“I wandered lonely as a cloud,
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I saw a crowd
A host of golden daffodils…”
These lines of Wordsworth echo in the mind while taking a look at the wide spread hills and valleys of this beautiful hill station Mussoorie. With its rich flora and fauna it’s an ideal escapade away from the chaos of life. What I thought to be just another typical overcrowded hill station, turned out to be something completely different.
Sitting majestically in the lap of the Garhwal hills, this small hill station is situated at a height of 6170ft. Mussoorie has earned the distinction of being the ‘Queen of the hills’ at par with our very own Shimla and rightly so. But definitely not without a few ugly patches of commercialisation here and there. Still the small town manages to retain its mystic charm and beauty which makes it one of the most visited hill stations of North India.
Main promenade of the town is the mall road which is a common feature of almost every hill station. So a visit to the mall is the standard thing to do. It stretches from the library at its western end to the picture palace in the east. The place is buzzing with activity throughout the day. This whole stretch is scattered with small shops and stalls, which I call little ‘tourist traps’, offering all kinds of knick knacks from souvenirs to clothes, bags and what not. I must admit it is hard to resist the temptation. You are sure to fall into the trap and end up buying a lot of that colourful stuff. But the walk is definitely enjoyable as throughout the mall road you get a magnificent view of the beautiful doon valley. It turns into a sparkling beauty at night with lights twinkling over the vast valley like myriads of glow-worms . A treat for the eyes.
There are many must see places in and around Mussoorie such as Gunhill point, Camels back road. Mussoorie lake, Lake mist, Municipal garden, Lal tibba , Dhanaulti and Cloud’s end.
Gunhill’s history dates back to the British times when a gun was fired from this hill to herald the mid day so that people could adjust their watches. This is where the hill got its name from. The Gunhill can be reached by cable car from the mall road. For those who love walking, a bridled path leads to the place, which forks off from the mall road. The Gunhill is the second highest peak of Mussoorie offering a bird’s eye view of the whole town. On a clear day you can have a glimpse of the high peaks of Kedarnath, Badrinath and Nanda Devi.
The Camel’s back road is another place that offers a beautiful view of the Himalayas. Here again you can see almost all high peaks of the area from the view points set here. The road is popular for long walks and horse rides. It’s always interesting to see what these places get their so peculiar names from. This one owes it to a big rock formation with a life like resemblance to a sitting camel which is visible from various points at the road.
Municipal garden is a picnic spot with boating, joyrides and beautiful landscaping. It also showcase some really impressive and breathtakingly beautiful varieties of flowers. The place is thronged by locals and tourists alike.
Mussoorie lake and Lake Mist are the newly developed picnic spots offering boating and other activities along with the picturesque location. Both offer enchanting view of the Doon Valley and nearby villages.
Moving a few miles away from the town you reach Dhanaulti which is emerging as a popular tourist destination. It is a small hamlet, 25 kms from Mussoorie, along the tehri road. Located amidst thick, forests of deodar, rhododendron and oak, it offers an atmosphere of perfect peace & tranquillity as the area still doesn’t show any signs of commercialisation. It has an actual hill forest village environment with Himalayan breeze and is a delightful place to spend a day at. Dhanaulti is also the launching point for numerous treks into the snow-capped Himalayas.
The spiritual minded ones would love to visit the famous hilltop shrine of Surkhanda Devi, located in the same area. The temple is situated at a distance of 11kms from Dhanaulti and is among the highest peaks of the area at an altitude of about 2757 metres. It is a famous pilgrimage place frequented by people from nearby villages.
Another famous ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is the Nag devta temple which is situated on Cart Mackenjee road, about 6 kms from Mussoorie on way to Dehradun.
You can also enjoy a ride up to Lal Tibba which is the highest point of Mussoorie at (2438.4 m).It offers a close and magnificent view of snow covered Gangotri, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Nanda Devi and Sri Kanta peaks.
The whole area around Mussoorie is dotted with numerous beautiful waterfalls like Kempty falls, Mosey falls, Bhatta falls and Jharipani falls, all within a radius of 10-15 kms of the town.
Most famous of these is the Kempty falls, at a distance of about 15kms from Mussoorie. The name of the place is derived from Camp-tea, the place where Britishers organised tea parties during their ruling period. Another interesting name story. I found it really funny how we twisted their “camp-tea” to all new ‘kempty’. Sounds the same though.
The whole downhill stretch towards the Kempty falls is full of scenic beauty. So slow down and enjoy the widespread treasures of nature. Don’t forget to stop by and have a good look at the views throughout the drive, along with some tea and snacks from the road-side kiosks. There are scores of them on the way.We noticed almost every big and small eating joint offering Maggi noodles. It seemed to be a favorite snack there .Every few kilometers we would notice a stall called ‘Maggi point’ . The two minute wonder was all rage here. Interesting !
Kempty falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Uttarakhand. The water falls here from a height of about 40ft leaving a trail of beautiful landscapes amidst the hilly terrain. A perfect place to enjoy a panoramic view and the clear cool water. The place has been developed as a tourist spot with water-park, rides, boating and ropeways. Scores of ‘tourist traps’ again and there I was, falling prey to half of them, so willingly. The cable car ride is good and saves you the trouble of walking all the way up, but be prepared to stand in long queues to wait for your turn, as weekdays or weekends, the place is brimming with tourists. On your way back you can possibly be greeted by traffic snarl ups too.
The place is beautiful indeed but I could not help noticing the struggle of nature with mankind which is so evident here .There was plastic bags scattered all over, cruelly robbing the place of its beauty. And.. we heard there was a ‘ban’ on polythene in this hill state. Ironic!! The place is paying dearly for the so called development and modernisation process. It reminded me of the signboard posted at many places in the hills saying ’The earth has enough for man’s need but not for his greed’..How relevant and true. Hope this thought sinks in our mind before its too late.
The last destination on our itinerary was the Cloud’s End or Cloud End. Situated at a distance of 8kms from library, it is at the extreme west of Mussoorie . The bungalow of Cloud End was built in 1838 by a British major. It was one of the first four buildings of Mussoorie which has been converted to a resort now.As the name suggests it is the end of Mussoorie and was the last step of our journey too. And I guess Mussoorie had saved its best for the last. Cloud end is the kind of place that will sweep you off your feet.
A steep uphill road, through the forest took us to the hilltop resort surrounded by pristine hills and cedar trees with occasional drizzling adding a mystical aura to it .Nestled amidst the tall cedar trees , the place has something about it that leaves you spellbound. It still holds the quaintness and charm of the bygone times .It offers a 250 kms long spectacular view of snow capped colossal Himalayan range, and sacred Yamuna River…Once you reach on top of the Cloud end you feel an all new world unfolding around you. For me being on clouds end was like being on cloud nine. You have to be there to feel it. Cloud end is enchanting, soothing and fascinating. A trip to Mussoorie is incomplete without a few relaxed moments spent at this place.
The drive downhill brought us back to the town. It was like being back from a dream to reality. The mesmerising beauty of this precious gem of the Himalayas was etched deeply in mind by then. It is like a page straight out of some Ruskin bond story. No wonder great writers and poets like him made Mussoorie their home and immortalised its beauty in their literature. This place has no dearth of inspiration. It has the magic to turn everyone into a poet and the spell worked on me too… It was a pleasure surrendering to the charm of Mussoorie…