A Weekend in the Hills

Hectic work schedules, daily traffic snarls, very little time to relax – and then a three day weekend comes along! A badly needed break and a quick plan brought us to Mussoorie, in the middle of April this year.

This post comes late because I’ve been too lazy to write it all along – but as they say, better late than never!

The drive to Mussoorie is mostly boring, with not much to see along the way. The beauty starts after Dehradun – and you come across a pretty, shaded forest with tall trees on either side of the road, and a river running through (which was dry when we went).

Just before the main town, we stopped by Mussoorie Lake – overly-hyped by travel portals and journals, and very dirty. It was hardly a lake – more so, just a small & shallow pond with a few empty boats floating on it. A total tourist trap, I wouldn’t recommend a stopover there. The view from the lake was pretty, but you can get an equally good view if you stop anywhere else on the uphill road, too. Avoid.

A 34 km uphill drive from Dehradun finally brought us to Mussoorie after almost 10 hours of traveling, and we checked into the army guest house, Mandakini. The weather was pleasant bordering on warm during daytime.

The view from the guest house was beautiful, with a glimpse of the entire valley below us. With not much of the day left, we headed out quickly for the mall.

Mussoorie’s Mall is an interesting place, overcrowded but quaint! The whole stretch slopes up and down, and is lined with motels, eating joints, and shops selling clothes, blankets, trinkets, wooden knick-knacks and all kinds of handicrafts. Plenty of people and plenty of horses make the walk a bit annoying, but the place is interesting. You can get a good view of the valley below, somewhere around the middle of the promenade.

After spending a couple of hours at the mall, we headed back to the guest house, because it had become very cold and windy. Once inside, we could hear the sound of the wind roaring outside in the mountains, which sounded like a truck rumbling really loudly!

The next day, we made plans to visit Kempty Falls and Dhanaulti. My choice was Dhanaulti first, but the majority won, and we headed towards Kempty. The drive from the guest house was about 25 kms long and took over an hour.

On approaching, the driver pointed out the falls to us from a distance, which turned out to be nothing more than a single stream down the hills! We weren’t expecting Niagara, but we realized that we’d run into another tourist trap!

The place was really crowded, with families and honeymoon couples all over. We made the best of it, though, and spent our time wading barefoot in the cold water.

There were plenty of photographers around; displaying their albums full of pictures of people posing dressed in traditional garb. The poses by some of the people, especially honeymoon couples, were absolutely hilarious! We then took the ropeway down to Kempty Lake, which was small and man made, but much cleaner than Mussoorie Lake. We went boating on it.

We got stuck in a huge traffic jam at the exit, and by the time we managed to break free from the madding crowd, it was too late to go to Dhanaulti. We headed to the Mall again and spent a couple of hours there, roaming around and buying souvenirs and blankets, before heading back to the guest house.

The next morning, we headed back home.

The trip was short, and we didn’t get to do much, but we did manage to go on some long drives around the place. The views of the valley and the hills were beautiful.

View from the Mall

We also came across some lovely flowers growing wild along the way!

Overall, it’s a pretty place, although the tourist areas do tend to get a bit overcrowded. I wouldn’t recommend a stopover at the Lake and Kempty. The Mall is a nice place to roam around, though. If I were to go again, I’d avoid these tourist traps and go on walks or drives in the hills. Otherwise, it’s just as crowded and just as noisy as any public place in a big city!


  • nandanjha says:

    Its been long Ashima that you wrote here. Great to see you back. As you say, better late then never.

    Good quick and crisp post. I think the pics are from a mobile phone (less details, less colors). I entirely agree with you on Lake and Kempty, sometimes you get into a jam right at the lake because there are tens of these cars from Delhi who would want to boat there.

    Do go to Dhanaulti when you trave this side.

  • Neat Write up, with a witty tone to it and lot of useful tips. Pictures are also good enough, outcome of some photoshoping.

    Interestingly, the crowdiness of the places does not come through in the pictures. the picture with flowers at Cheetal Grand is breathtaking, as seen in the post. Of course this is the best one can expect out of mobile phones.

    I also feel that most of the so called toursit spots are more of traps. I will remeber your advices if and when I get to visit the “queen of hills”.

    Btw, Nandan, this is a great quote, “…get into a jam right at the lake because there are tens of these cars from Delhi who would want to boat there.” ;-) Now a days, cars from Delhi are breaking havoc everywhere, trying to boat in the Kempty lake, trekk on the Kedarnath trekk, motorboat in the Chilka lake, so on. Such wry sarcasm makes your comments a treat to read.

  • nandanjha says:

    I am trying to devise this new usage, using a noun as a verb.

  • Rajeev says:

    Keep it up. I will try to follow you. I hope you noticed photoshoping. Cars can definitely boat, and wht i sthe harm in trying after all?

  • Ashima says:

    pics arent photoshopped…. i used the auto correct option in MS office picture manager — fairly decent

  • Rajeev says:

    I agree. Today I used its photo modification features for the first time and it is good. I inferred from the colours and some overexposure effect. I assure the idea was in no way to undermine the quality of snaps. I feel it is necessary to tweak up a bit the snaps, so that they look better on screen, most of which are set to lower brightness/contrats to save our eyes.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    MS could never compete with What I work on :) With no offense, try Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition s/w, it is free and has some of Photoshop power, a teeny weeny one, but probably good enough then MS.

  • Rajeev says:

    I had use this or something similar I think as it came in my Sony Ericsson CD, and it was really good and easy to use. Keep it up Adobians. I was expecting some thing on the topic from you :-)
    I have used full Photoshop for basic things like photo correction/balancing etc. I find it like a Talwar for the Sui job that we need to do. Talwar is fine for touch up and unblemishing of the photos of wedding couples, what I have seen studieo guys doing most often with APS.

  • Sudhir says:

    Nice and crisp post, Ashima. You sure did miss Dhanaulti. If I remember( 12 years back), there is a Tibetan monastery also in Mussoorie. The flowers are indeed a riot of colors.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Interesting read Ashima. It was really interesting travelling to Mussorie.

  • U P Mathur says:

    Can you please tell the exact location of Army guest house Mandakini on Mussoorie – Dhanaulti Road, i.e. about how far from Picture Palace end of Mall Road/ Woodstock School. Thanks

  • vibha says:

    Hey Ashima,
    I have been to Mussourie twice. Once when I was 11 and next around 16 years after that. I was stunned by how much mussourie has changed. While earlier, it was an active little hill station, now it is overcrowded.

    I remember how clean Campty falls were back then. But during the recent visit, they were just a shadow of their former glory. It is sad to say the least. But it is an approachable hill station with lots to do. Probably that is the selling point.

    By the way, most of the the caged birds at Cheetal are Monals, the state birds of Himachal Pradesh.


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