Mussoorie, Queen of the Hills, located some 290 km north of New Delhi, is among the most popular hill stations of the country. It is a captivating paradise for leisure travellers and honeymooners. A perfect summer resort and a major educational and cultural centre has been rolled into one hub. Located on a 15 km long horseshoe ridge with the grand Himalayas as a backdrop, the colonial hill resort of Mussoorie spreads across at a height of 2,005.5 m above sea level. From this vantage point, Mussoorie offers superb scenic view of peaks of the Himalayas in western Garhwal. Mussoorie boasts of some of the most spectacular views of the Himalayas. Hill ridges, irregular in shape and partly wooded, form layer after layer to the horizon, where snow capped mountain peaks are visible as though you can touch them. From West to East, the mighty peaks of Bandar Poonch, Srikantha, the Gangotri group and the Chaukhamba present a mesmerizing panorama. 34 km from Dehradun, Mussoorie overlooks the majestic Doon valley to its south and the impressive Himalayas up north. The mountains beckon climbers, trekkers and adventure sport enthusiasts. Trekkers begin their journey into the popular trekking area of Hari-ki-Doon with its snowscapes and verdant-forested slopes from Mussoorie. The holy River Ganga is visible from one end of the ridge and Yamuna from the other, a stretch of around 20 km in all, from Cloud’s end in the west to Jabarkhet in the east.
One of the most easily accessible hill stations in Northern India, during the peak tourist season, Mussoorie becomes a bustling resort with hordes of holiday-makers ambling down the central Mall. The suburban area of Landour, about 300 m away from the main town, is quieter and has managed to retain some of its old colonial charm. Surrounded by lush wooded expanses and winding lanes, it offers exclusive opportunities for quiet walks. It overlooks the sprawling Doon valley and the city of Dehradun, the gateway to Mussoorie and to entire Garhwal.
AN INTRIGUING PAST
Although Mussoorie, as a hill station, was established in 1825 by captain Young, it has quite an intriguing past. Mussoorie was never an official summer capital like Shimla – a hill station in the state of Himachal Pradesh which was the summer capital of the British Indian government or even like Nainital – the summer capital of the United Provinces Government in British India. Mussoorie always remained unofficial – for the affairs of the heart. It has always been a gossip place – with an air of informality and a tradition of romance – The Honeymoon Capital of India.
It was due to the conquest of the Garhwal and the Dehra in 1803 by the Gorkhas, under Umer Singh Thapa that Mussoorie implicitly came into existence. It was natural after that, at some point of time the interest of British security would have clashed with the expansionist policies of the Gorkhas and although the immediate cause of the war was different, another war inevitably broke out on November 1, 1814 and Dehradun was evacuated of the Gorkhas by 1815 and was annexed to the district of Saharanpur by 1819.
The history of Mussoorie town dates back to 1825 when Captain Young, an adventurous British military officer, together with one Mr. Shore, the resident Superintendent of Revenues at Dehradun, explored the present site and jointly constructed a shooting lodge. This laid the foundation of this holiday resort which now has few rivals. Its name is derived from a shrub locally called mansoor behind the house of the Captain. Some believe that perhaps that is reason behind the name of the town, which is also known as Mansoori among the natives of the surrounding area.
Before the British came, there were only shepherds whose animals grazed on the ‘Mansur’ shrub. It is natural to suppose that the officers located the hills and eventually climbed them in search of sport and recreation. The first house erected on the ridge of Mussoorie was a small hut built on the Camel’s back as a shooting box by Mr. Shore, the then Joint Magistrate and superintendent of revenues of the Doon and Captain Young of the Sirmur Rifles in 1823. Soon Captain Young built his large residence called ‘Mullingar’ as his residence as the Commandant of Landour. The splendid climate and the good sport obtainable gradually attracted other Europeans. As the Doon and the hills to the north became better known in 1827, the Government established a convalescent depot for European soldiers at Landour. The town grew rapidly and a hundred years on, it had grown into a major settlement for the homesick British, away from the heat and dust of the plains.
In April 1959, after fleeing Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama decided to establish the Tibetan Government of Exile in Mussoorie, which eventually moved to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. The first Tibetan school was established in Mussoorie in 1960. Today, some 5,000 Tibetans live in Mussoorie.
MUSSOORIE – A ROMANTIC TOWN
Mussoorie is a wonderful place to unwind. Here you do what Mussoorie encourages you to do to your heart’s content.
The modern bungalows, malls and well-laid gardens located on the small hills around the area are enough to attract any tourist. The town has unavoidable romance in the air – an excellent breathing space for tourists and people who seek relief from the hot sultry conditions of the plains. Nature has gifted Mussoorie everything, which makes a place charming and cherubic.
Mussoorie offers a beautiful nature walk known as Camel’s Back Road. This road takes its name from a hill shaped like a camel’s hump. There is also Gun Hill where cannons were kept for the defence of the town. The oldest Christian church in the Himalayas, St. Mary’s, is situated above Mall Road, and is currently undergoing restoration. Kempty Falls is a nice picnic spot. Company Garden (now Municipal Garden) is another popular tourist spot. During the season, the Company Garden presents a beautiful collection of flowers and plants. The Happy Valley has a small Tibetan temple. This was the first Tibetan temple built in India. The temple was constructed in 1960 by the Tibetan refugees. Lal Tibba is another tourist spot of Mussoorie. Beautiful Dhanaulti is about 24 kilometers from Mussoorie. Mussoorie also has India’s largest roller skating rink.
