Himalayan destinations are most popular for summer travellers across India. These destinations offer travellers a chance to beat the heat (5000 – 15000 ft height) and nice cool temperatures along with superb views and wide-ranging sightseeing / experiences. Typically, Himalayan destinations are travelled as part of a circuit. Some of the popular Himalayan circuits are as under:
Kashmir is the northernmost state of India renowned for its riverside areas, flowering valleys, meadows and stunning Himalayan beauty. The Kashmir circuit has ease of access (Srinagar airport) and easy travel between destinations (never more than a 3-4 hour drive), making it the favourite summer traveller destination.
Most visited destinations of Kashmir:
– Srinagar (5000 ft asl) – Lakeside character, Mughal Gardens, Houseboat Stay, Wazwan Cuisine
– Pahalgam (7200 ft asl) – Riverside character with Himalayan backdrop, superb views / meadows, Activities (Walking, Trekking, Horse riding, Zorbing, etc.)
– Sonamarg (8500 ft asl) – Riverside character with stunning close-range Himalayan backdrop, Snow experience all through the year (Thajiwas Glacier), Offbeat stays at Kullan, Activities (Horse riding)
– Gulmarg (9000 ft asl) – Stunning Mount Affarwat Views, World’s highest cable car, Snow experience all through the year (Except Sept), Skiing (Jan-March), valley of flowers (Late April- early June)
When Kashmir went through 2 decades of internal strife, tourists turned to Himachal Pradesh. Himachal offers destinations with superb Himalayan / riverside views, wide ranging sightseeing / adventures / experiences and excellent getaway resorts. This has made Himachal Pradesh a very popular summer holiday destination.
Most visited destinations of Himachal Pradesh:
– Shimla and around (6000-8000 ft asl – Shimla, Kufri, Naldehra, Mashobra, Chail, Shoghi) – Hamlets around Shimla are popular getaways of North India and their proximity to the Chandigarh Airport (100-120 kms) make them a popular 2 night stop before moving on to more exotic destinations such as Manali, Dharamsala, etc.
– Manali (7000 ft asl) – Manali is arguably the crown jewel of Himachal Tourism. Set in a valley with river Beas flowing through and towering Himalayas above, Manali offers a mix of superb views, first class hotels / resorts, wide-ranging adventure / experiences, snow experience (Rohtang Pass) and cool climate even during the peak summer months of May-June.
– Dharamsala and Mcleodgunj (4000-6000 ft asl) – Dharamsala (4000 ft asl) and Mcleodgunj (6000+ ft asl) are twin towns 10 kms apart renowned for their views of the Dhauladhar range of Himalayas and for being the residence in exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dharamsala is a popular holiday destination and one that combines well with Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie in a circuit.
– Dalhousie and Khajjiar (6000 – 7000+ ft asl) – Dalhousie (6000+ ft asl) is a colonial era hill station, retaining its offbeat character offering super Himalayan views. Khajjiar (25 kms from Dalhousie) is a hamlet renowned for its meadows, wooded walks and superb views. Dalhousie – Khajjiar is where travellers come to spend a couple of days walking, hiking and exploring Himalayan character while having a quiet and relaxed holiday.
Garhwal and Kumaon (Uttarakhand)
Having visited Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, the question typically for a traveller is what next? The answer is Uttarakhand. Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttarakhand combine to offer hill station, riverside, wildlife, pilgrimage experiences alongwith some superb drives and charming stays that translate into a holiday that has everything for all age groups.
Most visited destinations of Uttarakhand:
– Mussoorie and around (6500-8000 ft asl – Dhanaulti, Kanatal) – The hill station of Mussoorie and hamlets around it offer travellers a hillside getaway with superb views. Its proximity to the Dehradun Airport (50 kms), makes it a favourite starting point for travellers for 2 nights.
– Rishikesh (2000 ft asl) – A riverside destination and an adventure hub (Rafting, Bungee Jumping) popular for its riverside getaway resorts, hub for yoga / spirituality and proximity to the pilgrim hub of Haridwar (20 kms).
– Auli (10000 ft asl) – A ski destination in winter and a mountain resort in summer offering panoramic views of Nandadevi Range, Auli is visited for its stunning views, cool weather, hiking / trekking and proximity to the prime pilgrimage of Badrinath (50 kms).
– Nainital and hamlets around it (6000-7000 ft asl – Almora, Ramgarh, Mukteshwar, Ranikhet etc.) – Nainital (6500+ ft asl) is a renowned lakeside hill station. Nainital and hillside hamlets around (Almora, Ramgarh, Mukteshwar, Ranikhet) offer travellers cool climate and superb getaways for a relaxing holiday.
– Corbett (Wildlife) – Corbett is a prime national park that offers a superb park experience, has a fantastic riverside character, where you have an excellent probability of sighting the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. Corbett combines well with Nainital and other hamlets for an ex-Delhi itinerary.
Darjeeling – Sikkim
The East Indian state of Sikkim and hillside areas of West Bengal (known as Darjeeling area) combine well to form a popular holiday itinerary that has ancient monasteries, superb views, Indo-Tibet border visits and pleasant weather all through. North Sikkim areas of Lachung / Lachen offer the ultimate adventure drives and close-range views of the Himalayan ranges.
Most visited destinations of Darjeeling – Sikkim:
– Darjeeling (7000+ ft asl) – Renowned for the “Darjeeling Tea” and heritage train, Darjeeling is when you travel for pleasant weather and touristy experiences. Its proximity to the Bagdogra Airport (80 kms) makes it a popular destination to arrive at.
– Pelling (6000+ ft asl) – Pelling is where you arrive for Pemayangtse Monastery, Holy Lake, villages and superb views. Pelling sits well between Darjeeling and Gangtok and is a popular destination with all summer travellers.
– Gangtok (5000 ft asl) – Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim and a renowned holiday destination, has waterfalls, temples and viewpoint visits that are popular. However, it is best known for being the base point to visit Tsangu Lake and Indo-Tibetan border (Via Nathu La Pass), which offers stunning panoramic Himalayan views.
– North Sikkim (10000+ ft asl – Lachung, Lachen) – North Sikkim is the remotest part of Sikkim renowned for its stunning Himalayan beauty. Gurudongmar Lake (17000 ft asl), Zero Point (16000 ft asl) and Yumthang Valley (14000 ft sl – a Rhodendron sanctuary) are some of the high points that offer memorable experiences. So, despite a rugged drive from Gangtok, North Sikkim remains one of the high points of the trip and is popular with travellers looking for a bit of adventure and experience.
Himalayan Holidays need advance planning to avail good flight rates and except Kashmir, every other circuit requires a bit of travelling. To justify the cost and effort, most summer holidays in the Himalayas end up being longer holidays (typical length is 7-9 days except for travellers in North India).