7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya!

If Meghalaya is considered the abode of monsoon, then Shillong is the gateway to that abode. Nestled in the lush green hills of the Khasi range, Shillong is used as a launch-pad to visit many places in Meghalaya. What is worth seeing in Shillong and around this hill station? In this article, let’s have a virtual visit to the seven super places of Shillong.

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

Historical Establishment of British Army Bases in Meghalaya’s Khasi and Jaintia Hills

British India’s army established administrative-cum-military bases in the Khasi and Jaintia hills of present-day Meghalaya in the late 19th century. The entire region of the seven northeastern states, known today as the Seven Sisters, was then called Assam Province. The region of Meghalaya was part of it. The region’s densely forested Khasi-Jaintia hills, hundreds of springs, waterfalls, the constant movement of clouds and the dramatic scenery of the resulting incense over the land would have been very pleasing to the Scottish bureaucrats.

Shillong: The Scotland of the East7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

This place seemed to match the scenic Scottish Highlands region of their native Scotland. Hence, when the military base of the British Indian Army was established in Shillong at an altitude of about 1,496 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level, they nicknamed the hill station as Scotland of the east. After doing so, their alienation towards their motherland, Scotland, may have lessened a bit. Be that as it may, the nickname given to Shillong in the nineteenth century has not been erased till date. Rather, the name is a powerful magnet that draws many tourists to Shillong.

A Journey Through Shillong’s Surroundings

There are plenty of Natural beauty spots in Meghalaya. For years, many of these places remained unknown to the average tourist in India. But today, in the age of social media, many new places have come to light and Meghalaya has a good amount of tourism. Let’s have an indirect visit to some special places in and around Shillong from where all these and many other such journeys can be started.

1. Umiam Lake

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

The journey to reach Shillong starts from the city of Guwahati in Assam. On the way from Guwahati to Shillong, there is a beautiful artificial lake called Umiam, which means Lake of Tears in the Khasi language of Meghalaya. Behind the dam built on the Umiam river in 1965 under the hydroelectric scheme, the lake spread over 220 square kilometers, is surrounded by the hills of the Khasi range. Hence, the vast body of water looks more beautiful in their presence.7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

 

 

 

Many tourists take a long break at one of the view-points during the Guwahati-Shillong road journey. Adventure sports enthusiasts enjoy water sports like speed boating, jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boating, and water scootering in the lake. A trip can be planned accordingly, as the beautiful sight of color spread over the water along with the sky at sunrise and sunset adds to the beauty of the lake.

 

2. Shillong Pick

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

An apparition of U Blei Nongthaw, the revered deity of the Khasi tribe, the hill considered as the location is known as Lum Shillong. (The name Shillong is inspired from it.) Shillong Peak is the highest peak in the entire state of Meghalaya, at a height of about 1,965 meters (6,449 feet). A panoramic view of the city is seen after reaching the sky-high peak. Two watch towers have been erected here for Shillong viewing, one of which has a binocular facility for tourists. It offers mesmerizing views of different areas of Shillong, the tree-covered hills and the waterfalls that erupt during the monsoons for free. Shillong Peak is open for tourists from 7 am to 5 pm.

3. Air Force Museum

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

Shillong is of great importance in the field of defense, as the headquarters of the Eastern Wing (Eastern Command) of the Indian Air Force is located in Shillong. The Eastern Command, set up to monitor neighboring countries like Bangladesh and China, has fighter jets like Rafale and Sukhoi-30, helicopters like Dhruva, Chetak, MI-17, and MI-3, and aircraft like Hercules C-130) and Antonov-32.

