Things to do in Landour (near Mussoorie), Uttarakhand
During summer holidays, tourists in India love to travel to North India's many hill stations to escape the summer heat. Mussoorie is one such hill station in North India located in the state of Uttarakhand. The quaint little town of Mussoorie, nestled in the Great Himalayas, was built by the British Raj and is famously known as the 'Queen of the Hills'. But over the years, Mussoorie has lost its charm due to traffic snarls and over commercialization. Because of its easy access, lots of people flock this small town owing to heavy tourist traffic, increased garbage production, noisy roads, hordes of shops, deforestation, illegal constructions and skyrocketed tariffs of accommodations. Having read all about Mussoorie, we started to look for some offbeat and peaceful destination near Mussoorie. This is when we heard of the 'Greater Mussoorie' - the towns of Landour, Barlowganj and Jharipani. We zeroed in upon Landour due to its close proximity to Mussoorie.
Where is Landour:
Landour is a cantonment town located just 7 kilometers north of the famous hill station - Mussoorie in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is located at an altitude of 7500 feet, which is about 1000 feet above Mussoorie. Landour is considered very much a part of Mussoorie and is regarded as the 'Tiara' of the Queen of Hills. But, though being situated so close to the busy town of Mussoorie, Landour surprisingly remains offbeat, peaceful, unexplored and untouched.
How to reach Landour:
To reach Landour, You first need to reach Mussoorie. Here is how you can do that -
By Air: The nearest airport to Landour is Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun. Several direct or one-stop flights ply to Dehradun from all the major cities in India (Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Mumbai). Mussoorie is 60 kilometers from the Jolly Grant Airport and Landour is another 7 kilometers from Mussoorie.
By Train: Dehradun station (DDN) is the nearest railway station to Mussoorie and is connected by rail to all the major cities (Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Indore, Varanasi, Allahabad, Amritsar). You can check the train and their timings at www.irctc.co.in.
By Road: Several private and government bus tour operators depart from all the nearby cities to Mussoorie. A bus journey from Delhi takes about 7-8 hours to reach Mussoorie. Various car rental companies also operate to Mussoorie from Delhi airport/ railway station.
You might also want to stay in Dehradun and check out places to visit there for a day or two if you land or take a train to Dehradun.
How to reach Landour from Mussoorie: Landour is barely 3.5 kilometers from Picture Palace on Mall road, Mussoorie. The road to Landour from Mussoorie is very steep and narrow and often jams up during peak season. Not every car driver can maneuver these roads. It is advisable to hire a private cab from Mall Road, Mussoorie to reach Landour. A small car will charge INR 300-400 to drop you to Landour from Mussoorie depending on the season.
Best time to visit Landour or Weather in Landour:
Owing to the pleasant climate throughout the year, Landour can be visited at any time of the year. Most people visit Landour in summer to escape scorching heat prevalent in other parts of India. While there are others who prefer visiting Landour in winters to enjoy the snow. However note that depending on the amount of snow, the road to Landour could be blocked as cars would slip in snow filled slopes leading to Landour. If you wish to enjoy the peace and quietness of the town, visit Landour on any weekday especially in winter (Oct - Feb). You may even be lucky to spot the winter-line towards the horizon. Not that weekends are too crowded or noisy; Landour is always quiet. But on weekends you might find just a few more vehicles and people.
History of Landour:
Landour derives its name from Llanddowror - a tiny Welsh village in Great Britain. During the British Raj, when the English soldiers became homesick, they named the towns in India after the ones in their motherland. The British Indian army built and developed a sanatorium in Landour in 1827 to attend to the wounded soldiers. Since then Landour has always remained a station for military and hence a Cantonment area. The first ever building in the whole of Mussoorie was built in 1925 in Landour by Captain Young - the discoverer of Mussoorie. Captain Young was the Commandant of the first Gurkha battalion raised by British. The Clock tower in Landour marked the beginning of Landour town beyond which Indians were not allowed. Only the British and Irish soldiers whose duty in the British regiment lasted for 6-48 months were allowed to build their holiday homes in Landour.
