A Happy Weekend Trip to Mussoorie

For those who think of the tourist spots in India, certainly considers the Taj Mahal, the pink city Jaipur or the tourist stronghold Goa. Pictures of these places characterize the travel magazines, Instagram channels of Indian instagrammers and airport posters. But India has much more to offer than the world-famous classics! I have a real crush on Mussoorie, a small town created in 1825 by the British during the colonial period.

The foothills of the Himalayas is a wonderful, untouched oasis of peace away from mass tourism, chaos and noise. 300 kilometers north of Delhi on the border to Tibet and Nepal lies the mountain region of Garhwal, considered the land of the gods. Time and again I like to remember my exciting trip to the places around the world like Zangdopelri in Bhutan.

In Garhwal and Nainital, I enjoyed the tranquility of the mountains, visit imposing waterfalls, gardens and enjoyed the comfort of the stay. Mussoorie, located at 2,000 meters on a ridge overlooking the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas is very popular for newlyweds on honeymoon or those who want to escape the heat of Delhi and the North Indian lowlands for a weekend.

A Happy Weekend Trip to Mussoorie

1. Camels Back Road

The world belongs to those who get up early, but the road belongs above all to cars and trucks. I get up at 4:00 for a flight from Delhi at 6:00. I am very happy to be only a few hours away from putting on my steps to climb my first roller coaster ride through the Himalayas.

At 7:30 am, I take the public jeep from the Dehradun airport. An hour later, I reach the exit of the city on the road that goes to Mussoorie. I can see right away that there is a lot more traffic. It was predictable because we are in the middle of a holiday season and Mussoorie is a very popular hill station with tourists.

The roads are narrow and scary but the driver is experienced and skillfully guides through the imposing roads. A nice moment begins when the road enters the middle of a pine forest. I open the windows and the smell of pines and aromatic plants floods the car.

In the valleys or on the mountainside, small rice terraces can be seen. I did not think that pines and rice fields could be part of the same landscape, at least not until I saw it in Uttarakhand. With my backpack I climb from the Library Bus Stand to Camels Back Road. I walk in the pedestrian path, admiring the steep hills around, dotted with hamlets and hotels.

I stay in an old romantic-ghostly Victorian guest house with its old world charm, small blue veranda, period furniture, double bed, and mystic painting. Up here in the hills everything is very simple and rustic. After a short tour in the city and rest I sit around a fire. With a hot lentil soup I warm up before I bury myself under the thick blankets in the cold.

2. Kempty Falls

I wake up with the sun, and at breakfast have black tea and paratha! I head to the Uttarakhand Tourism Office from where I take a taxi up to Kempty Falls. Contrary to expectations, this place is quite crowded and not very natural. The waterfalls are surrounded by concrete. There is a paddling pool for non-swimmers, along with small shops and restaurants.

3. Cloud End

I freeze and drink liters of chai to warm up before I conquer the mountain village. The house facades glow colorfully on the mountainside. I then head to Cloud End and then the Jwala Devi Temple. And there, the view of the Himalayan range and its peaks is like a tidal wave petrified in the ice. I savor this unexpected moment, so close to the roof of the world.

I arrive at the top and see first a small cave with Ganesha and the goddess, topped by a trident. A monkey watches me. The temple is very simple, where the sound of the bell echoes for miles. I went to lunch in a small typical restaurant, very quiet, and suddenly, a whole group of boys and girls, rushed into the restaurant to shoot an ad film and I found myself invaded by the crowd.

4. Gun Hill

Passing through Gun Hill, the hill overlooking the city at 2300 m is the water tower of the city and also the touristy area. I go on a cable car and on the climb I see a nice panorama. There are boards for rifle shooting, camera men offering to take photo with traditional clothes.

Gun Hill offers incredible views of the Doon Valley and the surrounding landscapes. Here the English trace is perceptible. I decide to walk further. Happy Valley area is located west of Library Point, and houses the IAS Academy. I leave the city for the Happy Valley, the Tibetan village, where I spend a wonderful time at the Buddhist monastery.

The atmosphere is studious and I talk with a young Tibetan. The monastery is the first one built after the escape of the Dalai Lama. The flags float, which are put as high as possible. I exchange greetings with shouts of Tashi delek with the children I met. I turn my first prayer wheel and imagine a Tibet not so far from here.

With a phone number for the Bird Sanctuary I come back to the guest house slowly for an excellent evening. I sit around the general smokiness in the small kitchen thanks to the wood fire where I have some nice local dishes!

5. Landour

At about 8 o'clock I go to a small restaurant and order aloo parantha, omelet, sweet lassi and chai for breakfast. I walk through the quiet city to the Mall road. The city is calm, and clean with old ironwork with ribbons and kiosks, pine forest, steep streets and horses at the end of the Camels Back Road that begins near Library Point and ends at Kulri Bazaar.

Kulri Bazaar has most restaurants in Mussoorie. The inhabitants are wrapped in thick blankets, wearing colorful caps, vests and gloves. In the city center there is a bakery. The baked goods are far from what we call a bread or cheese cake at home, but still delicious and reminiscent of my distant home.

A lovely steep hike from the bazaar takes me to the Char Dukan. I enjoy paranthas, and pancakes with maple syrup. During a very nice walk in the mountains on the heights of Landour, I get lost in the woods. Cobbled streets, historic hotels, quaint family houses, tiny bakeries, the best pizzas in the region and the winterline in Mussoorie.

Landour is one of only two places in the world after Switzerland where you can see how it is happening! What more can you ask? Luckily I met a very friendly local on my trail who was very surprised to meet a stranger in this remote corner of the hill and guided me to find my way. He told me that every day he has to walk 2 hours on this little steep path to reach the village where he stays.

The view was fantastic and as often difficult to capture on pictures. Unfortunately, the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas were very hard to spot as it was too hazy.

I end the afternoon with a ride to Dhanaulti to end the day wandering between the deodars. The Surkanda Devi Temple is a sacred place dedicated to the Goddess Parvati that the devotees venerate for the locals.

There are barracks between shady gardens. The freshly repainted office is empty, and the following are as I imagine.

Back in the evening quietly reading on the terrace of the hotel facing the Himalayas, I feel that the trip is not unpleasant at all. I share the meal with chapati, dal, aloo gobi and good mood and end up going to bed for a short night to the view of a fascinating night sky, with myriads of stars and the lights of Garhwal valley.
Kalyan Panja

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