2020 brought upon several curves that most of us were not prepared to handle. Adjusting to the “new normal” has been difficult as it is, and the ever changing restrictive guidelines makes it no less easy on any of us. Although most (read every) plans to take a vacation fell through, months passed on with the never ending banter of, “How is it that this year has not yet ended?”.
As frustrating it is for any of us to stay confined in the same four walls as yesterday and every day since March, with Unlock 5.0, India has been taking baby steps towards opening its gates of tourism. Although, it is still not safe to go out irresponsibly, it is understandable that many of us would like some breath of fresh air and a change in environment.
Keeping that in mind alongside the current situation, we carefully chose some hill stations of India that are least explored, making it easy to have a socially distanced break. Here are 5 hill stations you can visit during covid.
Vagamon hill station is located in the districts of Idukki and Kottayam in the Southern state of India, Kerala. Once the hills of Vagamon were utilized as tea plantations by the British which were then followed by the Christian missionaries. In the present day, the hill station is encompassed with lush green meadows, aromatic tea gardens, cascading waterfalls, gateways of scenic pine forests and small brooks. The hill station is made up of a series of three enchanting hills: the Thangal hill, the Murugan hill and lastly the Kurisumala.
The journey to reach Vagamon is an experience of its own; as the trails made through the pine forests with solid rocks that are carved and rimmed along the entire path. You can walk through the foggy zig zagged trails to reach atop the hills. For adrenaline seekers, various activities like rock climbing, paragliding and trekking are available. However, the tourism of the region also has many spiritual activities planned for the ones looking to rejuvenate themselves surrounding such grandeur.
Nothing can ever go wrong in visiting God’s Own Country, Kerala. The place is filled with rustic yet scenic beauties that can calm one’s soul. While everyone else has their eyes set on the more commercialized regions like Munnar or Wayanad, hill stations like Vagamon are overlooked, thus making them offbeat.
The beauty of Vagamon has captivated many that it has garnered the title “Kerala’s Switzerland” and has been listed as “50 most attractive places to visit in India” by the National Geographic Traveler. During this coronavirus outbreak, breathtaking hilly areas like Vagamon that are lesser known among travel enthusiasts are the best to take a relaxing vacation.
Situated in the Pithoragarh district of the Northern state of India, Uttarakhand, is the unexplored hill station of Askot. The natural landscape of the entire region is filled with trees like Quercus, Rhododendron, and Pinus, with the milieu of snow capped Himalayan mountains, Panchachuli and Chhiplakot. With the river Kali and Nepal’s mountains running on its left and rich hillsides of Garkha along the frontal areas, Askot has a visually stimulating environment lying on the Indo-Nepal border.
Having pages of history filled with its name, Askot was once a state’s capital in the ancient times and has an abundance of tradition of the Rajbar dynasty till date. The region is the abode to indegineous tribes. The area is potent and has copious amounts of flora and fauna. While spending your days away here at Askot, you can visit the popular Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary that has been set up to conserve the rare Musk Deer. With high habitat of Himalayan species like Lemurs, Bison, Sari, Civet etc, the tourism of the hill station prides itself in the jungle safari that is offered to its visitors.
There are a few accommodations available in the area that can be booked. The offbeat hilly areas and the option to book your accommodations allows you to have the region all to yourself during your stay. This is one of the perks of visiting Askot in this time of social distancing. While everybody else chooses to visit the popular places as they want to spend their time around Himalayan mountains during their break, you can choose the safer and less crowded hill station of Askot.
Lambasingi, Andhra Pradesh
Reluctant to visit the natural glory of Northern India in this pandemic yet want to travel somewhere? Lambasingi hill station in the districts of Visakhapatnam in the Southern state of Andhra Pradesh is the answer. Lying in Chintapalli Mandal’s Eastern Ghats, Lambasingi is often referred to as the “Kashmir of Andhra Pradesh”. This is the only place in Southern India that is known to have experienced “snowfall”. The temperature of the area lingers close to the freezing point and the dew freezes making it look like snow.
The hills of Lambasingi are filled with different aromas from the eucalyptus, coffee, pepper and pine plantations. The region is known for its biodiversity with plenty of avifauna (like pale-billed flowerpecker and purple sunbird) which are popular among ornithologists who visit the area for their research and various wildlife (primarily being gaur). Goes without saying, Kondakarla Bird Sanctuary is one of the must visit places in Lambasingi. With quaint valleys, gushing waterfalls, misty hills irrespective of the time of the year, and soothing reservoir, this place is a sight to behold.
The village of Lambasingi has been only recently regarded as a hill station and thus has very few rest houses within the area itself. The tourism of the state is yet to arrange accommodations like resorts for its tourists. Most travellers who have knowledge of the hill station either choose to spend their night at the scarcely available home stays or camp in the open nature. Given how glamorously alluring the place is, in no time will the place blow all over the social media soon. Lambasingi hill station is one of the idyllic places to visit during this Covid-19 outbreak.
The town of Yuksom was named the first ever capital of Sikkim which was established in the year of 1642 AD by the first religious and temporal King, Phuntsog Namgyal. Tibet’s three monks came to select the Sikkim’s first King, which is why he named the town that translates to “meeting place of the three learned monks”. Yuksom also holds several cultural and religious significance as the first monastery of Sikkim, Dubdi Monastery, was established in the town in 1701. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava had blessed four sites, which are now considered religious and represent the plexuses of the human body.
Falling under the Geyzing subdivision in the district of West Sikkim, the Northeastern State of India, Sikkim, is the abode to the Yuksom hill station. Elevated at an altitude of 5,840 feet above the sea level, Yuksom lies on top of the renowned Khangchendzonga National Park. Entirety of Yuksom gives the ethereal view of the mesmerizing Mt. Khangchendzonga. The town is also known to trekkers as the base camp for Mount Khangchendzonga.
The locals have put their efforts in preserving the valley of Rathong Chu, where Yuksom is located. What’s amazing is how locals promote eco tourism in and around Yuksom and other areas of Sikkim. Since, mountaineers majorly only use Yuksom as a base camp to different treks and the indegineous people of the region are highly aware and promote eco tourism, staying at Yuksom for its own gripping beauty and significance during this pandemic is ideal.
In the district of Chikkamagaluru of the Southern state of India, Karnataka, situated at an altitude of 1434m above sea level, lies the unexplored hill station of Kemmangundi. According to the pages of history, this hill station was sought by the King of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, as a retreat and thus the place is also referred to as the Sri Krishnarajendra Hill Station. He later bestowed this resort to the state’s government.
The name of the hill station, Kemmangundi, originates from three words of the local language, Kannada: kempu meaning red, manny meaning soil and gundi which means pit. Completely surrounded by the sierra of Baba Budan Giri, the hill station is known for its panoramic views. With its exuberant vegetation, views to idiosyncratic valleys, descending mountain brooks, gardens of floras and awe-inspiring views of sunset, Kemmangundi sure is a nature lover’s paradise.
Part of the hilly region is utilized for coffee and tea plantations and other parts are covered with bamboo groves, making a forest area. Kemmangundi is recognized for its popular waterfalls and, Bhadra Tiger Reserve and Z point. There are several trails made for hikers for adventurous activities. Among the commercialized and popular tourist destinations of Southern India, places like Kemmangundi have a lot to offer in this period where we all need to socially distance ourselves. So if you’re looking to escape reality and avoid herds of tourists to enjoy a socially distanced break, count on the offbeat jewel that is Kemmangundi.