Best places to visit in Shillong
The capital town of Meghalaya has beautiful natural and manmade attractions which can easily keep you engaged for a couple or more of days. The day hike and day trip options are especially tempting with the chance of experiencing some unique indigenous aspects of Meghalaya.
Shillong has a romantic aura about it that will make even normal attractions like a lake or a waterfall seem like a fascinating and magical experience.
(Also known as Barapani Lake)
15 km to north of Shillong town
The Barapani Lake is a beautiful reservoir that is located amongst the hills about 15 km to the North of Shillong in Meghalaya and on Shillong - Guwahati route. The Lake was created after damming the Umiam River in 1960 and the lake catchment area spreads to more than 220 sq. km. Besides being a place of great scenic beauty, the Barapani Lake is a popular water sport hub and has great adventure facilities. Tourists can opt for boating, water cycling and scooting along with a host of other activities.
Umiam (Barapani) Lake
(Shillong View Point)
10 km away from Shillong Town, Best visited before evening
Shillong Peak is the highest peak in the Himalayan Mountain range surrounding Meghalaya with the staggering total altitude of 1966 meters. Naturalists would easily name the Shillong peak as the best attraction in Shillong. Some say that the town Shillong was named after the peak.
View from Shillong Peak
Incidentally, the radar system of the Indian Air Force is also present in the Shillong Peak area. Surprisingly, the peak is just 10 km away from the city and takes about 20-25 minutes by taxi.
Named after Sir William Ward, the former chief commissioner of Assam... the Wards Lake is amongst the most popular tourist destinations in Shillong. Alternatively, locals refer to the Wards Lake as Pollock’s Lake and it is actually a manmade water body that is surrounded by a largish garden. The Lake is shaped in the form of a horse shoe and has a quaint cobble stoned path running around it, surrounded by beautiful flower beds. The Wards Lake is bang at the centre of Shillong town and is a social hub.
Shillong Ward's Lake
12 km away from Shillong Town
Best visited before evening
This magnificent three tiered falls seem to emerge out of nowhere in the hills and stun the world with its force and dynamism. The elephant falls is the British name that was inspired by an elephant shaped stone near the base of the fall and that substituted the original Khasi name 'Ka Kshaid Lai pateng Khohsiew' or the 'three tiered falls'. The falls are 12km away from Shillong town and the nearby ground is filled with food stalls and souvenir shops.
Lady Hydari Park
Open from 9.00 A.M to 8.00 P.M
Inside Shillong Town
Lady Hyadari Park is a tribute to the erstwhile First Lady of the province... the gracious Lady Hydari. This huge park is one of the principal attractions of Shillong and it contains a range of gorgeous flora along with a small mini Zoo with 73 types of birds and more than 100 reptiles. Though named a Park, this is actually a lovely Zoo and nature observation center worth at least an hour of your time.
100 km from Shillong Town
Along the Indo Bangladesh Border
A day trip to the Mawlynnong Village is one of the best things you could do while visiting Meghalaya. The Village has stunned the world with its impeccable and wonderfully innovative practices of maintaining cleanliness and environmental friendliness. It was awarded the “Cleanest Village of Asia” in 2003 by the Discover India Magazine.
As of now there are more than 100 households staying in Mawlynnong and many of them offer homestay accommodation options. The beauty of the village is enhanced by the warmth and friendliness exuded by the residents.
Don Bosco Museum
Open from Monday to Saturday
9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Mawlai Phudmuri, Shillong
Arguably one of the most well developed and informative museums in the entire North Eastern region of India, the Don Bosco Museum (actually known as Don Bosco Center of Indigenous Cultures) is a must visit when you travel to Shillong. You will get a beautiful opportunity to learn about the culture, lifestyle and practices of the North-Eastern inhabitants. The museum is frequently visited by writers, researchers and even royalty. The annual footfall to the museum in 2016 crossed 1 lakh. There are more than 15 galleries; each with their own different sub sections.
