Shillong Travel Guide
Located in the heart of remote Northeast India, Shillong is a place many travellers miss. However, those with the fortitude to explore this sparsely visited region will be rewarded.
From fascinating indigenous cultures to deep canyons, this place will feel like a secret that you’ll want to keep.
After you get settled in Shillong, make the Mawphlang Sacred Forest your first destination. If you go by yourself, you won’t understand what the big deal is. Take a local Khasi guide with you, though, and the tale of this place will captivate you.
Home to a deity called Labasa, local tribes regard this 196-acre forest as sacred. A single, fundamental rule binds it: you are not allowed to remove anything in these woods, not even a leaf. Intruders who failed to comply have suffered bouts of misfortune, fallen ill, and have even died.
As your guide takes you through this serene place, you’ll see trees, plants, and flowers that have been around for hundreds, or even thousands of years. Locals maintain that some plants can cure tuberculosis or even cancer.
Of course, not being able to remove anything from this park kind of throws a monkey wrench in that plan. Before leaving, give the soles of your shoes a good sweeping – better safe than sorry!
Learn more about the tribes in the Shillong area by dropping by the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures. Standing seven stories tall, it contains galleries that will introduce you to each of the peoples of this region.
Through its many exhibits, you’ll find the art, costumes, musical instruments, weapons, and other implements they used daily. Visitors have commented on how modern this institution is, and the scope of its mission. According to them, this museum is one of India’s better-kept secrets.
Fans of the great outdoors won’t want to miss the Laitlum Canyons during their visit to Shillong. Descending thousands of feet before your eyes, you’ll wonder why people don’t know about it outside of India. As you walk along its rim, you’ll find houses perilously perched along its edge, and fields with grazing goats.
During your visit, don’t miss the Rasong Ropeway. It’s not a tourist tram, but an old transport system. Residents of the village of Rasong, which sits at the bottom of the canyon, use it to move goods. If you want to visit, use a pathway that locals cut out of the side of the mountain. Prepare for a workout: you’ll descend 3,000 steps on the way down!
If a little sweat doesn’t scare you, then consider hitting the David Scott Trail for a few days. Named after a British official, it was a 100-kilometre track that led from Shillong to Bangladesh. If you wish to tackle the whole thing, you’ll spend five days on this route. Along the way, you’ll get to see Khasi villages, waterfalls, clear streams, and much more.
Want to check out waterfalls without having to go on a multi-day trek? Thankfully, Elephant Falls is within easy reach of the city of Shillong. A triple-tiered beauty, this place is a popular swimming and picnic spot.
It got its current name from a British official who thought the lower part looked like an elephant head. Sadly, an earthquake caused that rock to crumble, so there is no resemblance today.
Umiam Lake is another favoured spot for water sports in the Shillong area. Created by the construction of a dam in the 1960s, this human-made reservoir attracts tonnes of locals on weekends. On arrival, you’ll spot them paddling kayaks, pedalling water cycles, and using rowboats.
Don’t fall in, however – years of runoff from Shillong has increased water pollution in this body of water. If you’d rather stay on the shore, photo opportunities abound along its banks.
If you want to get the best photographs in the region, make sure you include Shillong View Point in your itinerary. From here, you’ll have a panoramic view of the city of Shillong, as well as the peaks that surround it.
However, to access the viewpoint, you must enter the grounds of an Indian Air Force base. To do this, you must bring photo identification (like your passport) with you. Fail to do so, and your wait in this attraction’s long queues will be in vain.
After a long day of sightseeing, blow off some steam by shopping and eating in the Police Bazar. In its stalls, you’ll find a wide selection of handcrafted Indian goods to bring home as souvenirs. Once you’ve done that, sample some street food – its flame-grilled chicken and pork dishes get rave reviews!