Camping in a mountain valley could be an apt way to spend your summer holiday. (Stock photo)

Skip Manali, pick these hill stations for your annual summer break

To get away from the maddening crowds in popular holiday destinations, head to lesser known hill stations in Tamil Nadu, Arunachal, Sikkim

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

The hills beckon Indians eager for their summer break. Cooling down in Shimla, Manali or Mussoorie will be clichéd though, for there are other hill stations that are beautiful and less crowded.

Summer holiday for Indians means discovering a place where they can hang out with friends and family in nice weather. “We have seen a steady increase in preference for destinations such as Jibhi (in Himachal Pradesh), Mukteshwar (Uttarakhand), Tirthan (in Himachal),” says Saujanya Shrivastava, chief operating officer of flights, holidays & Gulf Cooperation Council at MakeMyTrip, the travel and ticketing website.

A summer break gives travellers the chance to discover destinations and create memories with friends, family or solo. “Some favorite trends (in travel) include road trips and staycations wherein they are looking at accommodation options ranging from luxury to mid-segment hotels. …travellers are additionally looking at resorts to get a chance of replenishing their body and mind. On an average, the length of stay is around 3-5 days which inculcates activities within and outside the property as well,” says a spokesperson for the Radisson Hotel Group.

Not the beaten track

Anuj Modi, a 40 year old businessman in South Delhi, says he avoids “jam-packed” hill places like Nainital and Shimla for his summer break. “It is nearly impossible to explore the place with a herd of people walking around you. While traveling to the Himalayas if you need some solace, try visiting the less travelled routes and explore the rural areas. Try interacting with the locals and put your feet in their shoes for better understanding of the area. I am sure you will love this experience.”

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Krishna Rathi, country director for India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives at Agoda, the online travel agency, recommends Khajjar (in Himachal Pradesh) and Chopta (Uttarakhand) for summer breaks. The two places are distinct and fit within the key motivators to travel in 2023, according to Agoda’s survey.

The survey found that Indians travel for family, adventure and wellness and their budget is up to Rs 45,000. “Did you know that domestic travel keeps growing even now international travel is back. There is so much to discover here in India, and I’m excited to see travellers venturing off-the-beaten-path, to lesser-known destinations,” says Rathi.

Tamil Nadu, Kashmir, Uttranchal and Arunachal Pradesh have unspoiled hill stations, says Rajeev Kale, president & country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited.

“Take the case of Tamil Nadu. The picturesque hill station of Yercaud is famous for its scenery, fruit plantations, coffee and host of other things. Travellers can visit the deer park, the horticulture farm, the silk farm; take a trip to the rose garden; enjoy outdoor and adventure activities like boating, ziplining, trekking,” he says.

Yelagiri, another hill station in Tamil Nadu, has orchards, rose gardens, a lake, and a green valley where people can trek and camp. The Tamil Nadu Tourism Department holds an annual summer festival in Yelagiri to showcase India’s culture.

Valparai, a hill station in Tamil Nadu part of Western Ghats, is famous for its waterfalls and green meadows. Travellers can visit the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, trek in the Anamalai Hills and go on bicycle rides in tea and coffee estates, says Kale.

Up north, Uttarakhand has Kausani in the Himalayas. The hill station of waterfalls, tea gardens and pear orchards sits amidst pine trees and overlooks the valleys of Someshwar, Garur and Baijnath Katyuri. Travellers to Kausani can go for treks to SunderDhunga, Pindari glacier, and Milam glacier.

Bomdila, in Arunachal Pradesh’s Eastern Himalayan ranges, is a summer retreat known for its natural beauty and apple orchards. Travellers can visit the Dirang Valley, Buddhist monasteries, the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary, the Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kameng Elephant Reserve. The best way to reach the destination is by taking a flight directly to Tezpur airport followed by a car or bus ride to Bomdila.

Gurez Valley in Kashmir is at an altitude of 8,000 feet and it is some 120 km north of Srinagar. The valley is surrounded by the Himalayas and has the Kishanganga River that merges into the Jhelum. Tourists can hire a cab from Srinagar airport to Gurez where the start attraction is the Habba Khatoon mountain peak. Gurez is ideal for camping, rock climbing, or fishing.

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Dakshum, in Kashmir, is surrounded by the snow-covered Pir Panjal mountain range. It has verdant coniferous forests, nomadic shepherd cottages, grassy meadows and the Bhringi River. It is ideal for trekking and fishing enthusiasts.

Pangi, situated 3,400 metres above sea level, is Himachal Pradesh’s hidden gem. Travellers can go hiking, trekking, rock climbing and explore waterfalls. They can go to Hillu and Twan, a pair of remote Buddhist villages.

Munsiyari, in Uttarakhand, has snow-capped peaks of the Panchachuli Mountain and forests. It is a destination for skiing and trekking to view the Snow Leopard in winter.

Dharamkot, in Himachal Pradesh, is tucked away from the din of Dharamshala, the headquarters of the Tibet government in exile. Travellers to its famous meditation centres can live in quaint village homes or guesthouses.

Pelling, in Sikkim, sits in the shadow of Kanchenjunga Mountain and has waterfalls, historical ruins and natural parts.

“India is home to some of the most scenic wonders yet to be discovered. We are now seeing high interest in offbeat destinations from customers across age groups,” says Daniel D’Souza, president & country head–holidays, SOTC Travel,

Travel abroad

International summer travel has grown 200-400% year-on-year depending on destination, says the MakeMyTrip spokesperson.

“Travellers in search of offbeat cold destinations could consider Nami Island (South Korea); Hokkaido and Nagano in Japan. Those looking for an adrenaline boost could consider Ljubljana, Vogel (Slovenia) to indulge in an avalanche workshop, scaling frozen waterfalls, snowboarding, cross-country skiing; and Lapland (Finland) to float in a frozen lake, reindeer safaris while staying in an ice hotel or sleeping under the stars in a glass igloo,” says Shrivastava of MakeMyTrip.

Travel cost in an offbeat destination this summer.

Hill station Approximate cost for 5-day holidays
Yercaud, Tamil Nadu Between Rs 12,000 and Rs 22,000 per person on twin-sharing basis
Yelagiri, Tamil Nadu Between Rs 12,000 and Rs 22,000 per person on twin-sharing
Kausani Hill Station, Uttarakhand Between Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000 per person on twin-sharing
Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh Between Rs 15,000 and Rs 30,000 per person on twin-sharing
Gurez Valley, Kashmir Between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 depending on accommodation/food
Dakshum, Kashmir Between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 depending on accommodation/food
Pangi, Himachal Pradesh Rs 30,000 depending on choice of accommodation/food
Pelling, Sikkim Between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 depending on accommodation/food
Munsiyari, Uttarakhand Between Rs 20,000 and Rs 25,000 depending on accommodation/food
Dharamkot, Mcleodganj, Himachal Between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 depending on accommodation/food

Source: Thomas Cook and SOTC

Source: Business Standard

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