The scenic Western Ghats, with rich biodiversity and an exotic plethora of flora and fauna, are charming beyond words. From a family holiday to honeymoon destination to backpacking trips and adventure-filled road trips; hill stations of South India have an extremely tranquil, unmatched and peaceful environment that will fill you with adventure and contentment.
The best part about the escapades of South Indian hill stations is the pleasant climate that it offers – it’s never too cold, too humid or too hot. You will always wake up to a blissful morning and often experience drizzles that will enlighten your mood. Thus, if you are looking forward to planning a trip to South India, here are the topmost hill stations that you should definitely consider visiting.
The renowned paradise of God’s own country is full of all things beautiful and mystical. Situated at an altitude of 5200 ft above sea level in the Idukki district, Munnar is an ideal getaway to catch the glimpse of lush green mountains and break through the monotony of city life. Formerly known as the summer retreat of Britishers, Munnar offers a pleasant climate throughout the year. The summer season receives charming sun-rays with a pleasant breeze. Monsoon revives the lush green beauty of the tea plantations and winters are cosy with slightly chilly but lovely temperature. However, from the onset of September till the offset of May, Munnar welcomes the most number of tourists pertaining to its vibrant climate and blooming flora and fauna.
There are various ways to reach Munnar by air, rail or road. You can fly down to any of the cities in South India like Kerala, Cochin or Bangalore and then take a road trip till Munnar. You can also take a train from Kochi or Kottayam which are the nearest train stations from Munnar. However, you either need to take a cab or rent a car to explore the heights of the city.
All the major luxury resorts and small home-stays are situated between the tea plantations. Depending on your budget, you can pick either of them for your stay. If you have the membership of any resorts, clubs or hotels, it is advisable to stay there as Munnar flaunts some of the most premium properties of Club Mahindra, Sterling groups etc.
The tea plantations, magical scenic views of the valley, mesmerizing lakes and waterfalls makes Munnar one of the top Indian destinations to visit. Amongst the must-visit places of Munnar is the Mattuppetty Lake which savours the beautiful views of the Rose garden, and Kundala lake which lets you have the experience of Shikara without going to the Kashmir. Apart from these lakes, Rajamalai National Park also holds the highest peak of South India – Anamudi, which has an abundance of wildlife and other exotic species of flora and fauna living quaintly in the lap of nature. Schedule the visit of this national park early in the morning to witness a multiple number of creatures. Munnar is also the home to the exotic flower called Nilakurinji that blooms once in 12 years and transforms the whole valley into a purple bed. People from all around the world visit Munnar with a desire to see these flowers blooming. Some of the other tourist spots include the Attukal waterfalls, Devikulam Lake, Elephant Lake, Echo point, Top station and the very famous Tea museum where they showcase the whole process of tea production.
When the 90’s kids were growing up, most of the Bollywood movie scenes were shot in Ooty, making this tiny hill station of Tamil Nadu the ultimate family holiday destination for Indians and a popular honeymoon destination for the newly-wed. Keeping up with the title ‘Queen of hills’, Ooty as a hill station is an overall charmer and worth the money.
Located at an altitude of 2240 m above the sea level in the Western Ghats zone, Ooty flaunts a variety of reasons to make it to the list of one of the most loved hill stations of South India. Starting from the wholesome climate to opulent green valley surrounding the city to aroma of fresh tea plantation spread across miles, there’s nothing that will disappoint you in this nature’s Pandora box. The world-renowned heritage of the Nilgiri mountain railway lies here and is one of the highest rates tourist spots in the country. A large number of tourists come from around the globe to experience this extravagant train ride that goes through the beautiful antics of nature.
Ooty is one of the places that can be visited all round the year without worrying about extreme climate weather. Mostly, the weather just requires you to carry a plain sweater or a jacket during the day and the nights tend to get cooler. If you are someone who gets too chilly, carry an extra pair of a sweater for precaution. If you wish to explore the city in all its glory pick the offset of monsoon during late September or the onset of January to see the blooming flowers. Ooty boasts some of the widest variety of flora with its world-famous botanical garden which one must include in their itineraries. Apart from the Botanical garden, there are various tourist attractions in and around Ooty that one must cover; Avalanche Lake, Ooty tea factory, Mukurthi national park, Emerald Lake and St. Stephens church.
