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The best of India’s natural beauty

One of the world’s most geographically diverse countries, India spans six climate zones with landscapes ranging from snow-covered Himalayan valleys to rainforests and palm-fringed golden beaches.

Here are the most highly rated destinations for nature in India, according to global travellers.*

Shillong, Meghalaya

Walk across Meghalaya's living root bridges constructed by locals over hundreds of years

Walk across Meghalaya's living root bridges constructed by locals over hundreds of years

The name Meghalaya means ‘the abode of the clouds’; it refers to a tiny subtropical state in the north-east corner of India whose hilly terrain tends to be mystically enveloped in fog. It’s also been nicknamed ‘Scotland of the East’, probably on account of its copious rainfall. The state capital, Shillong, is a base from which to explore pine-forested hills, peaceful lakes (Umiam Lake is vast and beautiful), waterfalls (the Nohsngithiang Falls is particularly astounding, with seven adjacent plumes of water that plunge down 315 metres of cliffside into jade green pools) and living root bridges. These bridges were constructed in dense forest, with locals training the roots of rubber trees to twist together over hundreds of years. Check out the mountain views from the terrace of Dew Drop In.

Panchgani, Maharashtra

The glowing emerald green landscape around the hill station of Panchgani

The glowing emerald green landscape around the hill station of Panchgani

From this Maharashtrian hill station, everything as far as the eye can see glows emerald green. A scenic swathe of long grass and forest is punctuated by bright exotic flowers and thick clouds rising from the valley. The town initially gained a reputation as a retreat for Bollywood celebrities but now that more people have caught on to its natural beauty, there are plenty of hostels and hotels for tourists. Admire the Table Land – a vast volcanic plateau – and head up to Parsi Point, where you’ll discover views of historic forts. Panchgani Cottages provides bungalow accommodation with pretty green corrugated iron roofs and paved private porches.

Yercaud, Tamil Nadu

Trek through verdant forest in the Eastern Ghats and enjoy sublime views

Trek through verdant forest in the Eastern Ghats and enjoy sublime views

This quiet hill station in southern India amid the Servarayan range in the Eastern Ghats, is nicknamed the ‘Jewel of the South’. Here, verdant forest-covered mountains are broken up by misty plateaus, lakes and coffee, citrus fruit and spice plantations. Hike to Kiliyur Falls, a 90-foot-high, softly flowing cascade that creates a cloud of cool spray that local monkeys love to leap through. There’s also the Lady’s Seat lookout, where you can perch atop the rocks and take in the tropical panorama. Stay at the Grand Palace Hotel & Spa in Yercaud for lake and mountain views from your suite.

Gangtok, Sikkim

Buddhist rock piles and prayer flags decorate the Himalayas in Sikkim

Buddhist rock piles and prayer flags decorate the Himalayas in Sikkim

Sikkim is widely celebrated for its hypnotic beauty. It’s a landlocked state and part of the Himalayas, where you'll find India’s highest mountain – the mighty Kangchenjunga. Most visitors come here to trek from one prayer flag-draped village to the next, passing glaciers, crystalline streams, rhododendron-filled meadows and Buddhist stupas (sacred Buddhist buildings). The city of Gangtok is the capital and the best place from which to explore the region's nature; stay at Bamboo Retreat, where feng shuied suites with hot stone baths overlook lime green rice paddies.

Kumarakom, Kerala

Go on a cruise of Kerala's heavenly tropical backwaters

Go on a cruise of Kerala's heavenly tropical backwaters

Known for its tropical backwaters lined with swaying palm trees, Kerala is one of India’s most naturally beautiful states. Go on a houseboat cruise from the village of Kumarakom and you’ll get to appreciate it all up close, floating down streams under jungle canopies, visiting lagoons and lake islands that serve as a sanctuary for cuckoos, herons, Siberian storks and other rare migratory birds. The highly rated Mango Kerala Homes is built right on the edge of the water in Kumarakom.

**The data scientists at Booking.com dug into internal data to find the most highly rated destinations in India for ‘nature’.