These retreats tucked away in the mountain ranges of the Indian sub-continent are ideal getaways from the searing heat of the plains during summer.
During winters these hills and mountains are some the most romantic vacation destinations, with snow clad mountains in the North Indian retreats to the chill and misty weather in the South Indian hills.
Most of the hill stations in India were developed by the British, to get respite from the oppressive summer heat. Many have picturesque lakes as their focal point, making them excellent places for boating activities.
Today we visit the hill stations of Jammu and Kashmir.
Bhaderwah is located on the foothills of middle Himalayas. The town is endowed with breath-taking natural beauty which is why it is popularly called "mini Kashmir".
Apart from having picture perfect scenic beauty due to beautiful forests, there are many small streams flowing through various parts of the town. The Halyan River flows through the main market of the town.
Bhaderwah being a mountainous valley possess tremendous potential for adventure seekers. Paragliding, Trekking, Camping, Rafting and Angling are some of the thrills available for the restless travellers.
There are enough home stays and guest houses to welcome the more relaxed tourists too. There are numerous small streams to sit by, picture perfect scenic views to enjoy and savour the hospitality of the people living in this piece of paradise.
Patnitop or Patni Top is a hilltop tourist location in Udhampur district on National Highway 1A 112 kilometres from Jammu on the way from Udhampur to Srinagar.
Situated on a plateau in the Shavlik belt of the Himalayas, Patnitop sits at an altitude of 2,024 metres. The river Chenab flows in close proximity to this location.
Picturesquely situated at a high altitude, there are many pleasant walks around this popular hill station. Patnitop is a good starting place for many short or longer treks into the nearby mountains. An attractive one-day walk is to Shiva Garh, about 11-km from Patnitop at an altitude of almost 3,500 metres.
Chorgala and Shantigala are two lush green meadows and they are the best kept secret on the Patnitop - Sanasar Road. Easily accessible via a short trek from Nathatop air force station, they make an ideal getaway for the entire family. Tracks lead to pockets where time stands still and calm prevails.
Aru Valley is a small yet self-sufficient scenic village located 12 kilometres from Pahalgam. The drive up to the village is really beautiful and the location of the village among the grasslands, makes this place a tourist delight. The village can also be accessed on foot by a mountain path.
The village serves as the starting point for trekking to Kolahoi glacier. Another long trek for the more serious ones is to Sonmarg, which can be covered in 3 days. Besides, the valley is also known to be a good site for camping.
Laden with beautiful flowers for three quarters of the year, Gulmarg covers itself with a sheet of snow during the winter months. Gulmarg is one of the prime destinations for skiers in the country to give a rush to their adrenaline on the snow-clad slopes.
Khilanmarg Valley, Alpather Lake, Ningli Nallah’s long grass meadows and trout fishing at Ferozpore Nallah are some of the attractions in Gulmarg.
Pahalgam literally translating to the Shepherd’s village is one of the most picturesque destinations. The lush green velvety ground stretching till the foothills of the Himalayan Range and crystalline blue skies overhead, the city is illuminated with the aura of nature where one can reside in peace.
The major attractions for the tourists here are the Betaab Valley, the Aru Valley, Tulian Lake and the Sheshanaga Lake. Being such a splendid destination, the city can mesmerize any one with its charm.
With the snow-capped Himalayan peaks in the backdrop and the rivers of Lidder and Sheshanaga cascading from the mountains, Pahalgam is a zero-point for the trekkers. The list of treks that commence from this hill-town makes it a trekker’s love.
Sonamarg, the “Meadow of Gold” in Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most breath-taking hill stations in India. Nestled at 9000 feet above sea level, the picturesque beauty is beyond words. Presided by the snow-capped mountains, the hill station is beautiful, trekking adventures are abundant and a sense of peace and calm is all round.
The Sindh meanders along here and abounds with trout and mahseer. Snow trout can be caught in the main river. In late April when Sonamarg is open for road transport, the visitors can have access to snow which is spread all over like a white carpet. Ponies can be hired for the trip up to Thajiwas glacier a major attraction during the summer months.
Yusmarg is a small meadow set in the heart of mountains to the south-west of Srinagar. It is an ideal picnic spot and the Nilnag Lake can be visited from here. A two hour drive from Srinagar will take you to acres upon acres of grassy meadow ringed by forests of pine, and towering beyond them, the awesome and majestic snow clad mountains.
Yusmarg is an alpine valley covered with snow clad mountains and the meadows of Pine and Fir. It lies 13 kilometres south of Charari Sharief town. It is situated at the bank of Doodganga River which is a tributary of Jehlum River.