Cathedral (Mary Help) Catholic Church
Lachumiere, Shillong, Meghalaya 793003
Phone: 096137 86126
The Cathedral of Mary is one of the most gorgeous churches in this part of the world and its location on a hill top adds to its beauty. On a clear day you can see the Brahmaputra river and the snow ridden Himalayan Peaks from a point in the church premises.
Catholic Mary Help Church, Laitumkhra
The Cathedral has lofty arches and beautiful stained glass windows. Its importance as a tourist pilgrimage was enhanced after 1980 when the late Archbishop Rev Hubert D Rosario declared it as a place of spiritual pilgrimage. This is the main worship place of more than 300,000 staunch Catholics of the Shillong Archdiocese who dwell in the Eastern Khasi Hills and the Ri Bhoi.
25 km from Shillong town (45 minute drive)
Preferably visit before evenings
Nothing can prepare you for the view that you get to experience from the Laitlum Canyons... you are sure to be swept off your feet. The Canyons are situated on the top of Eastern Khasi Hills and this is the point from where most of the Meghalaya Vista is available for view. The climb to the Laitlum is rather exerting but is targeted by nature lovers and hikers and photographers in equal proportion. It remains one of the most visited spots in Meghalaya.
Mawphlang Sacred Forest
Eastern Khasi Hills
25 km from Shillong Town
A virtual treasure trove of the precious bounty of Nature... you are not allowed to bring out a single leaf from inside the sacred forest of Mawphlang. Also known for its spiritual potency and the rare Rudraksh trees, the forest is beautiful par imagination attracting hordes of spiritual seekers, travellers, ornithologists, botanists and photographers. The humus laden grounds and the profusion of pipers, ferns, orchids and fern allies make the forests a rare specimen of heterogeneity of flora.
Khasi Heritage Village
Synrang Kaban, Meghalaya
The model Khasi Heritage Village is spread across almost 8 acres in the Mawphalang district and is the signature project of Congress led Khasi Hills United Democratic Alliance (KHUDA). There are a variety of native houses, huts, weapons, ornaments, utensils etc. on display which will appeal to you strongly if the cultural aspects of the tribes interest you. The Monolith Dance and Music festival that is held every year in the Khasi Heritage Village is a major attraction.
Khasi Heritage Village just before Mawphlang sacred forest
Air Force Museum
Sohra Road, East Khasi Hills District, Shillong
Open on all days except Public Holidays
A very good place for airplane and air force lovers... on any given day you will find lots of families with kids inside the museum. If you want to know about the Air Defense Force of our country or teach your kids about this then this place is a must visit. Check out the Indo Pakistan and Indo China War pictures on display... this will send shivers down your spine. On display are miniature air craft and rocket models along with air force uniforms.
Spread Eagle Falls
6 km away from Shillong Town
The Spread Eagle Falls is alternatively known as Sati Falls or Umkaliar and is one of the most popular picnic spots/ tourist destinations around. The Spread Eagle name is inspired from its width... this is actually the widest waterfall in Meghalaya. The Waterfall dominates three sides of the pool and creates a wild splashing sound when it hits the ground. An excellent destination for photography.
Mawsynram, 60 km away from Shillong
You must have heard of Mawsynram replacing Cherrapunjee as the wettest place on Earth recently. Well, a visit to the Mawjymbun Caves will take you to the wettest places on earth and also expose you to a completely organic 209 meter high cave that will surely stun you. Completely made of stalagmites, calcareous sandstones that are weathered down along with calcium carbonate deposits and mineralised illiquid drips... this is a Geological heaven.
It will take you about 2 hours of drive along the Mawsynram Shillong Road to reach the spot from where is a detour for the caves. One particular Stalagmite is shaped like a Shiva Lingam and commands a lot of respect from Hindus who regularly visit the caves. There are many side entrances and passages to the cave... with varying degrees of accessibility.
