Fresh air, beautiful views, lakes, waterfalls and cool weather all year long – those are some of the characteristics associated with hill stations that make everyone flock to them. Now while being at a hill station is a great respite from the frantic city life by itself, swinging a leg over a bike and riding your way up and down the serpentine roads makes the experience all the more memorable. Here then, in this article, we list down five of the most appealing hill stations you should ride to.
1. Gulmarg | Jammu and Kashmir
Gulmarg is one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful hill stations, not just in India, but anywhere in the world. Reaching this fantastic destination can be an adventurous ride, passing through some treacherous terrains, which also rewards you with some of the most stunning views en route. Once you get there, Gulmarg offers the willing traveller tons of adventurous activities too.
Gulmarg is primarily known for its snow clad surroundings which allow a large number of activities for those who like skiing and snowboarding. The region is also known for some fantastic treks which are accessible in the summers. During the summer months, spanning June and September, you can indulge the biker within you by riding on some really exciting mountain biking routes.
A highlight of Gulmarg is its Gondola ride, which is the highest ski lift in the world going up to an altitude of 3995 meters. The ski fans amongst you can choose from a variety of skiing spots at many of the Gondola stations and ski your way down over the smooth, powdery snow that marks most of the region during the winters.
In addition to the Gondola ride and skiing, Gulmarg boasts of breathtaking natural beauty and has a few other popular tourist spots as well. Among the attractions that you should visit in Gulmarg are Alpather Lake, Apharwat Peak, Khilanmarg, Baba Reshi Shrine, Maharani Temple and St Mary’s church.
Gulmarg is about 60km from Srinagar by road, and the distance from Delhi is a little over 800 km, although the road conditions make it a slow ride and it takes about 18 hours to cover this distance. There are a couple of routes that you can take for Gulmarg from Delhi, and you should check Google Maps, assess road conditions before making a choice.
2. Shillong | Meghalaya
Shillong is the capital of the high-rainfall state of Meghalaya. It’s located at an altitude of nearly 1500 meters, which makes its climate very pleasant. The city, also known as the Scotland of the East is blessed with large pine forests, beautiful views and a multitude of scenic waterfalls. Like the rest of the state, Shillong also receives very high rainfall, which is good, though the area is also a sensitive seismic zone, making it very prone to earthquakes. Make sure that you carry an umbrella or a raincoat when you visit this beautiful town which has a prominent British influence on its food and architecture.
The most notable among the beautiful tourist spots of Shillong are its lakes and waterfalls. The Umiam Lake, also known as Bara Pani (or big water) is a highlight, it attracts tourists owing to its sheer size, beauty and available water sports. You also have the Wards Lake which has gardens surrounding it along with a cafe, and makes for a great spot to spend a casual day with friends and family. Among the many waterfalls near the city, the most mentionable ones are the Sweet Falls, Bishop & Beadon Falls and Elephant Falls.
Other tourist attractions in Shillong include the Don Bosco Centre on Indigenous Cultures, Lady Hydari Park, Shillong Peak, which is the highest point in Meghalaya, and the Butterfly Museum.
The nearest large town to Shillong is Guwahati, which is about 100 km away. A ride from Guwahati to Shillong would take you through hilly areas, allowing for a very involving experience, while also offering fantastic views. Kolkata, one of the largest metropolitan towns in the country, is about 1120 km from Shillong, and the distance takes about 25 hours to cover.
3. Mussoorie | Uttarakhand
Mussoorie is one of the most exotic and beautiful hill stations in India. It is located in the foothills of the Garhwal Himalayan range, and is popularly known as the Queen of the Hills. Mussoorie is quite popular among tourists, though that doesn’t make it any less interesting. Situated at an altitude of 2000 meters, Mussoorie is blessed with cool, pleasant weather even in the summers, though the extreme cold months of December to February often witness sub-zero temperatures and snowfall.
The adjoining towns of Landour, Barlowganj and Jharipani comprise the ‘greater Mussoorie’ area. Mussoorie offers spectacular views of the snow capped Himalayan ranges to its North East, while to its south it has the Doon Valley and Shiwalik ranges.
The great thing about Mussoorie is that it has a bunch of other hill stations and tourist hotspots like Dhanaulti, Auli, Hrishikesh, Haridwar and Dehra Doon close by, which can be included as a part of the trip for a more wholesome experience.
