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Escape to the mountains with the hill station of Mussoorie
Uttarakhand’s delightful hill station of Mussoorie is one of the most visited in the state, offering visitors a glimpse of Himalayan beauty just three hundred kilometres from Delhi. Domestic and international tourists alike enjoy this mountainside retreat, particularly in the summer months when Indian cities become very hot and humid. Mussoorie provides a mild climate through the summer and a cold snowy winter, which allows a diverse seasonal mix of nature and outdoor activities. Indeed, the town’s blend of culture and incredible scenery ensures guests rarely leave the mountains disappointed.
A small town with a strong tourism focus
Mussoorie has a relatively short history, established in the early nineteenth century by British traders, then steadily growing over the next century to emerge as a popular domestic tourist destination after Indian independence. Although reasonably small a town by Indian standards, there are an abundance of hotels in Mussoorie which cater to the summer demand fluctuation. Thus, visiting during the shoulder seasons of April or September can balance pleasant weather with a quieter and more affordable stay. The layout of the town is stretched from southeast to northwest along a rocky ridge, ensuring the geographical limits of urban development as well as providing stunning views of the Doon Valley below. Mussoorie town centre and the bulk of economic activity is centred around the Mall Road, home to a wide array of shops, restaurants and some of the smaller Mussoorie hotels and homestays. Visitors utilise this strip to replenish supplies and gather the necessities for exploring further into the mountains and surrounding nature.
Culturally diverse thanks to its history
The initial rise of Mussoorie as an exclusive British mountain resort, led to many grand buildings being built and much of this colonial architecture is still present today. Everest House is one of the finest examples of this; built for the Himalayan surveyor George Everest, it is situated a ten-kilometre drive into the mountains but offers stunning views alongside its impressive architecture. Back in the town centre, the Mussoorie Heritage Centre, housed in one of Mussoorie’s oldest buildings, offers a chance to understand the historical development of the region including the Tibetan settlement in the 1950’s. Following departure from Tibet, the Dalai Lama established a temporary administration in Mussoorie, which was followed by several thousand Tibetans settling in the Mussoorie region. Exploring the Tibetan district of the town in Happy Valley allows a greater understanding of the minorities culture, cantered around the Shedup Choepelling Temple. The Happy Valley district lies a few kilometres north of Mall Road, quickly accessible from any Mussoorie hotel at this end of the town. Indeed, Tibetan influence can be felt across the whole of Mussoorie, with several restaurants and a host of souvenir shops catering to popular demand.
Sampling the local handicrafts and cuisine
Aside from the Tibetan cultural influence there is of course a strong Hindu presence in the area as well as many other Indian minorities. There are multiple small Hindu temples in and around Mussoorie with some of the notable structures being those on the hillsides with subsequent spectacular views. The Nag Devta Temple and Jwalaji Temple are two examples of these, situated a short drive from central Mussoorie. Inside the town limits, culture can be felt in the assortment of local boutiques and family-run restaurants around every corner. Visitors enjoy sampling culinary delights and indulging in regional handicrafts and textiles of which there are plenty. In many establishments, it is possible to witness locals creating their crafts, in particular the Himalayan Weavers who are based on the road to Dhanaulti. Thanks to the small size of Mussoorie, getting around is relatively pain free. There are multiple bus lines and hundreds of small rickshaw taxis on offer, plus much of the central region is accessible on foot from any hotel in Mussoorie. For a central spot with great views, head up to Gun Hill and observe the stunning scenery of the valleys below.
Waterfalls, lakes and forest waiting to be explored
Whilst there is plenty to see and do in Mussoorie, part of its charm and appeal is the opportunity to escape the urban life and hectic nature of the larger Indian cities. Visitors to the area therefore are keen to venture into the nearby nature on a variety of trekking trails and wildlife sightseeing tours. There are multiple impressive waterfalls within a short drive of Mussoorie, the top three being Kempty Falls, Jhari Pani Falls and Bhatta Falls. Kempty Falls has become a very developed area and prime tourist hotspot, however the latter two are often much quieter and there are opportunities to stay in a smaller hotel or homestay nearby. On route to Kempty Falls, the less frantic area of Lake Mist is a great spot to unwind by taking a boat out onto the lake or enjoying a picnic in the beautiful scenery. The highest point in the region is located within the nearby Nahata Estate, privately owned property but accessible on foot, thus making for a well-frequented day trip from Mussoorie.