It is true that if Mussoorie is “the Queen of the Hills”, then Landour is her crown. This quaint cantonment town where the mist rolls in throughout the year is home to some of the tallest deodars, furriest doggos and freshest waffles.
The settlement of Landour goes back to the colonial era when Colonel Frederick Young of the East India Company army built the residence at Mullingar in 1825. The house now belongs to author Ganesh Saili and his family. Most of the buildings from the pre-1947 era stand as they were, adding to the immense feeling of history having stood still all these years in Landour.
Char Dukaan is where some of the most significant buildings stand, namely the original Landour Cantt. Post Office and St. Paul’s church. This is also the point where the Landour “chakkar” starts, and comes full circle once you have walked the entire trail. On the “chakkar” – which is best covered on foot – you will find some of Landour’s famous points and the most gorgeous views. Barring the private residences, you can see landmarks like the Kellogg Memorial Church, which doubles as the Landour Language School, and the Christian Cemetery, which was originally built for burying deceased members of the British troops.
The most visited spot on the “chakkar” is Laal Tibba, which is the highest point of Landour. You can treat yourself to breathtaking panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges here on a clear day – although you might want to stay away from the “cafes” which charge unreasonable amounts of money for using their binoculars or buying a plate of Maggi.
The best food (including those aforementioned waffles) and ginger-honey-lemon tea is to be found at Char Dukaan. Café Ivy, situated right opposite the literal four shops of Char Dukaan, is also excellent for grabbing some grub after completing the “chakkar”. Taking a seat in their balcony is highly recommended. Nothing will beat having a cup of chai with a pizza fresh out of the oven, as you look out into the hills. There are more dining options, such as at Emily’s in the Rokeby Manor, which is one of the Raj-era buildings in Landour now functioning as boutique hotels. Another beautiful property is the La Villa Bethany, where you can even stay in a log cabin!
A must-stop in Landour is the Sisters Bazaar, named for the nurses who lived near the Military Hospital. The first thing to do here visit Prakash’s Store. It may look like a general store, but this multi-generational business has been an essential part of Landour’s everyday needs since the British period. For the interest of tourists, Prakash & Co. is where you can get your hands on jars of the tastiest home-made jams, preserves and cheese. Popular favourites are their gooseberry preserve and crunchy peanut butter. Prakash’s products are also used in local establishments like the Landour Bakehouse, which is where you should go next for a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. Their rustic interiors and the funny blue van parked (forever) outside only add to its charm.
The scenic beauty of Landour is much greater than anything you will find down in Mussoorie. The local initiative called KLEEN (“Keep Landour’s Environment and Ecology Natural”) is also responsible for maintaining the pristine surroundings of the area. A peculiar sight seen here is the ‘winterline’, which locals say is visible only in two places in the world – one being Landour and the other, a little Swiss town. This natural phenomenon occurs during sunset, when a distinct deep orange line can be spotted on the horizon, as the sky grows dark. The ‘winterline’ is best experienced in mid to late October, although it can persist till January.
Landour can be visited throughout the year, as the town stays peaceful and devoid of noisy crowds even in peak summer. Possible reasons for this are the relative unawareness among tourists about Landour’s attractions and the old laws which do not allow new construction, like hotels, in the Cantonment. However, the Landour Bazaar is a much busier place, with shops from where one can buy woollens and other trinkets. Otherwise, you can browse through the postcards and books at Prakash’s or buy something from the tiny handicrafts shop next to it to take home as keepsakes.
Once you have taken a trip down the paved ways of Landour, it will not be difficult to figure out why this tiny town is the preferred residence of illustrious figures like Vishal Bhardwaj, Victor Banerjee and the late Tom Alter (who was also an alumnus of the prestigious Woodstock School). The most famous resident now though is definitely Ruskin Bond, who stays near Doma’s Inn. Although it is not advised to go knocking on his door and disturb the man, there have been lucky folks who have managed to meet him at his house.
Landour takes about two hours to reach from Dehradun and 30 minutes from Mussoorie, given that traffic and weather conditions stay in your favour. Some people even choose to walk the way up – which obviously takes much longer. You can even book a room in one of the guesthouses and stay overnight to see the sun rise over the Himalayan peaks as you take a leisurely stroll through the town. But whatever you do, do not litter, and stay clear of the monkeys!
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