The Mystical Hamlet in the Hills: Landour, Mussoorie

posted in: Uttarakhand, Asia, Heritage, India, Nature | 112

By now, I am guessing that you would have read of my Princess tale at Rokeby Manor in Landour. If you have missed that, have a look through this link. This fairy tale stay of mine would not have been complete without the fairytale kingdom of Landour.

View of Landour - Mussoorie from Rokeby Manor

A small British styled town – Landour is a twin town of Mussoorie in Uttarakhand. A quiet little cantonment settlement with chirping birds, gorgeous landscapes and tiny roads is a perfect getaway for anyone who loves a bit of heritage and nature. I completely fell in love with this pretty hamlet in the hills. My own little kingdom  -where there is plenty to do and yet, time stands still. Let me introduce you to my little holiday kingdom and share with you the things to do in Landour.

Introduction to Landour

Landour, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

When the Indian royalty embraced Mussoorie as a location for their princely summer homes, the British set up its twin town Landour for themselves. They even named this twin town based on a Welsh town – Llanddowror. Even today, Landour still has those English homes, some of them built in Tudor style. Some of them have been acquired by Rokeby Manor, while the others are occupied by the local families. There is a certain English charm that still prevails in this town – with its deodar and rhododendron landscape that frame every corner and the distant snow clad the Himalayas in the background. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that this town along with Mussoorie is known as “Queen of the Hills”.

Landour is not just an idyllic setting. It has plenty to do – enough to be occupied and yet not be in a rush. Here are my suggestions for things to do in Landour.

Discover Gol Chakkar in Landour

A path along Gol Chakkar, Landour

The British set up their cantonment area in the figure of 8. The Gol Chakkar or the round path is a 3 km circuits on a hill that gives you a 360 view of Landour as a location. While on one side you can see the quaint little town, on the exact opposite side you can witness the snow-clad Himalayas.

Landour Language Center and Kelloggs Church

At the node is a famous Landour Language Center and the Kellogg Memorial Church. This church was set up in 1903 by an American missionary. The language school was used by the British to learn Hindi. Even now, you will find the school active with a lot of students. I am given to understand that they primarily learn Hindi, English and Urdu these days. 🙂

View opposite the Cemetery along Gol Chakkar, Landour

As you walk towards Lal Tibba area from this node, you pass by a cemetery. While one is not allowed it, you can see some of the crosses and epitaphs as you walk along the Gol Chakkar. This side faces the gorgeous peaks of Himalayas and has a certain peace and calm to it. The one thought I had was that indeed the people resting there were at peace!

Walk at night along the Gol Chakkar, Landour

A walk or a jog along the Gol Chakkar anytime of the day is just as pleasant – for each time of the day gives it a different charm! Me – I made sure I managed this every single day that I was there. 🙂

Lal Tibba

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Lal Tibba means “red hill” in the local language. The point so named owing to the reddish color of the hill, especially during Sunset and Sunrise. This is considered to be one of the highest points of Landour. A small cafe has its base set up here and with a small fee of INR 20, you can access its terrace for a clear view of the Himalayas.

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A set of binoculars is set up here for a closer view of the peaks. The owner guided me through the peaks – starting with the left most being Yamnotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. Lal Tibba makes a great stop when wandering along the Gol Chakkar.

Char Dukkan in Landour

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Char in Hindi means Four while Dukkan refers to shop. These 4 shops have been a part of Landour from quite sometime now. Initially they served as a British Depot while now, you will see a lot of people enjoying some omelets, fresh sandwiches, some hot Maggi noodles and a cup of Indian Chai. The small shops boast of their celebrity visitors like Sachin Tendulkar and it is easy to see why these celebs spend some time here. You cannot find a better place than this to enjoy the chirping birds and grab a bite while soaking in the heritage of the place.

St Paul’s Church, Landour

St Paul's church, Landour

Right next to Char Dukkan, is this heritage church built in 1834. A small place that has some lovely stained glass painting adorning the insides. Since photography was not allowed within the church, I cannot share the lovely interiors. Personally, I loved the setting of the church – on a small hill with lots of green trees that allow the golden sunlight to just fall on the right places of the church. Beware of the monkeys though – they love the church as much as I did.

Sister’s Bazaar in Landour

Sisters' Bazaar, Landour

Sister’s Bazaar is a small little road along the Gol Chakkar with a few shops – the Landour Bakehouse, the famed Anil Prakash stores and a handicraft mart. It was called so as it was frequented by the nurses who stayed in the sanatorium in Landour. Interestingly, it is quite popular even with the tourists from Mussoorie – who walk up or drive here just for the Landour bakehouse and peanut butter.

Inside Landour Bakehouse

The Landour bakehouse is a lovely cafe that you can sit around and compose a few lines in. A waft of fresh bake scents greet you as you push through the door and adding further food lust is the sight of those yummy baked delights in the bakery. Remember to spot this antique van right opposite the bakery. When I queried who had put it there, no one seemed to know. It has been around for some time now is what I am told.