The Air Force Museum set up in the complex of the Eastern Command in the Upper Shillong area is a must see. Presenting the proud history of the Indian Air Force, the museum’s entrance is adorned with a Russian-made SA2 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile and the same Russian-made GSH 30mm rapid fire cannon used in the Sukhoi-30 and MiG-29 fighter jets. On entering, to the left is a uniformed figure of a pilot sitting in the injection seat of a fighter jet, with various types of missiles.air force museum shillong caribou

Apart from this, an exhibition room has portraits of generals who have served as the Chief of the Indian Air Force since independence till now. Illustrated information has also been given about the training, fighter, transport, refueling, spying, etc. types of aircraft and helicopters used by the Air Force in its fifty year long history. Miniature models of various aircraft like Sukhoi-30, MiG-29, Kiran, Canberra, Vempire, Uniforms according to the rank of officers, Shaurya Medals, medals, etc. are also present. However, the main attractions for visitors are the Mi-4 helicopters, MiG-21 fighter jets and DHC-4 aircraft of the Caribou type housed in the premises.7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

Huge size Mi-4 Helicopters played a very important role during the Indo-Pak War of 1971, when DHC-4 Caribou cargo planes replaced fighter planes in bombing various locations in East Pakistan.

A visit to the Air Force Museum in Shillong leaves an indelible impression of patriotism among tourists, especially children. Various items bearing the Indian Air Force emblem and some beautiful local handicrafts can be bought as souvenirs from the souvenir shop here. Tourists are admitted to this museum free of charge, but a photo ID is required. The museum is open from 9.30 am to 5 pm and on Sundays from 9.30 am to 1 pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.

4. Elephant Falls

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya
Elephant Falls

Located near the Air Force Museum, this waterfall is another unmissable attraction in Shillong. The name Elephant Falls was given to the falls by the British because of the elephant-shaped rock on one side of the falls. But in the devastating earthquake of 1897, some of that rock collapsed. The shape of the elephant did not remain, but the elephant name of the falls remained. The waterfall falling in three tiers creates a heavy roar during the monsoon and one or two months thereafter. The flow of water is so fast that the white foam causes streams like milk.

Stairs have been arranged here by the tourism department so that tourists can enjoy the falls from all three levels.

5. Laitlam Canyon

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

Laitlam, about 20 kilometers from Shillong, is a must for tourists who prefer peace and complete solitude. A valley called Laitlam Canyon is an ideal place. In the Khasi language of Meghalaya, Laitlam means ‘top of the hill’—and in fact, the place is situated at the top of a high hill. From here, the long and wide ridge of the Khasi mountains can be seen. At the time of sunrise and sunset, the beauty of Laitlam Canyon increases exponentially. At an altitude of about 1,850 meters (6,069 feet), one has to park the car on the main road and do a moderate hike of about 2 kilometers to reach Laitlam Canyon Point.

Adventure lovers trek about 6 km from this point to Smit and Rosang villages situated in the foothills to get a glimpse of rural life in Meghalaya. It is natural that such an experience will be memorable. Moreover, the 270-degree view point from the foothills tour offers a panoramic view of the valleys and hills covered with greenery, clouds moving here and there in the sky and in different directions.

The pleasant experience of capturing a perfect picture of the 4 waterfalls on camera is a bonus along the trek.

6 Seven Sisters Falls

This waterfall is considered one of the 10 highest waterfalls in India. The Seven Sisters near Mausmai village on the way to Sohra, at a distance of about 60 km from Shillong, is visible from afar due to its size. The water cascades from about 315 m (1,033 ft) from a large and flat-topped (table top) cliff. The width of the watercourse is 70 meters (230 feet). The falls got the name Seven Sisters as it split into seven different main streams.

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya
Seven Sisters water fall

However, the local name of the waterfall is Nohsangithiang, (Noh=fall,  Sangi = rays of the sun and thiang = beautiful). According to those words, there is a waterfall that is beautiful with golden rays. As the name suggests, the sun’s rays falling on the water at different times of the day decorate the falls with a beautiful rainbow of colors.

The lush green valleys of dense forests, the clouds rising above them and the rainbows that sometimes form along the waterfalls are a jackpot for photography enthusiasts. A view-point cottage has also been arranged here by the Meghalaya Tourism Department, from which tourists can enjoy the ethereal beauty of Nohsangithiang Yan Seven Sisters Falls at leisure.

