It’s that time of the year again when summer holiday plans need to be sorted. With the mercury soaring higher each day, the crisp, cool mountain air of Himachal Pradesh will definitely beckon city dweller. This time around veer away from the main hill stations where crowds are inevitable and take a scenic break with the family in hotels where you don’t even need to step out of the premises.
1. WelcomHotel By ITC Hotels, Tavleen Chail
Staying in a fairytale cottage with wooden floors and four-poster beds, having meals overlooking the mountains, a dip in the temperature-controlled pool, strolling along charming walking trails within the resort and yoga sessions – this will be your vacation at this sprawling hotel in Chail. Resembling a white castle from afar, it is spread at many levels over 6.5 acres. The hotel offers much to do such as picnicking in the surrounding hills, a well-stocked library and a children’s activity and playroom. Foodies, do order the Himachali thali.
2. Taj Theog Resort & Spa, Shimla
Located on the edge of a cliff whose USP is the jaw-dropping view of the mountains, this gorgeous hotel lies about 30km away from Shimla. With97 rooms, divided into eight categories including a duplex suite, you are spoiled for choice. They take both food and wellness rather seriously. The three dining options include Tragopan - an all-day diner where you can enjoy local Himachali cuisine, Peony is the Chinese restaurant and Theog Junction is the pub named after the toy train from Kalka to Shimla. Sip a detox cocktail (yes, a detox one) while gazing at the mountains. The range of treatments at Jiva spa ensures that one heads back totally rejuvenated. There are activities like pondside picnics, archery, treks and camping to keep you busy.
3. Wildflower Hall, Shimla
Set in the midst of 23 acres of lush woods of pine and cedar, this property was once the home of Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in colonial India. Rebuilt by the Oberoi group, it is now one of the most popular luxury resorts in the state. Each room offers commanding views of the Himalayas, the decor retains the grandeur of a bygone era and the food and service are truly world-class. The all-day fine dining restaurant serves Asian, Indian and Continental food. Wildflower Hall has a great spa that offers rejuvenating massages. It is hard to leave the premises, but those who want to step out can opt for picnics, mountain biking or take a colonial heritage tour of Shimla.
4. Rakkh Resort, Palampur
About an hour away from Dharamshala, this resort in Palampur is all about disconnecting from the phone and immersing yourself in experiences. It encourages you to keep your mobile away, take it slow and become one with nature. Head to local villages for a hands-on experience of the lives of locals by joining them in their daily activities. Learn how to cook a Himachali meal, try your hand at pottery or weaving and go to the tea garden to pluck some leaves for your cuppa. The little ones will have a ball trying their hand at archery, pottery or biking.
5. Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort, Shimla
A scenic 45-minute drive from Kangra airport takes you to the sprawling resort overlooking the gorgeous Dhauladhar mountains. The Hyatt chain’s first hotel in the state has 80 rooms including four private villas that are ideal for large families. The inter-connected rooms are best for those with children. When you want to experience the buzz of the town that is home to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan refugees, step into the main McLeodganj market that is just a ten-minute drive away. The in-house bakery McLeod & Co. bakery and shop has some delicious goodies while Thyme is the all-day dining restaurant. The bar, 2082, takes its name from the height of the resort and offers cocktails made with local Himachali ingredients. Besides enjoying a picnic within the premises, spa massages, yoga, meditation sessions and a dip in the pool ensure a relaxing holiday.
6. WelcomHeritage Elysium Resort & Spa, Shimla
Opened just a few months back, this resort lies about 3km away from the Mall Road of Shimla, but it secludes you from the crowd. All the 39 rooms overlook the mountains. There’s a multi-cuisine restaurant but for a special experience, head to the rooftop and have a meal at Prince’s Perch as you take in a spectacular 360-degree view of Shimla.
7. Araiya- A Norwood Heights Resort, Palampur
Himachal may not be famed for its tea, but this hotel lying in the vicinity of tea gardens spread across Kangra Valley will give you a chance to take a peek at a tea plantation. The adventurous minded can go paragliding at the world’s second highest spot - Bir. Surrounded by pine forests and overlooking the Dhauladhar mountains, the 25 rooms here include four duplex suites. The hotel’s range of activities spoil you for choice – mountain top jeep safari, paragliding, treks, hikes, pottery sessions and picnics by the river. Make sure to have at least one local Kangri meal at the restaurant.
8. Welcomhotel By ITC Hotels, Shimla
Don’t get confused with the name – this charming hotel is not in main Shimla, but 30-minutes away. The moment you drive inside, you are surrounded with tall cedar and pine trees and the sound of birdsong. And don’t fret about getting a room with a view because all the 47 rooms overlook verdant Himalayan hillsides - in fact, the beds are aligned in such a way that you gaze at the mountains rather than a TV screen. From nature treks and walks, picnics with games within the premises, and spa massages at the signature spa, it’s easy to unwind at the hotel. Children can engage in fun games at Ollie’s Corner while there is also virtual gaming for all age groups. Do not miss the local Himachali food, especially the breakfast.
9. Radisson Blu Resort, Dharamshala
Surrounded by the Himalayas, this nine-acre hotel with 120 rooms by the Radisson group is not even a year old and all the rooms have lovely views of the valley. When it comes to dining, there’s Edge - the all-day dining multicuisine restaurant, a pizzeria called Italian Crust, All Out – the lounge bar and D’Sweet Spot tea lounge for bakes and brews. A special menu has been curated for kids. With a library, card room, spa, kids play area and a meditation room, there is enough to keep one busy. Do not forget to take a dip in the temperature-controlled infinity pool overlooking the mountains.
10. Moksha Himalaya Spa Resort, Parwanoo
While reaching one’s destination can often be taxing, arriving here is half the fun - you need to take a cable car from Timber Trail and then you are at a sprawling resort where you rejuvenate simply by not stepping out. An infinity pool with magnificent views of the mountains is definitely a plus point. As the name suggests, they take wellness rather seriously so indulge in some Ayurvedic massages to ease those weary city muscles.