India climate is almost ubiquitously associated with its heat. The land known for the staggering diversities it houses in its culture, geography and spiritual traditions is a true paradise for a traveler. One frequent complaint, thought, of foreign travelers in India is about its heat.
Ever wonder where do the natives head to for respite from the heat? Hill stations, of course! In fact, a vacation for most Indians is almost always a retreat into the ‘colder’ embrace of hill-stations. Whether you are a native of India planning your next holiday, or an avid explorer of its intriguing mysteries, the following list of the major hill stations in India would come to your aid in not just beating the heat characteristic of India plains and plateaus, but also in immersing yourself in the pristine gift of its scenic beauty.
01. Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Udagamandalam, conveniently referred to as Ooty, is perhaps the most sought after hill stations in the southern region of India. This popular station is nestled in Nilgiri hills, rather ‘the blue mountains’. The mountains being called blue is because of a certain rare, blue flower that blooms upon their slopes. These ‘Neelakurinji’ flowers cast the entire region in a blue tinge once every twelve years.
One feels as though spring refuses to leave the picturesque landscape of Ooty. Its Rose garden with over 22,000 varieties of roses is a must-visit. So is its Botanical Garden with over thousands of species of plants and the famous twenty million year old fossilized tree. Ooty, replete with its many gardens, lakes and forests comes under the protected Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
02. Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
Shimla is sought after by tourists not just for the beauty of its landscape, but also of its architecture. The city had served as the summer capital of the colonial regime of British before the nation gained independence. The city is thus lined with remnants of its having been abode of the colonial government; the many relics of Victorian styled architecture are examples. Since traffic is not permitted in the central portion of the hill station, one gets to enjoy carefree strolls among its beautiful contours.
Its unique ethnic culture and the mesmerizing beauty of its landscape lined with dense Himalayan forests are the hallmarks of Shimla tourism. In short, Shimla is as much a treat to your photographic eye as your nature-loving heart.
03. Mussoorie, Uttarakhand
Stories of Ruskin Bond, the beloved Children’s writer, centered on Mussoorie have truly made the hill-station the dream destination for many tourists. A walk among its winding paths gifts one amazing views of the Himalayas as well as the Doon valley. This ‘Queen among the Hill stations’ has many captivating spots in its terrain like Kempty falls, Gun Hill, Mussoorie Lake, Jwala Devi Temple, Camel’s Back Road and Happy Valley which attracts hundreds of tourists every day.
One ought to be cautious of visiting the hill station during monsoons as the heavy downpour might actually spoil your plans of outing. Mussoorie is also referred to as the gateway to the sacred shrines at Gangotri and Yamunotri, two of the integral spots in Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand (Pilgrimage to four abodes of Divinity in Himalayas).
04. Auli, Uttarakhand
Auli has become synonymous with skiing in India. Auli is the true haven for adventure enthusiasts. Whether you are a novice or an expert at skiing, its well-maintained skiing slopes comes as answer to your prayers. Also, the town serves as base-camp for expeditions to Nanda Devi and Neelkanth peaks. But make no mistake; Auli is much more than just an adventure destination.
Since it lies on the way to the sacred shrine of Lord Vishnu at Badrinath, the town serves as an ideal stopover for pilgrims as well. What can one even begin to say of the natural beauty of Auli? The panoramic views of Himalayan peaks, dense Himalayan coniferous forests and beautiful meadows lift any heart to the zenith of heaven.
05. Darjeeling, West Bengal
If you are exploring India’s eastern terrain, you ought to pay visit at ‘the dreamland of the east’. The tea endemic to the region is famous throughout the world for its superior quality. Visit this mesmerizing hill station and enjoy its magical waterfalls, tea gardens and flower-gardens. Also, the temperature never rises above 20 degree Celsius even during summer months.
If you happen to visit Darjeeling, make sure you visit the Lloyd’s Botanical Garden and Padma Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park which conserves rare Himalayan species of flora and fauna in its protected spheres. Some other tourist attractions in Darjeeling include Ghoom Monastery, Mahakal Temple, Tiger Hill, Bhutia Busty Monastery, Senchal Lake, Observatory hill etc.