There are various ways of reaching Ooty, you can take a flight to Coimbatore or Bangalore or drive till Ooty covering various other South Indian escapades on your way. You can also take the famous toy train from Mettupalayam which is directly connected to Coimbatore.
If your idea of a vacation involves peaceful walks in the midst of the serene landscapes parceled with the plush greenery of tea estate surrounding you, Coonoor might be the place you are looking for. During the unpleasant summers in most Indian cities, an eventful getaway to a pretty hill station is all you need.
Reminiscing the Malgudi style town of Coonoor outdone with the beautiful calligraphy of nature is the perfect idea of a vacation. With the amount of pleasurable scenic views that this little town provides, Coonoor is easily the best-kept secret of Nilgiris painted in the vintage touch of British. Situated in the southern extreme direction of Doddabetta range, Coonoor lies at an altitude of 185 meters above the sea level. Even though it’s a tiny peculiar city with a lot of character, it does stand to be the second largest hill station in the Nilgiris region.
As you enter the main city of Coonoor, you will be welcomed with a vintage train passing through the city. The city almost looks like it has been covered by a green blanket. You will ride across the panoramic view of Nilgiris and the smell of widespread tea plantation aroma will take over you. Coonoor is pleasant all-round the year but summers particularly experience heavy tourist footfall due to the summer vacations. Winter is mostly off season and the prices of all the accommodation are on the lower side. Monsoons are bliss to experience in Coonoor as it keeps drizzling here throughout the day. Afternoons are mixed with joyful sun-rays and rain showers which gives a beautiful view of rainbows. However, it does become a bit humid during monsoon but otherwise, it is pleasant throughout. To sum it up, the best time to embrace the beauty of Coonoor at its best is from October to March.
To indulge in the beauty of this place it is highly recommended to board the famous toy train ride from Ooty. However, apart from that, there are several direct trains from Coimbatore which is very close to Coonoor. You can also use the bus service from nearby places like Kotagiri. Amongst the various mesmerizing tourist spots in Coonoor, you must visit the Dolphin’s nose, Sim’s park, Catherine falls, the Droog fort and the Lamb’s rock of hidden valley to experience the lesser known gems of this city.
Yercaud is a lesser known hill station situated in Salem district of Tamil Nadu and is a part of the Shevaroy Hills. Popularly known for the spice plantations, orange groves and coffee; Yercaud is endowed with the alluring nature sprees. Planning a trip to Yercaud is a relaxing experience full of natural treasures. The literal meaning of Yercaud is a “Lake Forest” derived from the Tamil language.
A road trip is the best way to reach Yercaud as it is merely 30 km from Salem, 350 km from Chennai and 250 km from Bangalore. This place qualifies for a perfect weekend getaway. The best time to visit Yercaud has to be during monsoon ranging from August to February as the temperature remains calm. However, if you are into sight-seeing then you should visit during the season of summer as a lot of tourist attractions remain shut during monsoon.
There are many tourist spots to explore in Yercaud like the very famous Yercaud Lake, located at a distance of 1.5 from the main bus stop. It is also known as the Emerald Lake for its delightful clear water. You can either hire a self-pedal boat or a rowing boat to go around the lake. There is also a Deer Park and Leisure park located on the bank of the lake. You will find many animals here is fun to explore with the family. Another major attraction Yercaud is the Kiliyur falls which combine both adventure and serenity for the visitors. There’s a small hike from the main road till the falls of about 1 km which might be a daunting task if you are travelling with kids. But once you reach the spot, the gushing waterfall will mesmerize you and will give you the instant chills. Pagoda point and Lady’s seat are the other touristy points that you can visit to get a wholesome panoramic view of the city.
