Places to visit in Dehradun
Dehradun is the capital of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, a state that sees its altitude rising from river plains at~1000 feet from sea level to some of the highest mountains of India at ~25000 feet from sea level. Located in the Doon Valley between River Ganga and River Yamuna, Dehradun is an important junction that forms gateway to the Himalayan highs. It is located at an altitude of 2130 feet and serves as a base for visiting many tourist destinations and treks in the Himalayas. In this article, we are going to review all the major places to visit in Dehradun and guide you with a 1 or 2 day itinerary.
Quick info about Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand is a state blessed with numerous snow capped mountain peaks in Greater Himalayas, home to sources of holy rivers, major hindu pilgrimage centers and many important forest reserves and national parks. It is obvious that Uttarakhand has number of tourist destinations that would interest all sorts of people from the elderly interested in worshipping important Hindu temples to the young interested in trekking some easy and difficult peaks, from foreigners interested to learn Yoga by the holy river plains to the nature lovers interested in spotting tigers or snow leopards in the vast forests. A brief snapshot of major attractions in Uttarakhand are -
Dehradun - The capital city and easiest point to reach in the state
Mussoorie - Hill station near Dehradun
Rishikesh - Also known as the Yoga capital of the world
Haridwar - Important Hindu religious centre
Char dham - 4 important Hindu pilgrimages (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gangotri)
Nanda Devi - The highest peak located completely in India at 25,643 ft (7,816m). Kangchenjunga is usually considered the highest peak of India but it is located partially in India and partially in Nepal
Nainital - A popular hill station of India
Valley of Flowers - A UNESCO world heritage site famous for its breathtaking meadows during bloom
National Parks - Uttarakhand has number of national parks the most famous ones Corbett national park for tigers and Rajaji national park
Treks - Uttarakhand has numerous trails for all levels of trekkers the most popular ones being Har ki dun, Roopkund, Dayara Bugyal, Kedarkantha and many more
Best time to visit Dehradun:
Since the altitude is Dehradun is closer to sea level, it does get hot in summers apart from being crowded due to school vacations. Summer and Monsoon are the seasons to avoid visiting Dehradun. Winter is much more pleasant.
How to reach Dehradun: 1. By Air: Jolly Grant Airport is located around 30 kilometres from Dehradun city area. The airport is actually closer to Rishikesh (20 kms). Several direct or one-stop flights ply to Dehradun from all the major cities in India (Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Mumbai).
How to reach Dehradun from Jolly Grant Airport: No government bus service operate from the airport to Dehradun town. Though Ola cabs operate in Dehradun, they do not service the airports due to Union Taxi Association and Ola Cabs conflict. The Union taxis charge INR 1000 for smaller cars and INR 1500 for SUVs from Jolly Grant airport to Dehradun.
If you do not want to spend so much and if you are light on luggage, walk for 1.5 kilometres from the airport towards the Dehradun-Rishikesh highway. From here you can catch any government bus travelling from Rishikesh to Dehradun or get a shared taxi/jeep. The buses will charge you around INR 40-50 based on where you plan to drop down in Dehradun.
Also remember, Ola cabs do not service Jolly Grant airport. While returning, we pre-booked an Ola cab from our hotel to airport and realised that the cab will not take us to the airport only after it arrived and the driver denied the ride stating the conflict with Union Taxi Association.
2. By Train: Dehradun station (DDN) is connected by rail to all the major cities (Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Indore, Varanasi, Allahabad, Amritsar) and several train run along this rail route. You can check the train and their timings at www.irctc.co.in.
3. By Road: Several private and government bus tour operators depart from all the nearby cities to Dehradun. A bus journey from Delhi takes about 6-7 hours to reach Dehradun. Various car rental companies also operate to Dehradun from Delhi airport/ railway station.
Commuting within Dehradun:
As mentioned earlier, Ola cabs are present in Dehradun city and one can also book a local taxi or Auto. Shared autos are commonly seen across the city. You might not find local buses for each tourist place in Dehradun. One can also rent a 2 wheeler from Activa to Bullet in Dehradun. There are many vendors and you can easily find them on google.
Places to visit in Dehradun / Things to do in Dehradun:
1. Mindrolling Monastery in Clement Town, Dehradun Believe us, a trip to Dehradun is incomplete without visiting Mindrolling Monastery that is locally popular as Buddha Temple. Yes, our minds did roll after visiting this beautiful temple complex. However, we learnt that the name of the monastery is pronounced as 'Min Drolling' and not 'Mind Rolling'. :P
Located in Clement town, the streets surrounding the monastery are filled with residencies of the Tibetans and a good number of Tibetan cafes. Mindrolling means 'place of freedom' in the Tibetan language. The monastery was built in the 1960s by Guru Rinpoche as a replica after one such similar looking monastery was severely damaged in Tibet during a communal invasion in 1959. Mindrolling Monastery was built with an intention to promote and protect the Buddhist culture.
