Escape to the Hills

Take a cool break this summer. Travel to smaller hill-stations to relax and rejuvenate yourself

It is the time of summer and holidays too! How to beat the sweating summer and liven up your holiday mood? The answer is simple. Escape to the hills. Be cool and feel cool by getting away from the din and dust of the city. Rejuvenate your health by living in a cleaner, cooler and calmer atmosphere. However, do all hill-stations today provide fresh air, cleaner surroundings and the peace you require during a vacation?

The answer is "No". Most of the popular hill-stations today are crowded with human and vehicular traffic resulting in pollution and congestion. Sometimes during peak season, you may not even be able to walk in peace in these higher plains. The markets are crowded, the restaurants are full and there is noise all around even as you try to enjoy the beauty of the scene. The very purpose, then, of escaping from the concrete jungle of the metropolis to a peaceful retreat is lost.

How then can you plan a holiday to the hills? Well, you can have your dream holiday by heading to a lesser known and smaller hill-station! These hill-stations are not as well-known, in fact some of them may seem unfamiliar to you! However, they have everything a hill-station is supposed to have. So if you are planning for a holiday this summer, book your tickets to these misty hills for an easier and more relaxing vacation, on a reasonable budget too!

Bhandardhara

BhandardharaNestling among the Sahayadri hills and situated in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, this small hill town near Igatpuri is an ideal get away for Mumbaikars. 185 km from Mumbai, Bhandardhara can be reached by road in a matter of few hours. You can book your lodging in hotels in Igatpuri and visit Bhandardhara every day or you can reserve accommodation in the resort developed by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation [MTDC] up the hills.

Bhandardhara has everything that you can visualise in a hill station: mountains, waterfalls, dam and lush greenery. Summer or monsoon, the scenic hills with the lake look beautifully different in the changing seasons. If you are staying at the MTDC guest house, then you can view the Arthur Lake from your balcony even as you sip a cup of tea! The transparent lake with the hills outlining them is a photographer's delight!

From Bhandardhara you can view the Kalsubai peak, the highest peak in the region, on a clear day. And to view the frothing waters of a fall, drive down or take a walk to the Randha falls, hurtling down a 45 m gorge. Nestling in this gorge is the Ghorpade Devi temple. The Wilson Dam at a height of 150 m is also a site worth visiting in Bhandardhara. A long walk to these places will surely give you a good appetite for a hearty meal served in the MTDC canteen.

In Igatpuri, a visit to "Vipaasana Ashram" is a must for any tourist. Situated below the hills and amidst greenery, the artistically designed ashram with its meditation hall provides the perfect setting for peace and tranquillity. The members of the ashram will willingly take you around the place.

Fact File

  • Distance: 185 km from Mumbai.
  • To reach: By Road: By car.
  • By bus: Mumbai to Bhandardhara via Igatpuri. By train: Mumbai CST to Kasara. Kasara to Bhandardhara by bus.
  • Altitude: 750 m above sea level.
  • Where to stay: MTDC Resort, Bhandardhara, Manas Resort at Igatpuri.
  • Best Time to visit: March to June and September to November.

Kasauli

KasauliThis is a small and quiet hill-station near Kalka in North India. Situated 1927 m above sea level in the south of Shimla hills, it is a treasure house of vegetation with vast stretches of rhododendron, pines, Himalayan-oak and horse chestnut trees. Developed by the British during their empire, it can be reached by a branch road from the Kalka-Shimla road.

Since traffic is restricted here, you can take leisurely walks to the market place and woods nearby. Visitors from busy and dusty metropolis will find this little hill-station refreshingly clean and green. It is enjoyable to observe the picturesque beauty around with gabled houses, cobbled alleys and rows of neat orchards in well-maintained gardens.

Kasuali is a health resort where one can just relax and recharge their vigour by breathing fresh air and inhaling the beauty of the scene around. However, one can trek to the Hanuman point on Monkey hill to get a panoramic view of the surrounding hills, valleys and plains below. Monkey point is believed to be in the shape of the left foot of Lord Hanuman.

