Exploring Uttarakhand’s Ageless Hill Stations

The ‘Land of the Gods’ as it is aptly called, Uttarakhand embodies the perfect holiday destination— consisting of everything from charismatic mountain peaks, holy pilgrim sites, rich biodiversity, river ecology, national parks, and an astounding variety of flora and fauna. The state which has some of the country’s finest cities, is also home to several worldrenowned institutes, and is a sheer delight for all trekkers, mountain climbers and lovers of the outdoors.

A state capital with something for everyone: Dehradun

The capital city of Uttarakhand, Dehradun, makes for a pleasurable visit any time of the year. Located in the Garhwal region of the state, the Doon valley consists of a number of important national institutions, such as the Indian Military Academy, ITBP Academy, Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Indian Institute of Petroleum, Survey of India, Forest Research Institute, National Institute of Visually Handicapped, Wildlife Institute of India and Rashtriya Indian Military College. The city also has many old and eminent schools of repute, such as St Joseph’s Academy, Welham Girls’ School, Welham Boys’ School and the Doon School. Also definitely worth a visit while you’re in this delightful town is the popular Sai Baba mandir and the lovely Sakya Centre Buddhist monastery, both located on Rajpur road.

Needless to say, old-world heritage and charm is an inseparable part of the city’s fabric. A walk through Dehradun’s main marketplace, Astley Hall is a trip down memory lane for many—complete with its landmark eateries (such as the Doon Club, Hotel President and Ellora’s bakery, which sells some lip-smacking stick jaws) and iconic stores (like Art Home and Pratap Music House) that have been around for decades. Further, the city’s conducive climate and standard of living has rendered it an ideal location for boarding schools as well as an abode for the tired, retired and the ‘going-to-be-expired’. The recently opened Antara is a one-of-its-kind sprawling, luxurious senior living residential community located on the outskirts of the city.

However, off late, the city also has a new culture of eating out, with a slew of eclectic and fun cafes that appeal to its youth. Strings and Bowls, perched unassumingly on the old Mussoorie road hosts some of the most vibrant live music performances by amateur bands. With both indoor and outdoor seating, the relatively new eatery is ensuring that this sleepy town comes alive! Café Marigold is another quaint little retreat surrounded by the greenery of Kairwaan gaon. Its bright décor, red brick walls and hut-like structure make it an ideal place to catch up with friends. Their delectable thukpa, saucy momos and bruschetta—all taste heavenly! Orchard restaurant in Rajpur has a chilled ambience and offers some awesome milk shakes, cold coffees and pizzas. Don’t forget to try out their lemon tarts, passion fruit cheese cake and brownies. The restaurant even makes its own bread in-house.

Heritage trail in the queen of hills: Mussoorie

Not far away from Dehradun, lies Mussoorie—an idyllic hill station where possibly everyone who has grown up in north India has been for a vacation with family or friends sometime or the other. In case you were wondering whether there’s anything interesting to do here beyond the hustle-bustle of the Mall road, the yummy delights at Chaar Dukaan and peaceful walks along Landour and Lal Tibba, then read on!

This time, I discovered an entirely new facet of this pretty hill town. I decided to explore Mussoorie’s quaint heritage—its fascinating antique stores. My first stop was the antiquarian Sabri Bought & Sold in Landour Cantonment. A small little shop, it has a huge collection of old prints, books, compasses, clocks, tea sets, flasks and other curiosities. You could spend hours just examining all the curios and discussing the stories of their origin with the shop’s owner, Mohd Ayub Mansoori. The details require time, and it’s certainly not a spot for a tourist who is in a rush.

Next up was the Mussoorie Heritage Centre (MHC), a private enterprise located at Parade Point House near the Clock Tower. Housed within a historical 180-year old building, it opened in 2013 with the objective to showcase and preserve Mussoorie’s heritage. The MHC archives the region’s very first map which was compiled by the Survey of India in 1814, right up till 1959 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama built his first colony here.

The Centre showcases the culture and tradition of the Himalayas through paintings on canvas, sculpture, frescos, murals and scrap art. It also has a collection of local heritage artifacts—musical instruments, clothes, jewellery, and vessels. In this way, the MHC works towards developing and promoting indigenous art by providing local craftsmen a sales platform. The Centre also conducts heritage walks from time to time, to educate student groups about the city’s history, as well as birdwatching tours to encourage appreciation for its rich flora and fauna.

HOW TO REACH:

By road: Dehradun is located at a distance of about 240 kms from Delhi. Mussoorie is a short 30-km drive from Dehradun.

By air: There are plenty of flights that land at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun from most major cities.

By train: Both the Shatabdi as well as the Jan Shatabdi Express goes daily from Delhi to Dehradun.

HERITAGE HAUNTS IN MUSSOORIE: Sabri Bought & Sold Shop no. 11, Landour Cantonment Mussoorie – 248179 Tel: 0135-2630623

Mussoorie Heritage Centre Parade Point House, Clock Tower, Landour Bazaar Mussoorie – 248179 Tel: 0135-2632801

Vinod’s Art & Antiquities Parade Point House, Clock Tower Mussoorie – 248179 Tel: 0135-2632801 Landour Language School 41/2 Landour Cantonment Mussoorie – 248179 Tel: 0135-2631487

EATING OUT IN DEHRADUN: Ellora’s Bakery Astley Hall, Rajpur Road, Dehradun Tel: 0135-2714950

Hotel President 6, Astley Hall, Rajpur Road, Dehradun Tel: 0135-2657082

Strings and Bowls Near Kala Khadi bridge, old Mussoorie road, Rajpur, Dehradun Tel: +91 8171634151, +91 9779333588

Café Marigold Near Shehanshahi Ashram, old Mussoorie road, Rajpur, Dehradun Tel: +91 8958254180, +91 9675448629

Orchard restaurant 3D, Dak Patti, Near MDDA park, Rajpur, Dehradun Tel: +91 9917733111

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