The 190 feet high and 100 feet wide stupa, also known as the World Peace Stupa is the world's tallest stupa and is the highlight of Mindrolling monastery. On the top facade of the stupa is colourfully carved Maitreya - The future Buddha whereas a statute of present Buddha in the front is seen descending the stairs. The Stupa is 5-storeyed and houses a prayer hall inside with colourfully painted murals and sculptures depicting the stories of Buddhism and its history. Photography is prohibited in the prayer hall.
Surrounding the World Peace Stupa are the miniature models of eight kinds of stupas in Buddhism. All the stupas are surrounded by a beautifully manicured garden, a big prayer wheel inscribed with 'Mani' mantra (the six syllable mantra) and a huge vibrantly colourful statue of Padmasambhava/ Guru Rinpoche. Each turn of the prayer wheel is considered a 'Mani' mantra recited and each recitation is considered to be the same as reciting all of Buddha's teachings. The statue of Padmasambhava is believed to ward off the evil, war and disharmony. Bright prayer flags flutter all around spreading peace, blessings and prayers.
The Mindrolling Monastery temple complex also houses a college, hostels for monks, guesthouses, a coffee shop, a canteen and a souvenir shop selling Tibetan handicrafts. Another attraction near the complex is a 130 feet tall statue of Buddha which is dedicated to Dalai Lama.
Note: The Mindrolling Monastery is open for the visit on all days from 9 AM to 6 PM in summers and 10 AM to 5 PM in winters. It is best visited at 9 AM when you would find no tourists. No entrance fees is charged anywhere in the temple complex. One is not allowed to click photos inside the main complex.
2. Robber's Cave or Guchhupani in Malsi, Dehradun Robber's Cave is located about 8 kilometres from Dehradun city centre. During the British rule, the caves were used as secret hideouts by robbers and hence the name. The 600-meter long cave is open from the top with two tall hillocks on both the sides and a stream flowing by in between. One has to walk in 1-2 feet deep water to get inside the Robber's Cave. The ground is full of small pebbles and the water is cold and refreshing. As you keep moving inside the caves, the gorge becomes narrower and narrower until it finally opens into a wide area with a small waterfall. The waterfall is the source of the flowing stream. The sunlight filters through the top of the two hillocks and provides a wonderful ambience.
Robbers cave has the same entry and exit point and you will have to walk back the same path after you reach the end of the cave. It is said that the water level rises up to knee-deep in the rainy season. Instead of walking barefoot in the water it is advisable to rent slippers/ flip flops from the stalls outside at INR 10 to avoid getting hurt by sharp stones and pebbles. The parking area of the Robber's cave is spacious and is surrounded by many food and souvenir stalls. Lockers and changing rooms are also available if you wish to get drenched in the water.
Note: The Robbers cave is open for the visit on all days from 7 AM to 7:30 PM. The entry ticket is INR 25 per person. It is advisable to wear shorts or pants which you can fold up to your knees in case you do not plan to carry an extra set of clothes.
3. Khalanga War Memorial in Tibbanala Pani, Dehradun Khalanga war memorial is the world's first memorial erected by an army to pay respect to their opponents. The Battle of Nalapani (1814-1816) was fought between the British troops and the Gurkhas from Nepal at Nalapani Fort in Dehradun. The 5000 British troop army failed continuously for over a month while fighting against the 600 strong Gurkha army. The British army then tactically cut the water supply of the fort and forced the Gurkhas to surrender. But by then the Gurkhas had inflicted a devastating toll on the British army; so much that it negated any true sense of victory by the Britishers. Even though the British won the battle, they recognized the valour of Gurkhas by erecting a memorial for them at the very place where the battle was fought.
Khalanga War Memorial is located on a hilltop amidst thick Sal forest. The drive to Khalanga War Memorial is extremely picturesque and scenic. Hardly any tourist visits the memorial, so you can have the whole place to yourself and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this place. Though there is not much to do there, Khalanga War Memorial is a must visit place for nature lovers and for ones who want a short break from the city's hustle-bustle.
Note: Khalanga War Memorial is open 24 hours on all days and has no entrance fee.
4. Forest Research Institute on Chakarata road, Dehradun The Forest Research Institute (FRI) is a premier institute on forestry research in India. The FRI building is iconic and one of the oldest buildings in Dehradun. The building spans in an area of more than 1000 acres which is bigger than even Buckingham Palace! The brick building stands in a lush green estate with the Himalayas in the backdrop. The design is impressive with Greco-roman and Colonial architectural styles. FRI was built when India was under East India Company rule and the building held the Guinness Book of World Record title as the largest purely brick structure in the world for a very long time. The main building of FRI was inaugurated in 1929 and is said to have taken 7 years to complete construction. The inner central courtyards of the building are airy and feature typical colonial architecture with small windows on the first floor and large ones on the ground floor.
