A land of unique cultures, hiking trails, perpetual clouds and huge waterfalls — cut off from mainland India, Meghalaya is literally ‘the abode of clouds’. It’s a charming state that has preserved its true spirit in terms of geography, culture, food and people. Its capital, Shillong, also known as the gateway to Meghalaya, is one of the best places to visit in the state. Your adventure of exploring this hidden beauty of nature and its landscapes will start from Guwahati, the nearest major airport to Shillong.
For the best experience, grab a cab or public transport from Guwahati to Shillong. On your way, you will be treated to beautiful plantation views, S bends, and rocky mountains — some of which are worth stopping for pictures. And once you’ve reached your destination, here are some of the best places to visit in Shillong and around the hill station.
1. Umiam Lake
Your first destination in your Shillong expedition has to be the man-made reservoir, Umiam Lake. Although initially established as a dam, this artificial lake is now one of the most popular tourist attractions. Various small islands in the lake add to its aesthetics. You will also find several water sports and adventure activities like kayaking, water cycling and boating.
2. Wankhar Entomology Museum
A museum housing a collection of butterflies, moths, spiders and beetles from across the country. Legend has it that a Bengali entomologist married a Khasi lady, and together the couple took the initiative to collect various species of insects and butterflies. Many conservation and preservation programmes of moths and butterflies are also initiated here. Being the only known museum in India devoted to butterflies and moths, it is one of the best places to visit in Shillong.
3. Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures
With its own publications, research wing, and a calendar full of cultural activities, Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures is more an institution than a museum. It is home to 16 galleries — each of which deals with a different cultural aspect like agriculture, art, ornaments and costume, fishing and hunting, food, housing and language. The full tour of this hexagonal seven-storied building may take an entire day.
4. Lady Hydari Park
Hydari Park features a mini zoo, museum, play area, colourful stretches of rose beds and Japanese-style gardens. It is also home to diverse species of birds, reptiles and other mammals, including porcupine, leopard and the Himalayan black bear. You can also take an educational tour through the museum to see elephant skulls and a python’s skin mounted on a wall.
5. Elephant Falls
About an hour’s drive from Shillong, the Elephant Falls was named so by a British officer who saw a rock that resembled an elephant. However, the rock cannot be found today as it was destroyed by an earthquake. Being a combination of three rivers, the Khasi tribe call the falls “Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew” (Three Steps Waterfalls).
6. Shillong Peak
Shillong Peak is the hill station’s highest point which offers breathtaking bird’s eye views of the town. So, of course, it made its way into our list of best places to visit in Shillong. Almost 5,000 feet above sea level, you can also relish some panoramic views of the Himalayas, the waterfalls and the Bangladesh plains.
Having received the title of ‘Asia’s Cleanest Village‘, Mawlynnong Village wins its spot under the category of best places to visit in Meghalaya. About a three-hour drive from Shillong, the village has several attractions, including tribal delicacies, the refined lifestyle of its people and intriguing facilities such as bamboo dustbins, to name a few. And while you are here, make sure to visit the Jingmaham Living Root Bridge and the picturesque town of Dawki.
8. Nohkalikai Waterfalls
Gushing down from a height of over 1,100 feet, the Nohkalikai Waterfalls cascade right into the list of best places to visit around Shillong. The magnificent view of the waterfalls and the lush surroundings is a treat for the eyes. It’s around a two-hour drive from Shillong.
9. Mawsmai Cave
The Mawsmai Cave is formed out of limestone. Though quite deep and long, visitors are only allowed to venture 150 m inside it. While some parts of the cave have giant openings, you may have to crawl through a few others. It’s about two hours by road from Shillong.
10. Mawkdok Dympep Valley
Also known as the Duwan Sing Syiem Bridge viewpoint, the Mawkdok Dympep Valley is another best place to visit around Shillong. A little over an hour away from Shillong by road, this location offers splendid views of the pristine valley, which is untouched by commercialisation. It’s a nature lover’s haven. Ziplining is a must-try adventure activity here.