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Plan a trip to the mountains for some post-pandemic adventure

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When the temperature soars, is there anything better than making a short trip to the mountains to cool off? With everything happening around the world and our country at large, here’s a visual/virtual escape to some much loved, and a few quieter hill stations across India.

1. COONOOR, TAMIL NADU

 

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Prettier, colder, quieter and far less crowded than its popular neighbour Ooty, Coonoor is the place you want to head to get away from all the chaos. Coonoor is one of the three Nilgiri hill stations (the other two being Ooty and Kotagiri)—that sit high above the southern plains. You can hike, visit tea plantations, sample tea and marvel at the stunning mountain views. Choose to stay away from the town centre in order to enjoy the wonderful climate, some peace and quiet and its scenic beauty.
TOP SIGHTS: Sim’s Park, Highfield Tea Estate, and Dolphin’s Nose (viewpoint)

2. SHILLONG, MEGHALAYA

 

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Did you know that Shillong is often referred to as the Scotland of the East due to its striking similarity with the Scottish highlands? The city derives its name from Leishyllong—the God who is believed to reside on the Shillong peak, overlooking the city according to the locals. The Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes add to the vibrancy of this picturesque hilly city. For the uninitiated, the Meghalaya capital, also has a dynamic music scene, with live music and festivals! The duo behind the country’s popular Blues band, Soulmate, hails from this part of the world!
TOP SIGHTS:  Don Bosco Museum of Indigenous Cultures; Khasi Hills Archery Sports Institute; Ward’s Lake and Pinewood Hotel (historic building)

3. SHIMLA, HIMACHAL PRADESH

 

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The Himachal capital has been India’s most popular hill station since before the time of the British Raj. Recent years have seen a spike in upscale travellers returning to this spot. Traffic is banned from the central part of the town, so you can take in the sights, sounds and scents on foot. Shimla is usually buzzing with heat-escaping travellers during summer, and is not the place we’d recommend if you want some quietude. It’s beautiful nonetheless, and definitely deserves a trip or two. 
TOP SIGHTS: Viceregal Lodge (historic building); The Ridge (street); Himachal State Museum; Lakkar Bazaar; Annadale Museum; Jhaku Temple and Scandal Point

4. KODAGU (COORG), KARNATAKA

 

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Nestled amidst the slopes of the Western Ghats, Kodagu is blessed with emerald forests, undulating hills and a spectacular landscape dotted with coffee plantations and orange groves. Kodagu was a state in its own right until 1956, when it merged with Karnataka. The uneven terrain and cool climate make it a fantastic area for trekking, birdwatching or lazy strolling. Madikeri is the region’s main hub, and has a line-up of five-star luxury spa resorts that are bound to entice. However, for an authentic Kodagu experience, make sure you head to one of the many lovely homestays in the countryside—where you can live and eat like a local.
TOP SIGHTS: Tibetan Monastery (Golden Temple); Madikeri Fort; Abbi Falls; Raja’s Seat (popular sunset viewing spot) and Raja’s Tombs

5. MCLEODGANJ, HIMACHAL PRADESH

 

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This quaint Tibetan town in the hills of Himachal is a part of Dharamshala and not the other way around. It is also the place the 14th Dalai Lama calls his home! Its perennially cool climate makes it a great place for trekking and exploring by foot. Walk into the many cafes and watch the world go by over a cup of coffee. It’s a great way to mingle with the locals and fellow travellers. Cafes like The Snow Lion, Chocolate Log and Tibet Kitchen will whip up local dishes. 
If you’re up and fit for a three-hour long trek, take a detour and head to Triund in the morning. Spend a day there, watching the clouds cover up the mountains, and witness a spectacular sunset. If you want, you could also camp under the stars! The laid-back vibe, beautiful Buddhist monasteries and gorgeous landscape peppered with snow-draped mountains—all make McLeodganj the ideal choice for a great holiday surrounded by hills.
TOP SIGHTS: Tsuglagkhang Complex; Naam Art Gallery; Norbulingka Institute; Tibet Museum; Losel Doll Museum Bhagsunath Temple and the beautiful Bhagsu Falls

6. WAYANAD, KERALA

 

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This quiet district in north-eastern Kerala is easily one of the most biodiverse hill stations in India, with nearly 80 percent of flowers endemic to the mountains found here. Its dense, deciduous jungles are home to a variety of animals, including tigers, elephants and sloth bears. Live in treehouses or the many fantastic eco-conscious boutique hotels and stays available. The Lonely Planet Guide describes this region as this: ‘Encompassing part of the Western Ghats’ Nilgiri Biopshere Reserve, which spills into Tamil Nadu and Karnataka—Wayanad’s landscape combines mountain scenery, rice paddies of ludicrous green, skinny betel nut trees, bamboo, red earth, spiky ginger fields, slender eucalyptuses, and rubber, cardamom and coffee plantations. Wayanad is a popular escape for city-based Indians—yet it remains fantastically unspoilt and satisfyingly secluded’. Need we say more? 
TOP SIGHTS: Kuruva Island (birdwatching); Edakkal Caves (a Neolithic dwelling that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

Add these to the ‘when we travel again’ list, and plan a trip to breathe in the crisp mountain air: Your lungs and your loved ones will thank you for it post-pandemic. 

 

[Image Credit: Pexels]

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