Experience magic in the offbeat side of Mussoorie, in a small cantonment town of Landour. Just like any other die-hard fan of Ruskin Bond, even I wanted to know what inspires him to live here and write about a life around nature. Get lost in the beauty of this tiny piece of paradise and return home feeling rejuvenated. Here, I have listed down 10 things you can do in Landour.
1. Stay at a homestay
If you want to find a home in the hills with the perfect hosts, meet interesting people, indulge in endless conversations, spoil yourself with scrumptious food (from around the world) and slow down looking at the paramount views of the hillside, La Villa Bethany is the place for you! Run by the Kundle family, this eco-friendly homestay offers matchless hospitality and an ideal approach to explore the town like a local. A pleasant welcome from each member of the homestay, including Sunita, Amarjeet (owners) and their lovely daughter, Srushti, will fill your heart with warmth!
2. Walk in the woods
Make sure to bring your walking shoes and binoculars (to watch birds like the red-billed blue magpie) with you, if you want to vanish in the incredible calm of the tall and centuries-old trees (pines, oaks, deodars) of Landour. You might, however, want to take a wooden stick along, if monkeys scare you. Walking on a long, yet beautiful stretch is something we city dwellers are not used to. Which is why, the steep roads might force you to stop and catch a breath. But once you get a hang of it, you’ll feel rewarded at the end. Thanks to the Woodstock International School and Landour Language School, you might see a few foreign fitness enthusiasts running, early in the morning.
3. Chill at a local mountain bakery
After your long walks, spend a few hours chatting with friends, sipping some great coffee with delectable pies, cookies, croissants or cakes at the Landour Bakehouse. The view from here will want you to make a corner of the bakery your home-office for a few days, only if you have made the mistake of carrying your laptop. Café Ivy in Char Dukan, is another cool place to enjoy music and munch on some appetising food like pancakes, pastas and pizzas in a vintage-inspired ambience. If walking in the pitch-dark lanes is not your thing, ensure that you reach your guesthouse on time.
4. Enjoy a meal at a picturesque restaurant
Part of the well-appointed Rokeby Manor Hotel, Emily’s has a British-style décor and offers some lip-smacking food. Apart from beautiful landscape views, the restaurant has an impressive food menu with a mix of Indian and Continental cuisine (I liked the Veg Shammi Kebab, Lasooni Palak Patta, Garlic Cheese Naan and Rokeby Sticky Toffee Pudding). You can head to the hotel’s pub (The Stray Dog) to see a comedian’s or an artist’ live performance, or relax at their spa (The Little Salon & Spa Shed) for a wellness experience. Both are at a short distance from Rokeby. Doma’s Inn, a gorgeous guesthouse that looks like a Tibetan monastery has a restaurant as well, which you must check out (Ruskin Bond’s home is next to the door!).
5. Watch the sunrise
View the spectacular Garwal Himalaya mountain range and the snow-capped peaks from Lal Tibba, which also happens to be the highest point of Mussoorie. The winding road towards Lal Tibba is adorned with sky high oak and pine trees on its sides. On the way, you’ll come across a Christian cemetery that has stone graves dating back to the 1800s and has its roots in the foundation of Landour. As going by history, the town was established as a depot, where the severely-ill British Indian army soldiers could recuperate at its sanatorium. The dark forest trees add to the serenity of the mystical setting.
6. Get a glimpse of the celebrity homes
The sleepy hamlet of Landour in the foothills of Himalaya serves as a home to many a celebrity, including Ruskin Bond (Ivy Cottage), Tom Alter, Victor Banerjee (as seen in the picture), Vishal Bhardwaj (Bond’s neighbour) and more. In fact, many writers from around the globe, come here to pen down their creative thoughts. Victor had to rebuilt his residence, though, as the entire house once caught fire; luckily, he was safe. And, if you’re lucky, you may spot a famous person, like Sachin Tendulkar, who often comes here with his family.
7. Make friends with the Tibetan mastiff
During your walks around Landour, you’ll also get to meet the magnificent Tibetan mastiff dogs. They might chase you or want to play with you or even accompany you at one of the tea shops. Stay calm and be sociable, as they say, mountain dogs are the friendliest.
8. Go for a picnic in the meadows
This is something that we often get to see in the movies, but not in real life. Don your hat, carry a few board games, a mat, some snack items and fruits for a little al fresco party! Luckily for us, Sunita Kudle, our host at La Villa Bethany, offered us to tag along to her daughter’s secret place in the green pastures of one of the hills. While coming back in the evening, the dream-like time lapse of clouds accompanied us!
9. Sip a soothing tea at Char Dukan
The Char Dukan area offers a few shops selling cheesy noodles, pancakes, burgers, momos, shakes and more. The hot honey lemon ginger tea at the Tip Top Tea Shop is a must-have drink to sit back and relax your nerves. Pick a few fresh goodies from A Prakash & Co. at Sisters’ Bazaar; the store has been making homemade cheese, jams, chutneys and peanut butter since 1928.
10. Enjoy sky gazing
Go in the month of January/February to witness the winterline and snow! During other months, the cloudy sky that envelopes the mountains in the evenings, gives the town a tranquil feel. In the nights, take pleasure in a pollution-free sky, as the shiny moon and stars engross you.