Last Updated: November 28, 2019 Nidhi Singh
How willing are you to make this summer 2020 count? Well, as a 30-year old, non-smoker, individual who has been breathing the hazardous air of Delhi that on an average measure 500 PM, answering ‘A lot,’ is obvious. I know some of you reading has the same response too. The truth is, nobody wants to see herself die choking on this heavily polluted air; let me tell you if Oxygen was a person, she would have sorted an escape plan to some pristine hill station in North India already! So, why shouldn’t we when there is a chance? North India is replete with several explored, some lesser-explored and fewer unexplored hill destinations that can offer you respite from the devilish realm of city life. Pretty sure you must have had a vacation at a number of popular hill stations in North India by now but did you try to explore something completely offbeat so far? No, well, make this summer 2020 count then! Plan a trip to a lesser-known hill station in North India, and slay summers like a BOSS. Here are some incredible lesser explored hills for this summer for you.
Warning: The list will start to get heavy on adventure and beauty as you go down in the list, so brace yourself, the pictures and descriptions can really put you in a state of awe.
Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh
It wouldn’t be correct to call Sirmaur a lesser explored destination as the district has some popular and frequented places in Himachal Pradesh like Renuka Ji, Paonta Sahib, and Nahan. However, this southernmost district of the state has been able to reserve some of its best sights and experiences for those who are lucky enough to have found our link and made a wise decision of clicking on it. So, Sirmaur district that lies at a distance of approx 150 km from popular hill station of North India, Shimla, boasts being the Peach Bowl for the state. You know the luscious hill fruit with that velvety outer skin, is cultivated here in a large number, and June will be the month when you are likely to savour it or the pretty view of its blooming flowers. Apart from this, Sirmaur makes for a great trekking destination; the Churdhar Peak trek is something you must do if you’re an adventurer at heart. For those aiming to spend a lazy holiday, almost all the destinations in Sirmaur has closely knitted temples that can be seen on a sightseeing tour.
How to Reach: Sirmaur can be reached easily from Chandigarh and Shimla by public or private transport.
Abbott Mount, Uttarakhand
Are you ready to walk back in time to the era of British in India? No, not that time of oppression but a walk back in the quiet hills where handful British style bungalows and a wide expanse of mountains and whiff of fresh air welcome you. Head to the east Uttarakhand to find this beautiful hill station in Kumaon region of the state. Abbott Mount is perfect for that relaxing summer holiday away from the hullaballoo of the city life. The best way to explore this quite an eerie yet mesmerizing hill station of Uttarakhand is to take a walk. Along the expanding Shivalik Hill Range, one can see an ancient cricket ground along with the faint silhouette of some village in Nepal. This destination in Uttarakhand is ideal for honeymoon couples as well as for those wishing to see the best side of nature this summer 2020.
How to Reach: Cabs can easily drop you to Abbott Mount from any major city since the road condition is good. However getting state buses is a bit difficult.
Meet another quaint village at a close proximity to the popular hill station of Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand. Now, a handful of travel writers have been blogging about this quiet little hamlet in the lap of Kumaon Himalayas and their descriptions claim that the place is worth spending a holiday. Dak Bungalow which is believed to be the best place to stay here, needless to say, is the major attraction in Peora. Also, birdwatchers will love this place as the sighting of hundreds of different species of birds is certain. The village and its suburb are replete with sal, pine, oak, kaphal and rhododendron trees. Care for a locally grown apple, plum, peach or apricot? Well, this holiday destination has everything in abundance for you. So, in Peora, a summer vacation is about basking amidst the glorious Himalayan mountains, savouring the beauty of lush green forests and being inspired by the simplicity of the place.
How to Reach: You can drive to Peora in a car from Nainital, Mukteshwar, and Delhi as well. State bus is also available but the frequency is less.