Several well known Bollywood movies have been shot on the Forest Research Institute campus. The campus also has cantonment residencies surrounded by a mini-forest. Forest Research Institute is an educational cum tourist spot as it houses 6 museums. The 6 museums are:
Non-wood forest products museum
Social forestry museum
Do not miss out on the exhibit of the cross-section of 700-year-old deodar tree in one of the museums. Spend half a day at FRI and enjoy its magnificent architecture, soothing ambience and picturesque beauty. We found first few museums insightful in understanding the flora around us, its classification, threats etc. but as we moved ahead, we found some of the museums a little too technical for layman and much more suitable for the students of the college. There was no guide available and the scientific terms displayed all around us were just too difficult even to read, forget understanding anything.
Note: The Forest Research Institute is open for visitors from 9 AM to 5 PM with a half an hour lunch break from 1 PM to 1:30 PM. The entrance ticket at the main gate of FRI is INR 10 per person and INR 30 per car. The entrance ticket to visit museums is INR 50 per person which includes entry to all 6 museums. Note that photography is not allowed in some of the museums.
5. Sahastradhara Hot Spring and Waterfall in Timilimansingh, Dehradun Sahastradhara is a tourist spot with multiple attractions in one place - there's a cave, hot water spring, a waterfall, a couple of temples, a viewpoint up the ropeway and also a scary house! When we visited, the ropeway was closed for maintenance and repair and hence we weren't able to get to the viewpoint and a temple but apart from that, we explored the other attractions.
Honestly, we found this place to be a picnic-spot for locals. The waterfall does not look natural at all with all the railings and the walking areas made in between. Several cascading pools like structures are constructed beneath the waterfall that are filled by the water from the falls but they all look very commercialized with certain spots very dirty and unhygienic.
The hot water spring is a so-called small cold-water swimming pool that smells of sulphur but we seriously doubt how genuine or authentic it really is. The vendors of the shop around would ask you to take a dip in the water and even drink it for medicinal therapy. The place is filled with several restaurants, shops selling souvenir and renting out clothes if one wishes to take a bath. Locker and changing room facilities are available in plenty on extra charges.
Sahastradhara literally means 'thousand springs' and the management has tried making as many water bodies at every place that exists. In peak season, we can imagine all these pools to be filled by locals who may not have access to any other waterbody. We frankly wouldn't even like to step a foot at this place. This place kind of disappointed us, but may turn out to be a fun place for a group of friends and families who look out for some amusement park type of adventure. The pools aren't too deep and very safe for children to take a dip.
The stalactite caves are up on a small hillock and are surrounded by small water rivulets such that water drips inside the caves. The ground near and within the caves is very slippery and very few people come to visit it. Guru Dronacharya from Mahabharata is believed to have spent time in these caves.
Note: There is no entrance ticket to visit the hot spring, the waterfall or the cave. The ropeway to the viewpoint costs INR 150 per person for a round trip.
6. Other attractions in Dehradun Apart from the above mentioned popular places to visit, Dehradun has some more interesting attractions.
Subir Raha Oil Museum is located at the headquarters of ONGC, an Indian multinational Oil & Gas company. It exhibits production process of crude oil and hydrocarbon and a detailed history of the oil industry.
SP Nautiyal Museum at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology exhibits the origin and the evolution of the mighty Himalayas. It educates the public in areas such as earthquakes, the effect of climate on glaciers, natural resources and climate change adaptability.
Zonal Anthropological Museum is located just 500 m from Forest Research Institute. It houses artefacts and shows ways of life people on foothills of Himalayas
Dehradun Zoo and Malsi Deer Park are attractions to spot various species of birds and animals which might interest children.
Tapkeshwar temple, Santala Devi temple, Tapovan temple and Laxman Siddh temple are some renowned temples in Dehradun if temples interest you.
Lachhiwala is another picnic spot for locals on the banks of a river which is overcrowded in summers and weekends. We would not really recommend it to tourists visiting Dehradun.
Indian Military Academy right next to Forest Research Institute can also be visited if you know someone in Army and can get permission to visit it.
Here is a map that shows all the places to visit in Dehradun described above. It will also help you in charting out an itinerary. Each place can be covered within an hour except Mindrolling monastery and Forest research Institute which might take more time depending on your interest.
Blue markers - 5 places to visit in Dehradun described in detail
Orange markers - Places included in Other attractions in Dehradun section
Where to stay in Dehradun:
We stayed on the outskirts of Dehradun in the Malsi Ghat area in a beautiful homestay named Walterre. Many to the places to visit in Dehradun that are mentioned above were close to Walterre Homestay. Walterre homestay is a birders paradise. It is surrounded by green landscapes and bird attracting trees. We spotted at least 50 species of different birds during our stay at Walterre. We also managed to click a few - check out the photographs and our review on Walterre homestay in our article. We highly recommend Walterre Homestay as a place of stay in Dehradun for all the peace lovers and for those looking out for a relaxed vacation.
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All in all, Dehradun is certainly a 2-day destination if you wish to cover all the places to visit. However you can cover major attractions in a day. Have you visited any other place in Dehradun that might be of interest to our readers? Do let us know in the comment section below.