Scouring for the perfect summer destinations in India to escape the coming heat onslaught and get back to nature? I have you covered. Perfect for a summer break in India, these places are as wild as it can get, taking you deep into nature… high-altitude lakes, wild national parks, dense Himalayan forests, deep valleys and what not. Some of my favourite places to visit in summers in India, this list is probably all that you would need for a bucket-list for Indian summers.
- Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh
One for the lovers of roadtrips, a trip to Kinnaur would include the very trippy Reckong Peo, Sangla, Chitkul, Kalpa and Nako. While these are the more famous places in Kinnaur, on every adventure lovers’ map, you can also have Sarahan, Rakcham, Wangtu and Nichar. Cut off from the touristy glare, Kinnaur roadtrip will take you driving on the Hindustan-Tibet road. This trip generally starts from Shimla if you are not doing it via Manali and Spiti Valley.
2) Lahaul, Himachal Pradesh
This one eludes tourists with generous help from Spiti, its more famous twin. If not Spiti, then those hitting the road from Manali to Ladakh skip Lahaul in the frenzy of reaching Leh. While I still have not been to Lahaul, it ranks very high on my list. My fascination for Lahaul can be credited to Tarun Goel’s blog, so go and follow him as well! Lahaul has Keylong with its two ancient monasteries of Shashur and Kardang, the stunning and dangerous Pangi Valley, Pattan Valley (includes Udaipur), and Tinan Valley and the not-to-be-visited Ghepan Ghat Lake and more. Not-to-be-visited because the trek is treacherous and the glacier is retreating fast, so you should better leave it untouched. While its knowledge is fairly new to the masses, the gaddi shepherds knew it all along. Well, that is Himachal, if not gaddis then who.
Some unfair strokes of luck (and work) have kept me away from most of the northeastern states in India, and sadly, that also includes Meghalaya. If you know the meaning hidden in its name, you would also know why I have mentioned Meghalaya (abode of clouds) as one of the ideal summer vacation places. While spending a monsoon in Meghalaya would be heaven (what with its hundreds of seasonal waterfalls), Meghalaya’s hills are just the thing to beat north India’s summers. A quick check on the internet will tell you all about its main attractions, but I would suggest you to not forget getting lost in Shillong’s many cafes and interesting nightlife and spending some good time with the locals. Some famous yet must-dos in Meghalaya are a visit to Dawki (even though the water isn’t as transparent as it looks in the photos), the living root bridges, the tiny and wonderful village of Mawlynnong.
Okay, this one is perhaps the most offbeat of all. This summer, go to Nagaland. If you have some kids to bring along, do that as well. Kids because Nagaland is the one for all the curious souls out there. Home to more than 15 tribes, it is fiercely protective of its culture and ways, and will leave you asking for more. A trip to Nagaland would be an eye-opener if you think you have seen India, for it is a place full of surprises. Jot this one right at the top of your list of the perfect summer destinations in India, and you will be a happy soul.
5) Lachen & Lachung, Sikkim
Heavy snowfall prevented me from visiting Lachen as well as Lachung during my time in Sikkim, and all I could do was wait in a village, eventually leaving the state without a visit to these two wonders. Generally, a lot of people flock to Gangtok, Pelling, Namchi and their likes, while the rest of Sikkim lies hidden in the mountains, waiting to be explored. If you are not keen on buying package deals/tours and are searching for the best of summer destinations in India, map your own route for Sikkim and do not forget to include Lachung and Lachen in there. Leave early from Gangtok to reach Lachung by nightfall, spend at least 2 leisurely days here and hop over to Gurudongmar Lake. On your way back, you can visit Chopta valley and then go for a night halt at Lachung for 2 more days. Lachung has a village-feel and will take you in by delight; an ancient monastery and lots of wilderness, complete with a wildly-flowing river are the added charms apart from the generous people here.
6) Zanskar Valley, J&K
If you have tagged yourself as ‘Leh’d’ (how I hate writing this word), this one is specially for you. While most people flocking to Ladakh cover the regular ones (Khardung La, Pangong Lake, Lamayuru, Nubra, Hunder etc), Zanskar is surprisingly untouched. Largely, it is the lovers of Chadar trek who swear by the name of Zanskar. You can either get to Zanskar from Srinagar via Kargil or from Manali via Leh and then Kargil via Padum. Some unmissable attractions on the Srinagar-Kargil route towards Zanskar are the Drang Dung glacier, Rangdum & Zongkhul monasteries, Zang La Fort and Phugtal Monastery. You can stay at Padum, Rangdum as well as Drass for these are comparatively well-equipped for tourist accommodations. Go to Zanskar for your perfect summer vacation in India if you find yourself in eternal love with the Himalayas. I do.
7) Pahalgam, J&K
If your travel plans to Jammu & Kashmir keep getting axed owing to all the negative news and rumours around the state, visit it this summer. While I have not seen much of Jammu & Kashmir, I am head over heels with Pahalgam and the beauty around it. Its raw wilderness, the gurgling Lidder river, and the nearby Kolhoi Glacier will take your breath away. And equally charming are the people here, for they open their houses as well as their hearts to you. Try to book homestays for your time in Pahalgam and you would return a happy soul after a perfect summer vacation in India, no more Switzerland.
8) Dalhousie, Himachal Pradesh
If you know my love for tiny, quaint places that do not need a to-see list, you would know why Dalhousie features in this list. With a handful of restaurants, all serving dal-makhni, a few momo stalls, a very quaint coffee house (it’s more of a shop), two churches and endless rows of pine trees, Dalhousie is an affair to remember. You can also drive off to Dain Kund with set picnic lunch and while away in the meadows with not even a book. That, because there is so much to soak in the silence here. Do not fall for the valley-view hotel deals here, for almost every room here has a valley view.
9) Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Think coffee, think Tamil Nadu, and think hills. That and you cannot not think of Kodaikanal. Happy, cold winds that embrace more than they nip would greet you as you wander along its many trails. Restaurants are generally tucked in homes that come picture perfect with hedges and whitewashed fences, some happy dogs, and chimney smoke coming off the kitchen roofs. Some easy treks, interesting churches, leisurely loitering by Kodai Lake, and a lot of nibbling on Kodai’s homemade chocolates – Kodaikanal does not require a to-do list, for it is a place that asks you to slow down, breathe and do nothing more.
10) Landour, Uttarakhand
It is more than my eternal love for the Himalayas that makes me include this one as one of the best places to visit in summer in India. Landour, a 40 minute walk or a quick drive from Mussoorie is nothing like it. You would not find huge crowds here because there are not many places to stay and the beauty of Landour is lost on those going for a lot of sightseeing etc etc. When I visited it for the first time, my only lure was the fact that Landour is home to Mr Ruskin Bond. Once there, I figured that was just the iceberg tip. So much so that I wrote a complete post on attractions of Landour. A tip to those seeking a long vacation without burning a lot of money, there is a new homestay near Woodstock School. A good place and quite easy on the pocket too.
11) Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), Himachal Pradesh
No nature and adventure lover can resist the charms of this one. The mammoth spread of GHNP in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh also makes it more mystical to me than any other national park. While visiting the park is best left to those with a penchant for adventure and fitness, regulars must not skip visiting the villages on park periphery, also known as the Ecozone. This zone has some easy-moderate treks and includes trails in Sainj Valley, Tirthan Valley, villages of Shangarh and Lapah, Gushaini-Tinder trek and more. GHNP also covers the more ambitious Srikhand Mahadev, Raktisar, Sartoo Lake, Hanskund treks and more.
If you have nominations for some great places to visit in summers in India, do drop a comment below and tell me why, it might just be another addition to this list!