Hill stations in India have been synonymous with crisp mountain air, verdant hills offering stunning views and being an excellent getaway for city weary travellers. We owe many of the hill stations in India to the legacy of the British Raj who made some of them their summer capitals. Shimla was the first of these hill stations to be developed by the British and then Darjeeling, Mussorrie, Nainital and the list goes on. We present our collection of the 10 best hill stations in India which are always welcoming whenever you choose to take a break.
1. Munnar (Kerala):
Munnar is a hill station located in Kerala. Being amongst the most popular hill stations in India, Munnar is known for large tea plantations, forests, hill ranges, valleys and wildlife. The name Munnar is believed to mean “three rivers”, referring to its location at the confluence of the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers.
The main attractions of Munnar include the famous highly specialised Mattupetty Dairy Farm (an Indo-Swiss live stock project), Mattupetty dam, Kundala Lake, Echo point, Rajamalai (Part of Eravikulam National Park), Tea Museum, Annamudi Peak, Marayoor Sandalwood Forests, Attukad Waterfalls, Blossom Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Keezharkuthu Falls and Lakkom Water Falls. All of these places are a must-visit if you are a nature lover.
Echo point is the place that children will enjoy most as they hear their voice echoing back. Rajamala is the natural habitat for an endangered species of deer called Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragas hylocres). It has been declared a sanctuary. Recreational activities in Munnar include sight-seeing in the wildlife sanctuaries filled with various endangered species, trekking, hiking, mountain biking (cycling), boating, Ayurvedic massage, paragliding and visits to ancient temples.
Some of the best hotels in Munnar include Club Mahindra Munnar, Sienna Village, Tea County, Munnar Silver Woods, Forest Glade and Windermere Estate and Oak Fields.
Best time to visit Munnar:
The best time to visit Munnar is from March to June to get away from the summer heat and then gain from September to November after the monsoons where the hills are lush green.
How to reach Munnar:
The nearest airport to Munnar is the Cochin International Airport, which is 110 kilometres away by road and takes close to 4 hours to reach by private car or taxi. The nearest railway station from Munnar is at Aluva, which is at a distance of 110 kilometres from Munnar.
2. Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu):
Kodaikanal is referred to as the “Princess of Hill stations” and has a long history as a retreat and is a popular tourist destination. Its name in the Tamil language means “The Gift of the Forest”.
Kodaikanal is surrounded by natural beauty and it its essence is well captured by Bollywood director Mansoor Khan who shot “Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar” in Kodaikanal even though the setting of movie‘s storyline was mentioned to be in Dehradun.
Tourists visiting Kodaikanal must visit Kodaikanal Lake, Berijam Lake, Bear Shola Falls, Kodaikanal Solar Observatory, Kurinji Andavar Temple, Coakers Walk, Guna caves, Silver Cascade, Dolphin‘s Nose, Palini Hills and Kodaikanal Golf Club. Bryant Park is a botanical garden here which is a major attraction for botanists as well as tourists.
Kodaikanal is a vacation destination for all age-groups. Recreational activities include boating, trekking, visiting the various peaks, golf, enjoying the local as well as international cuisines and lastly, shopping for handicrafts.
The best hotels in Kodaikanal to ensure a comfortable stay include The Carlton, The Fern Creek, Sterling Valley View Resort, Altius Nest and Aarem Valley Castle.
Best time to visit Kodaikanal:
November to February is a time when many tourists prefer to visit Kodaikanal. However, during this time, the nights can be very cold. Another good time to visit Kodaikanal when weather is pleasant is March to May.
How to reach Kodaikanal:
The airport nearest to Kodaikanal is Madurai, about 120 kilometres away. From here, one can take a cab to Kodaikanal. Many tourists take the rail route and get down at Kodai Road, which is about 100 kilometres away from the main town. From here, cabs can be hired. By road, easy connectivity is available via Chennai, Bangalore and Madurai.
3. Coonoor (Tamil Nadu):
Coonoor is the second largest hill station in the Nilgiri Hills after Ooty. Coonoor is located on the toy-train line between Mettupalayam (28 km) and Ooty and is just a half hours drive from Ooty. It still retains the charm of a quaint hill station with fewer tourists which is in complete contrast to Ooty.
For those who live in Coimbatore, Coonoor has been a favourite holiday spot for weekends. Popular tourist attractions here include Sim‘s Park, Pomological Station, Lamb‘s Rock, Droog Fort, Wellington Gymkhana Club Golf Course, Lady Canning‘s Seat, St. George‘s Church and Tiger Hill Cemetery.
The recreational activities in Coonoor include golfing, shopping and trekking.
The best luxury hotels in Coonoor include Neemrana‘s Wallwood Garden, Velan Hotel and Taj Gateway Hotel Church Road.
