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Top Hill Stations In India
Living in a hot and densely populated country with cities of concrete and towns abuzz with development, one craves for a vacation in cooler climes with serene environments. In fact, even the most veteran foreign traveller grows weary of the grit and heat of a tropical country after a while and that's where our blissful hill-stations step in! Here is our selection of the top hill stations in India you shouldn't miss, the ones that are all about hills and valleys, tea plantations and coffee bushes, the ones that are carpeted by snow and also the ones that are so rocky that they look like white deserts. India is known to have different types of terrain and hence different kinds of hill stations. You just need to take your pick!
With a maximum elevation of 3049 meters above sea level, Auli is a new-comer to the list of popular hill stations in India. It receives heavy snowfall from December to February whereas April to September experience more comfortable temperatures. Auli offers one of the best ski resorts in India and is a great place to go trekking or to just soak in the majestic views. And by that we literally mean an unobstructed 270 degree view of the great Himalayan ranges around it!
Natively known as Kodagu, Coorg is the name it was given when India was colonized by the British. At an elevation of about 1750 meters above sea level, Coorg is all about lush rolling hills, green carpeted valleys, and numerous plantations of coffee, vanilla, pepper and ginger. The local food is really delicious but a little spicy. Wildlife and waterfalls in Coorg rank high on the popularity index with tourists.
Darjeeling (West Bengal)
Darjeeling, located in the Lesser Himalayan ranges, has an average elevation of 2050 meters above sea level. People visit Darjeeling to sample its world famous teas and to spot the looming Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak. Large tracts of Darjeeling are covered by Alpine, Sal and Oak forests and are home to many varieties of wildlife. We highly recommend you visit in summer and chug your way up the hills aboard the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway mini steam engine.
Munnar stands at an altitude of 2695 meters above sea level. It is one of the most picturesque places to visit in India. While at Munnar, you will be surrounded by endless undulating hills covered with bright green tea bushes, dotted with women picking tea leaves. Munnar is very popular for its elephants, lakes and waterfalls. It gets pretty cold in winter so make sure you carry enough warm clothes when you go there.
Far up North in Kashmir, at an altitude of 3,950 meters above sea level, is a beautiful little town called Gulmarg. Literally meaning the 'Path of Roses', Gulmarg is very popular with tourists because of its scenic beauty and winter sports. With lots of gentle, snow clad slopes to go around, skiing and snowboarding are the favourite activities here. Gulmarg gets bitterly cold in winter. However, summer temperatures are very comfortable and the area gets covered by many species of wild flowers, adding to its splendour.
A beuatiful hill town settled around Lake Naini, Nainital is also referred to as the Lake Capital of India. It is located in the Kumaon area and is best visited during the summer months from April to June. Nainital is famous for its boating expeditions in the many lakes, trek trails like Nainital-Binyak trek and Nainital-Kainchi, ropeway rides and zoos. Shopping in Mall Market and Tibetan market is a unique experience, one that is filled with shawls, woollens, wooden wares and candles.
Shimla (Himachal Pradesh)
Shimla has been the most quintessential hill station in India since time immemorial. With its British colonial charm suffused with ancient stone buildings and cafes that serve coffees and baked treats, Shimla doesn't fail to delight its visitors. One of the best things to do in Shimla is the Shimla-Kalka toy train ride, along with visits to the Viceroy's Lodge and Jakhoo Temple. The Shimla skating rink is also quite a sight if you are not the one to try out the sport.
Dalhousie (Himachal Pradesh)
A part of the Chamba district of Himachal, Dalhousie forms an integral part of the foothills of Himalayas. The town has a formidable British as well as Tibetan influence and its charm only enhances with the food, culture and architecture peculiar to this place. Some of the best tourist spots in Dalhousie include Khajjar, Chamera Lake, Ganji Pahari, Kalatop Widlife Reserve and Chamba town.
Shillong is a brilliant burst of colours, a town located in the North-east of India. With some of the most majestic waterfalls called the Elephant Falls, and a lake that is right out of fairytales - Umiam Lake; Shillong is paradise of eastern India. You must visit Shillong Peak, Laitlum Canyon, Ward's Lake, Lady Hydari Park and churches like All Saints Cathedral and Mary Help for Christian Cathedral.
Ooty, a hilll station in the state of Tamil Nadu, is a suffusion of tea gardens and lakes. Interestingly, Lake Ooty, the most famous lake here is a manmade marvel, one that helps visitors let out all the summer heat from the plains. There is also Pykara Lake, Glen Morgan Tea Estates, Doddabetta Peak and Toda village for visitors to see. Treks and hikes up in the hills of Ooty are quite famous, especially since they mean some quiet peaceful time under the sunlight sieving through tall wooden trees. A ride on Nilgiri toy train is must and also a visit to the Government Botanical and Rose Garden.
