As the Queen of the Hills, Mussoorie has always had a crown and scepter at hand. She remains the stuff of history, legend, literary fancy and even the occasional ghost story. There have been other maidens who have stubbornly vied for her title, but like any lady, she holds steadfast and true to her beauty and natural bounty, creating the aura of the ‘fairyland’ to all her visitors. The fairy tale of Mussoorie is captured ideally by Ruskin Bond in his book, Mussoorie and Landour: days of wine and roses. Sitting loftily at 6600 ft. Mussoorie is surrounded by snowcapped peaks and the glittering evergreens of the Doon Valley and Shivalik ranges. Offering a plethora of options to provide a feast for the eyes with the varied flora and fauna, winding streams and waterfalls and the homely cliché of the winding country roads, Mussoorie is a maiden worth the journey.
In 1826, Captain Young of the first Gurkha battalion along with the Mr. Shore, the resident Superintendent of Revenues at Dehradun, constructed a shooting lodge which proved to be the seed of a resort with few competitors. Captain Young’s mansion, known as the Mullinger, is credited with being the oldest in Mussoorie. Local fable has it that long after Young returned to his home in Ireland, his spirit returned and still rides his favorite horse and surveys his old haunts. Like all hill stations in India, the main promenade is called the Mall. It stretches from the Picture Palace at its eastern end to the Library at its western end, which was strictly off limits to ‘Indians and dogs’ during the Raj – a rule mischievously flouted by Motilal Nehru, father of Jawaharlal Nehru, everyday he was in Mussoorie. The Nehru family stayed at the Savoy, until finally Nehru’s sister, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, settled there for good. In 1959, the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan Government in Exile temporarily before moving it to Dharamshala, during the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Tibetans that stayed behind in Mussoorie settled majorly In Happy Valley.
Today Mussoorie is solely an escape from the heat of the plains that results in a heavy tourist influx during the summer months. Its economy relies practically entirely on this seasonal traffic and is therefore crowded with hotels and travel lodges.
Places to Visit
Camel’s Back Road named after a rock projection resembling a camel’s hump, is a beautiful nature walk that deserves a trek. Take a Cable Ride from the main Mall promenade to Gun Hill which is dotted with Chai (tea) shops, mock ornate photo studios and telescope shops. Enjoy the panoramic view as you hear the story of the canon that boomed out mid day for Mussoorie until recently. Kempty Falls is among Mussoorie’s greatest attraction with a 40 ft cascade that splits into five separate waterfalls. Lake Mist is located at a distance of about 5 km from Kempty Falls. The main Kempty river flows through it as it forms many small waterfalls along its path – a scenery as magical as its name, it has been developed into one of the most popular picnic spots with accommodation, restaurants and even boating easily available for the experience-thirsty traveler. The Municipal Garden, was specially developed with beautiful gardens and an artificial lake with paddle boat facility to further soak in the beauty of the surrounding hills. Similarly the Mussoorie Lake, situated at 6 km into the Mussoorie-Dehradun road, offers an enchanting view of the Doon Valley and the surrounding villages – a particularly romantic and breathtaking view at night. Childer’s Lodge is the highest peak of Mussoorie near Lal Tibba and to enjoy the view at the top, take a trek or go on horseback and indulge the amateur photographer in you. The famous waterfalls around Mussoorie are Bhatta Falls, Jharipani Fall and Mossy Fall, with Bhatta falls being the ideal picnic spot with its water rides and bathing pools. Jharipani and Mossy falls are surrounded by dense forest and are popular stops for treks and camping. For the mystic experience you could visit the Nag Devta Temple, an ancient temple dedicated to Shiva or the Jwalaji Temple which houses at its heart a rare and antiquated statue of the Goddess Durga. While there, you could visit the Benog Mountain Quail Sanctuary which covers about 339 hectares and is famous for the now extinct quail species Pahari Bater or Mountain Quail. The Van Chetna Kendra is a picnic spot and park surrounded by forest and rare flora. Its major attraction is its wildlife, particularly the Ghurar, Monal, Kakar and Himalayan peacock.
The Mall is the lifeline of Mussoorie. There is a practical absence of motor traffic but that says nothing about the human traffic that throngs the popular road in peak season. Maybe a horse or two could pass you by, but nothing but good natured haggling for cosmopolitan goods and Himachali handicrafts over chai with shop keepers will hold your attention. Himalayan Weavers located on the Mussoorie-Dhanaulti road produces hand woven shawls, stoles, scarves and throws from natural dyes, wool, eri silk and pashmina. They promote environment friendly use of natural dyes to manufacture high-end handloom products. Pick up rare handloom products and Tibetan handicrafts as souvenirs of your time in Mussoorie.
How to Reach and Where to Stay
You could land at the Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun and drive down to Mussoorie or take the Mussoorie Express that travels overnight from Delhi to Mussoorie. There are a multitude of options for all budgets that provide all sorts of services to make your stay in Mussoorie more pleasurable.