Shillong, in Meghalaya, is probably one of those few places with a lethal combination of beauty and nature’s bliss. The cliffs are deep, the gorges are deep, the clouds pass through, the waterfalls amaze you, the greenery pleases you and the culture enriches your soul. Recently awarded as “India’s favourite hill station”, the landscape of Shillong has truly proved its title of “Scotland of the East”.
Let’s explore some off-beat and must visit things that are just not to be missed when you visit this favourite hill spot this summer –
- Umium Lake – The Umiam Lake, popularly known as Barapani (Big Water) is a scenic place that renders a breath-taking view. Located in the hills around 15 km to the North of Shillong, it was created by damming the Umiam River in the early 1960s. The dam has the distinction of being the first Hydel power project in the North-east region of India.
The Lake is popular for the water sports and offers facilities such as Kayaking, Water cycling/ scooting and boating. The lake is encompassed by sprawling meadows and undulating hills that are carpeted with lush greenery. The mix of huge green expanse and blue waters is simply mesmerising. There is a restaurant where one can enjoy local cuisine and even stay for the night.
- Root Bridge – Meghalaya – the abode of the clouds and the home to the sacred forests is also the land of the cleanest and the wettest villages, the longest caves, and the living root bridges. Somewhere in the forests of Shillong, where bridges are not built, they are grown. These bridges can endure the weight of up to 50 people, and as the bridges are alive -not kicking for sure – and still growing they gain strength over the time. Some of the root bridges are more than a hundred years old. The Double-Decker root bridge is the pride of Meghalaya. You can find many living root bridges in Riwai Village, Mawlynnong, which is 90 km away from Shillong. Mawlynnong is also the cleanest village in Asia.
Located in a remote location, it involves a 2.5-hour trek down a hill-side and a flight of 3000+ steps leading to the forested valley where the bridges traverses over a clear water—stream. Be prepared for a dip in the cool blue water at double root bridge. There are few home stays in the villages close to Double Root Bridge.
You can also hire local guides for hearing local folk tales, history of root bridge and lots of information about local trees.
- The wild beauty of Garo Hills – The biggest revelation of your trip to Shillong has to be the Garo Hills. Very rich in bio-diversity and wildly beautiful, Garo hills have muddy waters of the raging Simsang River flowing through the heart of Garo and enters into Bangladesh where it takes a new name, Someswari. Along the sides of the river are pristine forests and undisturbed ranges of hills. Clouds move in and out of the valleys and when it rains, it pours.
- Mawphlang Sacred Forest – Considered auspicious by the locals, the sacred forests of Mawphlang are protected with utmost care and witnesses a huge tourists’ influx. With a rich range of flora and fauna, it has some of the very rare medicinal plants, Rudraksha trees and groves and pines. Standing rocks and the group of stones there is a place where locals perform rituals as a community and meditate. This unique and perfect example of forest conservation and is surely not to be missed.
- Shillong Chamber Choir – The extraordinary find and the pride of Meghalaya, Shillong Chamber Choir is based in Shillong, Meghalaya. Founded in 2001, this talented bunch of people through their skills of spell-binding music has created a buzz not only in India but internationally too. So, when you visit Shillong and if you get a chance, don’t forget to watch this perfect epitome of cultural unity.
- Lew duh Market (Bara Bazaar) – This vast market is one of the most interesting local markets in the north-east. Thousands of Khasi people flock in from their villages, selling everything from tribal baskets to fish traps and edible frogs. The produce is refreshingly organic, fresh and a treat to the eyes. The vegetables are a riot of colours and bursting with good health; the fish section spoils you for choice; the meat and chicken areas are equally inviting. And the best part is the prices of this all-women Khasi market in Shillong – they are very cheap. You can also find lots of local sellers selling pickles, garlic, spices and fishes on the streets of the city, reflecting the original flavours and sights of the city.
And this is not just enough when it comes to this favourite summer destination. The city of waterfalls is the only place to feel the spray from its waterfalls spread across the city while riding across them or marvelling their beauty. Head over to Ward’s lake for a boat ride with multi-hued fish and maybe feed a few or go to Cheerapunji to trek along the ancient David Scott trail, your summer trip to Shillong will turn to a blissful memory!