Picturesque landscape, world-class skiing, wellness and lip-smacking cuisine–these mountain destinations offer more than you can imagine.
With seven major mountain ranges and some of the tallest peaks in the world, India is a paradise for trekkers and mountaineers. But there’s more to do in the hills than climbing. World-class skiing has recently come to India, with various outfitters flying elite skiers into deep powder by helicopter, while at the other end of the spectrum quiet mountain retreats offer ayurvedic spa treatments, yoga, meditation, or just gourmet food and drink amid stunning scenery. Lower-altitude ranges like the Eastern and Western Ghats feature some of the country’s most beautiful wildlife reserves, along with picturesque colonial towns and cosy cottage getaways.
Gulmarg (Jammu & Kashmir)
This bagged the title of the Best Mountain Destination by India Today Tourism Awards. Thanks to India’s growing interest in adventure sports and athletic pursuits more generally, Gulmarg’s emergence as a world-class skiing destination has eclipsed its other charms in recent years, as travel magazines and Sunday supplements home in on the zeitgeist. But the Gulmarg region also offers fantastic trekking and some lovely (and cool) golfing in the summer-when the meadows are blanketed with daisies, forget-me-nots and buttercups. One of the golf courses, at 2,650 metres, is the highest in the world. And what’s billed as the world’s second-highest altitude gondola also ferries sightseers to the 4,200 metre Kongdoori Mountain at a clip of about 600 tourists per hour. More than a third of the respondents ranked Gulmarg as India’s top mountain destination, including around half of Delhi and Mumbai residents, mostly citing the resort town’s top-class infrastructure and facilities.
Places to Stay-
- Grand Mumtaz Resorts
- Hotel Hilltop
- Pine Palace Resort
Darjeeling (West Bengal)
This destination was declared runner-up by India Today Tourism Awards. Darjeeling was a close second, unsurprisingly earning the nod from more than half of the respondents from nearby Kolkata. In comparison, it’s more hill station than mountain retreat. At 2,000 metres above sea level, the town’s permanent residents number more than a lakh in total (compared with a couple thousand in isolated Gulmarg), which means that the streets and mall are always buzzing-but also crowded. On a clear day, the nearby Tiger Hill offers a stunning sunrise view of Kanchenjunga (the world’s third-highest peak), and the steam locomotives of the narrow-gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the ‘Toy Train’, another UNESCO world heritage site, offer an unforgettable experience. Local tea plantations and a mix of Nepali Hindus and Tibetan Buddhists-not to mention legions of Bengalis in monkey caps-also give the area a rich cultural diversity that’s reflected in the food, as well as the architecture.
Places to Stay –
- The Elgin, Darjeeling
- Windamere Hotel
Few people outside Kerala think of Wayanad as a mountain destination-which perhaps hurt its chances in this category. But while the surrounding Western Ghats are not as tall as the Himalayas, they boast some of India’s most breathtaking dense forests, making Wayanad home to the largest wild population of Asian elephants in the world. Other attractions include the Edakal caves, which feature drawings and inscriptions dating to back to the Kutumbiya clan of Mysore in 500 BC; the Banasura Sagar dam, where speedboats zip tourists around the reservoir; and the 300-metre-high, three-tiered Meenmutty Falls.
Places To Stay –
- Wayanad Heritage
- Edakkal Hermitage
For Indians from “the mainland”, Aizawl is like visiting a foreign country. Precariously lodged on a precipitous ridge, the city overlooks the Tlawng river valley. It’s a sleepy town without much in the way of architectural sites. But the local culture-visible everywhere but with the volume turned up to 11 at the main Bara Bazaar-makes up for that in spades.
Places to Stay –
- Hotel Arini
- Hotel Regency
Shirui Peak (Ukhrul, Manipur)
This little-known spot some three hours from Imphal promises an escape from the ordinary. The town of Shirui has only 1,000-odd residents-mostly Christians hailing from the Tangkhul Naga tribe. It’s renowned throughout the state for a weeklong festival of food, music and dance celebrating the blooming of the beautiful and increasingly rare Shirui Lily (Lilium mackliniae)-a pale, bluish-pink, bell-shaped flower that blooms during the monsoon.
Places to Stay –
- 25 Degree North Hotel and Restaurant ukhrul
Disclaimer: The views and information expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the authors and references. Elgin Hotels & Resorts do not take liability or any responsibility for the same.