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Top 10 hill stations in India

Discussion in 'Travel advice' started by MethaJay, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. MethaJay

    MethaJay New Member

    I have taken one year off from my work to take my wife traveling in India. She is a very keen traveler and is particularly interested in going to hill stations as well as other destinations in India.
    We have a list arranged for places we need to visit but are confused with the hill stations list.

    I would like some help from the everyone to give me some guidance to the top 10 hill stations in India, so we can visit some of them if the in the area.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, welcome to the forum!



    With its cooler climate and undulating scenic views, a hill station is a preferred getaway of most couples, even families, in India. The problem is, there are over a hundred hill stations in the country, that choosing only one from them can be quite difficult. To the north are the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, which have some of the most popular hill stations in the country. Northeastern hill stations are more remote, but they remain quite pristine and untouched by the masses. And to the south, you can also find plenty of hill stations, not just destinations for respite from the summer heat, but also for nature getaways as they're surrounded usually by lush greenery. Yes, at every nook and corner of India, you're bound to encounter such hill stations but don't worry, this guide would help you choose the best amongst the best.

    Top 10 Hill Stations in India

    1. Manali (Himachal Pradesh) - Manali is a favourite getaway of most locals from Delhi NCR or even the nearby state of Punjab. Why? Because it is easily accessible from these regions and it is a suitable destination for any type of traveller, families, soloists, couple or even friends. It is literally every tourist's paradise, where adventures and attractions coexist with one another. For example, the flowing Beas River, from Manali until Mandi, can surely take your breath away. Its sparkling milky white water with the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains is the picture perfect epitome of the hill station. This is also the venue for river rafting activities, usually done post-monsoon season. About 51 kilometres away from Manali is the Rohtang Pass, an adventurer's haven. Opened only a few months in a year, this high altitude pass has snow even at the peak of summer season. Winter sports like skiing, sledging, tobogganing and snow scootering can be enjoyed here. If this pass is closed, tourists usually venture into Gulaba Snow Point, just 26 kilometres away from Manali. There's even a trail here that can lead you to the Rahala Waterfalls, though the trek can be very slippery. On the other hand, Solang Valley is a bit closer at around 12 kilometres away. It also offers winter sports like skiing and tube sliding but only during winter season. On the other seasons, activities like zorbing, paragliding and skating can be done in the valley as well. For sightseeing, Manali has plenty of attractions to keep you busy. There's the Hidimba Devi Temple, with its three-tiered pagoda style roof and wooden facade. Dedicated to Hidimba Devi, the entire premises exude serenity especially with the thick deodar forests all around. Next is the Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa, the only Tibetan monastery in Manali. With its bright yellow roof and orange facade, it's easy to spot at the end of the Mall Road of Manali. Other temples worth visiting are the Manu Temple, dedicated to Sage Manu, and the Vashisht Temple, dedicated to Rich Vashisht.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Beas River, Rohtang Pass, Gulaba Snow Point, Rahala Waterfalls, Solang Valley, Hidimba Devi Temple, Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa, Manu Temple and Vashisht Temple
    2. Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir) - Kashmir has often been named as Heaven on Earth, with its unending views of the snow-capped mountains and delightful scenic beauty. Its summer capital, Srinagar, is the most popular and easily accessible hill station in the state. With the Dal Lake located at the centre of the hill station, it has become the main attraction of Srinagar. A bit on the commercial side, they say, but still worth an experience having is staying on a houseboat. Experience waking up in the morning, the view of the snow-capped mountains greeting you and the serene beauty of the lake just all around. Pressed for time? Even a simple shikhara ride in the lake can give a glimpse of its beauty, as well as the local culture and floating markets. If you want a bit of a less crowded lake, there's the Nigeen Lake, where there are various houseboats and shikharas as well. It is combatively smaller than the former lake but exudes much serenity. There are also various gardens around Srinagar, which you can view from a distance from a boat ride in the lake. But you can also visit them in person, maybe enjoy a picnic in the summer and relish in the colourful hues of the flowers. In winter though, the gardens might be covered in snow, which provide a different but mesmerising view as well. The Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden is Asia's largest tulip garden, with wide varieties of tulips. The whole garden blooms fully during March until the first few weeks of April. Other gardens worth exploring here are the Mughal Gardens, Nishat Gardens and Shalimar Bagh. Last but not the least, if you are quite fit, trek to reach the Shankaracharya Temple, located amidst a hillock. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva but aside from the spiritual side, the peak provides one with a panoramic view of the city of Srinagar.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake, Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden (Seasonal), Mughal Gardens, Nishat Gardens, Shalimar Bagh and Shankaracharya Temple
    Dal Lake in Srinagar (Image from Tony Gladvin George)