06. Mount Abu, Rajasthan
Mt Abu is the only hill station in Rajasthan, a state known for its deserts. It also serves as the summer capital of Rajasthan. No wonder this hill station is considered as an ‘oasis in the desert’. Its beautiful forests, lakes, rivers and waterfalls justify this title.
The town is equally famous for its Dilwara Jain Temples. An exploration of India’s western terrain is incomplete without breathing in the salubrious air of Mount Abu. Some of the tourist attractions of Mount Abu include Trevor’s Tank, Peace Park, Nakki Lake, Peace Park, Adhar Devi Temple and Guru Shikhar.
07. Saptara, Gujarat
Entering Saputara makes one feel as if one has truly stepped inside nature’s womb Located in the western state of Gujarat, Saptara owes much of its mysterious lure to its tribal culture. In fact, its very name is indicative of the Snake gods revered by its tribal population. Saputara in the colloquial language stands for ‘the home of serpents’.
The hill station having largely escaped the intrusions of commercialization is a prime hallmark of the wonders of Gujarat Tourism. Located at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level in Western Ghats, Saptara is a true indulgence to one’s senses irrespective of your chosen time of visit.
The charm of the iridescent hues of its lush green forests, waterfalls and River Sarpagandha remains perennial, in spite of the varying rhythms of Mother Nature.
08. Nainital, Uttarakhand
The picturesque hill station of Nainital is built around the Lake in its centre. It is said that its Naina Devi temple is the site at which the beautiful eyes of Goddess Sati fell. Thus, it is one of the revered Shakti peeths in India.
Situated at a height of 2,084 m above sea level, Nainital attracts domestic as well as foreign tourists throughout the year. Some of its key attractions include Naina Lake, Mall Road, Tiffin Top, Naina Peak, Naina Devi Temple and Govind Ballabh Pant Zoo.
09. Manali, Himachal Pradesh
A list of hill stations in India is incomplete with mentioning Manali. Perhaps the most picturesque of all hill stations in Himalayas, the popularity of Manali is increasing day by day. One wonders if the many Bollywood films which portray its scenic beauty have got a role to play in the same.
Some of the key attractions you ought not to miss while at Manali are Solang Valley, Mall Road, Bhrigu Lake, Hidimba Lake, Rohtang Pass, Manu Temple, Nehru Kund and Vasisht Hot water-spring. Manali is known for the many adventure activities it hosts like skiing, trekking and hiking.
10. Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
The name Dharamsala translates to a spiritual home. It comes as no irony then that the scenic hill station at Dharamsala serves as the abode of Dalai Lama and Tibetan population in exile. Dharamsala is lined with many Buddhist monasteries. Thus, one comes across hundreds of seekers eager to learn Buddhist and spiritual philosophy in the town.
Its tranquil environment serves as the ideal backdrop for anyone who wishes to deepen their spiritual practice. The village of Gangchen Kyishong separates the two portions of the city namely Dharamsala and Mcleodganj. Some of its famous tourist attractions include Naam Art Gallery, Kangra Museum, Chamunda Temple, Bhagsunag Temple, Kunal Pathri Temple and Dal Lake.
11. Shillong, Meghalaya
It must the rolling hills characteristic of its topography that has earned Shillong the title of the ‘Scotland of the East’. Shillong is the capital city of the Indian state of Meghalaya, the famed ‘abode of clouds’. Its pollution free, pleasant weather must be what makes it one of the most favourite hill stations in India. The dazzling waterfalls in the hill-station are such a treat to one’s senses.
Shillong peak, the highest peak in the state of Meghalaya, harbors such an ideal viewpoint that gifts the most breathtaking views of Shillong city. Also, the forests around the peak with its many beautiful species of pines, orchids and other exotic plants are a treasure home of biodiversity. Adventure lovers love exploring its many naturally beautiful caves as well.
12. Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra
The evergreen forests and picturesque lakes of Mahabaleshwar make it a perfect destination for travelers who long for the heartfelt embrace of nature. Mahabaleshwar marks the origin of the legendary river Krishna. There is a temple dedicated to Krishna river namely Krishnabai temple.
Also, the hill station is famous for its many strawberry plantations. One ought not to miss the many tourist attractions like Lingmala waterfalls, Pratapgad fort, Venna Lake, view-points at Kate’s Point, elephant point, Wilson Point etc.