Pabbar Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Ditch the crowded Shimla and drive some 131 km from there to land at a breathtaking destination of Rohru in Himachal Pradesh. Rohru marks the beginning of an unforgettable summer holiday for you as ahead of it, there is only magic for you to relish, the reality my friend is far left behind. Imagine, the gurgling and foaming river Pabbar carrying on its journey through a lush valley with meadows, forests and apple orchards. Interested in trout fishing? Pabbar Valley is the travel destination for you then this summer 2020. The entire valley is rich in trout fish giving one ample opportunity to go fishing and angling. Like to trek? You would love the Chanshal Pass Trek and Kuper Valley Trek that cross some of the most beautiful places in Pabbar. The three prominent places to see in Pabbar are Rohru, Hatkoti, and Jubbal. If you’re planning a long summer holiday, Pabbar Valley in Himachal can be the right vacation destination for you.
How to Reach: It is an easy drive from Shimla to Rohru, both public and private transport are available.
I happen to have come across the name Sarmoli last year while reading a blog online, and ever since this place has been lingering in my head and I certainly wanted to tell all our readers about it. What caught my eye the most about this remote village in Munsiyari district of Kumaon region in Uttarakhand is the fact that natives own an Instagram handle, for a destination known to fewer people, this surely comes as a surprise. In for more surprises? Well, this tiny village has one of the most powerful women organization that bring valuable ideas of the urban world to the locals like the importance of fitness, flavours from international cuisines, and of course, the online world. Don’t be surprised if you are served some international dish like pasta in Sarmoli. If you’re someone who is looking for something incredible to this summer, then plan a trip to Sarmoli and I’m sure, you’d come back as a changed person.
How to Reach: Local transport from Munsiyari can help you reach Sarmoli village, you can also drive on your own to reach the village.
Kokernag, Jammu and Kashmir
I assume you haven’t gotten over your last Srinagar-Gulmarg-Pahalgam trip but what if I told you that you missed a rare gem just a few kilometers away from the bustling travel destination of Pahalgam? Some 60km from the tourist hub of Pahalgam is situated the lesser known yet the wonderful destination of Kokernag. Did you enjoy visiting the lush Mughal Gardens in Srinagar? Yes. Well, Kokernag is going to give you more reasons to enjoy then as this lesser-known destination has the biggest garden in Kashmir, also it has Asia’s largest trout fishery, where one can go and learn about breeding this species of fish. Kokernag is out and out a family vacation destination and you must not miss out on it when planning a summer holiday in Kashmir this year.
How to Reach: The best way to reach Kokernag is to take a cab from Pahalgam or Srinagar.
Sanasar, Jammu and Kashmir
How does an idea of rolling in the meadows on a warm sunny afternoon sound to you? I’d do it if given a chance. Sanasar is one of those apt tourism destinations where you can bring this fantasy to come alive. And if you’re thinking, this is yet another offbeat destination in Kashmir region of the state then you’re mistaken. Sanasar is quietly seated in the Jammu region, some odd 20km from the famous hill station of Patnitop. This surprisingly lesser frequented destination boasts of a vast expanse of meadow which takes you to tiny settlements with mud houses, farms, and streams, you’d be invited at one of the houses to have tea or a meal. Sanasar is so far unexploited, perfect to trek and learn about the local culture without feeling like an intruder.
How to Reach: Transport is available from Jammu City for Sanasar.
Chatpal, Jammu and Kashmir
The global warming has done its share of damage around the world already and India is no exception. The hill station that we usually escape to find some respite from the scorching summer season, have all seem to have seen a rise in temperature themselves, resultant, the daytime is as hot as any destination in the lower altitude. But luckily, there remain a few hill stations in North India, offbeat of course, where you can still escape. In southern Kashmir, Chatpal sits like a small piece of paradise, where even in the summers one needs to sleep in layers of blankets and use a Kangri to keep warm. Honestly, Chatpal looks like a place where the time has taken a pause. So, if you’re thinking to spend a time doing nothing then this is the place to be. However, you’ll always have trekking option open. You can head out in one particular direction only to find more surreal views to savour; one can trek to the nearby Thimran village en route apple orchards and walnut and oak forest. Oh! Did I tell you at Chatpal there is no electricity leave alone digital connectivity?
How to Reach: Hiring a local cab from Srinagar is the ideal way to reach Chatpal.