    3. Mussoorie (Uttarakhand) - This list won't be complete without the Queen of the Hills, Mussoorie. This is Uttarakhand's most popular hilly getaway, where misty mountain views dominate amongst others. With quaint cafes and a busy Mall Road area, it's as if the hill station is a bustling city. But there are still hidden gems worth exploring here. A favourite here by the lone travellers, those seeking some solitude, is the Camel's Back Road. This is actually the more offbeat counterpart of the Mall Road. There are less people here, which means you can enjoy the trek to reach the end point, where you would find a view point with a camel-shaped rock. From this point, the view of the valleys below and distant mountains would be clearer. On the other hand, you can also trek to reach Lal Tibba, the highest point in the hill station. Telescopes are available for use at the peak so you can get a better view of the mountain peaks. Another interesting view point is Cloud's End, about six kilometres away from Mussoorie's city centre. You need to trek the reach the resort premises, where you can pay a required entry fee and enjoy the clouds, almost within your reach. For nature lovers, do visit either the Company Garden or Municipal Garden, both have numerous plant and flower species that look quite Instagram-worthy. Other attractions like the Kempty Waterfalls and Jharipani Waterfalls are also worth visiting, especially after the monsoon season. Finally, a bit of an underrated attraction here is the SOHAM Heritage and Art Centre, showcasing the heritage of the region. From the charming interiors, to the collection of rare photographs about Mussoorie and also the unique artefacts on display are sure to make you understand the Kumaon region even more.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Mall Road, Camel's Back Road, Lal Tibba, Cloud's End, Company Garden, Municipal Garden, Kempty Waterfalls, Jharipani Waterfalls and SOHAM Heritage and Art Centre
    4. Shillong (Meghalaya) - Definitely a unique capital city of Meghalaya, Shillong, eases into one's heart, with its old-world charm that blends well with modernity. With an average elevation beyond 1,500 metres above sea level, Shillong has pleasant climate all-year round, with bouts of rain that only adds to its greener side. Before exploring the further attractions of the city, venture into the Shillong View Point. From this view point, you get a panoramic view of the city, right from the local houses, up to the lower valleys of Shillong. Close by is the Umiam Lake, also known as the Barapani Lake, nestled amidst pine forests and the bountiful hills, along with the never-ending blue skies above. A boat ride in the lake can be very soothing and relaxing, just the best way to unwind for families and couples alike. If you want some adventure, take a boat ride until the Lumpongdeng Island, located in the middle of the lake. This island was once a hillock that became an island after the damming of the river. There's a boat house here, which is more of a private property. A bit further from the city centre is the Elephant Waterfalls, a three-tier waterfall, approachable by trekking only. The first two levels of the waterfalls can be easily accessed but the third one has steeper and narrower steps. This is Shillong's pride, as the gushing waterfalls lull you and the chirping of the birds bring you closer to nature itself. Museums like the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures and the Ever Living Museum are also worth visiting to have a complete overview of the culture and traditions of Northeast India. And last, there's the Laitlum Canyons, about 15 kilometres away from Shillong. If you are a fan of the Grand Canyon, enjoy the comparable beauty of this attraction. With the views of the cloud-covered mountains, waterfalls and rivers below, plus lush greenery around, you would find it hard not to fall in love with this place. The rocky gorges give the place its resemblance to the famous canyons.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Shillong View Point, Umiam Lake, Lumpongdeng Island, Elephant Waterfalls, Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures, Ever Living Museum and Laitlum Canyons