The main promenade in Mussoorie is called, as in other hill stations, the Mall. In Mussoorie, the Mall stretches from Picture Palace at its eastern end to the Public Library, Gandhi Chowk at its western end. During the British Raj, signs on the Mall expressly stated – ‘Indians and Dogs Not Allowed’; racist signs of this type were common place in hill stations, which were founded ‘by and for’ the British. Motilal Nehru, the father of Jawahar Lal Nehru, deliberately broke this rule every day whenever he was in Mussoorie, and would pay the fine. The Nehru family, including Nehru’s daughter Indira (Indira Gandhi) were frequent visitors to Mussoorie in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. They also spent much time in Dehradun, where Nehru’s sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit ultimately settled.
An idyllic stroll through any of the meandering mountain roads of the town on a clear and sunny day will bring you to some of the well known and not so well known spots – each having its own tales to tell – Landour Bazaar, Chaar Dukaan, Lal Tibba, Gun Hill, the Camel Back cemetery, the Mussoorie Library, and of course the Hotel Savoy – an historical edifice in itself. You may be able to recognize any or all of the old houses and estates or you may meet some descendant of any of the many well – known families of Mussoorie.
The weather is generally bright and clear – except during the three months (June to August) of Monsoons, – when mists envelope the mountain slopes and paints the sky with a mauve glow while the woods around – of pine, cedar, birch, oak, rhododendron and deodar – erupt greener. There usually is a bright Christmas and the breathtaking view of the snow-clad Mussoorie gives it the name – the Queen among hill stations. There are popular picnic spots in and around the town – Kempty Falls in the west and Dhanaulti, further up beyond the town.
Mussoorie has some lovely and charming old houses and estates, usually with names derived from the native places of those who built and lived in them. Today these old houses and estates are owned by financially well-off Indians, many of whom follow the life styles of their former colonial rulers. In most cases, the old names have been retained.
Some of these old graceful houses are – Captain Young’s Mullingar Mansion, the oldest existing building in Mussoorie, Houses of Irish pioneers – Tipperary, Killarney, Shemrock cottage and the Tara hall, the houses of Scot pioneers – Scottsburn, Wolfsburn and of course the houses of the English rulers – Connaught Castle, Grey castle, Hampton court and Castle hill. There evidently were a lot of fans of the legendary writer Sir Walter Scott as we find old estates of the name of Kenilworth, Rockeby, Waverly and also Abootsford – the name of Sir Scott’s own house in England.
There are quite a few well – known families in Mussoorie, who over the times have become a part of the history, culture and the landscape of this place – the Rajmata of Jind, Princess Sita of Kapurthala, the Gantzers, the Badhwars, the Barrettos, the Skinners, the Keelans, the Alters, Lala Banwarilal, Ram Chander and Brothers, Pooranchand and Sons and P.C. Hari’s family. Most of the shopkeepers of Mussoorie and Landour Bazaar are descended from the merchant who first came here with the British soldiers and settlers over 160 years ago.
At the Camel Back Cemetry, thousands of British graves cling to the steep slopes – a constant reminder of the British presence in Mussoorie. Here lie the hill stations’ first pioneers and settlers as well as Generals and common soldiers, memsahibs, gentlemen and brewers. Here also lie John Lang, the Australian born novelist and Fredrick Wilson, better known as ‘Pahadi Wilson’, who married a girl from Harsil. He was the first man to float timber down the Ganga river who lived a life which would have been the envy of kings.
Famous for/as: Hill Station
Languages: Kumaoni, Garhwali, Hindi, Gorkhali, English
Best Season: Sep – June
Weather: Summer 24 to 35°C,
Winter: 1 to 22°C
Altitude: 1826 m
STD code: 013563.
Chandigarh to Mussoorie 192 km
Delhi to Mussoorie 271 km
Shimla Manali to Mussoorie 306 km
Jaipur to Mussoorie 534 km
Pune to Mussoorie 1700 km
Best Season / Best time to visit
The climate is cool and pleasant all through the year but the best time to visit is from September to June.
Winter (October to February) are of freezing weather and snow. Night temperature can touch to subzero levels and roads get blocked by snow and snowfall is common from December till mid of February.
Summer (March to June) are very pleasant with average temperature around 37°C and is good time for sightseeing and adventures. It is in fact great months for Mussoorie tourism.
Monsoon (July to mid-September) are medium and can cause landslides, making it difficult for travelling. Mussoorie is a popular cool summer retreat in India where summers are the best times to have trekking, rock climbing and camping. Winters are cold and are dominated by snowfall. Couples always prefer booking honeymoon packages in Mussoorie during this period. Post monsoons during September to November are ideal months for those seeking to enjoy water rafting.