This could well be one of the first names to come to mind, when thinking of hill stations in North India. Manali is a very very popular destination, ensconced as it is by the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal. With its meadows and lush forests, flowers rolling down valleys and an ever-lingering mist in sight, Manali is something out of an Indian fairytale. Tourists prefer the hill station for honeymoons, summer getaways as well as a base town for further treks up the many mountains that surround it. And even if you just plan to chill and go around town, there is plenty to do. From ancient mountain temples to lores and legends about local deities, from view points to mild hikes, market cafes to romantic restaurants, Manali offers you all. It is usually clubbed with a visit to Kullu, its sibling hill station.
Leh is the capital of Ladakh, India's northernmost state that is now a Union Territory. With its rugged rocky terrain and white deserts, Buddhist monasteries and hiking establishments, Leh is a hill station like no other. It might not fulfil the usual criteria of "lush greens" and "pleasant colourful mountains," but is a unique hill station in its own right.
Leh has stunning landscapes that are as beautiful as they are barren, lakes that are crystal clear, and so blue that the sky reflected in them holds no candle. There is the usual here too, markets, hotels, Tibetan cafes, restaurants and shops. You will find yourself slurping on bowls of thukpa and relishing momos and maggi in the cold weather when here. Many adventure enthusiasts come to Leh for treks, hikes, mountain climbing and other sports too.
Located in the Garhwal of Himalayas in the foothills, Mussoorie is another gem of Himachal Pradesh that offers some of the most scenic and virgin landscapes. It is lovingly termed as the queen of hills and shows you a good time in whichever month of the year you choose to visit. Honeymooners abound here, especially during the December to March wedding season boom. But there are also families, couples and friend groups on a getaway in summer, explorers and wanderers out to enjoy the natural beauty and photographers come to capture the magnificent Himalayas.
Gangtok is a pristine North-east Indian hill station, rimmed by Himalayan mountains and crowned by the mighty Kanchenjunga peak. People come here just to see Kanchenjunga and enjoy the hospitality of the Northeast. That would be enough, but Gangtok offers much more. Mesmerising beauty, lush greenery, misty mountains and hill town settlements; that's what you are in for when in this city. Adventurers can climb Mt. Kanchenjunga, or if you are not so daring then go hiking up one of the milder hills. Drink loads of piping green teas and coffees and kick back and relax.
Mcleod Ganj & Dharamsala
Mcleod Ganj and Dharamshala would be a couple if there were relationships among hill stations. While the former is a blend of British and Tibetan cultures, the later makes for a hub of Tibetan lifestyle as the Dalai Lama resides there. Mcleod Ganj is mostly for the young hippy backpackers to chill, wander around, drink on top of sloping roofs, enjoy the nature and go for bonfires. While Dharamsala hosts tourists interested in the mountains and mountain towns as well as those who are curious about the Tibetan culture, its history and tragic fate.
Mcleod Ganj is a great place to get yummy English, Italian, Continental and French food, watch Indie bands perform in quaint cafes and see tattoo artists at retreat centres. Whereas the lower division of Dharamsala is ripe with Tibetan museums, markets, shops etc. Both towns become the base for higher trekking.
Situated on the bank of River Parvati, Kasol is a newly emerging hill station in Himachal, discovered recently by youngsters who might have been bored of the usual fare. A small village with slopes for roads and sleepy settlements, Kasol is now gaining ground with backpackers, nature enthusiasts and serious trekkers. It is so pleasant and scenic in its natural element that many call it the 'Amsterdam of India.' So if you are looking for an off beat hill station to holiday then Kasol is your answer.
Mahabaleshwar & Panchgani
Mahabaleshwar is a hill station known for its scenic hilltop views and strawberries, located in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Close by is another little hill station that goes by the name of Panchgani, and is renowned for its highly graded boarding schools. You can choose to visit both these hill stations together, shop from their local markets, go visiting the Mapro Gardens and eat up huge glasses of strawberry & cream for lunch. There are look-out points, quaint bungalows and villas as well as resorts to host you. All seasons are usually good, even the scorching summers elsewhere that are mild and pliant here.
Hop, Skip and Jump from Pune and not even a 2-hour journey from Mumbai, Lonavala is a hill station that is thronged by tourists all year round. A small town in the hilly crevices of the Western Ghats, Lonavala is known for its Lion and Tiger Points, its Bushi Dam, luxury resorts and the world famous chikki. The crunchy candied snack made in a variety of nuts like cashews, peanuts, almonds etc along with the decadent fudges sold here make Lonavala a haunt for those who crave sweets like an addict.
Some old mountain temples, bastions and hills around also mean trekking opportunities. Hence Lonavala is also actively busy during the monsoon months.
Would you believe if we said Rajasthan has a hill station? Probably not. But then, that's the thing about the land of royals. It has everything. And what it doesn't, the royals of yore have created.
