April, May and June are the hot and sticky months that lead up to monsoon season in India– but don’t let the soaring temperatures put you off visiting. Hill stations were established by the British Raj so that in summer the entire government – and fashionable society with them – would retreat to the cool mountains to continue the business of managing the Indian subcontinent.
Today these colonial retreats have burgeoned into towns and regions that are at their liveliest in summer, packed with honeymooning couples and Indian families enjoying the vistas of misty hills and lush green tea plantations. Read on for our take on the best hill stations in India – if you fancy making the trip yourself, check out Wego's latest prices for flights and hotel deals.
To follow in colonial footsteps: Shimla
Many of India’s hill stations were established by the colonial British as retreats from the summer heat of the plains. Shimla “Queen of the Hills” was the summer capital of the Raj and its architecture is a love-letter to England – particularly iconic are the pale-yellow Christ Church and the imposing Viceregal Lodge where India’s Independence was planned. In the early evening, everyone promenades with ice-cream and balloons on the pedestrianised Mall.
To embrace your inner hippy: Rishikesh
The icy waters of the sacred Ganges River flows through Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills. Brought to the attention of the West in the 1960s when the Beatles came to stay at an ashram here, today the place has a serious spiritual bent. Self-styled as the “yoga capital of the world” there are more meditation and yoga classes – and silent retreats – than you can shake a stick at. Plus the sunsets are phenomenal.
To sip tea: Munnar
A lush green paradise in the Western Ghats of Kerala (a state otherwise known as God’s Own Country), Munnar is the tea growing capital of South India. Visiting one of the vast tea estates high up in the rolling hills gives an insider perspective to the process of tea cultivation – not to mention stunning views for miles around. Just outside of Munnar, the Tata Tea Museum exhibits historic machinery (tea has been growing on these slopes since the 1880s) and the shop sells every variety of tea to take home.
To spot wildlife: Wayanad
Not a typical hill station, Wayanad is a remote district spread out over thickly forested slopes. While it has towns to stay in (Kalpetta, Mananthavady and Sultan Bathery are the main centres), it’s far better to choose accommodation deep in the mountains surrounded by rice paddies and spice gardens. At dawn and dusk, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary – part of the UNESCO Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve – is alive with wildlife and you’re bound to spot elephants, deer and gaur. Tigers are more elusive.
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