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7 best places to visit in Shillong, Meghalaya

Nestled amidst the clouds and the mountains of the East Khasi Hills is the picturesque city of Shillong.

 Magic of Shillong
Magic of Shillong

The state capital of Meghalaya is surrounded by lush rolling hills and swaying high pines, and was named ‘the Schotland of the East’ by the Britishers. It is a place dotted with majestic waterfalls and valleys stretching beyond the horizon. Meghalaya is a nature paradise and undoubtedly a must-visit in the North East of India.

Shillong, along with its exotic natural resources, is also a place of unique cultural blend. The indigenous people here in the state of Meghalaya are the Garo and Khasi tribe with rich heritage and vibrant traditions. However, the younger generation is highly influenced by western rock and roll music and often Shillong is referred to as the ‘Rock and Blues Capital’ of the country.

One of the most accessible cities in North East India, Shillong has it all. From mesmerizing waterfalls to British Architecture, sunset points, and panoramic views to amazing nightlife, Shillong caters to all of your travel desires. And of the numerous attractions, here are the best seven places to visit in Shillong:

Elephant falls

Only 12 km away from the city center is this gorgeous waterfall and a prime tourist attraction. It has crystal clear water sprawling through three tiers of rocks and lush greenery surrounding the area. The fall was originally named ‘Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew’ by the Khasi people, which meant ‘Three Steps Waterfalls’, owing to its three layers.

The scenic view and cool atmosphere of Elephant Falls at Shillong Image credit Bito4 via Wikipedia Commons
The scenic view and cool atmosphere of Elephant Falls at Shillong Image credit Bito4 via Wikipedia Commons

Later the Britishers named it Elephant Falls because of the presence of a huge elephant-shaped rock at the bottom of the waterfall. However, the rock was destroyed in a major earthquake in the year 1897. This stunning waterfall in the Upper Shillong region stays open till 6 in the evening. One may club it with a visit to the highest point of Shillong, Shillong Peak, to get a panoramic view of the city and the countryside.

Umiam Lake

One of the most scenic places in the state is Lake Umiam. Built as a reservoir on the Umiam river in the 1960s, today is an ideal place for nature lovers. With the blue of the water and the vastness of the lake, and the dense coniferous forest surrounding the area, this place is truly magical and is a perfect spot for some landscape photography.

Umiam Lake Image credit Prof. Vikramjit Kakati via Wikipedia Commons
Umiam Lake (locally known as Dam sait) is a reservoir in the hills 15 km (9.3 mi) north of Shillong in the state of Meghalaya, India. It was created by damming the Umiam River in the early 1960s. The principal catchment area of the lake and dam is spread over 225 square km. Image credit Prof. Vikramjit Kakati via Wikipedia Commons

Located on the Guwahati-Shillong highway, around 15 km away from the city, the lake is popular for picnics among the locals. One can visit this place for a day trip and unwind in nature. There are even various water sports activities to take part in, like kayaking, fishing, and cruising.

Laitlum Canyons

Another place to visit in Shillong is the enchanting Laitlum Canyons. A secluded and serene viewing point, it offers panoramic vistas of the majestic Khashi hills, dotted with waterfalls and valleys. ‘Laitlum’ which means ‘The end of hills’, is exactly how it feels to be there at the edge of the hills witnessing the surreal surrounding. It is 23kms away from the city center and takes about 45 mins to reach the canyon.

Laitlum Canyon, Shillong Image credit Image ANKAN via Wikipedia Commons
Laitlum Canyon, Shillong Image credit Image ANKAN via Wikipedia Commons

Laitlum Canyons is a beautiful and rugged section of the eastern Himalayas located in Shillong, India. This spectacular region is known for its awe-inspiring views of snow-covered peaks, lush green valleys, and cascading waterfalls. It’s a great place to explore nature, take pictures and simply relax.

The incredible beauty of Laitlum Canyons is what draws people to it. From a distance, the mountains and canyons look like they’ve been carved out of solid stone with jagged ridges and steep drops. Closer up, these sharp edges are softened by lush trees and plants that give the landscape a serene feel. The valleys are covered in thick green vegetation and the river streams are full of cascading waterfalls.

The view from the top of the Canyons is breathtaking. It’s easy to spot distant villages tucked away in the mountains and lots of wildlife roaming around. The best time to visit is early morning, as the sun rises over the horizon and paints the sky with a pinkish hue.

The area is also known for its great hiking trails. Paths lead through quiet forests, along river banks, and up steep climbs to vantage points where you can get an even better view of the landscape. The terrain can be quite challenging, but it’s also rewarding as the views are spectacular. Laitlum Canyons is an amazing place to experience nature in all its glory.