Among the most notable sightseeing points in Mussoorie is Lal Tibba, which, at a height of 2,275 metres is the highest point in the area. The road to Lal Tibba passes through Landour Bazaar, which is another highlight, along with the Old Light House. Then, at about 15 km from Mussoorie, are the famous Kempty Falls. The popular tourist spot can be accessed by climbing steps, or by taking a ride on a cable car. Lake Mist is another beautiful location to visit, about 10km from Mussoorie. You also have Happy Valley, which is a Tibetan settlement with a Tibetan Buddhist Temple en route, and Dhanaulti at 28 km which is known for its beautiful forest cover which also has some trails. Jhari Phani Falls and Bhatta Falls are two other waterfalls you can enjoy if you are visiting Mussoorie in the summers and water is your thing. Gun Hill offers a fantastic view of the city as well as that of the Himalayan peaks, while Company Garden amusement park offers a fun-filled day for the whole family with its artificial falls and rides.
Major cities are pretty well connected to Mussoorie via road. New Delhi is around 280 km and it takes a little more than six hours to cover the distance. Chandigarh, on the other hand is less than 200 km and it takes a little over five hours to reach the hill station from the city.
4. Mahabaleshwar | Maharashtra
A great respite from the maddening city life for the dwellers of Mumbai and Pune all through the year is the beautiful hill station of Mahabaleshwar. The sister town of Panchgani is also close by and can be enjoyed by visitors during the same trip. With its average altitude of 1,350 metres, Mahabaleshwar enjoys a relatively cool climate all through the year and offers some fantastic views of the Sahyadris from many of its viewing points and also from some of its hotels.
Mahabaleshwar has multiple access routes, including a couple of them through NH48 (erstwhile NH4) and through the NH66 as well. All the climbs to Mahabaleshwar are quite exciting and worth riding on a motorcycle.
The Shiva Temple in old Mahabaleshwar is a very interesting place to visit as it’s the source of water for five rivers. For those among you into history, the Pratapgad Fort is definitely worth a visit. Among the many viewing points in Mahabaleshwar named after British administrators, the most prominent ones are Lodwick Point, Arthur’s Seat, Babington Point, Sydney Point, Wilson Point, Bombay Point (Sunset Point) and Elephant’s head Point.
One should also visit Lingamala Falls, which is the largest waterfall in the hill station, and offers a spectacular view of large volumes of water gushing down the hills. Panchgani, which is located slightly lower than Mahabaleshwar, should, by all means be covered in the same trip as Mahabaleshwar. There’s a lot to explore in Mahabaleshwar, and with a motorcycle, you’ll have plenty of great places to discover with some guidance from the Internet and Google Maps.
Mahabaleshwar is about 250 km from Mumbai and 120 km from Pune. You can take the old highway from Mumbai to Pune, the NH48 towards Mahabaleshwar, and then take a turn to right towards Wai for the uphill climb. The turn in from NH66 is from Poladpur. It takes about 5 hours to reach Mahabaleshwar from Mumbai via road.
5. Kodaikanal | Tamil Nadu
Kodaikanal is a beautiful hill station in the state of Tamil Nadu, located at an altitude of 2133 meters. Situated in the lap of Western Ghats, Kodaikanal has the man-made Kodai Lake at its heart. To be precise, Kodaikanal is situated on a plateau between the Parappar and Gundar Valleys.
With its beautiful lakes, gardens, treks, valleys, waterfalls and plenty of scenic points surrounding the town, Kodaikanal makes for a mystical escape from the city life. While there are a lot of tourist attractions in and around Kodaikanal, a highlight is the rare Kurinji flower, which blooms every twelve years. The flower bloomed in 2006, and is expected to bloom again between August-October in 2018.
Among the top activities within the town should be a boat ride in the Kodai Lake. The fabulous Bryant Park is also a great place to spend some time with the family. Then there’s the Berijam Lake, which offers a beautiful, scenic view. The tour of the lake involves taking a few permissions from the authorities, as it is situated in a protected area. En route, you also get to see the Silent Valley, Caps Fly Valley and Berijam Lake View point. For the trek enthusiasts among you, there’s this fantastic trek to Dolphin’s Nose, which is rather taxing for those who are unfit, but a delight for those who are in a good physical shape.
One should also visit the Pillar Rocks, which are essentially steep cliffs offering a spectacular view of the valley and the adjoining mountains. Among other places to visit are Chettiar Park, Coakers Walk, Kurinjiandavar Temple, Devil’s Kitchen, adjoining Pine forests and Guna caves.
Kodaikanal is well connected via road with big cities like Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai, which are at a distance of 520km, 175km and 120km respectively.
India has hundreds of hill stations to be covered in a single article. However, if you are a hill person and a motorcyclist as well, this list should provide you an ideal start, irrespective of which part of the country you are in. Do share your experiences at the aforementioned hill stations with us via the comments section below. We’d also love to know about some lesser known tourist spots and activities at these hill stations, so this article becomes more informative. If you like the article, do share it with your friends and family who might be interested. Do give us a shout out on one of our social networks if it helped you plan your ride to any of these hill stations. We would love to hear from you!