Sometimes seclusion or a hike in the mountains and valleys works wonders for a troubled, fatigued soul. Though I was neither troubled, nor fatigued, my retreat to these hill stations was indeed wondrous.
Travel works magic on a person’s mind and by traveling, you can discover a different side of yourself. My quest with travel has been no different. It has helped me more fully discover myself. While exploring the country, I have been exposed to various cultures, traditions, cuisine, and people I would have never interacted with otherwise. Of all my tours, the most pleasant people I have come across were from the hill stations. Their lives are as sober as priests, but their genial smiles, welcoming homes, and the untouched surroundings they live in, can charm anybody.
Here are the seven most beautiful hill stations in India. While I believe they are a must-see, they are also the places I felt spiritually guided to visit. (Guest post by Himanshu Agarwal)
The best place to visit with family or friends for a nice holiday is Khandala, in the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. It is truly one of the most beautiful hill stations! There are many trains from major cities to the Khandala Railway Station, which is well connected by road to other cities. You can visit Khandala during summers, monsoons, or during the end of the year.
I visited Khandala during the summer. To my surprise, it was the year when monsoon winds paid an early visit and I got a chance to witness the beauty of this hill station at its best. As it turns out, monsoon season is the best time to visit Khandala. Though I had to resort to a raincoat and umbrella to be able to explore the town, the entire visit was blissful!
There are plenty of places to visit in Khandala in addition to many cottages and reasonably priced hotels for your stay. The Visapur Fort, which is located to the east of Lohagad Fort, is a majestic, strong and intricately designed structure. Lonavala Lake, located just a couple of kilometers from the city, is a place best visited during monsoon season, which gives it the name Monsoon Lake; it forms a perfect picnic place. Tiger’s Leap, Duke’s Nose and Bhushi Lake are a few other places worth visiting.
A true garden, evergreen city and hill station, Mahabaleshwar is located in the Western Ghats Range in Maharashtra. Unlike most other cities, this spins a more natural, simplistic and panoramic tale. Pune is the most conveniently accessible railway station and is very well connected to other cities, and many taxis and buses ply from Pune to Mahabaleshwar. The best time to visit would be March to June, when the weather is pleasant despite the relatively high temperature of the state.
I visited Mahabaleshwar as a weekend getaway when I was in Pune. Mahabaleshwar infuses magic in every moment one lives there with breathtaking hills and valleys and pleasant zephyr. While sight-seeing, I came across Monkey Point, famous for the portrayal of Gandhiji’s three monkeys, a nice little stop on the way to Arthur’s seat, another little viewpoint, with a rather sad anecdote associated with it. Krishnabai Temple, Kate’s Point and Pratapgarh are a few other places I visited in Mahabaleshwar, which made it a spiritual retreat for me.
3. Nandi Hills
Also known as Nandidurg, Nandi Hills are the sunrise hills of Karnataka, one of the hill stations located in Chikkaballapura. You have to travel a distance of about 42 kilometers from Bengaluru or hit the road for a beautiful long drive. Nandi Hills has a pleasant climate year round. You can go anytime without worrying about scorching heat, terrible rains or biting cold!
One must make it a point to visit the Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple in Nandi Village; it has an antediluvian appearance and beautiful carvings, plus two temple complexes and a Kalyani. Tipu’s Drop, which is at an elevation of 600m, is a beautiful viewpoint for the various hill ranges and the Yoganandeeshwara Temple. Secret Escape Route, Nehru Nilaya and adventures such as paragliding, cycling and biking are a rage. I wish to plan a visit to these hills soon.
4. Kodaikanal, Princess of Hill Stations
Known as the “Princess of Hill Stations”, Kodaikanal is located in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu and is a pleasant, cool place with lush greenery. The nearest airport is at Madurai; there are trains from Kengeri and Krishnarajapuram to Kodaikanal Road and buses ply regularly from nearby cities such as Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai.
The weather is pleasant year round but summers are the best time to appreciate and revel in the beautiful climate. The Kodaikanal Lake is a manmade lake, and it has a lot of options for tourists. There are boathouses, boat clubs and flower shows — and you can make a day trip from Tamil Nadu.
I didn’t lose the opportunity to be at this alluring hill station, when invited to lead an excursion at Kodaikanal Solar Observatory owned by IIAP. While in the observatory, we were left marveling at the beauty of the celestial world and it was an amazing learning experience; it is located on the southern tip of the Palni Hills. You will find that Bear Shola Falls and Berijam Lake are also worth visiting.
5. Araku Valley
I boarded a train to Araku Valley, which turned out to be a good decision, because as the train from Kothavasala-Kirandul railway line left the station, I prayed the journey would never end. I sat wondering…if a train journey could leave one so spell-bound, what would the destination have to offer? After I reached these hills, donned in clouds, it was no less than divine to have pristine skies above my head and lush green fields as far as I could see.
There are gardens and Ghat roads whose scenic beauty can be relished from the top of Araku Valley. It is a perfect backdrop for photography and a sought-after destination for shooting films. The Tribal Museum and Coffee Plantation, on the way to Araku and Borra Caves, are a few places which I would recommend you visit at least once in lifetime.
Araku valley is a hill station in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The nearest airport is the Vizag Airport and the nearest railway station is the Araku Railway Station, by road: the nearest bus station is Araku bus station from where buses regularly ply to Araku Valley. The best time to visit would be after the monsoon season when the different hues of nature converge in the valley!
6. Mount Abu
Probably the only hill station in Rajasthan in the Aravalli Range and the state’s summer capital, Mount Abu is a separate cosmos within Rajasthan. Udaipur is the closest airport, and Abu Road is the nearest railway station. It is well connected to other cities such as Ahmedabad, Delhi and Mumbai. Many buses travel regularly from other cities to Mount Abu or to Abu Road where taxis can be hired.
I am a Rajasthani myself, so it wasn’t an option to not have visited Mt. Abu. Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, the detailed carvings of the Dilwara Temples, Durga Temple and Achalgarh Fort are the most famous destinations. But you should not miss out on evening views from Guru Shikhar, Sunset Point or Nakki Lake. The people who live in the city are indeed blessed to live in the hills of Rajasthan. Summer is the best time to visit Mount Abu, and its proximity to Gujarat is an added bonus as there are many artifacts, handlooms and other interesting items to shop for.
I added Mirik to my bucket list after a friend described it to me. Mirik is a small hill town nestled within Darjeeling. The nearest airport is Darjeeling Airport, in Bagdogra, and the Jalpaiguri railway station is the closest.
Although winters are pretty cold, the temperature year round doesn’t exceed 30 degrees. Deosi Dara, which is a small hilltop, is an amazing viewpoint for all the hills and mountain ranges. The sunrise here is just breathtaking! The weather is salubrious and warm from March to June. Sumendu Lake is at the heart of Mirik and is a heaven for nature lovers and photographers; there are boating and horse riding activities for tourist recreation. In addition, Rameetay Dara, tea plantations, and Debisthan are a few places you should visit.
What took me by surprise was that the people who live at the hill stations have it rough. It is not a bit luxurious, yet they are envied by visitors because of the tranquility they enjoy. You will certainly discover aspects of divinely-created nature and human nature here, too.
Have you visited any of India’s hill stations? What did you like best?
Author Himanshu Agarwal is very particular when it comes to the importance of travel. Despite his busy schedule, he makes it a point to take time off and set foot on paths unexplored. As a contributor to Pearls India Tour, he tries to get the word out about some of the hidden beautiful places in our country that one must visit.
If you’d like to read another of Himanchu’s guest posts, click here to read about the Five Most Popular Forts of Rajasthan.
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