Wander amongst those mist-wreathed mountains of Meghalaya and you're caught in a magical time wrap. Never before did the appeal of nature's bounty catch your breath so often as you move from orchid-rich trails to thundering waterfalls and then burrow deep in the earth to explore the enigmatic embellishments of its amazing caves. This timeless beauty reasserts itself with seamless ease in its rolling meadows and scented pine forests, its sparkling streams and plunging gorges. Leave the buzz and clamor of its peopled cities to uncover the intriguing tradition of sacred forests where time stands still... and though the butterflies in their plenty have deserted Shillong proper, follow the trail of a mountain stream to find them in some enchanted wood.
Those smoky blue hills with their winding orchid trails and tantalizing butterfly population were created for days of leisure. Little wonder then that the British who developed it as a garrison town found it the perfect place to raise kids and set about establishing s slew of schools and followed it up with picture-perfect churches from which rose voices in melodious harmony praising God for his bounty. Scottish highland it may not be but Shillong came to represent the wild beauty of that far away home for many of its colonial inhabitants who filled it with pretty gardens and fairytale cottages scattered amongst its sylvan walks and heather strewn slopes. Take time to explore these hidden trails to discover the old Shillong.
Shillong is tailor-made for family holidays. Picnics, boating and day-long hikes can be punctuated with leisurely explorations of the serene Ward's Lake and the landscaped Lady Hydari Park, which also has a mini-zoo. Close to town are the Spread Eagle Falls (6 km), the Sweet Falls (8 km) in Happy Valley and if you are here on a longer sojourn, make time for trips to the Bishop Falls, Beadon Falls and the Elephant Falls. The Butterfly Museum has an excellent collection of these winged beauties, many of which are facing extinction.
This pretty hill town has something for all age-groups. Keep a look out for announcements of pop, jazz, blues, and rock concerts, which are in great demand. When in town, find out if there's a cultural programme on. It's the perfect opportunity to enjoy the traditional song and dance rituals, which are an integral part of the Meghalaya culture.
The bazars with their flanks of shops and restaurants are an excellent setting for interaction with the local people. Archery is a popular sport here and competitions - pretty much like horse racing - are part of everyday life. Shillong is fondly referred to as the 'Gleneagles of the East' and its 18-hole Golf Course is the venue of the much awaited annual golf tournament in October.
For the more actively inclined, there is Shillong Peak (1965 m and just 10km from town) for a jaunt into one of the enchanting parts of the state, with its tropical vegetation, rocky promontories and deep chasms falling away from the road. Enjoy those stunning views of city strung among verdant hills from this vintage point. Diengie Peak, west of the Shillong plateau, offers commanding views of the Umiam Lake and the hill town. Sohpetbneng Peak (20km), held sacred by the Hynniewtrep people, has captivating views of a sacred forest and its lush environs. The beautiful old churches add to the charm of the hill town. The Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians is a splendid piece of religious architecture and is most famed for its stained glass windows and lofty arch. Opposite the State Central Library, is the All Saints Church.