Achabal, Jammu and Kashmir
A perfect destination for nature lovers in Kashmir is Achabal, a place that is home to one of the most stunning gardens in the region. In the Anantnag district, Achabal catches one’s eyes with its gorgeous Mughal Garden that is said to be once the retreat for Noor Jahan, the consort of Mughal Emperor- Jehangir. Once you are done soaking all the beauty of the garden at Achabal, there awaits a scenic waterfall- Aharbal. The cascade can be visited on a day visit from Achabal but if you are looking for some adventure, I suggest to do a trek to the lush meadows of Kungwatar and then camp there overnight. The experience can truly be something you will never ever forget.
How to Reach: Direct cabs from Srinagar or Anantnag are available for Achabal.
The good thing about mountains is the slow pace of life in them which all of us, and I mean all of us do need to experience every now and then. If this summer, you’re ditching a crowded hill station, then choose a destination that offers you a parallel lifestyle like in the small village in Garhwal Himalayas- Raithal. So, what do you do here when you reach? Simply nothing, just bask under the sun watching the rolling mountains and lush forests and the mud houses with carvings and designs. You can also stay in The Goat Village, a homestay where you get to learn about the rich culture, traditions and hard life of the village people. To make this trip even more fruitful, you can plan a trek to the gorgeous Dayara Bugyal.
How to Reach: One can first reach Uttarkashi by local transport from cities like Delhi, Dehradun, and Chandigarh and then take a cab to Raithal. Those driving on their own can reach directly by their private car.
Sani Village, Jammu and Kashmir
Now coming back to the question, I asked at the beginning of this blog; how willing are you to make this summer vacation count? Enough to head out for a breathtaking remote destination where there are no hotels yet and the place is the size of an average lake you must have seen? If the answer is yes, then Sani village in Zanskar Valley is the destination for you. A tiny hamlet, Sani is a few kilometres away from Padum, the headquarters of Zanskar region of Ladakh. It is again one of those places where the time has come to a standstill. However, the locals still prepare well for the long winters and the crop is harvested quickly in the summer. At Sani, expect a warm welcome in the house of the locals who can also offer you a cozy stay at a minimal cost, meals included. You get to be the part of their festivities and are offered their locally brewed Chang (rice beer) as a gesture of hospitality. At Sani life is slow but it has so much on offer especially the lessons like how a simple life is a blessing in today’s world.
How to Reach: Cabs are available from Kargil and Leh for Sani Village.
Banjar Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Though avid travellers are acquainted with Banjar Valley in Himachal Pradesh, there is still a large number of people who are yet to discover this magical destination. Do you binge on an idea of being amongst the few people walking the streets or trail at a mountainous place? All the time! Excellent! Then Banjar Valley is the destination you have been looking for. The main attractions of Banjar are the Banjar Town, Jibhi, Shoja, and Chaini Village. Jibhi is where you can choose to stay by the riverside and enjoy trout fishing to the fullest, a beautiful waterfall is also there for you to relish and get yourself drenched at. Shoja, on the other hand, is a quiet hamlet where you can relish the incredible mountain views and a lazy life, a short distance from it is Jalori Pass from where begins a trek for the high altitude Serolsar Lake. At Chaini, you have the chance to sight the fascinating fort of the same name as the village. There are three famous treks in the region, one to Serolsar Lake, second to Raghupur Fort and third to Chaini Village. Then there’s this river, on the banks of which you can choose to relax and watch the most majestic sights. The choice is yours.
How to Reach: Buses till Aut are available from Delhi and Chandigarh. From there one can take another bus to Banjar and onward.
Nelong Valley, Uttarakhand
Have you met the Ladakh or Spiti of Uttarakhand? Not yet, well, make the most of this summer 2020 and head to Nelong Valley, some 4-hours away from Harshil, a destination that is gradually becoming popular. Nelong Valley lies under the area of Gangotri National Park and once was the part of India and Tibet trade route, the evidence of which is the ancient wooden bridge that protrudes from a lofty mountain range. The desert landscape just like the one you find in Ladakh and unexploited natural beauty make Nelong truly a destination to explore this summer. Keep in mind though, night stay in Nelong is not permitted and even the permission of visiting has to be first obtained from the DM’s office in Uttarkashi but rest assured all your efforts will be rewarded with the awe-inspiring views of the valley.