Best time to visit Coonoor:
The best time to visit Coonoor is from October to February when the weather is pleasant and conducive for sightseeing and outdoor activities. Another popular period to visit is the summer months between March and May to get away from the city heat.
How to reach Coonoor:
The nearest airport is at Coimbatore 110 kms away. From Coimbatore, Coonoor is just a two-hour drive away via bus or cab. Via trains, Coonoor is connected to all important cities of Tamil Nadu, including Coimbatore and Chennai. Via roads, various government run and private buses and cabs to Coonoor are available.
4. Manali (Himachal Pradesh):
Manali is a hill station in the mountains near the northern end of the Kullu Valley. It is located in the Kullu district, about 270 km (168 miles) north of Shimla. In India, Manali‘s name is synonymous with skiing and para gliding. It is also the starting point for the road journey to Leh via the Rohtang Pass.
Popular tourist destinations in Manali include Rohtang Pass, Solang Valley, Hidimba Devi Temple, Pandoh Dam, Bhrigu Lake, Bijli Mahadev, Great Himalyan National Park, Manali Sanctuary and Pin Valley National Park.
Recreational activities in Manali include shopping, skiing, trekking, rafting, paragliding, fishing, angling, rock climbing and adventure camps.
With the divine beauty of nature engulfing your surroundings in Manali, you can stay in the hotels that best capture the beauty of the hills like Apple Country Resrort, Span Resort & Spa, White Meadows, Snow Valley Resorts and Sun Park Resort.
Best time to visit Manali:
Except July and August when heavy rainfall can cause landslides, the climate in Manali is pleasant throughout the year. Summer as well as winter is suitable for tourists to enjoy and explore Manali. If you want to enjoy skiing in Manali, then you must visit between December and February. March to June is the perfect time for outdoor activities like paragliding and rafting.
How to reach Manali:
The nearest airport to Manali is Bhuntar airport that is approximately 50 km away from Manali. From Bhuntar, you have to take a bus or cab. Flights to Bhuntar are available from New Delhi and Chandigarh. By road, Manali is very well-connected to important tourist destinations like Leh, Shimla, Kullu, Dharamshala and New Delhi by means of a network of state-run as well as private buses.
5. Shimla & Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh):
Shimla (also known as Simla), is the capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It was developed as a vacation destination by the British for high ranking British officers. Acting as a hub for India‘s tourism sector, today Shimla is among the top 10 preferred entrepreneurial locations in India.
Kasauli is a cantonment and town, located in Solan district. The cantonment was established by the British Raj in 1842 as a Colonial hill station, and is just 77 km from Shimla. Located in the south-western ranges of the Himalayas, Shimla usually has a cold climate.
Important tourist attractions in Shimla are Rashtrapati Niwas, The Ridge, Summer Hill, Kinnaur Kailash, Laxminarayan temple, Shoolini temple, Baijnath temple and Green Valley.
The biggest tourist attractions in Kasauli include Baptist Church, Christ Church, Gurudwara Shri Guru Nanak Ji, Kasauli Brewery, Kasauli Club, Hawa Ghar, Krishna Bhavan Mandir, Manki Point (Hanuman temple), Nahri Temple and Sunset point.
Recreational activities in Shimla can both be fun as well as spiritual. In Shimla, you can enjoy snowman building, heritage exploration, river rafting, trekking, ice skating, skiing, shopping, visits to religious places and hiking. The recreational activities that can be done in Kasauli include trekking, paragliding and camping.
The recommended hotels in Shimla are The Oberoi Cecil, Clarke‘s Hotel, Radisson Jass Hotel, Hotel Willow Banks and Oakwood Hamlet Resort.
Best time to visit Shimla & Kasauli:
Although Shimla has pleasant climate throughout the year, winters can have subzero temperature. Also, monsoon is not a good time to visit Shimla as landslides during this season can be dangerous. So the best time to visit Shimla is from October to November and from March to May.
The best time to visit Kasauli is from March to November when climate is always moderate. Even the unexpected occasional rainfalls are moderate during this season.
How to reach Shimla & Kasauli:
Shimla has an airport and flights from New Delhi and Kullu are frequent. The nearest major railhead connected to Shimla is Kalka. Via road, both government-run as well as private buses to Shimla are available via many cities among which Chandigarh has the best frequency of buses to offer. Kasauli can be accessed by road from Shimla.
6. Nainital (Uttarakhand):
Nainital is a popular hill station in the Kumaon foothills of the outer Himalayas. Dotted with lakes, Nainital has earned the epithet of “Lake District” of India. Pleasant climate and natural beauty are always here to welcome you with a smile.
