There are numerous hill stations in India to choose from, but the selection becomes quite a challenge. Our aim is not to highlight the most visited hill stations in India, but the ones that are well-known yet not very crowded. The travel and tourism in North India is mostly about the Himalayas, offering everyone a chance to get spellbound by the grandeur of the peaks and picturesque landscape, which one cannot ignore. What could be a better way to beat the summer heat than to visit these offbeat yet picturesque hill stations?
It boasts of the highest cricket ground in the world and is located 44km from the more popular hill station, Shimla. Chail is a gorgeous mountain getaway placed in the lap of nature. With its lovely panoramic views and incredible landscape, Chail will provide you with the perfect weekend getaway if you are looking to get away from cramped places in the Himachal. Chail is at the height of natural beauty, in January and February, when it’s covered in a thick blanket of snow!
Located on the banks of river Lohawati in Uttarakhand, it is one of the most scenic destinations in the state. Dotted with pine forests, the hill station has natural beauty in abundance. What is fascinating about Lohaghat is it’s rich history and mythology that it narrates to travelers.
Owing to this, the hill station’s claim to fame has been its fascinating temples, Ashrams and historic structures. The most popular attractions include Advait Ashram, Mayawati Ashram, Mount Abbot, Banasur Fort and Pancheshwar.
Bhaderwah is a small town, in Doda district located 200 kms from Jammu. The town is a valley surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides with the most famous ones being The Padri Pass and Jai Valley. Because of its natural beauty, it is often called Mini Kashmir in this region. The valley is a kaleidoscope of nature’s colours and God’s creativity. Bhaderwah has attracted people from adjoining regions due to its peaceful atmosphere, pleasant climate and very hospitable people.
Apart from this Bhaderwah is also popular for their Rajmah. It is said that Bhaderwah produces the tastiest Rajmah in India! Such is the beauty of the place that it has earned the name of “Chota Kashmir”, literally “small Kashmir”. Read more about our experience in Bhaderwah here.
It is one of the most popular tourist locations near Udhampur and located on a plateau in the Shiwalik belt. It boasts of several stunningly beautiful meadows enclosed in thick forests of Deodar and Blue Pine trees, and provides for a relaxing holiday along with spots for picnics and breath-taking views of the Chenab river and the Pir Panjal range.
Madhatop, just 5 km away, is a great skiing destination and a must visit once you are there. Another lovely destination close by is Sanasar, about 17 km away and an upcoming paragliding hub. Sanasar is also a favorite amongst campers looking for green, clean and beautiful camping sites in Jammu region.
Munsiyari is a small yet beautiful hamlet located in Pithoragarh district and is dotted with the sights of snow-clad peaks. The drive gives you sights of immense and surreal beauty and that’s why it’s referred to as the ‘mini kashmir’ of Uttarakhand. While in Munsiari, don’t forget to cover Birthi Falls, Kalamuni Top, Thamri Kund and Madkot.
Referred to as the ‘Tea Capital’ of North India, Palampur was one of our favorite destinations during the Himalayan Roadtrip. Nestled in the Kangra valley, Palampur is dotted with tea estates, lush greenery and dhabas serving delicious himachali food! Strategically located, Palampur is in close proximity to Dharamsala, Bir-Billing, Masroor, Barot and Sungal tea estates.
While in Palampur, don’t forget to book your stay at Villa Tea Drops which is run by our close friend, Mr. Rakesh Butail, who also runs a tea estate located next to his villa!
PIN VALLEY (HP)
Sub-zero temperatures and frozen rivers make Pin Valley the only cold desert National Park located in Himachal Pradesh. The Indian government had set it up to protect rare and unique Himalayan nature. Pin Valley is famous for its shy yet popular inhabitant, the snow leopard, and its prey, the ibex. Surrounded by snow-covered mountain ranges, Pin Valley is snowed in for most of the year and makes for a challenging trekking destination.
Situated at an altitude that ranges between 3,300 and 6,632 meters, the valley is home to more than 25 species of animals and birds and birding enthusiasts throng the valley once it’s open to human presence!
ARU VALLEY (J&K)
Aru Valley, located just 12 kms from Pahalgam, overlooks the snow-capped peaks of Himalayan Range and is a pristine scenic village, native to pines and conifer forests. One of the smallest hill stations in the state, Aru Valley is an excellent choice for both leisure seekers and adventure travellers.
Aru is also famous for the settlements of the Gujjar, who make it their home during the summers and live in small brick/wooden houses located in the pretty meadows of the valley. A great spot for camping, Aru also has a couple of hotels and is a lovely spot for treks that go to Lidderwat, Tarsar, Kolohoi Peak and Marsar.
The Valley, popular for the amazing trek it offers, sits at an elevation of 6,000 metres and is home to a dense range of flora and fauna. The hot new destination in J&K, nestled in a remote corner of Ladakh, is one of the most enchanting places to visit in the Ladakh region. Located on the eastern corner of J&K state and separated from Ladakh by Zanskar mountain range, it is connected with Kargil by road and Darcha by a trekking route over Shingo La pass.
Covered in snow for over 7 months in a year, it’s inhabitants cross into the outside world by walking on the frozen Zanskar river; this is the Chadar trek as the urban travellers call it.