Spot this opposite Landour Bakehouse
Peanut butter and Jams at Anil Prakash stores, Landour

Right next to it is the famed peanut butter store – Prakash stores. This store is a heritage one and is the reason behind the fact that “Landour is the peanut butter capital of India”. What is interesting about this fact is that Peanut butter is not native to India. It was introduced by the British and when they left Landour, they left behind the peanut butter making equipment. Mr. Anil Prakash and family bought some of these and from then on, peanut butter became a specialty of this town. Watch out for their home made jams – another specialty of the Prakash stores – something that you can carry back home

George Everest’s abode

House of Sir George Everest, Hathipaon. Mussoorie

Sir George Everest – the famed surveyor who was responsible for measuring Mount Everest had his abode set up close to Landour in Hathipaon. Around an hour’s drive from Landour, you can visit the house of this famous surveyor. Though the house is in shambles, it was quite a location. High up on a peak, it overlooks the gorgeous valleys of Mussoorie. What is left of the house can only be seen from the outside – rooms with fireplace, a large hall and empty kitchens. The rest of it seems to have fallen.

House of Sir George Everest, Hathipaon. Mussoorie

No care has been taken to restore it. It was easy for me to see how pleasant it would have been back then but for now, it has nothing except for the lovely view of the valley from the outside. A trip that is worth just for the scenic view but no longer for the heritage monument.

View of the Valleys from the house of Sir George Everest, Mussoorie

Happy Valley, Mussoorie

Shedup Choephelling monastery, Happy Valley, Mussoorie

The first ever settlement of the Tibetans in India is right here in Mussoorie. Just a 30 – 45 mins ride from Landour, you can visit this really Happy place to see the first school and the Shedup Choephelling monastery. It is said that when the 15th Dalai Lama crossed over to India with his followers in the 1950s, he set up the Happy valley. It was after that the settlement moved to Dharmashala. Like most monasteries, this one too is a vibrant picture of calm overlooking the gorgeous valleys enclosed by the hills of Mussoorie. While visiting here, don’t miss out on the old polo grounds behind the school.

The Tibetan school in Happy Valley, Mussoorie

The Corn Village of Sainji

A house in the Corn Village of Sainji, Mussoorie

Now this is truly a unique experience. Close to the Kempty falls in Mussoorie lies this small little village with around 15 – 20 houses. The Sainji village is popularly known as the Corn village and is filled with warm people welcoming you into their abode. The village survives on corn cultivation but what makes it unique and scenic is that through the year, they have corns stringed together, adorning their homes. These are not really for aesthetic purposes but for drying, so that they can reuse their seeds for next year. I visited them just after their harvest season and though their farms were bare, their abodes were filled with color. A separate note on my visit can be accessed here 🙂

Trekking through Jabarkhet Reserves

Jabarkhet Nature Reserves, Landour

Around 15 minutes away from Landour Cantonment lies a nature reserve that promises you sighting of Leopards, bears, gorals and porcupines. Sadly the day I went for a trek, I missed them all. However, I did see enough captures of them visiting the previous evening  – thanks to the motion cameras that are placed in the park. I did however, spot a gorgeous woodpecker as well as a few other winged beasts.

Woodpecker spotted in Jabarkhet Nature Reserves, Landour

What I missed in terms of Fauna was made up by the flora. The park has some lovely trails that take you along the deodars, rhododendrons, oaks and pines. I could so imagine how it would look in April and the monsoons – the blooming season for most flora in Landour. Here and there, you can spot some lovely butterflies fluttering around. The trek also, winds around the hills to give you a sight of the Himalayas from a different angle. Totally a picturesque setting with a little hit of adrenaline.

The Lone Oak and the Himalayas beyond at Jabarkhet Nature Reserves, Landour

Pari Tibba near Landour

A distant view of Pari Tibba and Woodstock School, Landour

This one I missed but was an fascinating read. One of the hillock here is known as a Witch’s hill. The hillock makes a great trekking trail and is a spot of mystery. The area was a popular hunting grown for the royal family of Mussoorie but is devoid of humans owing to the large number of forest fires that occur due to frequent lightening strikes. Nonetheless, in the day time, it still remains as a popular hiker’s trail. Along the way, you can spot the famous Woodstock school of Landour.

Catch the famous Winter Line of Mussoorie

The perfect Winter Line of Mussoorie, caught from my porch at Rokeby Manor

The Winter Line is a rare phenomenon that is said to happen in only a few places – Mussoorie and Switzerland being two. The skyline is tri-colored with shades of orange, mauve and red. This happens generally around mid October to January around sunset when the sun is at a particular angle and refracts light behind a false horizon. Landour is a perfect place to catch this and I was lucky enough to witness one during my own visit.

Another view of the firs at Landour. Catch the changing colors of sky in the background

Life in Landour is just perfect – scenic, quiet and busy. People here are calm, blissful and extremely polite. It is a perfect therapy for any creative block that you may face or if you just need a break from your everyday life. I know I fell in love with this hamlet in the hills and something tells me that you will too!

landour

Getting here:

  • Dehra Dun is the closest airport to Landour. There are regular flights from Delhi to Dehra Dun. You can even reach Dehra Dun by railway or road.
  • From Dehra Dun, Landour is a 2 hour drive. There are plenty of cabs available at the Railway station or Airport to take you to Landour. They charge around INR 2500 to Landour

Travel Tips:

  • Landour is best during April to June. It sees some really heavy monsoon in July – September, after which it is quite pleasant till December. The winter months does have some snowfall and it can get really cold then.
  • No matter when you go, woolens are recommended.
  • Flat walking shoes are the best for here as there is plenty of walking to be done.
  • There are a few ATMs and basic essentials in Landour. It is better to however, stock a little cash when here as the smaller local stores do not have a card machine.
  • To get to Jabarkhet Reserve, you need to book in advance. The entry fees for the same is INR 450. If you need a guide, you need to let them know in advance. Here is where you can get more information about this reserve.

P.S: A big thank you to Rokeby Manor for hosting me in Landour.

 

 

 

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