According to a legend, the monkey god is said to have kept his left foot on this very hill while carrying the Sanjivini herb for reviving Lord Laxman. Other places worth visiting are the Kasauli Club, Sanawar School and Pasteur Institute where anti-rabies vaccine is produced to treat mad dogs and treatment is given to victims of the deadly disease, Hydrophobia. The Pinjaur garden between Kasauli and Chandigarh is a beautiful botanical garden showcasing a variety of flowers, plants and trees.

Fact File

  • Altitude: 1927 meters above sea level.
  • To reach: Air: The nearest airports are at Shimla [73 km] and Chandigarh. Rail: The nearest rail road is at Kalka [37km] in Haryana. Road: Buses or cars from Dharampur [15 km], Kalka and Chandigarh [65 km].
  • Accommodation: Kasauli Resorts. Smaller hotels abound in the area.
  • Best season: April to June, September to November.

Shillong

ShillongRightly called as the "Scotland of the East", Shillong is the scenic capital of Meghalaya. Perched at an altitude of 1520 m, Shillong is one of the smallest states of India covering an area of 10.36 km. It is an enchanting land surrounded by hills and dotted with vast golf courses, enchanting lakes, verdant falls, heritage churches and buzzing bazaars.

Shillong Peak, elevated at 1961 m, is located 5 km to the south of the city. From here you can have a panoramic view of the city. The popular attractions are the city's lakes and falls. The Ward Lake is a horse-shoe shaped shimmering lake. One can walk around the lake capturing its beauty or else take a boat ride on it to view the enchanting scenery.

Falls are in abundance here with the Crinoline falls, Gunner's falls and the Sweet falls. A trip to Shillong entails a visit to Cherrapunji village in the East Khasi Hill district and is about 56 km from Shillong. Cherrapunji, which is renowned as the wettest place of India, is full of vegetation and the Nohsngithiang falls in its vicinity adds to its scenic beauty.

Fact File

  • Altitude: 1520 m
  • To reach: Air: Flights to Shillong from Mumbai or Delhi. Train: Mumbai to Guwahati. Road: Buses and taxis from Guwahati to Shillong.
  • Accommodation: Government rest houses and private hotels suiting all budgets available.
  • Best time: March to May, October-November.

Yercaud

Popularly known as "poor man's Ooty", Yercaud is a small hill-station near Salem in the Servarayan range of hills in the Eastern ghats. The town gets its name from the lake at its centre called "Yeri" which in Tamil means "lake" and "kadu" meaning forest surrounds it!

As you go up the hills, you can observe stretches of coffee plantation and orange groves. The highest point in Yercaud is the Servarayan temple situated at an altitude of 5326 ft. Abounding in flora and fauna, it boasts of wildlife like bison, deer, mongoose and bulbuls in its forests.

To get a view of the surrounding hills, the valley and the plains, visit its various view points. The Arthur's seat is one such view point. From here you can get a bird's eye view of the Big Lake, Yercaud town and the Shevarayan peak. Pagoda point is another popular view point. Referred to also as the Pyramid point, it has four piles of random stones forming like a pyramid.

In between is the Rama temple. Lady's Seat formed out of a cluster of rocks on the south of the hills is one more view point that gives a good view of the valley below. Other spots worth visiting here are the "Grange", one of the oldest buildings in Yercaud that was built in 1820. The Kiliyur water falls falling down 300 feet is 3 km from Yercaud hills.

Fact File

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  • Area: 38.3 sq km
  • Altitude: 1515 m
  • To reach: By Air: Nearest airport is Tiruchirapalli. Also Coimbatore and Bangalore. By Rail: Nearest rail road is at Salem junction. By Road: Salem to Yercaud is 30 km. Can be reached from Chennai and Bangalore.
  • Best time to visit: May, June and October.

So escape to the hills this summer for a cool and refreshing experience.

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