Shillong is more than what you would expect from a hill station. Its waterfalls, lakes, and hills transport you to a different dimension altogether. You’ll be greeted with panoramic views and a welcoming breeze wherever you stand in Shillong, after all, it's situated at a height of 1,520 meters above sea level!
This capital city of Meghalaya has a distinct character of its own that separates it from other Indian hill stations. Shillong has always maintained its culture, this can be accredited to a schedule in the Indian Constitution that prohibits outsiders from buying land in some parts of the city. This is why you can see traditional dishes on the menu of restaurants and native styles of architecture in the houses.
As much as the tourist places of Shillong are beautiful, so are its hotels and homestays. With wood-paneled interiors, cozy fireplaces, and windows that open up to the most enchanting views, you’re in for a treat both indoors and outdoors. From Instagrammable cafes to narrow bylanes, everything in Shillong makes you long for the city. If you’re planning to visit the ‘Scotland of the East’ anytime soon, here’s a Shillong travel guide!
Formerly known as Yeddo or Lewduh, Shillong was a humble village back in 1864. After that year, Shillong was granted the title of new civil station Khasi and Jaintia hills. It’s after this title that development arrived in the region. The British turned to this hill station when summers hit India. You can see their influence on the culture and architecture of Shillong’s structures. For many years after Independence, Shillong remained the summer capital of Assam and Eastern Bengal.
A painful event in the history of Shillong is the earthquake of 1897, which left a major part of the town in utter destruction. When the new state of Meghalaya was formed in 1972, Shillong was made its capital while Assam shifted its capital to Dispur in Guwahati. Soon missionary groups established reputed educational institutions with Don Bosco Square acting as the epicenter of educational activity. This explains why Shilling today acts as the educational hub of the entire northeast.
The long-time and original settlers of Shillong are the Khasi people. After partition in 1947, a large-scale migration took place with people pouring into Shillong. The people were the residents of the part of Assam that became one with East Pakistan. Christianity and Hinduism are the two major religions of Shillong and the important festivals are Christmas, Shad Suk, Mynsiem Dance, Nongkrem Dance, etc. During this time you see how passionate the people of Shillong are when it comes to dance and music.
When it comes to the city’s cuisine, you’ll find a great food culture in Shillong and it’ll easily win over any avid food enthusiast. Traditional Khasi food stalls sell a dish called Jadoh which is a rice dish prepared from pork stock. Other traditional dishes include Putharo Dohjem, which is a steamed rice cake served with a dry meat curry, Phan Tungtap, which is a spicy combination of baked potatoes and hot dried fish chutney, Doh-Thad, which is a smoked meat dish, etc.
Also read: 7 Unusual Foods In India That You Must Try
The nearest airport to Shillong city is Umroi Airport which is also called Shillong Airport. It is located at a distance of 30 km from Shillong city. You can hop on a bus or hire a car from the airport. Though the Umroi Airport is Shillong’s official airport, this airport is not well connected to other Indian cities and hence isn’t often preferred.
The nearest major airport to Shillong is the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport or the Guwahati Airport. This airport is around 125 km away from Shillong city. The Guwahati Airport is well connected to all Indian cities and is among the busiest airports in India. You can hop on an Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) bus from the airport to travel to Shillong. Though the journey is three and a half hours long, the sights outside will make it seem short!
There is no rail connectivity to Shillong, you need to get off at Guwahati Railway Station, which is Shillong’s closest railway station. This railway station connects Guwahati to all major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. Superfast trains like Rajdhani Express take around 27 hours to reach from Delhi to Guwahati.
The distance between Guwahati Railway Station to Shillong city is 100 km. You can hire a cab or a taxi if you want to save the time taken by the state-run buses. There are also Ola and Uber services around if that’s what you would prefer.
If you’re going on a road trip from Delhi to Shillong, the drive will be around 30 hours long since you have approximately 2,000 km to cover. There are some popular places you’ll pass on the way like Agra, Gangtok, Darjeeling, Lucknow, Patna, etc so don’t forget to make pit stops!