    5. Gangtok (Sikkim) - Gangtok is that rare destination that despite its popularity, remains quite clean and pristine. While it has the same cooler climate, the warmth of the locals balance the seemingly low temperatures. And it is also the best place to have that bit of Tibetan culture right at India. For the devout Hindus, a stopover at the Hanuman Tok is a must. This temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is situated upon a hillock. On a clear day, you can even view the Kanchenjunga mountain from the temple. The Ranka Monastery is a Buddhist gompa, noted for its traditional Tibetan architecture. With its bright yellow roof and brown facade, it balances the greenery of the surroundings. Inside the monastery, there are various murals that showcase the artistic side of the Tibetan monks. Then there's the Enchey Monastery, the oldest gompa in Gangtok, built around the 18th century in a site blessed by Lama Drupthob Karpo. Despite its isolation, this is Gangtok's most important monastery and exudes serenity at the most. For lovers of nature, do visit the Himalayan Zoological Park and the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary (Seasonal), where forests and plants dominate the landscapes. An excursion out of Gangtok can lead you to Nathu La, the last point before the border with China. Situated at a higher altitude, you would find snow here almost all-year round though the elevation can be uncomfortable for the elderly or smaller children. Just 17 kilometres away from the pass is the Tsomgo Lake, which can either be frozen during winters or a clear blue during summers. Either way, the lake is worth a visit because of its picturesque beauty.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Hanuman Tok, Ranka Monastery, Enchey Monastery, Himalayan Zoological Park, Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary, Nathu La and Tsomgo Lake
    6. Munnar (Kerala) - Often compared to Malaysia's Cameron Highlands, the hill station of Munnar boasts of the same scenic tea estates. Their resemblance is uncanny yet Munnar is closer to home, easier on the pocket and a pride of Kerala. There are various tea estates in Munnar, approachable by a jeep ride, like the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, Kannan Devan Tea Estate and Harrison Tea Estate. All of these tea estates offer tours around the plantation and sometimes, even on their very own tea factory, so guests can get a complete overview of the tea-making process. View points, you say? Well, there are also plenty around Munnar, noteworthy of which is the Top Station. Enjoy the misty views of the cloud-covered peaks, as well as the tea plantations below from this peak. Other view points that you can explore are Photo View Point and Pothamedu View Point. About six kilometres away from Munnar is the Mattupetty Dam, a huge water reservoir with boating facilities and stunning mountain views. It is very much developed hence there's an assortment of eateries around the dam lake as well. Nearby, there's a small amusement park that would be enjoyed by families with little kids. A bit further from Munnar, and perhaps more isolated, is the Kundala Dam Lake. From the damming of the river, the lake was formed which is now a popular tourist attraction as it also offers boating facilities. Finally, if you still have some time, indulge in a wildlife trail in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. It is the home of the Malabar giant squirrel along with other wild animals like elephants, leopards, deers and wild boars.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, Kannan Devan Tea Estate, Harrison Tea Estate, Top Station, Photo View Point, Pothamedu View Point, Mattupetty Dam, Kundala Dam Lake and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
    7. Ooty (Tamil Nadu) - The terminating station of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is known as Udhagamandalam Railway Station, which is located in Ooty. It is one of the best ways of reaching the hill station, as the train passes through scenic forests, tunnels and tea plantations. The journey can be slow as the train runs only on steam and diesel locomotives only. Once you reach Ooty, there are plenty of attractions that you can explore. The Botanical Gardens has collections of various shrubs, plants, flowers, trees and herbs that give it a vast array of colours. As thin coverings of mists envelope the place, it becomes even more picturesque and camera-worthy. The Pykara Lake is located around 25 kilometres away from Ooty. It is set amidst lush pine and eucalyptus forests, which make your boat ride even more calming. There are even more remote and pristine lakes around Ooty, like the Upper Bhavani Lake, Emerald Lake and Avalanche Lake. Ooty Lake is a bit on the commercialised side but the assortment of boating activities here can be fun for families and groups of friends. Shooting Point is popular amongst film makers before of its natural beauty, enveloped in lush greenery and with a lake at the lower part of the peak. An even more adventurous trek is to the Mukurti Peak, but it requires a bit more effort, since it is around 20 kilometres away from the city centre. You would also need to acquire prior permission to access the peak and its forests. Untouched by the masses yet, the beauty of the peak and its jungles is incomparable. Despite being a known destination, Ooty still has some parts of it that remains off the radar from the tourists. It's up to you to discover such parts and you can decide whether you'd keep it to yourself or not.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Botanical Gardens, Pykara Lake, Upper Bhavani Lake, Emerald Lake, Avalanche Lake, Ooty Lake, Shooting Point and Mukurti Peak
    Ooty Botanical Gardens (Image from Challiyan)