Attractions & Places to Visit and Explore in Mussoorie
Gun Hill is the second highest peak of Mussoorie. The Mall is the starting point for the cable car towards the summit of Gun Hill. The thrill of the ride is memorable and offers beautiful views of the Himalayan Ranges.
The Mall is the main shopping area in Mussoorie. The Mall Road connects the two bazaars, Kulri and Library. It is the heart of the town. Alongside the Mall is the tourist office, rows of Tibetan trinket and sweater vendors and shops selling walking sticks and cane items. Cycle rickshaws can be seen here, plying down the Mall. The Mall is the starting point for the cable car towards the summit of Gun Hill, 2142 m above sea level. On clear days, the peaks of Kedarnath, Badrinath and Nanda Devi can be seen from this hill clearly.
The artificial Mussoorie Lake is situated about 6 km short of Mussoorie on the way from Dehradun. The Mussoorie Lake is a delightful spot where paddle-boats are available. It commands an enchanting view of Doon valley and nearby villages.
Landour is situated at the east end of town, situated at an altitude of 2270 m above sea level. Landour is an Indian style bazaar. Woodstock School, an international school which has a sister school in Kodaikkanal in South India, is also located here. The Convent Hill and Happy Valley are also situated here where the Tibetan refugees have settled.
Camel’s Back Road
Camel’s Back Road is suitable for horse riding, walking and beautiful sunset views of the Himalayas. A superb rock formation, with a life-like resemblance to a sitting camel can be seen from this spot.
Lal Tibba is the highest hill and situated at an altitude of 2438m above sea level. The view to the north and the snow-capped peaks is stunning and best at sunrise.
Sir George Everest House
The George Everest House is the estate of Sir George, the surveyor General of India. Sir George had his office and residence here. The Mount Everest, the highest peak of the Himalayas was named after Sir George.
The Jwalaji Temple is situated on the top of the Benog Hill and has an idol of Mata Durga. The temple is surrounded by the thick forests and offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan peaks, Doon valley and Yamuna valley.
This temple is located in Happy valley area of Mussoorie. Both Municipal gardens and Tibetan temple can be seen in one day. They are located one kilometer from Lal Bahadur Shastri National Administrative Academy. The Tibetan temple is evidence to rich Tibetan cultural heritage.
A British major had a building constructed in 1838. This beautiful building was converted into hotel and was named Cloud’s End. It got the name because it appears that the clouds have ended here. From this place one can have a good view of the valley. Cloud’s End is located some eight kilometers west of Mussoorie hills. Due to its location, at the end of horizon, it is very popular among the Honeymooners and Foreign tourists.
Municipal Gardens Or Company Bagh
The Municipal Gardens or the Company Bagh was previously (before independence) known as Botanical gardens of Mussoorie. Famous geologist, Dr. H. Fackner laid foundations of these gardens in the last century.
This place is 7 km on way to Kempty Falls. Lake Mist offers a perfect resting place for tired and weary tourists. One has to pay Rs. 25 to enter Lake Mist. There is provision for accommodation as well.
Nag Devta Temple
It is an ancient temple situated on cart Mackenzie Road, about 6 km from Mussoorie. Vehicles can go right up to the spot. It provides a charming view of Doon Valley as well as of Mussoorie.
Kempty Falls is located about 15 km away on the Yamunotri road. It is a popular and picturesque waterfall, located in the beautiful valley surrounded by the high mountains. The bath at the foot of the falls is refreshing. From Kempty Falls, the area west to the Yamuna gorge is being declared as a sanctuary. This sanctuary is rich in bird life, and also has some wildlife including leopards.
Surkhanda Devi Temple
Surkhanda Devi Temple is the highest point in the area, located at a height of 3021 mt on the top of hill. It is situated about 35 km from Mussoorie and 11 km from Dhanaulti. It is an important pilgrimage centre. The temple offers extensive view of the snow ranges and exclusive experience one can never forget.
It is 7km from Mussoorie via. Balahisar or Barlowganj. It is a beautiful fall surrounded by a dense forest.
It is 8.5 km from Mussoorie. Visitors can go by car upto Jharipani (7 km.), from where the distance to the fall is 1.5 km. by foot.
Bhatta Fall is beautiful & natural fall amidst most serene environment, 8 km. from Mussoorie on Mussoorie-Dehradun road. A fall has different ponds for bathing and amusement, making it an ideal place for picnic – a picnic spot with a difference. Accessible by car or taxi up to the fall itself.
Lakha Mandal is on the Yamunotri road, past Kempty Falls. There are hundreds of idols of archaeological importance that have been preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India. According to the legend, the Kauravas made a shellac house and conspired to burn the Pandavas alive here.
If you walk past the clock tower and look between the plains and the rising slopes of Landour, you’ll see a road that leads to the green meadows and deodar forests of Dhanaulti, 24 km away. There’s both a forest bungalow and a tourist bungalow at Dhanaulti and it’s a delightful place to spend a quiet weekend.
How to Reach Here
By air: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant at Dehradun (82 km). Taxis are available from the airport.
By road: Dehradun is well connected by roads. Take the Tehri bypass from Mussoorie and drive down the Mussoorie-Chamba road.
By rail: The nearest railhead is Dehradun (68 km).
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