Nestled in the lower foothills of the Himalayas is the city of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. One of the most beautiful towns in India it is often referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’. A small civil station established by the British in 1864 it served as a perfect getaway from the melting heat during the summer months in the plains of Assam and East Bengal (now Bangladesh).
Thronged with visitors throughout the year, the town and its adjoining areas with its mesmerizing beauty have been on most travelers’ radar for many years. So pack your bags as we take you through a four-day memorable sojourn through this beautiful landscape.
Day 1: Get the Scent of Shillong
Shillong doesn’t have a railhead and the city’s airport has a single daily flight from Kolkata. The ideal way to reach Meghalaya’s capital is through Guwahati also known as Gateway to North East. Guwahati is connected by flights from all major cities in India and the 120 kilometer drive through pristine hills and breath-taking greenery is one that you would surely cherish. While Police Bazar (or Khyndailad as the locals call it) is where most of the hotels are we suggest you to book yourself into a homestay or BnB in a quite locality to get a real scent of the city. Tripura Castle the summer residence of Tripura’s royal family or Bo Ville Homestay would be our pick. Both restored Colonial-era properties give you a real taste of the city.
Shillong has always been a place to walk and enjoy the whispering pine trees. The modern town’s notorious traffic gives you more reasons to walk these days. Have a light lunch, pick up your camera and start your deserved escapade with a visit to the Mary Help of Christians Cathedral, the biggest church in the city and you would be bowled over by its beauty of high arches and stained glass windows.
20 minute walk away is the Lady Hydari Park another colonial heritage, a sea of greenery and flowers with its own mini zoo and a small museum. Once you have captured the best of Mother Nature in your lens, head out to Police Bazaar and treat yourself to some mouth-watering local cuisine. Jadoh, Dohneiiong, and Dohkhlieh should be on your plate as you will experience rich flavors with minimal ingredients. If you are a vegetarian you can try Ja Stem and Tungrymbai. Popularly called the Rock Capital of India, there is music all around in the city and you can head out it one of the many night clubs and hear a band play.
Day 2: Drench in the Wettest Place on Earth
Book a vehicle and make a 60 km trip Mawsynram, the wettest place on earth. You may have thought it was Cherrapunjee but the erstwhile wettest place has had to part away with that honour a decade back. The small village of Mawsynram sees around 12000 mm of rainfall every year and recorded 26000 mm in 1985. To give you an analogy that’s about 15 times the annual rainfall in Delhi and more than 6 times what Mumbaikers have to deal with even during their worst deluge!
If you are making a trip during the monsoons umbrellas or raincoats are a must! But there is more to this place than rainfall. The place is dotted with natural limestone caves with the Mawjymbuin Cave being the most famous where a stalagmite resembling a Shiva Linga with a small stream of water dripping over it surely one to watch out for.
Drive another 25 km down south near the Indo-Bangladesh border is the village of Mawlyngbna that offers you a nice view of the rolling hills merging into the plains of Bangladesh. A paradise for nature lovers you would be impressed with the natural springs that dot this village. On your return trip to Shillong you can visit two of the most visited places in the city, the Elephant Falls where a three-stage waterfall with picturesque surroundings and natural walking trails is a paradise for the tourists.
A few kilometres away is the Shillong Peak or the Shillong View Point nearly 1000 ft. higher than the town and offers you a 360-degree view of the city and adjoining areas. If you make it to this place early morning on the way to Mawsynram when winter sets in, you can even see snow-capped Himalayan peaks on the horizon.
Day 3: Bask in the beauty of Cherrapunjee
Once the wettest place on the planet it is often referred to as the cradle of Khasi civilization. It was the place where the Britishers first brought in their influence and established their post before making a move to Shillong. Unlike Mawsynram it offers you complete package to see and enjoy.
There are a number of resorts and homestays that have come up in the recent years and you shouldn’t give the idea of halting here a miss (if you have an extra day to spare of course). Polo Orchid Resort and Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort would be our pick.
Among the must-visit places on your Nohkalikai Falls, Mawsmai Cave, Seven Sisters Falls, Dain-Thlen Falls, the famed Double Decker Living Root Bridge and Thangkharang Park where you will find see the famous carnivorous Pitcher Plant. What makes the visit to Cherrapunjee special is that you would need to make frequent stopovers on the way to capture the beauty of the land in your cameras.
On your return trip to Shillong visit Iewduh or Bara Bazar, the largest market in the state and one that is as old as the town itself. From fresh fruits, vegetables and poultry to traditional ironwork and bamboo crafts it’s a great joy being in the middle of chaos. You would end up spending hours at this market and yet be craving for more. The ever smiling locals would offer you the perfect glimpse of Shillong’s hospitality.
Take a walk through the busy roads down to Police Bazar and savor Chinese cuisine, there are dozens of restaurants that specialize in Chinese cuisine and if you believe the locals Shillong offers you the best Chinese food in India!
Day 4: Up Close and Personal with Shillong
After two days of traveling through beautiful valleys and mountains and not so good roads on your last day, you should experience the city like a local. Head out to the Shillong Golf Course early in the morning. This is the place that earns the city its name ‘Scotland of the East’ as the 18-hole golf course which was laid out as an escapade for British civil servants from Assam and East Bengal.
Drive to the Ward’s Lake from here adjacent to the Raj Bhawan or Governor’s House. Encircled by greenery on all sides this artificial lake is one of the best-preserved relics of the Raj. Take a short walk to Police Bazar and since it is your last day it’s time to pick some souvenirs to remind you of your visit to this beautiful town. Artefacts made from bamboo and cane are a must pick as you aren’t likely to find them anywhere else.
On your drive down to Guwahati make a stopover at Umiam Lake also referred to as Barapani. An artificial reservoir constructed it the 1960s it is one of the largest hydroelectric power projects in the state. Take a boat ride and if you have a daredevil in you there is speedboat and water scooter for you! The adjacent park is also a nice place to bath in the natural beauty of Shillong for one last time and you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity of capturing some beautiful images of the pine trees and other flora.
Shillong isn’t just another tourist destination but a bundled package which has something for everyone. From the crowded markets to quiet and serene natural greenery, from a cosmopolitan town to one that offers you the best glimpse of tribal culture and their crafts, a four day trip would leave you longing for more. Make a trip to the Scotland of the East and you would create memories to be cherished over a lifetime.
1 – By Simbu123 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
2 – By Vikramjit Kakati (Own work)
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5 – By ChanduBandi (Flickr: Shillong view point) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
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