    8. Madikeri (Karnataka) - Combining both aspects of simplicity and beauty is the hill station of Madikeri in Karnataka. At first glance, the small hill station seems a bit bland, but then spend a few hours and it would grow on you. It isn't vibrant or filled with activity, yet it still exudes a certain charm to it. Perhaps it's that mixture of both heritage and nature that abounds in Madikeri. Where something like an ancient fort coexists with jungles and waterfalls, that is the upside of this hill station. For the heritage buffs, the Madikeri Fort stands at the middle of the city. Founded by Mudduraja in the 17th century, the famous Tipu Sultan also lent his architectural prowess in the fort. The old walls of the fort still remains but much of the inner structures have been converted into government offices. You can, however, visit the in-house museum which showcases some ancient royal weaponries and artefacts. Then there's the Raja's Seat, just a simple throne surrounded by a garden, which was where the previous royal rulers of Madikeri used to spend their leisurely time in. Also worth visiting is the Gaddige Tombs, the mausoleums of the royal Kodava rulers of Madikeri. If you're visiting during the monsoon, make sure you spend some time in the waterfalls of the hill station, like the Abbey Waterfalls and Chelavara Waterfalls. For the adventure seekers, treks to the highest peaks of Madikeri like Mandalpatti and Tadiandamol can be very challenging but rewarding. Truly, Madikeri is not your usual hill station, it isn't always bustling with activity but one thing's for sure, its serenity fills the air.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Madikeri Fort, Raja's Seat, Gaddige Tombs, Abbey Waterfalls, Chelavara Waterfalls, Mandalpatti and Tadiandamol
    9. Darjeeling (West Bengal) - Darjeeling is famous for two things mainly, first for its delicious Darjeeling tea and second for its breathtaking view of the Kanchenjunga mountain. Combined, these two can make for a serene yet memorable vacation in Darjeeling. But that's not all, Darjeeling also offers tea estate views, religious circuits and some adventure activities to complete your trip. A sunrise at the Tiger Hill can give you that much-awaited glimpse of the different hues of the sun just behind the different mountains of Kanchenjunga and the Himalayas. Don't be surprised if the view point gets crowded because this is Darjeeling's most popular attraction. It's also a sin not to ride the Darjeeling Toy Train when in the hill station. While doing so, you'd be crossing the Batasia Loop, which is an engineering marvel of a spiral track, located between the Ghum and Darjeeling itself. Also worth visiting is the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, though visitor access is restricted at times. It is a fairly small monastery where monks reside and you can get a glimpse of the Tibetan culture. Other spiritual sites worth visiting in Darjeeling are the Dali Monastery and Japanese Peace Pagoda. Want to enjoy an aerial view of Darjeeling? Then venture into the Passenger Ropeway of Darjeeling, believed to be the largest and highest of its kind in Asia. It is the only place in the hill station where you can be closer to the clouds.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Tiger Hill, Darjeeling Toy Train, Batasia Loop, Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Dali Monastery, Japanese Peace Pagoda and Passenger Ropeway
    Tiger Hill in Darjeeling (Image from Aranya)

    10. Mahabaleshwar (Maharashtra) - Yummy, yummy strawberries... Do you know where they are cultivated in India? Well, that is none other than Mahabaleshwar, this hill station accounts for 85% of the strawberries produced in the country. But aside from this delicious fact, Mahabaleshwar's location, in the Sahyadri mountain ranges, means that it has lush jungle terrains as well. But it doesn't end there, this hill station is also home to various religious sites, heritage sites and natural attractions. The Panch Ganga Temple is probably the most popular and frequented temple here. This temple was built to maintain the sanctity and pureness of the origin of the seven rivers of Krishna, Koyana, Venna, Gayatri, Savitri, Bhagirathi and Saraswati, located just close by the temple. The latter two only appear every few years while the former five appear continuously all throughout the year. There are two more temples located within the temple premises, the Krishna Devi Temple and Mahabaleshwar Temple. A bit further from the hill station is the Pratapgarh Fort, approachable by a steep climb of about 450 steps. This fortress was built by Maharaja Shivaji and it is also the place where the ruler won his first war against Afzal Khan. Quite in contrast is the Morarji Castle, built during the colonial British rule in the region. It exudes an old-world charm that you just won't be able to find elsewhere in Mahabaleshwar. The Venna Lake is also worth a visit, especially if you love boating activities. Other natural attractions like Lingmala Waterfalls and Dhobi Waterfalls can also be visited as they're near to the hill station. Finally, around Mahabaleshwar, there are various view points like the Arthur's Seat, Elphinstone Point, Wilson Point and Mumbai Point that provide scenic valley and mountain views. Don't forget to take a peek into the Mapro Garden and buy some strawberry goodies to take home.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Panch Ganga Temple, Krishna Devi Temple, Mahabaleshwar Temple, Pratapgarh Fort, Morarji Castle, Venna Lake, Lingmala Waterfalls, Dhobi Waterfalls, Arthur's Seat, Elphinstone Point, Wilson Point, Mumbai Point and Mapro Garden

    So there you have it, some of the best hill stations for each state of India. It can be quite difficult to choose just ten out of the hundreds of hill stations in the country. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference, some prefer the more commercial hill stations while others would rather find off the beaten track ones. This list only highlighted the most popular hill stations in India, the ones that have complete tourist facilities and are quite organised already when it comes to the tourism sector. I hope this helps you, have fun and enjoy your travels around India.