Cool off this summer with our guide to the best India hill station retreats.
Summer is here and the sweltering heat is taking its toll. It’s time to leave the hot and humid cities behind and escape to the hills. Pleasant temperatures, verdant landscapes and – most importantly – a cool ambience await you at India’s gorgeous hill stations. Wayanad, Chikmagalur, Shimla, Manali… there is no shortage of hilly paradises to chill out in.
Pack your bags: here’s our handpicked collection of the best India hill station retreats.
Chikmagalur: Lush hills and sparkling falls
One of Southern India’s prime hill stations, Chikmagalur is popularly known as the ‘Coffee Land of Karnataka’. Nestled in the lush Western Ghats, Chikmagalur is a preferred and convenient weekend escape from Bengaluru (a six-hour drive).
In the local language, the name ‘Chikmagalur’ translates to ‘young daughter’s town’; years ago, this tranquil town was gifted as a dowry for the younger daughter of the local chief. Set against the backdrop of the Mullayanagiri Range, the town is filled with plenty of natural attractions. Trekkers particularly love Chikmagalur for its epic mountains such as Kudremukh, Mullayanagiri and Kemmangundi. To cool off, take a refreshing dip in the region’s sparkling waterfalls: Hebbe, Manikyadhara, Kalhatti andJhari are among the most popular. Your trip would be incomplete without a visit to the Coffee Museum, where you can learn everything about coffee production and enjoy a refreshing cuppa.
Where to stay: Siri Nature Roost
Wayanad: The pride of the Western Ghats
Welcome to a green paradise hidden within the exotic foliage of the Western Ghats in North Kerala. Wayanad is a tantalising combination of lush forests, beautiful plantations, verdant valleys, shimmering waterfalls and famous wildlife reserves. Easily accessible from Bengaluru and Mysuru (a six-hour drive and a 2.5-hour drive respectively), Wayanad is a serene escape boasting a salubrious climate throughout the year.
Make your way through the aromatic spice, tea and coffee plantations, which also make for amazing picture backdrops. Wildlife enthusiasts can try their luck spotting elephants, tigers, leopards and more at Muthanga Wildlife Safari park, while nature lovers can attempt scaling the splendid Chembra Peak. Plus, you can fill your days with visits to Meenmutty Falls, Kuruva Island, Edakkal Caves and Banasura Hill.
Where to stay: The Windflower Resort & Spa Vythiri
Lonavala: A tranquil paradise
Typically a monsoon destination, Lonavala is popular with travellers from Mumbai and Pune (less than two hours) during summer thanks to its altitude and the spectacular Sahyadri Range. A cool and calm hill station situated away from the hectic metropolises, Lonavala is just the perfect place to take a break from the heat.
Popularly known as the ‘City of Caves’, this hill station is brimming with ancient rock-cut wonders, each more beautiful than the next: Karla Caves, Bhaja Caves, Bedse Caves, to name just a few. If you like to take it slow, park yourself at any of the innumerable viewpoints scattered throughout this hilly town: every spot is guaranteed to reward you with panoramas of the stunning Sahyadris. Chill by the shimmering lakes of Pawna, Aamby Valley and Lonavala and enjoy some quiet moments by yourself.
Where to stay: Rhythm Lonavala
Kufri: Snow-capped mountains
Nothing says ‘summer escape’ like a trip to a destination garlanded by snow-covered mountains, does it? Kufri is a resort hill station shadowed by the Himalayan foothills, just 20 kilometres from touristy Shimla.
Perched at an altitude of 2,510 metres above sea level, Kufri is popular with ski enthusiasts in the winter. In the summer, this quaint hilly paradise is perfect for hikers, trekkers and wildlife lovers. Get your adrenaline pumping with a trek to the highest point in Kufri — Mahasu Peak. Once at the top, marvel at out-of-this-world views of surrounding towns Badrinath and Kedarnath. Take an exotic turn and find yourself in the Great Himalayan National Park, a biodiverse bubble of exotic flora and fauna.
Where to stay: Radisson Kufri
Leh-Ladakh: Otherworldly landscapes
A true-blue Himalayan land, Leh-Ladakh is an other
–worldly destination. The rugged landscapes, rich heritage and culture, mystical monasteries and enchanting rivers make this region one of the best summer destinations in the country.
Take amazing snapshots with the backdrop of desert mountains, walk across the alien-like valleys and enjoy close encounters with rare wildlife. Khardung La Pass is probably one of the most iconic attractions of the region and rightfully so – as the highest motorable pass in the world, it’s a firm favourite with bikers. Don’t forget to discover Leh Palace, feel inner peace at Hemis Monastery and have fun at Magnetic Hill. You’ll also find snow leopards waiting for you at Hemis Wildlife Sanctuary.
Where to stay: Panah – The Earthern Retreat