Mary Help for Christian Cathedral

Built in 1936, this cathedral is a prominent place of worship for both locals as well as tourists. The church sits on a hilltop with rich green lawns and displays stunning Gothic architecture. With tall arches and stain-painted windows, the cathedral gives a feeling of serenity and calm. Only 4kms away from the city center, this place is a must-visit in Shillong.

The Cathedral Church Of The Mary Help of Christians Shillong Image Kinshuk Kashyap via Flickr
The Cathedral Church Of The Mary Help of Christians Shillong Image Kinshuk Kashyap via Flickr

The cathedral is one of the oldest churches in India. It features towering spires, intricate carvings, and stained glass windows.

The church has been dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, the patron saint of Shillong. It is a popular pilgrimage destination for both locals and tourists alike. The main entrance of the cathedral features a grand staircase leading up to the massive double doors that open into the main sanctuary. Inside the church, there are several Gothic-style sculptures of Jesus, Mary, and many saints that serve as a reminder of faith and devotion to the Lord.

The cathedral also features an elaborate pipe organ that plays enchanting hymns during services. This beautiful instrument creates a heavenly atmosphere inside the church which is further enhanced by its candle-lit altars. Tourists visiting the city should not miss the opportunity to visit this majestic church and revel in its beauty, history, and culture. It is one of the most prominent landmarks in Shillong, a symbol of faith, hope, and inspiration for all who visit.

Ward’s Lake

Locally known as Pollock’s Lake, it is a horseshoe-shaped lake surrounded by gardens with exotic flowers and cobblestone sidewalks. It is a quiet place for relaxation within the city and ideal for day visits and picnics.

As one of the most beautiful sights in the city, Ward’s Lake offers visitors an unforgettable experience with its crystal clear blue waters and lush gardens. On any given day, visitors to Ward’s Lake can wander along the banks of the lake, explore its natural beauty, or simply relax in its tranquil atmosphere. One can also go boating in the lake or feed the fish or simply stroll around the lake in the evening. The lake’s edge is lined with trees and shrubs that offer peaceful shade during the hot summer months.

Ward Lake Image ANKAN via Wikipedia Commons
Ward’s lake located in Shillong, Meghalaya is named after Sir William Ward, the then Chief Commissioner of Assam. He started the plan for the establishment of this lake and late was constructed in the year 1894 by Colonel Hopkins. Image ANKAN via Wikipedia Commons

The lake itself is full of life – many species of birds call this area their home. Visitors can watch them swooping, fluttering, and flying across the lake as they search for food or take a break in the trees. The lake also has a number of turtles and fish, adding to its charm and making it an ideal spot for fishing enthusiasts.

Ward’s Lake is a great place to bring visitors or family to experience the beauty of Shillong. The lake is well-maintained with pathways and benches for visitors to rest on while they take in the views. There are also a number of shops that line the banks selling traditional foods, refreshments, and souvenirs.

Air Force Museum

Built as a tribute to the country’s defense forces, the museum houses some unique and interesting information about the Indian Air force and its glorious history. It is a part of the Indian Air Force’s Eastern Command in Shillong. It has an impressive collection of pictures from the Indo-China war and the Indo-Pak war, uniforms, missiles, medals, and model rockets and aircraft. Its most impressive displays are the 1971 war helicopter and fighter plane, MI 4, and Caribou DHC 4, used for bombing east Pakistan during the war. Another such museum in the city is the Don Bosco Museum, dedicated to the state’s rich tribal

Police Bazar

When in Shillong city, one must visit the iconic Police Bazar to experience Shillong in its most authentic form. It is the major shopping hub for both locals and tourists alike. Situated in the heart of Shillong capital, it has arrays of shops and restaurants catering to both the shopaholic and the foodie in you. Apart from the big branded stores, it has a flea market section selling exquisite traditional jewelry, Meghalayan artillery, handicrafts, and local delicacies.

Police Bazar Shillong Image Ashwin Kumar via Flickr
Police Bazar Image Ashwin Kumar via Flickr

Apart from this, the market also has numerous nightclubs and cafes for music lovers and a chill night scene. Shillong is nothing like any other hill station in the country. It has a laid-back vibe, with an earthy smell of the rain and pines, and a unique blend of nature and culture. It is truly an enchanting city hidden behind the clouds.

Getting to Shillong.

  • The Umroi Airport or Shillong Airport is situated at a distance of 30 km from the city centre of Shillong.
  • Guwahati Railway Station is the closest railhead to Shillong. The distance from Guwahati to Shillong by road is 99 Km.

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