India is a land shaped by hills and mountains, especially in the north where the meeting of two tectonic plates has forced up the mighty Himalayas. Elsewhere, the peaks are more gentle, often giving way to rolling hills. The climate in these high places is pleasantly cool in summer, making them a welcome retreat from the plains.
The British built their hill stations to serve as summer capitals; there was only so much heat and humidity they could take. Shimla, Darjeeling, and Srinagar are three names which would have tripped off the colonial bureaucrat’s tongue, and they still boast some glorious Victorian architecture. Well connected to the Indian railway network, they’re often accessible by train, including the narrow gauge Toy Train to Darjeeling, and the Kalka to Shimla route’s Himalayan Queen.
The best hiking routes are up in the Himalayas, through the valleys and passes of Ladakh. This region is known as Little Tibet on account of its strong Buddhist culture and large population of Tibetan exiles, and there are fantastic day hikes as well as longer treks. We also love the forested trails of Darjeeling, its tea estates, waterfalls, and mountain streams.