5 km from Happy Valley
Also known as the Kshaid Wetden, this 96 meter high waterfall has often been termed as “the lethal beauty”. A record number of suicides and accidental deaths have happened here and it’s said that groups go there in odd numbers and return in even numbers. The surrounding area is filled with pine and other evergreen trees and carries a lot of photographic value. Right now, tourists are not allowed to approach the falls due to the difficult path and slippery stones around.
Photo: Meghalaya Tourism
Besides Umshyrpi Stream
The charming Brookside Bungalow in Rilbong is primarily known as one of the summer residences of the Bengali Noble Laureate winning author... Rabindranath Tagore. The poet, bard and Novelist stayed in this Bungalow in the summer of 1919 during which time he penned one of his most iconic novels “Shesher Kavita”. Almost 13 of the chapters of this Novel have Shillong as the backdrop.
If you are familiar with Rabindranath’s work then a visit to the Brookside Bungalow will be well worth your time. According to latest reports the Bungalow will be renamed as Tagore Art Gallery and will now acquire the status of an Art museum.
60.9 km away from Shillong
Takes about 2 hours to reach Mawsynram by Taxi from Shillong
Mawsynram currently holds the record of being the wettest place on earth and that in itself is a good reason to visit it. This is actually a quaint village in Meghalaya. The place abounds with beautiful green flora and exotic fauna... travelers and naturalists will love Mawsynram.
There is a botanical garden there holding an impressive array of fruits and plants. Another place worth visiting is Dwarksuid... that’s actually a lovely pool surrounded on all sides by interesting rock formations. Another great place to visit is the small Aviary that has many species of colorful birds.
Mawsynram is also home to the famous Mawjymbuim caves that contains fascinating speleothems which have shaped themselves to take on the structure of a shivalinga. The Mawsynram village is near Bangladesh and you can also see the neighboring country and the shared river from the top of a flattish rock called Symper. The simplicity and genuine friendliness of the villagers of Mawsynram adds to the charm of the place. A delicious special version of tea called Kwai is served there... don’t forget to taste it before you bid adieu to Mawsynram.
In case you are interested, there are numerous hotels and travel lodges in Mawsynram which provide decent accommodation. Small restaurants and convenience stores are also found there. You can also find tribal markets convening in this area... check out unusual looking tribal jewelry and local products.
16 km away from Shillong on the way to Jowai. Top of Army Public School.
The Marai Caves are also called the Mother of all caves and they are at the base of the hill which goes up to become a part of the Shillong Peaks. Whatever vehicle you take to travel to the Marai Caves will only go till the base of the hill (incidentally this is also the source of Umiam River). As you glance up from the base, you would see huge boulders balancing on top of each other.
The Marai Cave is alternatively known as Krem Marai in local lingo and it is a holy place that is talked about in many local legends and folklore of this area. According to popular tales the descendants of Syiems ruled over the Mylliem and the Khyrim kingdom and they emerged through the dark caves of Marai. Some other stories say that the presiding deity of Shillong peak had a lovely daughter who lived here. Her name was Pah Syntiew (meaning “one who is lured by flowers”) and she came to dwell in the caves at the persuasion of U Sati Mylliemngap. The entire clan of Syiem tribes is rumoured to have been sprung from her womb.
Many slabs in the form of rocks lie at the base of the cave and form a deep unusual looking structure.
You have to cross rich fertile agricultural tracts as well as rocky terrain while climbing up to the caves. The front of the cave offers a stunning view of Shillong with majestic mountains and numerous settlements along with Assam Regimental Center.
64 km away from Shillong, Shillong Mawkyrwat Road
Jakrem is a small village in Meghalaya that is recently gaining tourist interest. Its primary attractions are the numerous Hot water springs around that have potent sulphur water which have curative medical properties. Jakrem is now known as a good health resort and it attracts foreign tourists too. Numerous bathing compartments are built on the side of the springs and the public can wash themselves in the potent sulphur spring water. This is also a very famous picnic spot and there is a naturally formed swimming pool here. An MTDC run health resort is now operated in Jakrem.