Why is Landour offbeat:
You may wonder why Landour is so offbeat though being situated so close to Mussoorie. Well, Landour was always a part of the cantonment area and the Cantonment Act of 1924 stated that all the trees/ plants in the area stay with the military. As a result, there has been no woodcutting or deforestation in Landour for the past 100 years. Also, new construction of any type is 'unlawful' in Landour according to the Act. Hence, no new permanent structure has been built in Landour since 1924. Only the construction of temporary structures and repairs of old structure are allowed. That's the reason residential houses in Landour are limited. Because of these rules, modernization and tourism have not touched Landour. Tourists often visit Landour just as a day trip from nearby towns of Dehradun or Mussoorie because of very limited stay options in the Landour cantonment area. Landour had 24 houses at the time of Independence, and it still has that many. Someone put it quite aptly - 'Choubis Makaan aur Char Dukaan - Itna hi hai Landour' (which translates to 24 houses and 4 shops is all that Landour has). And that's how Landour has retained its beauty and the forest cover since so many decades!
Things to do in Landour:
The shape of the road in Landour creates the number '8' with all the things to do and places to visit scattered on the sides of the road. This road is called as the 'Upper Chakkar' or 'Gol Chakkar'. If you wish to soak in the true essence of all the places, then the road is best walked than driven. The road is well-built and the surroundings are covered with tall Deodar trees. Because of the ban in tree-cutting and new construction, the wildlife, especially the rare birds, is abundant. The whole stretch of 'Upper Chakkar' is just 3.5 kilometers and the roads are filled with many interesting sign boards with quotes and poems. The walk is easy with hardly any ascends or descends. The quietude of the winding lanes and the scent of flowers draw plenty of tourists to Landour. The whole concept of treading on 'Upper Chakkar' is unique and involves walk, eat, see and repeat.
So here is a list of 10 things to do in Landour -
1. Kellogg's Memorial Church and Landour Language School
Right at the node of the road shaped '8' is Kellogg's Memorial Church. We did not get to see the interiors as it was closed during our visit but it looked quite old, ethnic and rustic. The church has elegant glass stained windows and is built in Gothic architectural style. Kellogg's Church was built in 1903 as a Presbyterian church and is named after Dr. Samuel Kellogg, an American missionary who was very active in the development of Landour.
Landour Language School is situated right behind the Kellogg's Memorial Church. The Britishers used to learn Hindi in this school when they ruled India. Dr. Samuel Kellogg wrote a book on Hindi Grammar in the English language for the Britishers to better understand the Hindi language. The Landour Language School is still running and teaches Indian languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Urdu and local Garhwali to students coming from all over the world which is quite unique.
2. Sisters Bazaar
Sisters Bazaar is located at one end of the road shaped '8'. The bazaar has a couple of shops/ cafe as described below:
a. Landour Bakehouse
In the 1830s, every Parish used to have a communal oven to bake their own bread. From the 1900s, residents of Landour used to form a community and publish 'Landour Cookbook' every year documenting all the old recipes. Today, Landour Bakehouse serves bakery, desserts, croissants, scones, buns, cookies, crepes and puddings deriving the tried and tested recipes from the old Landour Cookbooks. The bakery cum cafe has an old world charm with wooden decor, rustic ambiance and 19th-century style kitchen construction. The best table at Landour Bakehouse is beside the window from which one can view the deep valley dotted with tall Himalayan Oak trees. 'We do not have wifi; pretend it's 1980s and talk to each other' written on a black chalkboard at Landour Bakehouse cracked us up. Another funny line is written right outside Landour Bakehouse on an abandoned van saying - 'We'll start deliveries as soon as our vehicle is fixed'. Do not miss out on trying the mouth-watering 'Strawberry crepe' and 'Peanut butter crepe' at Landour Bakehouse.
b. Anil Prakash store
Right next to Landour Bakehouse is a shop named A. Prakash and Co. whose peanut butter, chutneys and jams are known far and wide. American missionaries living in Landour used to make their own peanut butter on a commercial scale in the 1830s. After Independence, they sold off all their processing machines and equipment and left India. These machineries came in hands of Anil Prakash's family and they started making peanut butter and jam using the same methods. Today Anil Prakash's store is famous for its home-made jams and preserves, peanut butter and home-made cheese. Tourists from all over the world crave for Prakash's home-made items. You gotta try it to know how delicious it is. They also let you taste the various jams and cheese making it easier for you to decide which one to buy.
c. Prakash Handicraft shop
Prakash Handicrafts is another shop in Sister's Bazaar that displays and sells colorful Garhwali handicrafts and other antique knick-knacks hand-made by local artists.