Like this stunning hill station in one of the mountainous highlands. Mount Abu was favoured by the queens and kings of Rajputana and Mewad hundreds of years ago to be used as their summer home. There are a few vacation and summer palaces in the town, along with the famous Jain Dilwara Temple made of marble. Mount Abu is best experienced in summer as it cools down from the desert heat elsewhere but winters are great too. It has more greenery and softness to it than other Rajasthani states and is a hotspot for Jain pilgrims, architecture enthusiasts as well as tourists looking for a quick getaway.
Rishikesh can only be a called a dream hill station. What else would you call a place that is located at the confluence of two mighty rivers and has the Himalayas to fringe it? With the Ganga and Chandrabhaga converging on its banks, Rishikesh has, since ancient times, been a holy city. Lately, it has also become an adventure hub for river rafters, paragliders, mountain climbers and trekkers. Along with a city centred around Indian and Ayurvedic way of life, Yogic practises and institutes, the city is famous among the Westerners because of the Beatles Aashram where the popular band came to mediate, along with Rishikesh's close connection to geniuses like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who came here in search of the meaning of life.
A little beacon of nature, fun and recreation in the lap of Sahyadri Ranges, Matheran is a hill station that forbids any vehicular transportation. Isn't that the real deal? A place high up in the hills without any pollution, honks, exhaust gases... no cars or buses or bikes even. If you want to go out you have your own two humble feet or the horses up for hire.
Matheran is known for many things, its natural setting, its homely town settlement, the cosy feel of its atmosphere as well as the many beautiful resorts. If you are in Maharashtra and are looking to unwind freely, without any sort of pollution or noise then visit Matheran.
Chikmagalur is Karnataka's prime hill station, renowned for its coffee plantations and lush greenery. It is located in the foothills of Mullayangiri Mountains and hides in its lap a serene tranquil atmosphere perfect for a getaway from your routine life. Tall mountain ranges surround it, and there is verdant abundance everywhere you see. What more could one want?
Oh, right, coffee. You have that in spades here too!
Lansdowne, a Garhwali hill station of Uttarakhand is a beautiful serene place for some leisure time off. It has miles of rolling meadows and a beautifully built town, along with the Indian Army's Garhwal Rifle Regiment taking up area on the side. For all intents and purposes, this part-army town is an off the track hill station, and visited by those who do not want to think and do what the crowd does.
A mix of quaint country life, a village that is sleepy and charming and elephants that pass in and out of a wildlife sanctuary - Wayanad is Kerala's best kept secret when it comes to hill stations. While the state itself is renowned for its backwaters, this little town assures visitors of spice plantations on hills, wildlife traipsing around, bird sanctuaries that thrive with migratory birds during winter and waterfalls and ancient caves that tell different stories. So if a pleasant stay in nature's lap is what you are looking for in Kerala, then choose Wayanad.
Only 3 hours' drive away from Bangalore, Yelagiri is a perfect Karnatakan hill station when scouting for waterfalls, fruits orchards, hilly terrain and gardens. The town is not one of the usual tourist-coveted hill stations and hence gives you the peace and serene languid feel you crave. It was once a personal town, owned by the Zamindari family of Vellore. But later, the British patronised it as their summer party resort town and so began Yelagiri's ascent to hill-stationhood.
You will enjoy the quaintness here, the scent of spice in the air, the sense of time slowing down so much so that you feel it has stopped.
A surprising feather in Andhra Pradesh's hat, Araku Valley is all lush verdant hills and freely flowing streams, waterfalls hidden among grooves and weather that mostly only entails mild sunshine and cool winds. Perched between the Anatagiri Hills, Araku Valley draws great tourist crowds for its indigenous tribal settlements, their local customs and culture, the fragrant coffee plantations and the handicrafts. You are sure to spend your nights on treehouses and sit by lush streams, watch the tribal dance performances and live a little slowly than you usually would in your city.
The land of coffees and spices and homemade decadent chocolates, Kodaikanal is really a fairyland wrapped up in hill station garb. The Tamil Hill Station is among the top most chosen locations to get away for a long weekend, especially among the locals and other South Indians. Most tourists who come here do take back the personally crafted essential oils, soaps, frankincenses and more, along with fresh coffees, teas and of course, chocolates. Perhaps that's the reason they call it the Princess of Hills!
You will find yourself lost among the lakes, temples and parks here; such is the charm of Kodaikanal.
An up and coming hilly getaway, becoming a trend in the Instagram communities of backpackers, Spiti Valley is white desert and all mountains, a snow covered delight that breeds peace and quiet you'd have experienced nowhere else. The roads here are long and winding, valley deep and white, villages and hamlets languid in their pacing of life. Located far up north in Himachal Pradesh, the Spiti Valley remains snowed in for half a year and hence is only accessible during summer months. Most travellers wander here in search of peace, to sit back and relax; instead of chasing sights and planning itineraries.