David Scott Trails
The David Scott trail is a hiking route that originated from a bridle Path introduced by a British Officer David Scott in the early 1800. People used it to commute between Bangladesh and Assam. Though the original trail is about 100 km and takes 5 days to cover, the best known stretches of the trek lies between the villages of Mawphalang and Lad Mawphalang. The stretch of 16 km through the east Khasi Hills is one of the most popular options for the trek and it’s roughly a 4 hour journey. During this trek one can experience meadows, lush groves, streams, indigenous Khasi villages and Khasi settlements. One can also take a detour to some interesting caves nearby.
The trek moves through a lovely wood and passes by a stream surrounded by unusual foliage. For first time trekkers, the trek can be a little difficult and it is advisable to take a guide. Carrying water and dry snacks like fruits, nuts, chocolates etc. along with water is also advisable. The trail is famous for offering superb views and involves crossing several smallish streams which can be slippery in nature. Carrying a First Aid box and travelling in a group is advisable. The best time for embarking on this trek is Late October and November, post monsoons. If you wish to, you can avail camping opportunities in the Umiam Valley (a part of the trek).
Museums in Shillong
Most museums in Shillong have free entry and most close down by 5pm on weekdays so plan your visit accordingly.
Meghalaya State Museum / Captain Williamson Sangma State Museum
IGP Point, Shillong, Near Police Bazaar
Timings: 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
This museum is a part of the State Central Library Complex and it is under the Art and Culture Department of Meghalaya. The lives of tribals, their culture, lifestyle and history are demonstrated in this museum. The Museum is divided into two galleries which are a tribute to the indigenous Meghalaya tribes. The first gallery focuses on the Khasi and Jaintia tribes and there are wooden toys, crafts, beaded and feathered tribal dresses, traditional weapons, ornaments, and pottery and musical instruments on display. The highlights are the exquisite Muga Cloth, hand woven baskets and wein pottery items.
The second gallery focuses on the Garo tribes and has components of the lives of the mountain tribes like their hunting and fishing equipment, transport systems, agricultural tools, utensils, tobacco boxes and baskets are displayed.
Though the museum is not very large, the way it has been arranged including correct utilisation of space and great maintenance have made it impressive. The complex within which the museum is contained is the State Central Library Complex where statues of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Indira Gandhi etc. are erected. FYI, Williamson Amphlang Sangma was a Garo leader who became the founder Chief Minister of Meghalaya in 1972. He was also Mizoram’s Governor in 1989
Arunachal State Museum
Cantonement Area, Shillong
Timings: Monday - Sunday: 10.00 AM - 5.00 PM
The Arunachal State Museum is located in the Cantonment area of Shillong and it displays exhibits related to the culture, customs, and tribal ethnicities of Arunachal Pradesh. Interestingly, Arunachal Pradesh has 26 tribal groups with their own segregated and fascinating identity and culture.
Risa Colony, Near Dhanketi, Shillong
Monday - Saturday: 10.00 AM - 5.30 PM
The Zoological Museum of Shillong is managed by the North East Regional Center of Zoological Survey of India. The museum is dedicated towards showcasing the beautiful and unusual fauna of NE India. There is a library in the premises that has many acclaimed international journals and rare looks on animals, birds and reptiles of NE India.
Rhino Heritage Museum
Zigzag Road, Ďewduh, Bara Bazar, Near Military School
At the T junction of NH44 and NH 40
Timings: Monday - Saturday: 10.00 AM - 5.00 PM
Rhino Heritage Museum is a significant tourist destination in Shillong and is one of the most prominent war museums in North East India. The exterior of the museum is a cute pink (unusual considering it houses so many war weapons) and there is a jolly Rhino statue on the side.