Famous tourist attractions in Nainital include Nanital Lake, Sonapani Himalayan Village, Mukteshwar Temple, Eco Cave Gardens, Kainchi Dham, Hanuman Garhi, High Altitude Zoo, Naina Peak, Snow View Point, Himalayan Botanical Garden and temple of Goddess Naina Devi.
If you enjoy watching wildlife, then apart from High Altitude Zoo, some other destinations that can fascinate you and your family with a Jungle Book like fantasy are Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, Pangot and Kilbury Bird Sanctuary.
Recreational activities in Nanital include trekking, rock climbing, boating, yachting, wildlife sighting and horse riding.
The luxury hotels in Nainital are The Manu Maharani, The Golden Tusk, Camp Purple, Shervani Hilltop, The Naini Retreat, The Pavilion and Chevron Fairhavens.
Best time to visit Nainital:
Nainital gets tourists round the year. But the best time to visit Nainital is between March and June. This is the time when Nanital has summer minus scorching heat. What you can enjoy most is boating and sightseeing.
How to reach Nainitaal:
The nearest airport to Nanital is located at Pantnagar. From the airport, buses and cabs to Nanital are available. The nearest railway station is located at a distance of 34 kilometres at Kathgodham, at the foothills of the Kumaon hills. By road, it takes a six to seven hours drive from New Delhi to reach Nainital.
7. Mussoorie (Uttarakhand):
Although today located in Uttarkhand, Mussoorie was once a part of Nepal under Garhwal region and it still lies in the Garhwal region, claimed to be part of Greater Nepal. It is located about 35 km from the state capital of Dehradun.
Known for its green hills and varied flora and fauna, Mussoorie is a fascinating hill resort. Like Shimla, Mussoorie was also a hot favourite with British as a vacation destination during the era of British rule in India.
Popular tourist destinations in Mussoorie include Nahata Estate, Gun Hill, Kempty Falls, Lake Mist, Municipal Garden, Mussoorie Lake, Bhatta Falls, Jharipani Fall, Mossy Fall, Sir George Everest‘s House, Nag Devta Temple, Jwalaji Temple (Benog Hill), Cloud End and Van Chetna Kendra.
Adventure seekers can experience the great ropeway adventure in Gun Hill. Other recreational activities in Mussoorie include trekking, pony riding, shopping and visits to temples.
Deluxe hotels in Mussoorie include Fortune The Savoy, Jaypee Residency Manor, Royal Orchid Fort Resort, Ilbert Manor and the recently opened JW Marriott Walnut Grove Resort & Spa.
Best time to visit Mussoorie:
Best time to visit Mussoorie is from April to June when the weather here guarantees respite from the heat of summer and a perfect environment for sightseeing as well as outdoor activities.
How to reach Mussoorie:
The nearest airport to Mussoorie is Dehradun which lies approximately 54 kilometres away from Mussoorie. It has good connectivity via flights from New Delhi and other major cities in North India. There are numerous trains connecting New Delhi with Dehradun, such as the Shatabdi Express (as well as the Jan Shatabdi Express), the Mussoorie Express, and the Nizamuddin AC Special. Trains are available from other North Indian cities as well. Being a popular tourist destination, Mussoorie is well-linked with a network of bus services, which includes private tour operators as well as state transport corporations. Best connectivity is available from Dehradun.
8. Dharamshala & McLeod Ganj (Himachal Pradesh):
Although known as headquarters of Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile), Dharamshala is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. It is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of stately Deodar cedar trees.
McLeod Ganj (also spelt McLeodGanj or McLeodganj) is a suburb of Dharamshala. The residence of Dalai Lama, who heads the Tibetan Government in exile, is located here. McLeod Ganj was named after Sir Donald Friell McLeod, a Lieutenant Governor of Punjab. Tibetan sites here are a huge attraction for tourists.
Popular tourist destinations in Dharamshala that connect you with the cultural as well as spiritual essence of this city include Dal Lake (not be confused with another Dal Lake in Kashmir), Kangra Valley, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Kareri Lake, Bhagsunag Falls, Chintpurni, Kangra Museum, Chamunda Temple and St. John in the Wilderness.
Path to exotic fun, scenic beauty of nature and spiritual ride in the ocean of Tibetan spiritualism can continue in McLeod Ganj with Tsechokling Gompa, Nechung Monastery, Kalachakra Temple, Bhagsu Waterfall, Bhagsunath Temple, Guna Devi Temple, Indru nag Temple, Baba Baroh Temple and Bhagus.
The exotic culture of Tibet is showcased in Tibet World in the form of a huge variety of cultural programs.
Recreation in Dharamshala as well as McLeod Ganj can be a blend of fun and spiritualism. Activities that you can enjoy and find peace of mind in include yoga, reiki, trekking, rock climbing, paragliding, pilgrimage, heritage tour, handicraft shopping, art classes, angling and fishing.
