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Friday, April 27, 2012

Can’t bear the heat any longer? Gargi Bansod recommends some breezy hill stations where you can run to get away from the scorching heat of the city

The long sweltering summer beckons you to relax, unwind and go to a place that will not only cool your body but also your mind and soul. And what better retreat than a green scenic hill station. So, forget the common Lonavla and Khandala, and head to the other hill stations India has to offer to beat the summer heat of Mumbai and get a break from your chaotic city life.

Nestled in the lush green hills of the Nilgiris, Ooty is one of the most favoured summer retreats. You’ll find orchards of peaches and plums, terraced tea plantations and the landscape lined with eucalyptus and pine trees. It’s a typical hill station perpetually enveloped in mist.

Sightseeing: You can visit the Government Botanical Garden, the charming artificial Lake View and conquer Doddabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris. Hop on for the Narrow Trail that starts at Mettupalayam where you board the Blue Mountain Express that gets pushed by an engine instead of being pulled! The surrounding greenery is bliss. It's a memorable four and a half hour journey, and boredome really takes a backseat on this drive.

Getting there: Coimbatore is the nearest airport. You can also take a train till Mettupalayam from Coimbatore.

The capital of Meghalaya, Shillong is a very attractive hill station. Its sparkling lakes and dazzling waterfalls spring from lush green mountains and pine tree forests. This hill station provides you a clean and unpolluted environment. Shillong has a host of attractions including English style cottages, waterfalls and even an 18-hole golf course.

Sightseeing: For a glimpse of the Khasi tribe’s matriarchal culture, visit Bara Bazaar which is run entirely by efficient, enterprising women, selling everything from piglets to betel nuts. You can also drive down to Cherrapunjee, once famous as the wettest place on earth! Ward’s Lake, The Butterfly Museum, Lady Hydari Park, Tadlskein Lake, Sweet Falls and Beadon Falls are some of the other tourist attractions. The woods of Shillong are lovely, dark and deep, streams rush down the hillsides, the climate is pleasant and the countryside here echoes with tribal songs.

Getting there: You can catch a flight to Umrai or Guwahati airport and then drive down to Shillong from there. Or take a train till Guwahati and then drive.

Kodaikanal is on the southern crest of the Palani Hills, about 120 km from Madurai. It is surrounded by wooded slopes, waterfalls and precipitous rocky outcrops. A star-shaped lake dominates this sleepy hill station.

Sightseeing: The Coaker's Walk offers some fantastic views of the surrounding plains. Another superb vantage point is the Kurinji Andavar temple which provides a panoramic view of the hills. Some of the popular spots are the Green Valley View, Pillar Rocks and Bear Shola Falls. You can also visit the Dolphin’s Nose which is a flat projecting rock from where you can have a breathtaking view of the yawning chasm below.

Getting there: The nearest airport is Madurai while the nearest railway station is Kodai Railway Station. Kodaikanal is well connected by road from Madurai, Palani, Kumuli and Coimbatore.

Mussoorie is popularly known as the Queen of Hills. It provides excellent respite if you want relief from the hot sultry conditions of Mumbai. Also, major Hindu pilgrimage sites such as Badrinath, Gangotri, Haridwar and Rishikesh are not far from here.

Sightseeing: Gun Hill, the second highest peak of Mussoorie, offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges and a bird's eye view of Mussoorie town and Doon Valley. You can reach here by ropeway cable. You can also visit the nearby waterfalls, namely Jharipani Fall, Bhatta Fall and Kempty Fall.

Getting there: There are regular flights from Delhi to Doon Valley from where taxis and buses head to Dehradun and then Mussoorie.

Yercaud is a hill station near Salem, Tamil Nadu. There is neither a biting winter nor a scorching summer, hence it’s the ideal place to visit throughout the year.

Sight seeing: There are a number of lakes in Yercaud where you can enjoy boating. The Kulliar Falls, a 300 ft high waterfall among Sylvan surroundings, is a beautiful sight for spending hours together without boredom. Prospect Point and Arthur’s Seat are the other vantage points where you can enjoy the magnificent thrilling sights. From Tipperary View point you can see the Elephant Tooth Rocks which are reportedly said to be the remnants of a meteorite which fell to earth.

Getting there: Trichy international airport, Coimbatore and Banglore are the major airports nearby. Jolarpettai and Salem Junction are the nearest railway stations.

If you find Ooty, Kodaikanal or Mussorrie a bit too touristy and crowded, Coorg is a perfect holiday spot in Karnataka that is sure to please you. Just a three hour drive from Mysore, Coorg is known for its beautiful coffee, tea and cardamom plantations and is referred to as the Scotland of India.

Coorg has an array of sightseeing spots and a variety of activities you can do. You can visit the Madikeri Fort which consists of a palace, chapel and an old prison. The fort overlooks the town and the view is almost breathtaking in the night. The Abbey Falls is a perfect place to spend an entire day, have a picnic and laze around.

Getting there: You can reach there either by air to Mangalore or Bangalore or you can take a train till Thalassery, Kasaragod or Mysore and then drive down to Madikeri.

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