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Travel Bucket List: India's Breathtaking Hill Stations

Eat, pray and love in these lovely spots that are a picture of sublime tranquillity and mysticism.

Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Do you find yourself relating to these four words more than you would like to? If you do, it’s time for you to take a much-needed break. In fact, going backpacking to a hill station may invoke a sense of peace that you probably haven’t felt in a while. And what better place to feel this sense of satisfaction than India? If you are wondering why we are suggesting you go from one tropical country to another, it’s because the Indian landscape is one of the most diverse. It has deserts, beaches, and of course, hill stations. Some of these hill stations are nestled among the beautiful greenery of the Western and Eastern Ghats, while others dot the foothills of the Himalayas. From cool crisp air and greenery to unexplored terrains, hill stations are a perfect summer retreat.

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Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir
Around 52km from Srinagar, lies Gulmarg, or the meadow of flowers. The hill station is a popular spot for those who love winter sports, since the temperature during the peak of winter goes as low as -14˚ Celsius. But what makes this hill station so well-loved is the fact that it is also a great place for those who are looking for a respite from the heat of the summer months. Between May and August, the temperature averages a pleasant 21˚ Celsius. At Gulmarg, you can ride the second highest cable car in the world, tee-off at a golf course situated around 2,650m above sea level, relax by the pristine waters of the Alpather lake, and more. No wonder this hill station was where kings and emperors of yore built their summer homes.   How to get there: Get to Srinagar airport from Delhi. From Srinagar, Gulmarg is an approximate two-hour drive. There are also several bus services that will take you to Gulmarg. Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh
A great place to go hiking, Ziro Valley is home to the Apatani tribe. This tribe has, over centuries, perfected the coexistence of man and nature. As a result, an untouched aura surrounds this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from its rich culture and lush greenery, Ziro is a popular destination for music lovers thanks to the Ziro Music Festival. The festival provides independent artists from all over the world a platform for their art. Hosted by the Apatani people, the music festival is one you shouldn’t miss if you plan to visit Ziro Valley in September. Note: since Arunachal Pradesh is a protected area, you will have to obtain a Protected Area Permit (PAP). The fee is around S$30 for a permit and is valid only for the route that you specify.   How to get there: The closest airports are in Tezpur and Likabali in Assam. From Likabali it is a six-and-a-half-hour journey to Ziro Valley, while it takes around eight hours to get there from Tezpur. Kausani, Uttarakhand
Lesser known among the several hill stations in Uttarakhand, Kausani is a great place for those who want to do nothing but relax in the lap of nature. The hill station is great for those who want to go trekking, especially if you are a beginner, since the terrain isn’t too difficult to navigate. In fact, we recommend you trek to the Rudradhari Waterfall and then explore the caves nearby. You can also soak in some history by visiting the Bajinath Temple which was built in 1204 A.D. and the Anashakti Ashram – the guesthouse where Mahatma Gandhi stayed when he visited Kausani. All of this while enjoying awe-inspiring views of the Himalayan peaks Nanda Devi, Panchchuli, and Trishul.   How to get there: Kausani is well connected by air, road, and rail. You can take a flight to Pantnagar and take a cab from there to Kausani. Alternatively, you can take a train to the closest railway station, Kathgodam. There are plenty of taxis and buses available there to get you to Kausani. Matheran, Maharashtra
Blessed with lush greenery, dense forests, and fresh air, Matheran is a hill station where hand-pulled carts and horses are the main modes of transport because vehicles are not allowed here. That’s right, not even bicycles are allowed in Matheran. Head to Panorama Point to view a beautiful sunrise and Porcupine Point to view spectacular sunsets. And you get to explore all of these places on horseback. How fun.   How to get there: Getting to Matheran is sure to make the child in you jump in glee. You can get there on a toy train! The train zig-zags its way for 20km from Neral to Matheran. You can get to Neral from Mumbai via train or by road. Keep in mind, though, the train is a small one and has the capacity for only 100 passengers. Thekkady, Kerala
If you love wildlife, then a trip to the hill station of Thekkady is a must. The hill station houses the Periyar Tiger Reserve, which is home to an estimated 40 tigers. Also, calling the reserve home are elephants, the Malabar Squirrel, and around 266 species of birds. Apart from sighting these magnificent creatures, you can go on a boat ride along the Periyar river, become a jungle guard for a night (with forest authorities accompanying you, of course), and visit tea factories around town. While you may be apprehensive to visit Thekkady because of it being affected by floods in August 2018, there is no need to worry since the region has recovered beautifully. In October 2018, they reopened their doors to tourists.   How to get there: The closest airport to Thekkady is Madurai in Tamil Nadu. From there you can take a cab. Alternatively, the nearest railway station to Thekkady is in Kottayam. From there, you can take a cab or a bus to get to Thekkady. You can also take a bus from Kochi or Thiruvananthapuram. Kodagu (Coorg), Karnataka
Expansive coffee plantations, orange groves, the hint of pepper and cardamom in the air, and the sound of waterfalls and streams makes Kodagu (the erstwhile Coorg) a great place to unwind. Known as the Scotland of India, there is something for every type of traveller here. If adventure is what you seek, you can go on a trek or go white water rafting. If heritage and history are what you are looking for, visit the Namdroling Monastery. You can even spend the night at the Tibetan settlement around the monastery, but you will require a PAP since the settlement is a protected area. And if you are looking to understand the traditions of the people of Kodagu, make friends with the locals and ask them if they can take you along for a wedding. You will get to witness customs such as using a sword to slash banana stems, and indulge your taste buds in some great food.   How to get there: The closest airports to Kodagu are Bangalore and Mangalore, from where you will have to travel by road. You could also take a train to Mysore and take a bus or a taxi from there.