For me, Mussoorie is the land of Rudyard Kipling and Ruskin Bond, who with their innumerable stories have weaved an air of magic and adventure around this beautiful British-era hill station. Thanks to these authors, I was already fascinated with this heritage hill town without having seen it and now visiting it was one of my travel dreams come true.
We visited Mussoorie during the Christmas break of 2020. Being in the middle of a pandemic, we chose to stay at JW Marriot which we thought would be a better choice given the sanitization and safety procedures it followed. Our resort was a good 25-30 minute drive from the hub of the town but that did not bother us much as we had hired a personal car and a driver for the entire duration of the trip.
This popular hill station still retains much of its colonial charm even in 2020. Landour near Lal Tibba, where Ruskin Bond still resides, is one such place where one can still find age-old villas and churches lending a touch of romanticism to this lovely hill town. The town offers many lovely walks through the woods with stunning views of the Garhwal Himalayas, not to mention the Garhwali culture and hospitality which we were treated to.
1) We got a RT-PCR test done before embarking on our journey. The resort too demanded a negative test report before checking us in. The airport officials on arrival, however, did not ask for any proof of the test.
2) Most of the hotels, inns and resorts, including the Savoy are located in and around Mall Road. All the good eateries and cafes too are concentrated in the area. So you can imagine the traffic chaos and crowds in that part of the town. With the narrow roads, absence of parking spots and hordes of tourists, it is recommended to not drive yourself but to rent a cab with a driver if you are planning to park at the Mall Road.
High tea at our picturesque resort. Will recommend JW especially in times of Covid…
Camel’s Back Road
(Time taken to explore the place: Approx 2 hours)
One such highly recommended walk is the Camel’s Back Road. The picturesque road is just behind the busy Mall Road. (Yes, I just realized there is a Mall Road in almost every North Indian hill station and crowded they all are!)
This 3-km walk is less frequented by the tourists and offers magnificent views of the valleys and dales that Mussoorie is. It starts at the Library Chowk and ends near Picture Palace, a gaming zone in Mussoorie. The name of the road is derived from a contour on the surrounding hill that resembles a camel’s hump. I tried too hard to find the connection 😉 but eventually gave up!
The road goes behind the busy Mall Road and suddenly leads us to an altogether different world totally devoid of any commercialization but just the beautiful hills around us and their tranquility.
Take a look at some pics below:
Mall Road – The board directing one to Camel’s back road
The graveyard of some old English army folks along the road
Tranquil trail. .. seriously quite isolated it was!
One can have a hearty lunch at Little Llama Cafe which is located near the Picture Palace. The ambience is cosy and inviting, especially in the chilly winters after enjoying the walk on Camel’s back road.
There is just one small Maggi and Tea point too along the Camel’s Back Road with a few benches kept outside it. This small shack too offers fantastic views of the valleys out there.
(Time taken: Around 1 hour)
Another nice location to visit in Mussoorie is Kempty falls. It was quite close to where we were put up and hence we reached there before 9 am and could beat the crowd. A short stair of steps, surrounded by small shops, tea stalls, and eateries. led us to the fall below. The fall is a pretty sight from a height but unfortunately, the shops negate a lot of its natural splendor at its base. Anyways, our trip to the falls was a quick one as we did not indulge in any major shopping. However, if one were to even start window shopping, I think it would be an altogether different fun experience 🙂
Kempty falls – Tier 1
Kempty falls at the base
(Time taken: 3-4 hours including the drive uphill from Picture Palace)
Another must-visit spot in Mussoorie is Landour and Lal Tibba. It lies on the other end of the town towards Picture Palace, up the winding roads to the top of the hill. The place offers beautiful scenic points all along the way to enjoy the sun setting behind the hills. We parked our car near the paid public restroom and decided to walk along the road to enjoy the views around us.
There are no shops or noisy vendors along the way to disturb the aura of the place. Just a plain uphill walk with valleys on the left and a few picturesque houses on the right. We decided to walk as far as we could enjoying the tall coniferous trees surrounding us. The rustic villas along the valleys too looked inviting with their decks cozied up with huge patio chairs and a fireplace. The chill in the air, the setting sun and the light snowfall of the previous night carpeting the lawns of these houses lent magic to the air.
The walk on Lal Tibba. It was really chilly (4 degrees) and my mask did seem to offer protection against the biting cold! 🙂
Soon enough we reached a crossroad and took a left to reach an old villa with people crowding outside it. Piqued, we went closer and found out that we had reached the iconic Landour BakeHouse, one of the most famous bakeries in town; and the crowds were of the eager customers who were thronging the 18th-century villa to get an entry inside it.
It’s not just the old-world charm of the British-era villa that beckons these customers but the bakehouse offers an assortment of sweet and savory bakes that are worth drooling over. A delicious bite of the cakes, pastries, croissants, crepes and breads along with a good hot cup of coffee or chocolate is what exactly one needs on a chilly winter evening! We waited for a good 45 minutes before we were allowed in 😉
Try and get a window seat overlooking the valleys in the bakehouse. One will be transported back in time for sure!
Treks of Mussoorie
Mussoorie is a trekker’s paradise. The place offers scores of treks in and around it. We too had booked a trek to Nag tibba through a trekking group operating in Mussoorie but as luck would have it, we had to cancel it soon after. My son was recovering from a hairline fracture; his cast was just taken off before our travel and when he refused, we had to call it off too.
Nag tibba and Pari tibba are supposed to be arduous and long treks but later we booked a relatively simple trek of about 3 hours through our resort. We were allocated a guide who would accompany us through the woods to Dalai Hills.
A number of treks (treks to Benog Hill, Dhobighat, George Everest, etc) too pass through Dalai hillsand take us through the forests that are rich in flora and fauna. The woods surrounding the hills were tall and lovely and our resort guys had set up stone chulhas in the clearing out there to make Maggi on our way back. The prospect of having Maggi in the woods excited us all the more.
Dalai hills is a beautiful location atop the Happy Valley in Mussoorie. The place offers sweeping views of the valleys around it. The Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy for civil services training in India is located just below the Dalai Hills. A beautiful Budhha statue sits atop the hill and the entire place is decorated with hundreds of Tibetan flags circling around it. Devotees come to offer prayers and the entire area exudes a kind of calmness and peace – making us believe that the world is one happy place!
The Buddha Statue atop Dalai Hill
Buddhist Stupa enroute Dalai Hills
The trek was short and lovely and the walk through the tall woods was mesmerizing. Do visit this lovely place when in Mussoorie!
There are many other spots of interest to visit while in Mussoorie. There is some lake on the way up from Dehradun, then there is the Gun Hill Point (do skip it as it is just a gaming zone with no viewpoints), Company Garden, some museum of historic collectibles, and of course the Mall Road which houses different handicraft markets and exquisite goods.