Shillong is around 1,130 km from Kolkata and the journey takes around 27 hours. Take the NH 12 and NH 27 routes from Kolkata to reach Shillong by road. You can choose to take a long stop at Siliguri on the way!
Shillong experiences a different climate as compared to the rest of India with a tropical climate. This pine-covered hill station is at its loveliest between the months of September and May. Tourists tend to avoid Shillong in the rainy months from June until August but the hill station is dressed in an enchanting aura during this time of the year. Each season in Shillong is a unique experience that will appeal to nature lovers.
Escaping into the wilderness of Shillong is a brilliant idea in the summer season. The temperature is pleasant and ranges between 18°C - 22°C during summers. You should remember to carry umbrellas and raincoats since it rains heavily towards the end of summer, especially in the month of May.
Monsoon officially sets in June and you can hardly see the sun for days at a stretch. The annual downpour is 3,300 mm so expect heavy rain during the season. But that shouldn’t deter you from visiting Shillong during this season. The lakes and waterfalls are brimming, nature is in its prime, and the air is perfumed with petrichor. Also, monsoon season in Shillong is the time for the Behdienkhlam tribal festival making it a good time to dive into the local culture!
If you’re visiting Shillong in the winter months of October to February, pack multiple warm layers since the temperature varies between 12°C - 16°C and can also drop to 2°C on cold nights. Winters are the best time to visit Shillong if you want to witness the cultural bounty of the place. It’s the time for harvest festivals like Nongrem Dance Festival and Wangala Festival. Don’t miss visiting Shillong during this time since there’s a lot of dance, music, and food!
There are several options to travel around Shillong like buses, taxis, or bike rentals.
Tourists usually take the Shillong City bus to go around Shillong and the locals opt for the Bazar bus. You can hop on the Bazar bus too if you want to travel like a true backpacker. They are pretty economical but are slow due to several stops in their routes.
You can go for the regular kali peeli taxis, which are black and yellow unmetered taxis. They are expensive as compared to the buses but are cheap when you go for the shared taxi option. If you plan to sightsee Shillong the whole day, you can rent a cab from your hotel, just enquire for the best deals!
The best way to explore Shillong is by renting a bike. You’ll easily find Royal Enfields, Avengers, or Activas to rent in Shillong. It’s advisable to look up bike rentals in advance and book before you reach. Rather than renting a bike after reaching Shillong, rent one in Guwahati since you don’t want to miss riding on the beautiful stretch between Guwahati and Shillong. Some popular rental companies have android apps so you can easily book in advance.
“Shillong isn’t very well connected to the rest of India.”
People often remark that the places in the northeast, like Shillong, are cut off from the rest of India. But that’s so not true; one flight from any Indian city can take you to Guwahati Airport, and then it’s just a bus or a cab ride to the heart of Shillong. If you’ve got the same misconception, hope we burst your bubble!
“It only rains in Shillong.”
You might think that Shillong and Meghalaya are always drenched in rain. It’s completely okay if you believed this stereotype because it does rain heavily in monsoon season. But Shillong does see many heydays when the sun shines all over the hills and the climate is perfect to explore the city’s gardens, forest trails, and peaks.
“Shillong isn’t safe for female travelers.”
Another stereotype is that Shillong is too remote for solo female travelers. But it's quite the opposite since the northeast is the safest for women as compared to the rest of India, news flash! Shillong is especially safe for women since it has a matrilineal culture originating from the Khasi tribe.
Also read: 7 Unique Things To Do In Northeast India
If you want to treat all your senses, head over to the Shillong Peak. One panoramic swipe and you’ll see the entire Shillong city surrounded by mighty mountains. Stand at the viewpoint on this peak and take in the enchanting views of the Himalayas at a distance, the plains of Bangladesh, and pristine waterfalls. This peak is at a height of 1,962 meters and is a popular tourist attraction.
