What’s the first word that pops into your head when you hear ‘summer’? The (almost) unanimous answer is ‘vacation’. Now that the summer is upon us and the heat is unrelenting, adults and kids alike are looking for a getaway – a break from the weather, work, and studies. Hill stations quite literally provide that breath of fresh (and cool) air that we all crave.
With kids getting almost eight weeks off from school, summers in India have always been a time for families to explore places and bond. This is the prime reason tourism sees a surge during April and May. And hill stations are the first place travellers look at to beat the heat.
India being the vast country it is, the tourism industry is huge here. The number of domestic tourist visits in India was 1614 million in 2016, up 12.68% from the previous year. The number of foreign tourist arrivals was 10.18 million in 2017. The most preferred period for foreign visits are January to June, while domestic tourism picks up April through June, and again during the year-end.
People from the tourism business in south India claim that they have seen a 40% increase in bookings for hill stations in the past few days and this rush is expected till the onset of monsoons. Hotels are experiencing occupancy rates of 80-90% on weekends.
If you’re tired of the concrete jungle we live in and want a break from the scorching sun, here are ten of the best hill stations that India has to offer.
What better place to get away from the heat than the lap of Himalayas? Our crown jewel, Srinagar, is the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. From immersive culture to finger-licking food and unsurpassed beauty, the place has a lot to offer. Living in houseboats on Dal Lake is recommended for the unique experience it offers.
This beautiful Uttarakhand hill station at an elevation of 1983 metres above sea level is absolutely stunning in the summer. Its beautiful lakes and temples offer a peaceful and mindful experience. One should visit the Tibetan market, Naini Lake, and sunset point at Hanuman Garhi.
With an average summer temperature of 18 ⁰C, Shimla is the perfect destination for summer vacationers. Besides its old-world colonial charm, there are a lot of religious and historical sites to visit in this Himachal Pradesh gem. You could also visit Chail, which is close by and has great wildlife.
Land of coffee and spices, Coorg in Karnataka is called the Scotland of the South. Its attractions include Abbey Falls, Nagarhole National Park and Madikeri Fort. With a lush forest surrounding the hill station, the temperatures are just right for the summer. You cannot come back without buying some fragrant spices.
One of the most popular hill stations, Ooty or Udhagamandalam in Tamil Nadu is at an elevation of 2240 metres. Nestled in the Nilgiris, Ooty is famous for its lakes, deer park and botanical garden. This may come as a surprise, but the food served in some of the colonial homes-turned-restaurants is among the best in the country.
God’s own country Kerala houses this beautiful hill station surrounded by vast tea plantations. From trekking to biking to boating, there is something here for everybody. While in Munnar, a trip to the Carmelagiri Elephant Park is a must. Other places to check out include Tata Tea Museum, Kundala Lake, Echo Point, and Eravikulam National Park.
Monasteries and adventure activities define Gangtok in Sikkim. Places to see include Rumtek Monastery, Phodong Monastery, Nathu La Lake and Khecheopalri Lake. You can river-raft, ride a yak, or paraglide. The best takeaway is the Tibetan Buddhist culture that you will get to experience here.
Situated in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, Shillong is almost pollution-free. Get ready to stroll along the hill paths, amidst beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and pine trees. Ward’s Lake, Sweet Falls, Shillong Peak, Umiam Lake, Elephant Falls, and Mawjymbuin Caves are some places of interest.
This ‘strawberry land’ in Maharashtra has lakes, temples, and forts. Places to visit include Arthur’s Seat, Venna Lake, Elephant Point, Pratapgarh Fort and Mount Malcolm. You have to gorge on strawberry cream and other fruity delicacies while here. A halt at Mapro garden is a must.
Mount Abu is situated in the Aravalli range of Rajasthan – our very own Rockies, with a distinct plateau 22 km long. An oasis in the desert, Mount Abu has lakes, forests, and rivers. Must-visits include Dilwara Jain Temples, Nakki Lake, Achalgarh Fort, Toad Rock, and Trevor’s Crocodile Park.
With so much to explore, don’t wait anymore. Pack your bags and set off!
PS: All but one of these hill stations has a Club Mahindra property. The exception is Shillong. Gangtok is the only place in the east where Club Mahindra has a presence.