How to Reach: After seeking the permission from DM in Uttarkashi, one has to hire an SUV to reach Nelong Valley.
Johar Valley, Uttarakhand
If your idea of a perfect holiday revolves around adventure, I suggest to trek this summer to Johar Valley in Uttarakhand. You may ask if it is at all worth it, I will just have to say ‘absolutely.’ With Johar Valley, I am talking about difficult terrains, chilly climate, yes, even in summers and tonnes of picturesque views. Heard of Milam Glacier? Well, it can be reached crossing the gorgeous Johar Valley. However, if you do not wish to go that far in this Kumaon destination, you can choose to stay rather camp at villages like Pungdeo, where the majestic Hansling Peak waves and smiles at you; Bogudyar, where the ITBP settlement gives you a warm feeling; and Martoli where the beauty of this region is at its par and the temple of Nanda Devi only enhance it. River Gori Ganga is your true companion all along the way and you are going to see her pass through some almost dreamy gorges and landscape, while the lush meadows and forests will also keep you company, offering them to you spots to relax and the camp of course. Johar Valley is a rare beauty and you have to plan a trip here to witness what I am unable to express in words here.
How to Reach: One has to reach Munsiyari first and then from there has to look for local cabs that can drop one to the trekking point of Chillamdhar.
Pangi, Himachal Pradesh
As warned, we are concluding this blog with reaching the epitome of adventure with the introduction of Pangi Valley. We are talking about bone-chilling adventure and the rawest yet best of nature’s beauty. In the Tehsil of Chamba, Himachal Pradesh exist this hidden beauty where reaching is a challenge itself. But once here, you’d realize why it was all worth. Pangi valley is lush green and it has its virginity intact since not many have dared to explore it. Close to the Sach Pass, which has the beauty of its own, Pangi Valley is a place with a unique fragrance, mostly because it is home to some rare Ayurvedic herbs and plants. One can explore the sub-valleys like Sural, Hundan, and Saichu which are also a delight. Expect a waterfall to cross the road or dirt road that you pass in every 20 minutes, some so furious that can make you skip a beat or two. The adventure of camping gets its definition from this destination in Himachal Pradesh, so if you are up for something incredible, something that can change your life forever this summer, then Pangi is the place for it. Please keep in mind, only those with an inclination towards high voltage adventure should plan for Pangi Valley expedition.
How to Reach: SUVs are the best vehicle for Pangi Valley. One can reach Pangi via Chamba and Sach Pass.
Waichin Valley, Himachal Pradesh
You have to get ready to see some magic because Waichin Valley in Himachal Pradesh has been named as Magic Valley for a reason. Unperturbed by the chaos of the other tourist places in Himachal Pradesh, Waichin hides itself in thick woods and lofty mountains. You get here by what is defined as a steep ascend that is determined to make your legs go weak and breath heavy for another 2 hours from Malana Village. However, what compensates for this tough climb is a sight that is nothing short of a magic – gigantic mountains that you can stretch your hand to touch, the undulated velvety meadow perfect to walk bare feet, and the crisp air that fills your senses with positivity. Waichin is a place to reconnect with nature but it is more of a place where you reconnect to yourself.
How to Reach: A 2km from Malana takes you to Waichin
Andretta, Himachal Pradesh
Some four years ago, there was a wave of promotion of Andretta Village in Himachal Pradesh as an artists’ paradise but with the passing time no one mentions the destination in their list of places to visit. The reason is unknown, however, I assume the place does get a heavy footfall of artists. Since, no one mentioned this place in quite some time, it seemed relevant to me to talk about Andretta.
By now you are aware that Andretta is a village in Himachal Pradesh for artists and art aficionados. In fact it is one of those places that also drew the attention of eminent personalities like Prithvi Raj Kapoor (Indian Actor); Sobha Singh, the painter of Sikh Gurus, and of the fame of Heer Ranjha and Sohni Mahiwal paintings; and Sardar Gurcharan Singh (a Padmashree awardee). The village has its own theatre and a Pottery and Craft Society started by Gurcharan Singh’s son Mansimran Singh and his wife Mary. Apart from this, Andretta is a perfect destination for nature and bird lovers with Dhauladhar mountains and lush forests adorning the place. The village is home to around 550 bird species, so you can expect your days to be filled with sweet melodies.