It’s believed that Shillong’s patron deity, ‘Lieshyllong’ resides in the hills and protects it from all evils. It's from the deity’s name that the name ‘Shillong’ originates from. There’s a telescope at this peak from which you can see the nooks of the city. There’s also a U Shulong site at the top of the peak, which is a sacred spot where a ritual is conducted every spring.
Since the peak is at such an altitude, it's often covered in fog. You can reach it by the Upper Shillong or Jowai Road or you can even trek up to the peak if you wish! The peak is not steep but has a semi-circular topography. That means you won’t be huffing and puffing by the end of your trek! Just remember to deposit your cameras at the gate because there’s a radar station of the Indian Air Force nearby.
Elephant Falls is one of the most popular places in Shillong. Weekday or weekend, the place is often frequented by nature lovers, both tourists and locals. The waterfall flows in three steps; the first step flows in a wide fall and is nestled between a green cover and the second is a narrow fall that’s bleak in the winters. It’s for the third step that people visit Elephant Falls, because the scene is mystifying, to say the least.
If you’re wondering why they are christened ‘Elephant Falls’, then here goes the story. During the British era, Englishmen observed that the black rocks looked like the outline of an elephant, and thus the name! But the rock was destroyed in the 1897 earthquake. The Khasi name of the fall, which is used locally is ‘Ka Kshaid Lai Pateng Khohsiew’, which means ‘three-step waterfall’.
Adventure enthusiasts, trekkers, photographers, and weekenders visit the falls to see the crystal clear cascading waterfalls. You’ll see families having a picnic by the water and explorers climbing to see all the three steps of the waterfall. The waterfall is a 12 km drive from Shillong’s city center. You’ll be charged INR 20 on entry and an additional INR 20 for the camera.
Your visit to Shillong is incomplete if you don’t visit the Don Bosco Museum. It’s the largest museum in Southeast Asia and is seven stories high. You’ll find everything related to Northeastern India’s indigenous culture in this museum. The seventeen galleries boast of artifacts, photographs, handicrafts, weapons, attires, regional artwork, etc.
The museum is constructed in a hexagonal style and has relics that narrate the culture of northeastern tribes. This museum has been visited by renowned guests like the Princess of Thailand and notaries from the Rajya Sabha. Many recreational activities and events are held in the museum every year. During these events, the museum invites scholars, writers, historians, and musicians from around the world.
Many don’t know that the Don Bosco Museum is actually an institution with its own research wing, in-house publications, newsletters, and cultural activities. If you want to see the museum thoroughly, dedicate half a day or at least 2-3 hours to tour it. Don Bosco Museum is something you definitely cannot check out in 15 minutes!
What Is Shillong Famous For?
Shillong is famous for its natural beauty because of its hills, waterfalls, lakes, and peaks. The local cultural and indigenous festivals are also popular and put Shillong on the many lists of the best vacation spots in India.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Shillong?
Shillong is best visited in the summer months between September and May. During this time the skies are mostly clear and the weather is pleasant to explore the best of the city. If you want to explore the harvest festivals, you should visit Shillong in winter.
How To Reach Shillong?
You can reach Shillong by air, railways, or road. The main airport and the main railway station near Shillong are the Guwahati Airport and the Guwahati Railway Station respectively, which are well connected to other cities. You can also drive to Shillong from Delhi or Kolkata.
What To See Around Shillong?
Places like Elephant Falls, Umiam Lake, Shillong Peak, Don Bosco Museum, Laitlum Canyons, Shillong Golf Course, Police Bazar, Ward’s lake, etc are some of the best places to see in Shillong.
Does Shillong Experience Snowfall?
No, it does not snow in Shillong, but due to low temperatures and humidity, a frost settles in the region making it look like snowfall. It sometimes does snow in the Upper Shillong region. But even if there’s no snowfall, Shillong does get chilly in winters, so carry your thermals!
What Is The Old Name Of Shillong?
The old name of Shillong is Yeddo.
How Many Days Are Enough For Shillong?
A 4-5 day trip is good enough to spend in Shillong with your family and friends.
How Far Is Cherrapunji From Shillong?
Cherrapunji is about 54 km away from Shillong.