Beat the Heat: 6 Offbeat Mountain Escapades
Shimla, Nainital, Mussoorie…are the top names in the list of hill stations you want to stay away from. This summer, look beyond the usual ones and explore these offbeat hill stations in India to the mad summer rush at popular destinations.
It is a small hill station in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, located 24kms from Dalhousie. Referred to as the ‘mini Switzerland’ of Himachal Pradesh, it is located in the foothills of the Dauladhar mountains, it is covered with thick deodars and pines. One can go trekking in these forests.
The Khajjiar to Dainkund is a trek one should opt for. The trek starts 6 kilometers from Khajjiar on the Dalhousie-Khajjiar road and ends at Pholani Devi Temple at Dainkund. This trek with a well-defined trail and moderate ascent is an excellent trek for beginners. Sweat it out. As you trek, the scenic beauty of the mountains will be a feast for your eyes. Cool off at the Khajjar lake. At a short distance from the lake is the Khajjinag temple from the 12 A.D. In the mandapa of the temple, one can see the scenes from the epic Mahabharata, paintings of the Pandavas and the Kaurvas on the roof of the circumambulation (parikrama) path. The temperate climate of Khajjar makes it an ideal location for couples seeking respite from the heat wave.
How to reach: Khajjiar is 23 kms from Dalhousie and 26 km from Chamba. It is 520 kms from Delhi. The closest railway station is at Pathankot, 120 km.
An idyllic valley in Arunachal Pradesh, Ziro’s landscape is dotted by rice-fields, meandering rivers and sparsely populated villages. Home to the Apatani tribe, it is an ideal location for a summer getaway for couples wanting to explore the culture of the north-east. One can enjoy stays in the hamlets and meet the Apatani tribe who are tattooed from head to toe. The largest Apatani village is Hong, and other villages are Hari, Bamin and Duta; all of which are within a range of 10km. It’s vital to have a local guide to take you to any of these villages, otherwise it is difficult to move around and go sightseeing as outsiders are unwelcome into the tribal community. Stay in these hamlets to experience the tribal and rustic way of life. One should visit the Talley Valley Wildlife sanctuary which is home to various endangered species of flora and fauna as it is declared bio-diversity reserve. Go trekking in Midey and spot blue pine trees. Breathe in fresh air and the scenic beauty of the mountains. Ziro is a paradise for nature lovers.
How to reach: The nearest railhead is Naharlagun (4-hour drive away from Ziro). You can take an overnight train from Guwahati to Naharlagun.
The hill station of Ponmudi is located at a distance of 61 km from the city of Thiruvananthapuram. A quaint hill station in the Western Ghats, Ponumdi is dotted with tea plantations, is wilderness at its zenith, and has streams and waterfalls. Sportive couples can go for mountain climbing at Agasthayarkoodam, the highest peak in the range. This peak can be accessed only with permission from the Forest Department. The Meenmutty Falls with crystal clear water is a place to cool down. Revel in the tranquil surroundings of the Golden Valley. Go for casual walks in the valley or fishing in the Kallar river. With its tea estates and mist-covered valleys, Ponmudi is a fast developing hill station with resorts and cottages mushrooming. Visit Ponmudi for a blissful experience in ‘God’s Own Country.’
How to reach: Closest raihead is Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station. Buses and taxi easily available outside the station.
4) Araku Valley
Araku Valley is located in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh. It is a valley in the Eastern Ghats inhabited by different tribes. The Anantagiri and Sunkarimetta reserve forest in the valley are rich in biodiversity. It has several waterfalls such as Chaparai, Kuntala, and Dumbriguda waterfalls. Couples will be enthralled by Mother Nature’s manifestations. The immense and incomparable beauty of the valley comes alive in its waterfalls, gardens and forests. Known for its tribal settlements, one can visit the Araku Tribal Museum, to soak in the rich cultural heritage of the tribal people. Celebrated for its pleasant weather, extensive coffee plantations, quaint valleys and gentle hillocks, Araku Valley has all the ingredients of the perfect honeymoon destination.
How to reach: Well connected with Hyderabad and Vishakhapatnam. You can hire a taxi from Vizag.
Kalimpong is a hill station in the state of West Bengal. Tibetan monasteries, crafts and churches make it a lovely retreat for the summer. Visit the Durpin Monastery, the largest monastery in Kalimpong that was consecrated by His Holiness Dalai Lama in 1976. From the monastery located at 1372 meters on the Durpin hill, take in a panoramic view of the town and the peak of Mt Kangchenjunga. Sikkim and Darjeeling is collectively known as the ‘The Land of the Lepchas’. Soak in the culture and heritage of the Lepcha people by going to the Lepcha Museum. This museum has numerous artifacts – articles of worship, original Lepcha musical instruments among others. Get romantic and buy orchids for your spouse in the flower markets of Kalimpong. As a couple, get to know each as you wade through Kalimpong.
How to reach: Bagdogra (80 kms away) is the nearest airport, which is well connected with Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai.
6) Gurez Valley
Gurez is a valley located high in the Himalayas, around 123 kms from Srinagar in northern Jammu and Kashmir. Located right below the high-altitude Line of Control, it is highly protected land in the Indian territory. The valley is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It has diverse fauna and wildlife including the Himalayan brown bear and the snow leopard. Gurez’s most formidable peak is Habba Khatoon, named after the Kashmiri poetess Habba Khatoon. Walk along the Kishenganga river with your other half as you take in breathtaking views of the mountains around you. Untouched by tourists, this Himalayan hill station will offer a romantic honeymoon experience.
How to reach: It is about 123 kms from Srinagar.
Revel in the scenic beauty of the mountains, take in the panoramic views and cool all your senses by the strolling in the lush green hill stations and valleys. Whether you are an adventure seeker or nature lover, these offbeat hills stations will make your honeymoon this summer a memorable experience.