- Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
- Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
- Pelling, Sikkim
- Haflong, Assam
- Yercaud, Tamil Nadu
- Kausani, Uttaranchal
- Idukki, Kerala
- Ponmudi, Kerala
1. Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh
Of the long list of hill stations in India, Tawang is still relatively unpopular with the regular tourist crowd, but one of the most visited in Arunachal Pradesh. At an altitude of over 10,000 feet, Tawang never tires of being described as tranquil and serene, along with other words that describe a place of extreme natural beauty.
With Tibet on one side and Bhutan on another, Tawang presents a beautiful Buddhist dominated cultural mix. The main attraction here is the Tawang monastery, said to be the biggest Buddhist monastery in the world outside of Lhasa.
Visitors to this quiet hill station can keep themselves busy rock climbing, paragliding and river rafting. There’s a ski lift in town for the months of December and January when it snows. But if you really want to take advantage of the place, sit back and enjoy the view – never-ending stretches of little flowers growing on a mountainous land, monks in orange robes going along their slow-paced life and nature bowling you over with its beauty!
Best time to visit Tawang:
Tawang is best visited during the summer months between March and October; and is one of the best places to visit in June in India. Avoid the monsoon months from July to September.
2. Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
Of the three Nilgiri hill stations, Coonoor is the quiet and secluded one. Known for production of Nilgiri tea, it is a perfect choice for a visit to a hill station and at the same time, ideal as a base camp for treks that lead into the Nilgiris. Located 1,850 metres above sea level, Coonoor is connected by the world famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway between Coimbatore and Ooty and is one of the best hill stations in South India.
Based out of Coonoor, you can do pretty much the same stuff that Ooty offers and escape the crowds. But do avoid central Coonoor, which is busy and bustling. There are several trekking routes that lead out of town – good fun in themselves that also lead to dramatic viewpoints of the Nilgiris, and the tea and coffee plantations.
Sim’s Park, a beautifully manicured botanical garden, is also worth a visit. You can also arrange to check out the tea-making processes at a factory or hop across to the pretty Law’s Falls nearby. Trek onto Droog from the falls and explore the ruins of a 16th century fort.
Best time to visit Coonoor:
Between October and February.
- Read more: Top five mountain expeditions in Nepal
3. Pelling, Sikkim
Pelling, at about 2,100 metres above sea level, is a hill station in north east India that lives in the shadow of a more famous tourist destination, Gangtok. Think Sikkim, think Gangtok – but don’t overlook Pelling. It’s smaller and not as well developed, but equals Gangtok in beauty and stunning views.
In fact, being less frequented, it is also more serene and closer to nature. Pelling is base camp for a number of interesting trekking routes, so it sees a fair share of mountaineers. But other than that for the regular visitor to a Sikkim hill station, there is the monastery, a couple of really pretty waterfalls and of course the famous Khecheopalri Lake.
Best time to visit Pelling:
Between February and May, and from September to mid-December.
- Read more: Top 5 things to do in Sikkim
4. Haflong, Assam
The only hill station in Assam, Haflong is pretty and all things quaint. It’s home to warm locals, mostly the colourful Assamese tribes. Visualise bright green rivers and clouds grazing the blue hills covered with as many as 2 lakh varieties of flowers, and you’ll see Haflong.
The top tourist spot here is Haflong Lake, which drives the beauty factor a notch higher. While you can keep busy admiring the creator’s work, there are other options like paragliding, trekking and boating. A short excursion away is Jatinga Village, famous for its migratory birds and blue orchids.
A little further is Maibong, where you can delve into local history and architecture amongst the ruins of an ancient kingdom. Driving from Guwahati is a good option, and not only because there is little else, but because it will be one of the most beautiful road trips ever!
Best time to visit Haflong:
From October to April.
Photo credit: Zahid Tapadar
- Read more: Top 10 road trips in India
5. Yercaud, Tamil Nadu
At about 1,515 metres above sea level, Yercaud is a small group of hills 25 kilometres away from Salem. Yercaud owes its less frequented status to the fact that it’s isolated from the rest of the Western Ghats; in fact, it is quite a way off. It’s also less pricey than the more popular Ooty and Kodaikanal, and thus simpler in what it has to offer.
Yercaud is more a couple’s time out sort of a hill station, perfect for little walks around forested slopes, a trek or two, and boating. The highest point in Yercaud is the Servarayan temple, which makes a nice day trip too. You can also check out the various parks and gardens that dot the place, apart from being mesmerised by rock formations.
Best time to visit Yercaud:
Between October and June.
_Photo credit: Swarat Ghosh_
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6. Kausani, Uttaranchal
Kausani is synonymous with awesome views. Lesser known with the tourist brigade, Kausani offers unbeatable views of the Himalayan peaks Trishul, Nanda Devi and Panchchuli. At nearly 1,900 metres above sea level, perched on top of Pingnath Peak, is Kausani – akin to having front row seats to a 300 kilometre long Himalayan show!
Apart from breathtaking scenery, the Switzerland-like Kausani is densely forested with pines and covered in tea gardens. A pretty and peaceful place, perfect as a retreat, with minimal to do here except to see Anashakti Ashram and Pant Museum.
Best time to visit Kausani:
Between March and May.
_Photo credit: Kishorereddy_m_
- Read more: Secret holiday destinations in India
7. Idukki, Kerala
Idukki is a district in Kerala, one of its most beautiful, in fact. Though not exactly unknown and hidden, it’s not very popular with the holiday crowd either, so you can still manage to spend some stolen moments at one of the quietest hill stations of South India.
The best way to get to Idukki is privately by road – not only because private transport should be preferred, but also because it’ll be a very picturesque drive through forests, where your obstacles are likely to be elephants instead of traffic. We recommend you stop at some of the many hairpin bends and get that camera out! Idukki offers a pretty lake and dam too.
You can also spend time in Munnar, a famous tea plantation based hill station. Since Munnar is on the popular tourist places list, you can hop across the district to Marayur, a remote village, or visit Thattekad Bird Sanctuary or Eravikulam Wildlife Santuary, amongst the many other wildlife reserves and national parks that dot the district.
Best time to visit Idukki:
During its prettiest winter months from October to February. Avoid the monsoon months of June to September.
Photo credit: Malayalam News Jeddah
- Read more: Best wildlife sanctuaries to visit in India
8. Ponmudi, Kerala
A shutterbug’s dream, Ponmudi looks like it’s straight out of a postcard! Famous for its dramatic sunrises, the hills around Ponmudi complete the perfect picture.
Located in the Thiruvananthapuram district, this little hill station is over run by tea gardens. The river Kallar, with its crystal clear waters, runs through the town, its fresh water springs topping the must-do charts. There’s also a deer park, a wildlife sanctuary and a biological park for your amusement. A short excursion and you’re at Meenmutti Falls, perfect for a picnic day out.
Best time to visit Ponmudi:
Between October and March.
Photo credit: arun shah
- Read more: Best sunset points in India: in pictures