Wayanad is one of the hidden and less popular marvels of Kerala surrounded by mystical mountains, splendid forests, cascading waterfalls and pouring rivers. Wayanad is full of wilderness, history and sprawling natural beauty. Ancient caves, historic temples, widespread spine plantations are just one of the things you will get the nourishing taste of. Away from the hustle bustle of the city, you can easily rejuvenate amidst the untouched gem of green valleys. Famous for being the home to uncanny wildlife, you can spot a lot of wild elephants around.
Wayanad has attained its name from the land of paddy fields with multiple of them around. Before moving on to the main tourist alluring spots, you should know that every pathway you are going to take here will be as beautiful as any other wonderful tourist attraction. The whole valley looks like a perfectly painted canvas adorned by the exotic amount of flora and fauna present here. You can never get tired of tea in Wayanad as you will wake up to the smell of fresh tea every single day. The first destination in your list has to be the tea nursery where they take you through the whole process of propagating and curating tea leaves.
There are many sightseeing places in Wayanad and each of them is an absolute treat to your eyes. Soochipara falls, Kanthapara falls, Chembra peak, Pookot Lake, Muthanga wildlife national park, Banasura Sagar Lake and Edekkal caves are some of the places where you can just stroll around and admire the stunning creations of nature. Most of the tourist attractions are situated very far from each other. Thus, make sure you jot down the list of the places you want to visit on that day and get accommodation close to that destination in order to avoid travelling.
One of the best things about Wayanad is pleasant weather throughout the year. However, to experience the best of the weather, plan your vacations during Monsoon and winters and you will be embraced with lush green valleys of Wayanad.
Situated in the Taluk division of Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu, Kodai Kanal with all its glorious natural beauty easily passes off to be one of the most popular hill stations of Tamil Nadu. Referred as “Princess of Hills”, Kodai Kanal remains to be the non-commercialized quaint hill station with an abundance of greenery and relaxation to offer. Kodai Kanal is the only South Indian hill station established by Americans.
As for the places to visit, most of the tourist places are centred around the starfish-shaped Kodai Kanal Lake and as you go about exploring the city you will keep returning to the same spot over and over. This pretty little town is packed with so many schools, cafes, churches and homemade chocolate shops that just a simple stroll around the city will be a tourist activity in itself.
There are many nature trails in Kodai; starting from a hike to Vattakanal, Echo point, Fairy falls, Pine forest, Coaker’s walk and more. It is advisable to rent a car or hire a cab to explore all the sight-seeing points. You should also cycle around the main lake as it’s a joyful experience in itself, there are various cycle vendors who give the cycles for rent on INR 50 per hour basis which is pretty good for the adventure that you relive!
As for the accommodation, Kodai Kanal has plenty of beautiful resorts and each of them is built either near the lake or in the valley itself, offering you a scenic view. For the backpackers and solo travellers, there are various guesthouses, home-stays and hostels that are pretty decent to stay amidst the mesmerizing views. Also, you will have a lot of options for food, especially the traveller’s café with affordable breakfast and lunch options along with the good old food chains like KFC and Mcdonalds.
To reach Kodaikanal, you can take a bus/ private cab/ rented car or own vehicles and have a mini road trip from either Bangalore, Coimbatore, Madurai, Chennai or even Ooty. The nearest airport is Madurai airport which is 134 km away from Kodai and the nearest railway station is the Kodaikanal road which is only 79 km away from the main city.
These were our top pick for hill stations of South India that you must visit once in your lifetime. With leaps and bounds of natural beauty and surfeit of wildlife, these hill stations will guarantee you a trip to cherish for the rest of your life!
Wanderer of a million colourful thoughts. A hardcore believer of destiny and miracles. Grew up with a world map stuck on my bedroom wall and have been ticking off cities since then. Absolutely rebels against the idea of growing up and staying put. I’m all about deliberately getting lost in a strange city, surprising people with posted letters, extra kadak chai and watching undisturbed sunsets.
Willing to explore the world and more. Aspire me and become a part of my once upon a time.