5 offbeat hill stations for a tranquil vacation away from the crowds

Take your pick from the rugged landscape of Nubra, lush tea estates of Palampur, and more. 

Harper's Bazaar India

When one thinks of summer holiday destinations, images of hill stations with their cool weather, picture-perfect valleys, and mighty mountain ranges come unbridled to mind. And spots like Manali, Shimla, Nainital, and Darjeeling are undoubtedly at the very top of every popular hill getaway list. But with fame comes the danger of becoming a tourist trap, stealing the joy of a mountain vacation in the first place. So, this summer, if you’re looking for locales that offer respite from teeming crowds and promise a secluded, peaceful time, then these five destinations should be on your bucket list. 

Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh 

If you’re in the mood for chasing skies that look straight out of a storybook, jaw-dropping views of expansive valleys and snow-kissed peaks, with a hefty helping of stunning architecture, then Tawang might be the hill station for you. It is home to the Tawang Monastery, which boasts the title of being India’s largest (and Asia’s second largest) and is a must-visit. The adventurous will particularly enjoy the Sela Pass, a high-altitude pass that connects the town to the rest of India. Sela, or Paradise Lake nearby with its crystal clear waters is worth the slight detour. Make the plush Vivanta Tawang your base for the duration of the stay. It has 78 comfortable rooms and two grand suites, all of which come with a view.

Nubra, Ladakh

Nubra Valley, with its stark terrain, might not be for the faint-hearted, but those who make a trip to the Ladakh district are rewarded with a never-seen-before landscape flanked by meandering rivers, imposing mountains, and flat trails dotted with local flora. Despite its secluded setting, there’s much to do, and see at Nubra. Soak in the region’s rich history at the ruins of the Zamskhang Palace, the old seat of the king, visit the many gompas and monasteries, and make sure that Khardung La is on your itinerary, too—it’s allegedly the highest motorable pass in the world. Kyagar, a family-owned property, is one of the few hotels in the region. Its luxurious rooms are kitted with all the creature comforts one could possibly imagine in an otherwise inhospitable geography, and the room’s floor-to-ceiling windows beautifully frame the view beyond. 

Palampur, Himachal Pradesh

Skip a trip to tourist-favourite Dharamsala for a tranquil few days in neighouring Palampur, which promises gurgling mountain streams, enviable views of the Dhauladhar ranges, and verdant tea gardens. And if you visit during spring-early summer, you’ll be greeted with wild cherry and mulberry trees bursting to the brim with soft pink blossoms. While there’s plenty things to do in the region, like visiting the Kangra fort, offering prayers at the Baijnath temple, which is a short half-an-hour drive away or enjoying a tour of the Wah Tea Estate (of Wah Tea fame). But we strongly recommend that you take it slow—Palampur’s setting asks you to take in the surroundings at a languid pace. Go for aimless walks in the forests, spend an afternoon bird watching, and in the evenings curl up in your room with your vacation read. Rakkh Resort, a member of Radisson Individual Retreats is nestled in the middle of all the greenery, makes for an excellent stay option. 

Almora, Uttarakhand

Binsar in Uttarakhand has quickly climbed hill station lists in the past few years to become a popular tourist destination, loved by celebrities, too, thanks to its untouched wildlife sanctuary offering a slice of serenity in the mountains. Almora, a nearby town presents a memorable experience of a different kind, with its cultural sights and spiritual significance. When it comes to things you can do during your vacation, the options are endless. From the many temples scattered around the town or the ample opportunities to satisfy the thrill seeker in you—think treks and trails in its forests, and swims in the Kosi river. Stay at The Kumaon, a quiet property situated on a ridge overlooking the Nanda Devi range. 

Mashobra, Himachal Pradesh

Mashobra might get overshadowed by its wildly popular neighbour Shimla, but its magnificent oak, pine, and deodar forests, meandering streams, and peaceful setting are the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Shimla. Explore the surrounding area through hikes, enjoy a picnic in the woods, or go bird-watching. Stay in the popular Wildflower Hall by Oberoi tucked in the forests for the ultimate luxe experience. 

Lead image: Julia Volk // Pexels

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