3. Emily's by Rokeby Manor
Emily's is a gourmet restaurant in Rokeby Manor - an upscale hotel in Landour. The restaurant serves finger-licking Indian and Continental cuisine. We went there to especially try out Emily's famous Sticky Toffee Pudding which we had heard about from a lot of people and we absolutely loved it. The interiors of the restaurant are made with brown brick giving countryside feel and were brimming with Christmas decor along with little hanging lamps, books, cozy corners and fireplaces. Emily's uses bread brought in from the Landour Bakehouse.
4. Char Dukaan
As the name suggests, Char Dukaan is a row of four shops (Char = Four in the Hindi language) in Landour. The Char Dukaan caters to the household needs of foreigners enrolled in Landour Language School. All the shops serve food and hill friendly snacks and beverages like a hot cup of tea/ coffee, Maggi, pakoras, parathas, pasta and bun omelettes. The famous Anil's cafe and Tip Top tea shop have been here at Char Dukaan for more than 50 years and they boast of all the celebrities who have visited their shops.
5. St. Paul's Church
St. Paul's church is an old cantonment church constructed in 1840. It is located right beside the Char Dukaan. This is the first church where rifles were allowed to be brought inside. The British soldiers often use to complain about the theft of their rifles from outside the church during prayers. Hence, in 1857 rows of notches were carved into the wooden pews at St. Paul's where soldiers rested their rifles during worship. The notched pews are still in place at the church. The church premises are very calm and peaceful and the smell of fresh scent of the tall deodar trees surround the church. The yellow painted church looks spectacular with blue sky and green trees in the backdrop.
6. Lal Tibba View Point
Lal Tibba (Lal = Red and Tibba = Hill in the Hindi language) is named so due to the reddish-brown soil on the hill where it is located. It is the highest point of Landour town from where you could spot several popular Himalayan peaks. Two cafes at Lal Tibba have placed binoculars on their terrace and charge INR 50 per person to use them to view the snow-capped Himalayan mountains and the villages far-off. The view from Lal Tibba is magnificent and one can worship all the Char Dhams from here. Lal Tibba is best visited during sunrise or sunsets.
Klick Cafe is one of the cafes at Lal Tibba. We stopped here for Maggi and tea. The interiors of the cafe are photography themed. Camera lenses are used as the lamps, the walls are painted with cameras and even a few cups are shaped like lenses. The menu is vast and a variety of eating options are available. They have a great view of the Himalayan mountains from their terrace.
7. Christian Cemetery The Christian cemetery in Landour is the oldest cemetery of Mussoorie town. The British soldiers who needed medical help were brought to Landour's sanatorium. The ones who were not able to survive were buried at the Christian cemetery. The earliest grave in the Christian cemetery is that of Captain George Bolton who was buried in 1828. Visitors are not allowed inside the cemetery and we peeked inside just from the connecting road.
8. Ruskin Bond's House
Ruskin Bond is an Indian author of British descent who resides in Landour. He is a very renowned author recognized for his role in the growth of children's literature in India. His house is located at a steep descent from the Upper Chukkar. We had heard of him being spotted near his house and hence we thought of giving it a try. His house is just beside the beautiful and colorful BnB - Doma's Inn. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet him but we met many people nearby his house with a hope to spot him.
9. Winter line of Landour
Winter line is a rare atmospheric phenomenon that develops under special conditions when warm air is trapped beneath cold air. It can be spotted just at 2 places in the world - Switzerland and Mussoorie. Isn't that amazing!? We were lucky to spot the winter line during one such sunset time in Landour when the western horizon turned into a myriad of yellow, red and purple color during sunset.
10. Jabarkhet Nature Reserve
Jabarkhet Nature Reserve is the first private reserve in India located in a village named Jabarkhet located 5 kilometers away from Landour. It is home to a variety of wildlife - birds, mammals and insects. The management organises guided walks in Jabarkhet Nature Reserve. The guided walk is a 2-3 hour trek through the nature reserve where one can spot leopards, bears, porcupines, langurs and deer. Unfortunately, we did not spot any wildlife but saw a few captured in their motion sensor cameras.
Where to stay in Landour:
Any new permanent construction or felling of trees for temporary/ permanent construction is banned in Landour. Hence, there are very very few places where one can stay. Several residents have converted their old houses into a homestay. We stayed in one such homestay named - La Villa Bethany. Our room was named and looked just like Hobbit House. We highly recommend La Villa Bethany to anyone wishing to stay in Landour. Read our blog for our review on La Villa Bethany.
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