With temperatures soaring to unimaginable levels, Kochiites have started readying tour itineraries to cooler destination. This week has seen Kochi's mercury readings sway between 33 and 26 degree Celsius, pushing the city into a furnace. The enquiries that flow into the desks of tour planners and travel agencies in Kochi have one demand in common – find us a hill station where it is absolutely cool.
The demand for chilly weather has once again brought into prominence destinations such as Munnar, Ooty, Kodaikanal and more. Let’s take a look at some of the much loved hill stations across the country.
Located at an altitude of about 2,500 m above sea level, Shimla is 370 km from Delhi and 120 km from Chandigarh. The town houses a busy shopping area, and the most prominent spot to pick up your wares is the Mall Road. Fascinating is the sight of Shimla from the Mall Road as it opens to a vast visual treat, complete with the seven mountains yonder.
The capital of Himachal Pradesh, the city is dotted with tourist destinations. A ride on the Kalka-Shimla train’s Summer Hill Trip is something that you shouldn’t miss. Other attractions include Christ Church, St Michael’s Cathedral, Chardhar Sanctuary, Khurga Castle, Jhakoo Hill, Hanuman temple and more. At a distance of 16 km is Kufri, where the Himalayan Nature Park is situated. Try out the Yak ride too when you are here.
The distance between Shimla and Manali is 270 km and from Manali you can reach Kulu by travelling around 40 km. Get in touch with the Shimla Tourism Office at 0177-2654589 and Manali Tourism Office @ 01902 – 252325. Website: www.himachaltourism.gov.in
Aptly termed as the Queen Of All Mountains, Mussoorie lies in the Garhwal range of the Himalayas. At a height of 2,005 ft above sea level, Mussoorie is among the most sought after tourist spots by North Indian travellers. The Kempty Falls, Jharipani Falls, Mossy Falls, Lake Mist, Mussoorie Lake, Gun Hill, Camel’s Back Road and Lal Tibba are the major attractions.
Mussoorie is at a distance of 271 km form Delhi and 68 km from Dehradun. The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun (82 km). Phone: 01352559898. Website: www.uttarakhandtourism.gov.in
Popularly called as the lake district of India, the most preferred getaway at Nainital is the Naini Lake. Many big and small lakes dot the Nainital town, which has the Himalayan ranges staring down on it from three sides. Naina Peak, Snow View, Naina Devi temple, Hanuman Garhi, Zoo Gardens and St John’s Church are the other major attractions.
There a few more smaller hill stations adjacent to Nainital. A three-kilometer trek would take you to the top of the snow peak. Those who do not want to go trekking can take vehicles up the mountaintop.
Nainital is 286 km away from Delhi. The airport nearest to Nainital is at Pant Nagar, 65 km from the hill station. The tourism information office could be accessed over phone at 05946 – 266638.
The Kulu valley lies in all its splendor on both the sides of the Beas River. A much preferred destination for trekkers, the valley offers scenic sights comprising narrow streams, pine forests and more. When you are here, don’t miss out on the hand crafted shawls and caps, which you could take back home as souvenirs.
About 42 km off Kulu is Kasol, situated on the bank of the river Parvathi. The Silver Valley where a variety of flowers in full bloom awaits tourists all around the year.
Most of the time, tourist itineraries combine Shimla, Kulu and Manali in a single plan. A circuit tour to these three fascinating destinations is worth all the effort and money spent. The white pebbled Beas River, the deodar trees and the pine forests present a well-traveled tour.
Manali is guarded by snow peaked mountain ranges and lies 40 km away from the Kulu valley. Honeymooners, almost all the time, have Manali prime on their tour plans. The Rohtang Pass that offers the best of the Himalayan views is just 51 km away.
Other places you need to visit when you are in Manali include the Hadimba temple, Rahala waterfalls, Nehrukund, Solang Valley, Tibetan monasteries, Manali Sanctuary and the Great Himalayan Park.
Heavenly Himalaya – that’s what the West Bengal Tourism Department terms Darjeeling. This destination has all that a traveler would want to experience at one go. From dense forests, waterfalls, tea plantations, to the Darjeeling Himalayan toy train trip, botanical gardens, Ganga Maiyya Park and monasteries, Darjeeling has everything you need on a cool holiday. The place is home to about 12,000 butterfly families, making it a butterfly tour destination too.
