India, the land of dreams and legends, the land that has everything to offer – from scorching deserts to frozen mountains, from flowing rivers to blooming valleys – everything you want to see, you can find it in this beautiful land we call home.
But if you’re like me – a city dweller from Mumbai – you want to escape to the hills ever so often too. So I asked my friends, these amazing Indian travel bloggers and some of our international friends, to share their choice of must-visit hill stations with my readers. Let’s see what they have to say.
1. Manali in Himachal Pradesh
By Shivani from The Wandering Core
Manali is a popular tourist destination in North India, inviting tourists to beat the summer heat and enjoy the winter snow as well. Manali is a hill station favoured by the first Indian Prime Minister, J. L. Nehru. For the natural beauty the mountainous region hold, the place scores a highly charmed position in the must-visit Indian hill stations.
The region is blessed with Deodar trees – the extremely costly trees with hundreds of years of life, the historical temples, the Beas river and Rohtang Pass. The Hadimba Temple is a historic temple dedicated to Hidimi Devi, an Indian goddess from Mahabharata. The temple is famous for the caves and the beautiful wooden carvings in the exteriors. I highly recommend visiting the temple whoever is interested in knowing the history of Manali.
Another attraction of Manali is it’s clear water river Beas, as soon as the highway touches Kullu, Beas flows sideways giving the journey thrilling views. The river bed has massive rocks, adventure activities and snacks availablity also, & spending an evening here is a tranquil moment.
A visit to Manali is never complete without a drive to Rohtang Pass, a link to Leh and Ladakh. The exciting and bold drive will present you with some of the gorgeous landscape from India.
As much as the drive is action-packed, the mountain range of the Rohtang Pass is more sumptuous. The snow-covered mountains where tourists can actually play with ice, make snow-man even in summer months is exhilarating.
While wrapping up your Manali tour, I suggest taking a detour for Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara in Kullu. Located almost 2 hours from Manali, the Manikaran Gurudwara is of great religious significance to Hindus and Sikhs equally. The gurudwara is also renowned for the natural hot water spring, which the authorities use here to cook rice.
2. Panchgani in Maharashtra
By Oindrila from Oindrila Goes Footloose
No roundup of Indian hill stations is complete without a mention of Panchgani. Located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Panchgani makes for a perfect hillside getaway in every season.
A 5-hour drive from the megacity of Mumbai takes you away from the city bustle and into the lap of pristine nature.
Monsoon in Panchgani needs to be experienced for the multitude of birds that make the air come alive with their calls. Munias, larks, sunbirds, bulbuls, doves, and more – the hills and the valleys become a treasure-trove of avifauna for the avid birdwatcher.
Winters in this village have a different charm altogether. With ripe strawberries dotting most organic farms with bright red and pink hues, it is tempting to stay in a homestay that lets you indulge in an afternoon of strawberry picking.
Panchgani holds an annual strawberry fest for those who love their fruits just as much as they do their jams and jellies. Speaking of which, the area is famous for its superior quality jams, jellies, syrups and crushes that can be used to make flavored milkshakes and mocktails, or even strawberry muffins.
Adventure enthusiasts can spend their time in Panchgani hiking through the Sahyadri range of mountains. For those who are not so active, a drive to Table Land offers gorgeous views of the valley, the surrounding hills and the lake formed due to the Dhom Dam.
Still, a great vacation here is best spent sitting on a balcony with a hot cup of coffee and a nice book that never ends.
3. Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu – The princess of Hills
By Pooja from Fairytale Studios
Kodaikanal is a small but popular hill station located in state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. It competes with the likes of Munnar, Ooty and Coorg in the vicinity and yet has its own unique charisma that lures travellers from all over the world.
Kodaikanal is a town built around the very famous Kodai lake and is loved by tourists of all kinds be it those looking to relax peacefully in nature or the adventurous kind who may want to trek on hills and forests or families who might want to spend time together and do some sightseeing.
Kodaikanal is an ideal destination to get away from your routine life. Surrounded by forests from all sides, Kodaikanal, the princess of hills is around 4 hour drive from Coimbatore or 3 hour drive from Madurai, the closest cities with airports.
