Outdoor Adventure Travel to India’s Irresistible Hill Stations

India’s hill stations, famed for their stunning scenery and cool air, were formed by the British during their colonial rule. Located at an altitude ranging between 1000m-2500m, these towns, formally known as hill stations, are elevated from their adjacent valleys and plains, thus affording a refuge from India’s sweltering summer heat. Beyond stunning scenery, lush green hills and snow-capped peaks, these retreats, found throughout India, offer a host of outdoor adventure travel activities for families: Mountaineering, trekking, kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, climbing and paragliding are only some of the adventures on offer.

Shimla - View from Mall

Stained Glass Window in St. Michaels

Most of India’s hill stations are located in the north. Perched on the hilltops at the foothills of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh state, Shimla, the state’s capital, and Manali are among the most popular hill stations. Rediscovered and developed by the British since 1819, Shimla, carved on a mountain top at a height of 2196 m is breathtaking. With its colonial charm, it cool mountain breezes and lush pine forests, Shimla is the “queen of hill stations” and the summer capital of British India. Its snow-capped peaks, beautiful valleys, cascading waterfalls and lovely lakes make it magical. The region is dotted with temples and religious sites, among them St. Michael’s Cathedral, once considered India’s finest, and a masterpiece of stained glass construction. Not far,Narkanda offers amazing skiing slopes and other adventure activities in the region include trekking, river rafting, heli-skiing and fishing.

Shimla the Ridge photo by Betelgeuse from Wikimedia Commons

St. Michaels Cathedral
Lively Manali is the starting point for the main overland artery to remote Ladakh, or “Little Tibet”, renowned for its beauty. Spread along the banks of the Beas River, Manali is a place of snow-shrouded mountains, deep gorges and religious pilgrimages. The area is punctuated by Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries and bright gompas. Cascading waterfalls, sulfur springs and the Arjun Cave are among Manali’s highlights, and adventure pursuits include skiing throughout the year, as well as mountaineering, trekking and kayaking. For a more serene setting, lovely Old Manali or Vashisht are the places to stay.

Skiing in Manali

Tibetan Temple in Manali by Mya M. from Wikimedia commons

Hirimba Temple Manali
Chamba, the charming capital of its eponymous district is well off the beaten path. Its claim to fame lies in its temples and its vivid festivals – the annual harvest festival, Minjar, held in July and the Sui Mata festival, honoring the memory of a princess, held in April. Founded in 920 AD, Chamba survived for nearly 1000 years until it fell to the British in 1845. Perched on a ledge above the Ravi River, Chamba is well-known for its well-defined snow ranges where trekking is popular.

Delwarra in Mount Abu

Situated amidst a barren desertscape, Mount Abu is the only hill station in the state of Rajasthan. This picturesque town is a green oasis with a stunning collection of exquisite Dilwara Jain temples, renowned for their architectural beauty and dating to the 11th century. Situated on the highest peak of the Aravalli range, Mount Abu is considered a holy place and is a center for religious pilgrimages. Once the retreat for royals and later for the British, Mount Abu abounds with rivers, lakes, waterfalls, lush green forests and beautifully landscaped gardens. The hill station is home to a wildlife sanctuary housing over 800 species of plants and a wide variety of wildlife, including leopard, sloth bear, wild boar, and samhar and jungle cat.

The numerous hill stations of North India offer the perfect off-the-beaten-path retreat for adventure travel holidays, relaxation and just sharing quality time with family and friends when traveling in India.

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