Located at an altitude of around 10,000ft among the dense woodlands of pine forests, Narkanda is a much revered and sought after travel destination in Himachal Pradesh. Surrounded by cute little hamlets, apple orchards and dense forest cover; Narkanda is blessed with natural beauty. Surrounded by the grand Shivalik Range, Narkanda is a beautiful city in Himachal Pradesh, situated around 65km away from Shimla on the Hindustan-Tibet Road.
Correctly referred to as “Skiing Resort of India”, this destination offers everything you need for a fun-filled vacation. With lush green forests and woodlands surrounding the city, you get the perfect view of the ranges from every corner of Narkanda. You can read more about this destination here.
Chhitkul is situated at an altitude of almost 3500 metres (around 11000 ft) and is the last publicly accessible village on the Indo Tibet border in this region. Dumti, a village post Chitkul can also be accessed but you need to take permits from the ITBP in Pooh, which is about 4 hours from here. Chitkul is 28 kms from Sangla; the narrow gravel roads have a drop on hundreds of feet and low hanging boulders as well, the drive is scary and not for the faint hearted as there are no guard rails on this route.
Make sure you don’t cross this stretch on a full stomach! All though the inclines are not much, the roads are dangerous due to sharp rocks protruding on one side and deep gorges on the other. You can read more about Chitkul here!
Famous for the heroics of the Indian Army, Kargil is located 8,780 feet and is the second largest town of Ladakh after Leh, situated on the banks of Indus (Suru) river. Unfortunately, Kargil is treated as a stop over to Leh and most of the people crossing this region don’t know that Kargil as a destination has lots to offer. From the monolithic Buddha statue of Chamba, Nunkun Peak, Batalik and the abandoned Hunderman village, the scenic city is surrounded by historical sites and beautiful valleys.
Chopta is like a slice of the paradise, one of those places that you readily give your heart to, with lofty mountain chains, velvety meadows, and awe-inspiring views. Tucked away in the Garhwal Himalayas, Chopta is a small valley that is located in Uttarakhand. The valley is a great place for adventure buffs and trekking enthusiasts, especially for a trek to the nearby region of Deoria Tal, which is surrounded by forests on all four sides! The entire region is a nature lovers paradise, and is a good place to relax, without the hustle and bustle of a typical tourist spot.
Not many people know about this place and that’s why it finds a mention here! Khati is the last inhabited village located on the Pindari Glacier Trek trail and is the beginning of some spectacular trekking destinations in the region. Kharkiya is the last road that leads to Khati and you need to start trekking from here.
What makes it a good holiday destination is because it is one of the most pristine, unexplored and virgin places to unwind and relax, especially in Uttarakhand where most of the hill stations are jam-packed with tourists. The only challenge is that there is no electricity in the Village and solar energy is the only source of power.
Overshadowed, by the more popular destinations Gulmarg and Sonmarg, Yusmarg is known for its long stretches of green pastures, picture perfect locales, springs of flowers and timeless beauty that is sure to captivate the hearts of its visitors. It has some of the highest peaks in Pir Panjal range including Tattakutti (4,725 m) and Sunset Peak (4,746m) giving skiing opportunities to adventure enthusiasts.
A perfect gateway to explore the beauty of the southern part of Kashmir Valley, Yusmarg can be reached in less than 2 hours from Srinagar City.
A beautiful scenic village, an unexplored destination in Ladakh and famous for its hot springs, Panamik is the last destination for tourists traveling across Nubra Valley. These hot water springs are enriched with Sulphur and a dip in these springs is believed to cure health ailments due to which it’s quite a popular site for locals from nearby villages.
The village sits on the bank of Nubra River making the place look even more attractive and apart from the hot springs, Panamik is also famous for its Pashmina goats and two humps camels. A drive from Hunder takes about 3 hours to Panamik.
This is one destination we missed out due to an issue with our permits and we highly regret it. Chushul is located in Durbok region of Ladakh and is one among the 6 villages in that region, lying in close proximity to the Chinese border. People travelling to Pangong Tso from Tso Moriri have to cross through Chushul valley. It is mostly a vast stretch of barren valley, road conditions are not that great and the region is sparsely inhabited. There are no petrol bunks there so do carry extra fuel and food during your visit to this village.
Auli is a highly underrated ski destination, surrounded by conifers and oak forests and is a perfect getaway in summer and winter seasons. Situated at an elevation of about 2500m, Auli transforms into a meadow during summer, whereas when the snow covers it in the winter season, Auli becomes the place for winter-sport enthusiasts. It is an upcoming skiing destination in India and is great when it comes to its gradient slopes. Auli also boasts of being home to the longest cable-car ride in Asia that stretches across 4 kms.
Sattal or Sat Tal is an interconnected group of seven freshwater lakes located near Bhimtal, a town of the Nainital district in Uttarakhand. It is about 23km from Nainital at an altitude of 1370m. If you are a nature freak, then this peaceful destination, is the best place outside of Delhi for a quick weekend getaway.
If the weather is conducive, you can also engage in adventure sports such as rappelling or trekking in the surrounding mountains. The lake also has a healthy population of carp and Rohu fish; however, fishing permits need to be obtained in advance.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and it cannot be truer than in the case of Thanadhar, a tiny hill station located just 15 kms from Narkanda. The trip to Thanadhar is full of colors as you cross bountiful apple orchards on your way! The birthplace of Apple farming in the north, it is here that you can see lush green trees swaying against the backdrop of the Hathu peak.
Get the list of our Top Hill Stations in South India, here!