For the adventurous lot among you, Darjeeling offers rafting opportunities in the River Teesta and trekking trails. Kalipong, Kursong, Lava and the like are the other places you need to go.
If you are planning a Darjeeling jaunt, you can land at the Bagdogra airport, which is 94 km away. Major airlines operate services to Bagdogra from Guwahati, Delhi, and Kolkata. The tourism centre at Kolkata can be accessed over 09836769196. Website: www.wbtourism.gov.in
The Sikkim capital is regarded as the tidiest city in all of India. Adding to its cleanliness, Gangtok offers the best of nature for a traveler. Tourist spots include the Nathula Pass, Yumthang Valley, and Lachung. The Yumthang Valley is known as Mini Switzerland.
Complete with Buddhist monasteries, cable car rides, waterfalls and the like, Gangtok has a natural charm of its own. One significant aspect about holidaying in Gangtok is the presence of markets all around where you can buy a variety of products and souvenirs for cheap. Share taxis are the most used transport options.
Bagdogra is the nearest airport, at 123.3 km. Sikkim Tourist Information Centre Telephone: 95353 – 2512646. Website: www.sikkimtourism.gov.in.
Kerala’s neighborhood 'chill' station by all means, Munnar sees a rush of weekend tourists who flock to imbibe its cool weather from Kochi and other places. Once you set foot in Munnar, you would realize nature’s bounty has been arrayed in three different directions and could be alluring.
Take the Marayur route, and you could feast your eyes with the Eravikulam National Park, Lakkam falls, Marayur Sandal Plantations, Muniyara, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and the like.
Go further, and you would reach Kanthalloor. If you take the Vattavada route, you would touch Mattuppetty Dam, Echo Point, Kundala Dam, and the top station, from where you go trekking to Korankani.
On the Kolukkumala route is the Anayirankal Dam, Bodimedu Check Post, View Point, Gap Road View and such places. The highest tea plantations are at Kolukkumala, which can be accessed by road from Munnar and Suryanelli by jeep.
If it’s summer holiday season, the Malayali tour itinerary invariably includes a trip to Kodai. Every traveler from this part of the world is in love with Kodaikanal, and all of them swear by the pine forests, Kokers Walk and the Kodaikanal Lake.
At a higher level of popularity than Ooty, Kodaikanal has in store amazing sights such as the Silent Valley View Point, Le Salette Church, Vattakkanal Falls, Berijam Lake, Kurinji Andavar Temple, Pillar Rock, Christ the King Church, Moir Point, and the Dolman Circle.
While Madurai is the nearest airport (110 km), the nearest railway station is Palani, which is 64 km away. It takes a drive of 110 km from Madurai to Kodaikanal. The Kodaikanal Tourism Office can be accessed over phone at 04542 – 241675. Website: www.tamilnadutourism.org
Ooty is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. Popular destinations include the Government Rose Garden, Botanical Garden, Ooty Lake, Tribal museum, Research Centre, Lake Park, Shooting point and Vinoba temple. Around 10 km away is Doddabetta, which is the highest point here, at 2,634 km above sea level. Kalahatti falls, Paikkaara Lake and the Avalanche Lake are some of the other attractions around Ooty.
Coonoor, around 20 km from Ooty, offers equally fascinating scenic locales for travelers. The Nilgris Mountain Train trip is one attraction no traveler could afford to miss. You can board a toy train by buying a ticket from the Ooty station. The mountain train goes around the tour destinations in and around Coonoor, and you can be back to Ooty by evening. Advance reservation is also possible.
Kodanad, the holiday retreat of the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, late J. Jayalalithaa, is just 45 km from Ooty. Kodanad has a number of home stays awaiting the tourists.
Ooty is 299 km from Kochi (via Palakkad – Coimbatore). The nearest airport is at Coimbatore, which is 80 km away. Phone: 0423 – 2443977 (Ooty Tourism Office). Website: www.tamilnadutourism.org .