14 of India’s most loved hill stations

There’s nothing like a cool getaway to the mountains in the heat of the summer. Here’s Conde Nast Traveller’s pick of the country’s favourite, most charming escapes. 


Staring out of the window at an endless expanse of tea plantations, against a backdrop of the majestic Mount Kanchenjunga, makes the Darjeeling Himalayan toy-train journey an unmissable experience. An uphill ride from New Jalpaiguri town, at 228ft above sea level, to Darjeeling, at 2,200ft, it covers a distance of 80km in roughly six hours. The train is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the scenic route it takes has been the setting for several Bollywood films such as Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai and, most recently, Barfi!

Where to stay: For the quintessential Darjeeling experience, book a room at the Glenburn Tea Estate & Boutique Hotel. This heritage property has two colonial-style bungalows with attached verandahs and gardens. Doubles from Rs6,000  

Getting around It takes about two hours to reach Darjeeling from Bagdogra Airport. Cabs are available to hire at the airport for approximately Rs2,000, each way.


This idyllic spot in the Nilgiri Hills, covered in tea estates, is far prettier than its neighbour, Ooty. And it now offers a range of sophisticated accommodation and dining options. Try the fresh organic food served at La Belle Vie at 180° McIver hotel, and artisanal cheese at Acres Wild. The ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway’s quaint toy train (which still partly runs on steam locomotives), from Coonoor to Ooty, covers the region’s most scenic spots, such as the cantonment area of Wellington and the woody region of Lovedale.

Where to stay: Go for film director-turned-cheese maker Mansoor Khan’s farmstay, Acres Wild. The cottages overlook a 22-acre farm, where Jersey cows and goats roam freely. Doubles from Rs3,000  

Getting around: Fly into Coimbatore Airport, from where Coonoor is a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Rent a car from Star Cabs (094870 28381; from Rs1,500 each way).


The Meghalaya capital, set amid the Khasi Hills, has a dynamic music scene. The duo behind the country’s favourite Blues band, Soulmate, comes from these parts. “Everyone living here knows how to play the guitar; their exposure to music runs deep,” says Uday Benegal, lead singer of Indus Creed, who has spent days on end in the area. The best time to visit this hip town is either during the Bob Dylan Tribute By Lou Majaw & Friends, in May, or during the Autumn Festival, in November. Otherwise, places such as the Shillong School of Music (Spring Side Road), Cloud 9 at Hotel Centre Point (0364 222 0272) and Club Tango (Police Bazar) play great live music every day.

Where to stay: In one of the thatched huts of Ri Kynjai. Attached to a tea garden, they are set within paddy fields. Doubles from Rs6,500  

Getting around: Air India flies five times a week from Kolkata to Shillong. From here, there are black-and-yellow Maruti taxis to flag down. Cabs don’t have metres, so be sure to bargain hard.


Nothing compares to hitting the undulating, powder-soft slopes of this Himalayan resort, where visitors can ski at a fraction of the price they pay elsewhere in the world. With improved infrastructure and a gorgeous new hotel, it’s easy to see how Gulmarg has emerged as a top destination for adventurers. Rent ski gear fromKashmir Alpine Adventures (from Rs2,500 per day). First-timers should look up courses offered by the Indian Institute of Skiing & Mountaineering (from Rs5,000).

Where to stay: The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa for its sweeping mountain views. Doubles from Rs12,800

Getting around: Gulmarg is a two-hour drive from Srinagar. Rent a car with Shah Travels (from Rs2,500 each way), whose drivers can also double up as guides.


Experienced and novice paragliders come to this spot in the Dhauladhar mountains, in Himachal Pradesh, to soar among the clouds at almost 11,500ft. It’s a great place to learn by first flying tandem with a skilled instructor. After taking off from the ridge, the scenery comprises snow-capped peaks, expansive tea gardens and Tibetan monasteries glistening in the distance. Certified courses, tandem flights and equipment can be arranged by PG-Gurukul (from Rs2,000 per flight) paragliding school.

Where to stay: Colonel’s Resort, close to the gliding spot. Doubles from Rs2,500 

Getting around The drive from Bir-Billing to Chandigarh takes five hours. Hire a car from Clear Car Rentalagency (from Rs4,200 each way).


Yes, it’s great for yoga and all things holistic, but this town, in the foothills of Uttarakhand’s Garhwal Himalayas, is also a world-class destination for river-rafting. The mighty Ganga, which flows through Rishikesh, offers Grade III and IV rapids—check River Rafting in Rishikesh (from Rs1,600).
The stretch from Shivpuri to Ram Jhula has the biggest ones, namely the Roller Coaster and Double Trouble.

Where to stay: Atali Ganga, set in a forest reserve, appoints ‘activity officers’ to take care of all your adventurer needs. Doubles from Rs11,000

Getting around: It takes half an hour to drive from Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport; cabs are available to rent at the airport. If you’re driving from New Delhi, five hours away by road, book a cab online at GetMeCab from Rs4,100 each way).

Relocating to a India is a great way to experience all these wonders. Resettle into your new home and start making your summer travel plans!

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