You may engulf yourself in spiritualism when you visit Dharamshala as well as McLeod Ganj but you can also enjoy luxury hospitality in some hotels like Aveda Hotel, 8 Auspicious Him View and Fortune Park Moksha.
Best time to visit Dharamshala & McLeod Ganj:
Best time to visit Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj from March to June when climate is at its best, contributing to the scenic natural beauty of these tourist attractions.
How to reach Dharamshala & McLeod Ganj:
The nearest airport to Dharamshala is at Gaggal, about 13 kilometres away from Dharamshala. Various flights from New Delhi via Air India and Spice Jet are available.. The nearest major railway station is at Pathankot, 85 kilometres away. Dharamshala is well-connected to Delhi and other parts of North India via a network of state operated buses as well as private tour operators. McLeod Ganj is a suburb of Dharamshala. Hence, from Dharamshala, one can easily find a bus or cab to McLeod Ganj.
9. Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir):
Capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar lies in the Kashmir Valley, on the banks of the Jhelum River, a tributary of the Indus River. The city is famous its gardens, lakes and houseboats that are known as “Shikaara” in local language.
Tourist destinations in Srinagar that justify the title of Kashmir as “Paradise on Earth” include Jhelum River, Dal Lake, Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden, Shankaracharya Hill, Sinthan Top, Nagin Lake, Sonamarg, Kheer Bhawani Temple, Pari Mahal, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Botanical Gardens, Chatti Padshahi Gurudwara, Wular Lake and Jyeshtheshvara Temple.
Recreational activities in Srinagar include Shikaara rides, performing arts like Kashmiri folk music, trekking, air balloon rides, cable car rides, water sports and shopping. If you are a foodie, enjoying tasty Kashmiri cuisines in restaurants has to be your favourite pastime in Srinagar.
What is paradise without luxury? The hotels in Srinagar where you can find the luxury of paradise are Vivanta by Taj-Dal View, Hotel Niyati, The Lalit Grand Palace and the Heevan Resort
Best time to visit Srinagar:
April to June is the peak time when tourists come to Srinagar. The climate in Srinagar is cold throughout the year but this is the time when you can experience “warm winter” or a “cold summer”.
How to reach Srinagar:
Along with occasional international flights, Srinagar Airport receives regular flights from Leh, Jammu, Chandigarh and Delhi.
Via railways,the best way to reach Srinagar by train is to board a train to Udhampur. One can reach Udhampur by trians via New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Indore. From Udhampur, you can take a tourist bus or cab that would pass through National Highway 1A, which is the only national highway that connects Srinagar to the rest of India.
Via Bus, Srinagar has good connectivity with major North Indian cities like New Delhi.
10. Darjeeling (West Bengal):
Darjeeling is a town in northern region of West Bengal. It is located in the Mahabharat Range or Lesser Himalaya. It is noted for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main tourist attractions in Darjeeling are Tiger Hill, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, Senchal Golf course, Peace Pagoda, Batasia Loop, Mirik, Bhutia Busty Monastery, Suntalekhola and Samsing.
If you want to enjoy the experience of seeing all Darjeeling culture being showcased at one time, then the Darjeeling Carnival, an annual event is the where you need to be. Darjeeling has a vibrant rock music culture and at the carnival, you can see the live performances of various rock bands from Darjeeling. This carnival is a treat for music lovers.
Recreational activities in Darjeeling include mountain biking, golfing, shopping, toy train ride, trekking and water rafting.
The best luxury resorts in Darjeeling include Mayfair Darjeeling, Glenburn Tea Estate, Central Heritage, Cedar Inn, Central Nirvana and Little Tibet Resort.
Best time to visit Darjeeling:
In Darjeeling, summer is never harsh. Hence, April to June is a great time to visit. However, most tourists consider October to December as the best time to visit Darjeeling as October is when monsoon ends in Darjeeling. Also, if you want to visit the Darjeeling Carnival, then you should check the dates when it is happening and plan your visit accordingly.
How to reach Darjeeling:
Bagdogra Airport is the nearest air connection to Darjeeling. It is 96 kilometres away from Darjeeling. Many carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Indigo, Go Air run direct flights from Delhi, Guwahati and Kolkata to Darjeeling.
The nearest railway station in Darjeeling is at New Jalpaiguri (62 kilometres from the main town) which connects major Indian cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar and Cochin.
The regular bus service to Darjeeling is from Siliguri (which is approximately 70 kilometres away). The road network in Darjeeling is quite good and one can easily venture out to Darjeeling from nearby cities like Siliguri, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
So which hill station are you planning to visit next? Post your comments and let us know. And, if you feel some other hill stations should have been in the top 10 list, then please share your views.
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