Delhi’s infamous heat waves are washing through the capital city, drenching everyone in sweat. These treacherous summer months can see temperatures rising up to 40-45 °C because of Delhi’s location right in the heart of the country. And while Delhi does have a certain charm even during its hottest months, there is no reason not to escape the heat for a few days and run-up to one of the many hill stations near Delhi. Delhi’s location gives it its extreme climate, but its proximity to the hill stations on the Himalayas is a blessing. So if you are planning to beat the heat, these are the best hill stations near Delhi for the perfect getaway.
Chakrata Town, Dehradun
Dehradun is probably one of the first hill stations that a Delhiite would think of, and for good reason. Despite the fact that it is the busy capital city of Uttarakhand, Dehradun makes for a great place to lay your bags and relax. Spread across the expansive Doon Valley at the base of the Himalayan mountain range, Dehradun has a temperature and climate that is just pleasant enough to make for a greater summer escape without freezing you. The city and its surrounding region is also chock full of scenic waterways and rivers, ancient temples and tourist hotspots. If you visit this city, do not miss out on popular tourist spots like the Malsi Deer Park, Robbers Cave and the pools of Sahastradhara.
Churdhar peak, Nahan
If you prefer the pleasant climate of Dehradun but not its hectic atmosphere, you can head to the town of Nahan in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. This town is also located on the Shivalik Himalayas like Dehradun, but it is a lot more laid-back. Located at an altitude of 932 metres above sea level, Nahan is also a destination with a rich history, with links to a number of princes and holy men. Its proximity to Delhi and cool climate throughout the year make it an ideal relaxing weekend getaway. It has its fair share of scenic vistas, although there is little to do in this town for adventure. If you would rather just relax for a few days and breathe in some clean and fresh mountain air, this would be the place for you.
This is another destination for a relaxing holiday out of Delhi city, but Lansdowne is located higher up the mountains of Uttarakhand. Although well-connected by spiralling roads, This hill station is fairly quiet and distant from the eyes of tourists, which only adds to its appeal. Named after a former Viceroy of British-era India, Lansdowne was a popular haunt for the Brits thanks to its sprawling pine forests. The hill town has been long home to the Indian Army’s highly-decorated Garhwal Rifles infantry regiment, which translates to a rich military history, good infrastructure, clean streets and a lot of fascinating colonial-era buildings. For the adventure enthusiasts, Lansdowne offers a few opportunities to trek up its hills or go rock-climbing. The boat trip across the man-made Bhulla lake is also well worth it.
Another hill station that attributes much of its identity to the British, Dalhousie is different from Lansdowne in that it is more popular and located in the Himachal Pradesh. This hill station was also named after a former British Viceroy, and its popularity rose during the decades just before Indian independence, when it became a favourite retreat spot for the folks from Lahore. Today, it remains popular for its British legacy as well as its serene beauty and affable climate. The hill station is filled with British-era mansions that now serve as hotels and lodges, and surrounding it are the snow-capped mountains of Pir Panjal. Dalhousie also has its fair share of tourist attractions, like the busy Tibetan market that stands out in an otherwise quintessentially British setting, and the scenic Dainkund peak, Kalatop and Bakrota hills.
Located near Bhimtal in Uttarakhand is a place called Sattal, whose name literally translates seven lakes. Surrounding these lakes are densely forested hills that are perfect for camping, trekking, bird-watching and relaxing in the cradle of nature. These are what make the hill town of Sattal such a perfect weekend spot for those living in Delhi. Sattal is around 1,370 metres above sea level, and its proximity to the town of Bhimtal makes it an even more attractive weekend getaway. For those looking for a more laid-back proposition, there is always the option to go boating along the seven lakes that dot the region.
Let’s move away from the lesser-known hill stations near Delhi and towards the famous tourist spots. The hill town of Nainital that surrounds the volcanic Naini lake has developed quite a lot in recent years, and its streets these days are always teaming with foreign and domestic tourists and a growing local population. Despite this, Nainital remains a hilltop paradise for nature lovers. The town has a number of spots around it that you can walk and trek up to for incredible panoramic views of the Himalayas. A boat ride along the emerald green lake at the centre of the hill station is a calming experience that brings you closer to nature. Back on land, you can also visit the Eco Cave Garden, Governor House and the bustling Mall.
The title ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ belongs to two places in India, and Mussourie holds this title in North India. The hill station is positioned on a ridge that looks out onto the Doon Valley down and the imposing Himalayan range further away. Even during the peak summer months, Mussourie offers a cool climate, which is why it was a popular summer vacation spot right from the days of the British Raj. Mussourie as we know it was founded in 1823, and still holds on to its rich historical legacy through its British-era buildings, hotels, churches and libraries. The town is most popular from May onwards, but is otherwise a rather calm and surprisingly cheap vacation spot. It is especially beautiful during the monsoons, when the hill station is draped in clouds and the mercury drops.
Further up north in the Himalayas between the snow-capped mountains lies the extremely popular hill station of Shimla. No list or discussion of hill stations near Delhi can be complete without including this timeless gem, and for good reason. Despite its popularity and the fact that it can get really crowded at times, Shimla is still worth the visit. One visit to this hill station will make you understand why the British made this their summer capital. The capital city of Himachal Pradesh is popular for the Shimla Ridge at the centre of town, the Shimla State Museum, Jhakoo hill, Mall road and more, but there are also hidden gems tucked within and away from the city to explore.
Towards the western end of Himachal Pradesh lies Dharamsala, home to the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside Tibet and the spiritual leader, Dalai Lama. Dharamsala has a lot to offer even for a short trip. With its roots deep in Tibetan culture, it is not uncommon to see monks walking around or praying in the dozens of monasteries in and around Dharamsala. The Norbunlingka Institute of Tibetan Culture is a great place to start if you are curious about the region’s culture, but you can also trek up to Triund and camp there under the stars, or simply explore the town and its various bakeries and have a taste of Tibetan cuisine.
Hanuman Tibba, Manali
Scenic Manali is nestled in Beas Valley, surrounded by jagged snow-clad mountains that can you climb, paraglide over or ski down, depending on your mood. The main town itself is a great place to be, with an active market where you can pick up some interesting items. You also have local sights like the Hadimba temple. Solang valley is the go-to destination for adventure lovers, with sports like skiing and paragliding on offer. Manali is also close to a number of trekking trails, and the rivers around the region offer ample opportunities to raft through them. In fact, Manali serves as a great base for you to do your own thing, whether it is relaxing by the streams or climbing up the mountains.