There are many historical photographs in the museum that are related to military activities, wars in North East and local cultural events. The building of the museum was built in the year 1928 and it’s said that Japanese prisoners of World War 2 were kept captive here. A gallery in the museum is named in the memory of Captain Keishing Clifford Nongrum and this has several photographs, medals of bravery, photographs copies of handwritten manuscripts etc.
The weaponry and ammunition used in the Bangladesh War of Liberation along with machine Guns and rifles made by NATO, China and Iraq are also kept on display. The exhibition is great for lovers of history and world affairs apart from students. Watch out for the biggest exhibit is the great Caribou fighter plane that was used in the 1971 Indo Pakistan war.
Meghalaya Butterfly Museum
Timings -: Monday - Friday: 10.00 AM - 4.30 PM
Saturday: 10.00 AM - 4.30 PM
Sunday: 10.30 AM - 1.00 PM
Near Christian Academy School, Raitasmathiah, 1 km away from Shillong
The Meghalaya Butterfly Museum has more than 1600 species of moths, butterflies and insects of dazzling patterns, strains and colors. These species are collected from all across the world and are housed here for the benefit of naturalists, entomologists and lepidopterists. However the bulk of the collection is from Meghalaya itself as it’s well-known that the state has an impressive variety of fauna.
This institute was responsible for initiating the breeding program for butterflies and that has now expanded and morphed into butterfly and other anthological centers. It’s also interesting to note the unusual collection of beetles in the museum.
A visit to this museum is an interesting experience for people of all age groups but school kids would especially benefit from this.
Shillong hosts a record number of museums and some others worth visiting are:
Tribal Research Institute that’s an ethnological museum displaying tribal life artefacts in Mawlai
Forest Museum in Lady Hyadari ark that hosts a stunning collection of animal skeletons, dried skin of snakes, stuffed leopards etc
Botanical Museum at 4th Furlong which hosts an impressive array of indigenous flora species.
Waterfalls in Shillong
Suna Valley, 2 km away from Bara Bazar
Shillong, East Khasi Hills District.
One of the two major waterfalls in the beautiful Suna Valley of Shillong, Beadon Falls is just 2 km away from the Bara Bazar area and thus it’s easy to visit this fall even if you are staying in the heart of this town.
The waterfall moves through steep beautiful rock formations and then merges into the Umiam River. Falling from a steep ridge, straight into a deep ravine formed by the Umiam river... the Beadon Falls has a powerful roar and majestic beauty that attracts many travelers. What makes this roaring waterfall all the more special is it’s pristine and quiet surroundings with acres of lush green forests and huge rocks.
A thin road from Mawlai leads to a vantage point from where one can get an awesome view of the Beadon Falls. Like all other waterfalls in Meghalaya, the best time to visit Beadon Falls is in the monsoons. Photographers and couples are especially attracted to this place.
The twin of Beadon Falls... Bishop Falls is also located in the lovely Suna Valley of Shillong. The Bishop falls is said to be more visually appealing and it falls from a stunning height of 443 feet. This is a 3 tiered waterfall with gushing white water that plunges down into the Umiam River. You can spot the big hydroelectricity powerhouse at the base of the waterfall. The Bishop Falls is surrounded by large rocky structures and lush forests. There is a small road from Mawlai which one can access to reach a vantage view point that provides a great view of the fall.
Laban, Lachumiere, Crinoline Swimming Pool, Near Lady Hyadari Park
The Crinoline Falls is right there in the heart of Shillong which contributes to its immense popularity. MTDC (Meghalaya Tourism Department) organizes several tourist events and cultural programs at the site of the Crinoline Falls. There is also a 3 star restaurant here and you can have your meals while looking at the beautiful waterfall.
The presence of a mini zoo and a large swimming pool makes the Crinoline Falls area more lucrative. If you are traveling with kids then this area is a must visit... the look and feel is like that of a popular amusement park. Otherwise if you are a waterfall aficionado, Crinoline Falls with its 13 meter height won’t impress you much. However the surrounding woods and the beautification done by the State Government are indeed impressive.
