The Himalayas afford India’s most dramatic and spellbinding scenery, combined with an enviable pace of life that contrasts with the chaos of the city. From the green hill stations around Shimla and Darjeeling to the far-flung mountainous extremities of Ladakh, where isolation has preserved a medieval heritage and elusive snow leopards roam the icy terrains, this is a region of pervasive and diverse natural beauty that must be seen – and explored – to be believed.
Away from the heat of the plains and nestled in the foothills of the world’s greatest mountain range, the hill stations of the Himalayas offer a very different yet still classically Indian experience.
What are the Himalayan Hill Stations?
The hill stations are an especially good option if you plan on travelling during the summer months, since the mountains are often cooler and drier at this time. For this very reason, places such as Shimla and Darjeeling were popular with the British during the Raj era and much interesting colonial history and architecture remains. Shimla was in fact the summer capital of the Raj and the impressive Viceregal Lodge still stands as testament to this era. The political aspect of this region extends to Dharamsala, which is now the seat of the Tibetan government in exile. In fact many hill stations in this region have a strong Tibetan influence in both culture and cuisine, with many active Tibetan temples and colourful Buddhist prayer flags on display in towns such as McLeod Ganj, Kalimpong and Manali.
One of the main reasons to visit a hill station is the stunning natural scenery which can be found – both Manali and Darjeeling have spectacular views of the distant, snow-capped Himalayas and the rolling tea plantations for which the region is renowned. Such natural wonders make trekking and other outdoor activities such as paragliding some of the area’s unmissable highlights. For train lovers, narrow-gauge railways are another feature of many hill stations, including Shimla, Darjeeling and Ooty in the South of India.
Ladakh, much more remote in the northernmost reaches of the Indian Himalayas, is a hugely rugged and lunar landscape, more than the foothills and is one of the best areas to see the elusive snow leopard. Leh, the capital of Ladakh is the starting point of our highly adventurous safaris to track these majestic big cats and observing the preserved culture of the mountain regions en route. The ruins of the palace on Leh’s hillside and some of the isolated villages are truly fascinating. Husing is one of the key areas and bases for snow leopard expeditions; a place where three valleys meet, all are used by the leopards as they move to lower altitudes following their prey species.