Shillong, located in the Khasi Hills district, is the largest city and capital of the Indian state of Meghalaya. It is a beautiful hill station and a hidden gem of Northeast India that boasts natural beauty, a pleasant climate, and a rich cultural heritage. During British rule, Shillong served as the capital of Assam until Meghalaya was established as a separate state in 1972. The city is located in the centre of a plateau surrounded by lakes, waterfalls, pine forests, and lush green mountains. Due to its picturesque rolling hills, landscape, and waterfalls, it was nicknamed "Scotland of the East" by the British. Although the local language in Shillong is Khasi, English is also widely spoken. The city was earlier known as "Yeddo" or "Lewduh" and later derived its name from "U Blei Shyllong", a powerful deity of the Khasi. Shillong is an ideal holiday destination that offers visitors a vibrant market, historical buildings, museums, and adventure activities such as hiking, rock climbing, and river rafting. The city's natural beauty, cultural attractions, and pollution-free environment make it a popular tourist destination that is gradually gaining more recognition.
Umiam Lake, located in the hills of Shillong, is a top tourist destination known for its picturesque beauty. The lake, also known as Barapani or “huge water” in the local Khasi language, is man-made which was created by damming the Umiam River as part of a hydroelectric project in the 1960s. Surrounded by dense coniferous trees, the lake offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can explore the lake’s small islands and enjoy picnics amidst the serene surroundings. In addition to its natural beauty, Umiam Lake is a hub for water sports enthusiasts who can partake in kayaking, boating, water cycling, and skiing.
Phan Nonglait Park, a renowned outdoor and recreational centre in Shillong, is a must-visit destination for tourists. Formerly known as Lady Hydari Park, it was named in honour of the wife of the first governor of Assam, who played a vital role in establishing the park. This lush green park features a picturesque landscape with shrubs, flower beds, a small pond, and a footbridge, enhancing its overall beauty and making it an inviting entrance. Furthermore, the park boasts a small zoo where visitors can observe various species, including antelope, raptors, and small mammals. A museum is also housed within the park, showcasing the Khasi tribe’s culture and heritage, as well as the state’s wealth of traditional clothing, musical instruments, handicrafts, and artifacts.
Ward’s Lake, situated in the heart of Shillong, is a highly popular tourist destination. It is an artificial lake that features a horseshoe shape and is surrounded by a beautiful garden, a walking path, and a wooden bridge in the centre of the lake. Visitors can spend quality time with their loved ones in the garden or take a boat ride on the lake. The British originally constructed the lake in the late 1800s as a fishing pond before being converted into a lake. It was named after Sir William Ward, who served as the Chief Commissioner of Assam at that time. Ward’s Lake is an ideal spot for picnics where visitors can enjoy the serene surroundings. It also serves as a venue for events and exhibitions.
Elephant Falls is a must-visit attraction that is renowned for its captivating natural beauty located in Upper Shillong, the outskirts of the city. The falls is composed of three tiers and adorned with lush greenery, providing a picturesque view that’s both calming and inspiring. The local name for Elephant Falls is ‘Ka Kshaid-lai-pateng Khohsiew’, which means “the three-step waterfall. While the English name was derived when the British spotted a giant rock resembling an Elephant near the fall, which got later destroyed in an earthquake in 1897. Visitors are required to pay a small entrance fee to enter the falls, and cameras are not allowed inside. Visitors can also explore a small, vibrant market and food stalls at the waterfall’s entrance. For those looking for a peaceful retreat in the midst of nature, Elephant Falls is an excellent destination that will rejuvenate your soul.
Located in Laitkor, the city’s outskirts, Shillong Peak is a prominent and captivating tourist destination that offers enchanting views of the city and its serene landscape. As the highest viewpoint in Shillong, it provides a spectacular panoramic view of the surroundings and is an ideal place to witness both sunrise and sunset.
With its peaceful atmosphere and natural beauty, Shillong Peak is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway where visitors can spend quality time with their loved ones amidst the pleasant weather and stunning scenery. However, visitors must show their ID cards and submit their cameras at the checkposts of the area, as Shillong Peak falls under the jurisdiction of the Indian Air Force.
According to historians, the Khasi deity U Shyllong was believed to reside on the Shillong hills and protect the city from evils. To honour the spirit of U Shyllong, a ritual is performed by the Khasis every year during spring.
The Shillong Golf Course, also called the Glen Eagles of the East, is a magnificent natural golf course in Shillong. It is renowned for being India’s oldest and most picturesque golf course and is one of the few natural courses of its kind in Asia. The British originally constructed it in 1898 as a 9-hole course and later expanded to an 18-hole course in 1924. The giant Golf Course is surrounded by lush pine and rhododendron trees, providing ample space to unwind and enjoy stunning views. It is a fantastic destination for golf enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
Travelling to Shillong can be quite challenging as it lacks proper air and railway connectivity. However, Shillong has excellent road connectivity with other North Eastern states like Guwahati, Aizawl, and Kohima. Private and state transport buses frequently ply to and from Shillong from other states, and taxi services are also available to reach nearby destinations like Agartala, Guwahati, Aizawl, Kohima, Dimapur, and other North Eastern towns and cities. There are three major highways connecting all the major northeastern states:
National Highway 6 (India)- Connected to Guwahati, Tripura and Mizoram
National Highway 106 (India)- Connected to Nongstoin
National Highway 206 (India)- Connected to Dawki
Shillong has a domestic airport, Umroi Airport, which is located at a considerable distance from the city. Although the airport serves regular flights to and from Kolkata and Agartala, flight options to other destinations like Lilabari, Delhi, Silchar, and Guwahati are also available. However, due to limited flight connectivity, travellers must consider Guwahati Airport, the nearest major international airport. From there, they can opt for a taxi or public transport to reach Shillong.
Shillong does not have a railway station, and travellers need to use the Guwahati Railway Station, which is around 105 km away from Shillong. However, plans are underway to build a railway line from the Guwahati suburb of Tetelia to Byrnihat near Shillong, known as the Tetelia-Byrnihat line. This line will eventually be extended to Shillong in the future. Meanwhile, Northeast Frontier Railway operates a toy train service from Guwahati to Shillong that runs through picturesque routes, offering visitors a unique experience.
Shillong, a picturesque hill station located in the Khasi Hills district, is the capital of Meghalaya, a northeastern Indian state. Known as the “Scotland of the East,” Shillong is an excellent choice for a relaxing holiday with its natural beauty, comfortable climate, and vibrant cultural heritage. Shillong’s tranquil surroundings offer a much-needed escape from the fast-paced city life. However, reaching this destination can be challenging due to the absence of railway connectivity, although Umroi Airport operates a limited number of domestic flights. Despite this, Shillong boasts several popular tourist attractions, including Umiam Lake, Phan Nonglat Park (Lady Hydari Park), Ward’s Lake, Elephant Falls, Shillong Peak, and Shillong Golf Course. One should definitely try to explore the city’s beauty and immerse oneself in its rich culture.