Sohra is a table top cliff from where this waterfall falls and is part of Eco Park. If the sky is clear (however, it rarely happens in Meghalaya!) the plains of Bangladesh can be seen just opposite.

7. Nohkalikai Falls

7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya
Nohkalikai Falls

Located at a distance of 55 km from Shillong, Nohkalikai Falls is considered to be the highest plunge waterfall in India. The high escarpment surrounding the waterfall, which drops from a height of about 340 m (1,115 ft), and sparsely forested foothills. The beauty is forever etched on the mind of tourists who visit it.

A tragic folklore is woven into the name of the falls, according to which a woman named Likai lived in a nearby village with her child from a previous marriage. She remarried to raise children, but her husband was mentally deranged. Tired of his wife’s excessive filial piety, he not only killed her child one day in Likai’s absence, but also cooked its flesh and served it to Likai as a meal.

Likai was seriously shocked by the fact that she found out while asking her husband about her child after the meal. Out of breath, she started running and came to the edge of a precipice, where a waterfall was falling. A depressed Likai jumped into that waterfall and cut short her life. Hence, it is believed that the waterfall got the name Nohka-Likai (the waterfall in which Likai fall) in his memory.

A short trek through the dense forest can be done to reach the cliff from where the falls fall. From the cliff, one can enjoy a wonderful view of the water stream flowing down into the valley through the naturally formed holes between huge boulders, the green hills on the other side and the valley. If you want to know and enjoy the forest of Meghalaya closely, you can trek up to and beyond the waterfall with the help of a local guide.7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

The Living Root Bridges, which are considered to be a special feature of Meghalaya, are found here and there, in and the double-decker bridge is a special sight. One day has to be allocated separately for this entire trek.

Apart from all these attractions, Shillong Golf Course, which is considered as one of the largest natural golf courses in the world, Wards Lake, Phan Nonglait (Lady Hydari Park), Don Bosco Cultural Museum, Jaffrem hot springs, forest track known as Mauphalang for trekking enthusiasts, Kaylang Rock Track, Sweet Falls Trek, Pinurasla, etc. On the way from Shillong to Sohra (Cherrapunji), a short stay at Maukdok Bridge can be enjoyed in its incomparable beauty. Named after the nineteenth century ruler of Sohra, Duwan Sing Syiem, this bridge offers a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding deep gorges.

Meanwhile, Adventurous tourists interested in seeing the amazing nature inside the caves can also try the option of caving exploration at the Mosmai Caves and the Arwah group of caves.

Thus, Shillong has a number of options available. Most of them are worth taking advantage of in a two- to four day stay and then branching out to other places in Meghalaya using Shillong as a launch pad.

Good to Know for a Perfect Trip…

When to Go:

  • Meghalaya can be visited year-round.
  • Ideal period: June to October.
  • Favorable time: September to May.
  • Winter: Very cold.
  • Rainy season: Be prepared anytime.7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

How to Go:

  • Air: Shillong connected to Kolkata.
  • One flight daily.
  • Rail/Air: Guwahati (Assam) nearest railway station and accessible airport.
  • Road: Connected to Guwahati via National Highway 40.
  • Private vehicles and state transport buses are available.

Where to Stop:

Plus Know (Places of Interest):7 Charms of Shillong: Embracing the Enchantment of Meghalaya

  • Within 3-hour motor drive from Shillong.

Places:

  • Boating in Umangot River at Dauki.
  • Double Decker Route Bridge.
  • Mawlynnong (cleanest village in Asia).
  • Sohra-Mosinram (one of the wettest places).
  • Moringkhang Bamboo Trek, Kongyong, etc.
  • joint trip to sightseeing places of other Seven Sisters states is possible.

Additional Information:

  • Hiring a two-wheeler is the cheapest and easiest option for getting around Shillong.

 

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