Monuments and Churches of Shillong
Bara Bazaar Market Center
Motphran is basically a monument that’s a tribute to the Labour Corps who had fought during the First World War. The inscription on the monument by the Latin poet Horace reads “it’s sweet to die for one’s country”. The khasi labour corps had transported ammunition, weapons and other items for the British soldiers. The English had built the monument to uphold the memory of 67 porters who died a glorious death in the war. Originally, the monument was named Mot France and the locals naturally changed its pronunciation to Motphran. Right now the monument stands at a traffic junction in the famous Bara Bazaar of Shillong.
All Saints Church
Shillong IGP Point, Kacheri Road
Opposite Central Library
This Church is one of the most ancient ones in Shillong and it was built in the times of British Raj. The original Church was built in 1897 on the Kacheri Road and then an earthquake ruined it completely, post which a new Church was built in 1902. This colonial style beautiful church has a wooden structure and lovely architectural elements. This is a good place to spend some moments of solitude and the Sunday Mass is worth attending too if you are looking for a spiritual experience. The Church is quite well maintained and it’s a great place for photography. The highlight is the magnificent stained glass windows in the two storied Church.
Lady Hyadari Park, the Crinoline Falls and the Butterfly Museum are the nearby attractions. So you can combine a visit to all 4 places at one shot.
Anglican Cemetery and Angelical Church
The rather colonial looking cemetery has graves of soldiers who were killed in the Lushai campaign of Mizoram. The cemetery has a rather spooky aura and looks straight out of a horror movie. The Church is rather pretty and has graceful architecture.
In case you stay in a nearby hotel in Police Bazaar then the Cemetery and Church visit can make for an interesting evening/ morning walk destination.
Peaks of Shillong
Though not the highest peak in Meghalaya, Sohpetbbneng is probably the most beautiful peak in this state. The peak is 20 km to the north of Shillong and each year on the second Saturday of February many hundreds of Khasi believers walk more than 7 km uphill to the peak right from the highway. Indigenous dances, sacred rituals and rites and holy chants are a part of the journey as the travelers pray to U Blei (the creator according to Khasis) for the wellbeing of the earth and all life on it.
There is a lake on the route called U Diengei and it’s a testament to the lore that said that humans once dwelt happily with their brothers and sisters of the sky till a catastrophe separated them. The Mayan, Jaintia, Bhol, War tribes still believe that a mythical golden bridge will appear on top of the peak and link heaven to earth again. The peak s 1343 m above sea level and it provides a bird’s eye view of the whole of Shillong. Incidentally, the name Sohpetbneng means “the navel of heaven”.
The Diengei Peak is about 200 feet shorter than the Shillong Peak and is situated at the western side of the Shillong Plateau. The peak gives travelers an opportunity of viewing the marvellous green hills and lovely foliage on them along with the beautiful Umiam Lake. You can take the road leading from Umiam Union Christian College via the Mawmaram motorable road that’s accessible from NH 40.
The most interesting aspect about Diengei is a large cup shaped hollow atop the peak and geologists are of the opinion that a pre historic volcanic explosion had caused the crater.
Botanical Survey of India Orchidarium
Near Wards Lake, Shillong
Timing: Monday to Friday: 9.30 AM - 6.00 PM
Saturday: 9.30 AM - 6.00 PM
Sunday and Public Holidays: 9.30 AM - 6.00 PM
If you visit the Ward’s Lake then you cannot miss the Botanical Garden that’s right there in the middle of the Mawphlang Sacred Groves.
Nature lovers, photographers and young students will be enchanted with the Botanical Survey of India Orchidarium which hosts a stunning array of orchids and indigenous plants of Meghalaya. The state is fiercely protective about its ecological balance and this is why it’s not allowed to take out a single leaf or a twig or anything else from inside the Mawphalang groves and the Orchidarium...
There is also an aviary with an impressive array of birds nearby. What’s really impressive about the place is the government’s efforts to preserve its indigenous wealth of flora and fauna.