Welcome to the lush Western Ghats, some of the most precious heat relief in India. Rising like an impassable bulwark of evergreen and deciduous tangle, from north of Mumbai to the tip of Tamil Nadu, the World Heritage–listed Ghats (with an average elevation of 915m) contain 27% of India’s flowering plant species and an incredible array of endemic wildlife. In Tamil Nadu they rise to over 2000m in the Palani Hills around Kodaikanal and the Nilgiris around Ooty. British influence lingers a little stronger up in these hills, where colonists built 'hill stations' to escape the sweltering plains and covered slopes in neatly trimmed tea plantations. It’s not just the air and (relative) lack of pollution that’s refreshing – there’s a certain acceptance of quirkiness and eccentricity here. Expect organic farms, handlebar-moustached trekking guides and leopard-print earmuffs.