One can also reach foot of hills by train to a station called Kodai road and then hire a bus/taxi.
A minimum of 2 days would be required to visit various tourist attractions which includes serene lakes, beautiful gardens including Bryant park, pine forests, waterfalls, and mesmerizing viewpoints.
However, if you are into trekking or would love to visit nearby villages and explore nature, planning a longer trip is recommended. One can easily hire a taxi or even a 2 wheeler to move around Kodaikanal.
Accommodations of all types from camping to boutique hotels to luxury resorts are available. If you would like to plan your trip, you can find a detailed itinerary along with recommendations for your stay here.
4. Kashmir in Jammu and Kashmir
“If there is heaven on earth, it’s here in Kashmir”. This is a famous saying once said by the Moghul Emperor Jahangir. The beautiful and picturesque land of Kashmir is located at the peak of India, 566 Km from New Delhi.
The overwhelming beauty that is Kashmir is an eye delight for the visitors ringed by Himalayan and Pir Panjal range. It is the most loved location among the directors and filmmakers of Bollywood for shooting, due to its mesmerizing eye luring view.
This is the place, where you can witness the flawless art of nature, heavenly beauty spread everywhere. The beautiful lakes, snow-covered hills, springs, and rivers are the real charm of Kashmir.
This alluring heavenly land is considered as the jewelled crown on the map of India. While you are in Kashmir, places of interest include “Floating Market in Dal Lake, Skiing at Gulmarg, colorful Tulip gardens and Sonmarg.
By Monalisa from Meanwhile
Meghalaya is one of the most surreal places you will visit in India. Tucked in North East India, it is one the many hill stations that you must visit. Mawphanlur lies in the West Khasi Hills. You can take one of the many shared taxis or hire a whole cab if you are in a group.
There is only one guest house owned and managed by the rural department and Boy! What a location. There are rolling hills all around and you have the opportunity to walk any direction you want.
I was lucky to have the well-travelled local and he directed me towards this vantage point. I walked for miles and with every passing hill, I knew it would be worth every step.
The best time to visit is all the time, I reckon because with every changing season, the villages also changes its colours and with every changing colour it just exposes a different facet.
It is also one of the cleanest states in the country and one of its villages, Mawlynong is the cleanest in Asia. Meghalaya is called the Abode of clouds and this hill station will keep you mesmerized through the summer.
6. Mount Abu in Rajasthan
By Khushboo from Munni of all Trades
I have some of my fondest childhood memories associated with Mount Abu, the only hill station at Rajasthan. Home to my grandparents, Nakki lake, seasonal waterfalls and the famous Dilwara temples, Mount Abu is called an oasis in the desert.
The quaint town is accessible through railways the nearest station being Abu Road located at the base of the Aravali ranges.
The 45-minute trip from Abu road to Mount Abu is eventful; you will see langurs jumping of trees, you will cross a beautiful forest and if you are traveling at night, some people even come across a leopard or a grizzly bear.
You can begin your day with a trip to Peace Park where thousands of roses swaying in the breeze will greet you and take a tour of the Brahmakumari Ashram.
Your next stop should be the Dilwara temples, a complex of 5 Jain temples made of intricately carved marbles devoted to the Jain Tirthankara. I recommend that you hire a guide to know some interesting stories about the place.
Stroll down Nakki lake in the evening to enjoy the sunset and then hop onto a swan-shaped pedal boat for the rest of the evening. Do look out for the toad rock during your boat ride.
Mount Abu is home to the Chacha Museum, that boasts of a great collection of brassware, artisans that sell colorful woolen souvenirs and traditional Rajasthani clothing. You can pick up some great silver jewellery, too.
7. Darjeeling in West Bengal
By Mainak from Places and Pixel
At the foothills of the Himalayas, spread in ribbons over a steep mountain ridge, Darjeeling (West Bengal) is your front row seats for the majestic Khangchendzonga (8598m) and many other towering Himalayan peaks.
Alluring visitors with its sprawling expanse of emerald-green tea plantations set against the white of majestic snow-capped peaks, Darjeeling is a backpacker’s delight and many honeymooners’ dream destination.