How to Reach: Andretta is only 17km from Palampur and 44km from Kangra. You can take a cab from these two popular destinations in Himachal to reach Andretta.
Gurez Valley, Kashmir
Do you want to visit a place this summer with which you can fall in love completely? Gurez Valley is the answer then. If you don’t mind travelling to the interiors of Kashmir and break the monotony of visiting Srinagar, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, then Gurez Valley is ready to embrace you with its ethereal beauty. In 1895, the British author Sir Walter Lawrence called the Gurez Valley “one of the most beautiful scenes in all of Kashmir,” where the tourmaline waters of the Kishenganga River are framed by “mountain scarps of indescribable grandeur.” I picked this from a NYT write-up while researching on this paradisiacal place.
Separated by the razor-wire from Pakistan, Gurez falls on the Indian side of the border and boasts unparalleled natural beauty of which the scintillating Kishenganga River, the lofty snow-capped mountains, sparse wooden houses, and acres of meadow are part of. Gurez is no less than a fairytale land where fortunately you don’t have to worry about the mindless tourists. Even today, there are parts of the valley where staying in the houses of the locals which by the way are one of the warmest people, is the only accommodation option you have.
How to Reach: Gurez Valley is situated some 123km from Srinagar. The only way to reach here is to hire a cab.
You may have figured out by now my penchant for border towns and villages. So, if I add one more border town in this list, it shouldn’t come to you as a surprise. Askot is a town in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand that sits near the Indo-Nepal Border and despite its surreal beauty, this place is still one of the best kept secrets of the state. Adorned with the pretty Rhododendrons, rolling emerald hills and dense foliage, this town is certainly a place to give your heart to.
Askot wildlife sanctuary is comparatively a popular place since it is home to the endangered Musk Deer. Apart from this, Askot is a destination for adventure lovers who will have the chance to do some extremely challenging treks along the Dharchula Range up towards the Kailash and Mansarovar. Not much of an adventurist? Well, the town is also a base point for many short treks that will offer spectacular views.
How to Reach: Askot is situated 54 km from the popular destination of Pithoragarh. Hiring a cab from Pithoragarh is the best way to reach here.
I have just composed my version of Baby Got Back and it goes something like this: I like border towns and I cannot lie, you readers won’t deny.” I know it sounds awful but I guess my message has been sent across. Turtuk is again a border village in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir that was annexed to India post 1971 Indo-Pak War. However, the place remained closed for visitors until 2010.
A surreal destination, Turtuk is situated on the bank of Shyok River and is surrounded by the mountains of Karakoram Range and adorned with barley fields and stone houses. The destination is perfect for anyone with a desire to see ancient Tibetan and Indo-Aryan cultures. You can choose to stay here in one of the homestays that give you a fair glimpse of what this place is all about and before you know it their homes would feel like your home. There is a small museum in Turtuk as well where eclectic relics like an antique snow leopard trap and a lapis lazuli-encrusted sword from the Yagbo Dynasty of Baltistan region can be seen.
How to Reach: Turtuk is a part of Nubra Valley and can be reached by hiring a car from Leh which is around 204km away.
So we come to an end to our very fresh list of lesser explored destinations in North India, I hope, you would have chosen your summer holiday destination by now. If you liked this blog and it helped you in some way, please give it a thumbs up and also don’t forget to share it with your friends who are planning an adventurous trip this summer. You can also contact us at Tour My India to book a holiday, call us at +91-9212553106 or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for our best summer tour packages. We guarantee to offer some of the finest travel packages in India that will make your vacation most unforgettable.
Published: 26 Apr, 2018
From the Lake District, Nainital, Nidhi Singh is a travel writer whose love for mountains can be seen in her write ups. Talk about solo travelling, indulging in adventure activities, binging on good food, planning budget trips or the Aurora Borealis and you will get all her attention. It is the wanderlust that keeps her going and if at all she could get one wish granted she would love to live a life less ordinary. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.