summit. The spiritual pastor of Mylliem State offers prayers at the sanctum during springtime. If the view of the human abode below is breathtaking during daytime, the view at nighttime is absolutely awe inspiring. The city and other dwelling lights provide the ground below an aura of the night sky.
Situated near Happy Valley, the Sweet Falls travel a stomach wrenching dive of an incredible 96 mtr before it pounds the black rocks in the crevice below. It is very popular amongst the local populace and it is common to find a swelling crowd there during weekends. The place has been developed as a tourist spot and basic facilities for travelers and tourists are available at affordable prices.
The story goes like this. A Khasi prisoner, bored with the penitentiary routine requested the warden for some creative release by permitting him to create some construction over the Wards Lake. He was permitted to do so and what stands today is a marvelous site of the Wards Lake or Polok’s Lake as the locals prefer to call it. This century old picturesque (horseshoe-shaped) artificial lake lying beneath the Raj Bhavan (Governor’s Residence) is located at the heart of the city and is extremely popular for its garden walks and boating. The lake is chock-full of fish it’s a common sight to see tourists feeding fish from the bridge. The lake is encircled by a winding walk-way and is inter spread with gently sloping flowerbeds and innovative illumination, edged in by luxuriant greens.
Bara Bazaar (Lewduh Market)
The Lewduh market or the Bara Bazar, as many old timers still prefer to term it, is one huge colorful jamboree. The market becomes the hub of a million activities on the Iewduh (the very first day of the Khasi week) when populace from the entire spectrum from Meghalaya arrives in vibrant bunches and enhances the festive atmosphere. The vendors offer some of the best Meghalay products for the most reasonable prices.
Shillong Golf Club
Considered to the first 18 hole Golf Course in India the Shillong Golf Club (an altitude of 5200 ft) is any Putters dream come true. The Shillong Golf Course is sometimes equated with “Glen-eagle Course” in the United States because of its beauty and unique location. The Golf Course has been charted in a surging valley full of thick pine groves and rhododendron trees. The course initiated as a 9 (nine) hole course in 1898 was later converted into a full fledged 18 hole course by Capt Jackson in 1924. This enchanting Golfing paradise is also often visited for the enormous panoramic view it presents of the Shillong city and against the backdrop of snow-covered Himalayan ranges.
Best time to visit
Shillong has a cool climate all through the year and can be visited any time of the year. But the best season is from September to May.Winters (November to February) are freezing and minimum temperature reaches 2°C. Fog formations are common during winter.
Summers (March to June) experience a maximum temperature of 24°C and a minimum temperature of 15°C. This time is good for enjoying sightseeing and adventure activities.
Monsoons (June to September) offer average to heavy rainfalls sometimes accompanied by heavy winds.
How to Reach
By Air: Borjhar Airport in Guwahati, Assam, is the nearest airport. You can get to Shillong in four hours from there in a hired taxi or a chartered bus.
By Rail: There are no railway lines inside Meghalaya. The nearest railhead is Guwahati, 128 km from Shillong. Buses and taxis then connect to Shillong. It would take you about four hrs from Guwahati railway station to Shillong.
By Bus: You can drive from Guwahati to Shillong in four hours and from Silchar to Shillong in nine hours. The drive from Guwahati is scenic.