Places to visit: Tiger Hill, Japanese Peace Pagoda, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Mirik Lake
Things to do: Toy train ride, view Khangchendzonga peak from Tiger Hill (esp early morning), Rock climbing, Mountain Biking
How to reach: The nearest airport is Bagdogra and the nearest major railway junction is New Jalpaiguri (NJP). It takes about 2.5-3 hours to reach Darjeeling from both these locations by car.
8. Gangtok in Sikkim
By Amrita from Tale of 2 Backpackers
Gangtok, the capital city and the heartland of Sikkim is one of the most beautiful hill stations of India. Located at an altitude of 5410 ft, the term Gangtok actually means ‘on top of a ridge’. A peaceful and quaint city, Gangtok is a mix of different cultures and ethnicity.
Gangtok faces the mighty Kanchenjunga ranges that the Sikkimese also considers to be their guardian deity. In fact, there are a number of vantage points in Gangtok from where you can get great views of the snow-clad mountain ranges. Here are some things to see in and around Gangtok.
G. Marg is the heart of Gangtok. It is a stretch of open road with shops on both sides. Vehicles are not allowed to enter this area making M. G. Marg a perfect place to stroll around.
There are benches around the roads where you can also sit and relax. As the natural light fades, the beautiful Victorian lamps on the street are lit up.
The next on your list should be the beautiful Rumtek Monastery, Enchey Monastery and the Ranka Monastery. Other than the monasteries, other places of interest include the Dro Dul Chorten, Ban Jhakri Energy Park, Tashi Viewpoint, and Hanuman Tok high up on the hill.
You should keep one day for visit to the Tsogmo Lake and Nathula Pass. The Nathula Pass was the ancient trade route to Tibet.
Keeping Gangtok as the centre point, you can explore the other delightful places of Sikkim like Pelling, Ravangla, Namchi and the exotic North Sikkim.
How to Reach Gangtok: The nearest airport is at Bagdogra in West Bengal. Very soon, Pakyong airport near Gagntok is going to be operational. The nearest Railhead is New Jalpaiguri (NJP). From Bagdogra and NJP, take a car to Gangtok. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to reach Gangtok from there.
9. Lansdowne in Uttarakhand
By Aditi from Goan Girl Zindagi
Lansdowne is an unspoiled and underrated hill station of Uttarakhand surrounded by thick oak and blue pine forests. Founded by Lord Lansdowne while he was the Viceroy of India (1888 – 1894) it is the perfect getaway destination with disarming beauty and views of the mountains blanketed in shades of green.
Developed by the British as the regimental center of the Garhwal Rifles it is now home to various buildings and churches which were constructed during the Raj period. It is considered a treasure trove of romance and scenic beauty.
Popular for adventurous activities which include trekking, paddling, boating, bird watching, and more, it is frequented by nature lovers.
10. Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh
By Jitaditya from The Travelling Slacker
Of late, Tirthan Valley has become popular because of its fancy resorts and homestays built along the banks of the turquoise river. People mostly go there for relaxation, fishing, and bonfire. However, my idea of Tirthan is completely different.
As an impoverished traveller, these resorts are beyond my budget. So, I normally go beyond this area and explore the inner villages and their unique temples, cultures, and myths. If I start writing about the same, I may end up writing a whole book. But it is always better when you explore and stumble upon such things.
For the beginners, Tirthan can be a bit confusing. Actually, there is no town or village named Tirthan. It is basically the valley of the Tirthan river, one of the two major valleys that constitute the Great Himalayan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Anyone who is “going to Tirthan”, generally ends up in one of the resorts around Gushaini, which is the largest village in the valley.
Nevertheless, there is much more to see and do in Tirthan if you are willing to explore. Apart from everything I mentioned earlier, it is also a great spot for trekking. The trek to the source of Tirthan river is a major trek in Himachal.
While not everyone has the time or stamina for that, Tirthan offers many delightful short treks such as Bashleo Pass, Rangthar, Lambri, and the trek to the GHNP gate at Rolla along the Tirthan River.
11. Ooty in Tamil Nadu
By Seema from Panda Reviewz