Touted as the ‘Queen of Hills’, Mussoorie and nearby Landour offer stunning mountain views. The looming deciduous canopy and inviting cafés only add to the list of reasons to head to the hill stations for a summer retreat. From snow-clad massifs to scrumptious breakfast and Instagram-worthy colonial architecture—there’s much you can experience here in 24 hours.
7.30 a.m. Sneak a Peek of the Peaks
What is a hill station if one doesn’t get to marvel at snow-capped peaks? Start the day bright and early by walking or driving up to Landour, just four kilometres from Mussoorie. Head to Lal Tibba, a vantage point atop a small tower, where the Himalayan massifs of Kedarnath, Baderpunch and Badrinath are easily spotted. There’s even a telescope available for public use. The colonial-era bungalows around the region only add to the charm of this popular photo-op location.
8.30 a.m. Breakfast for Two?
Lal Tibba has small cafés, but for a more solid brekkie go to Char Dukan, a 15-minute scenic walk away. Located opposite the famous St. Paul’s Church, the area takes its name from the four eateries that have been here since the late 1800s—they offer a delectable fare of waffles, pancakes, omelettes and pakoras. Char Dukan gets busy as early as 8 a.m., but for those who want a late breakfast, try the nearby Café Ivy, which opens by 10 a.m. Fairly new, the café’s wooden decor, scenic balcony seating and great fare make it a busy spot.
10 a.m. Shop Till You Drop
Mall Road pretty much gives its secret away just from its name. A half-hour drive from Char Dukan, this is the town centre of Mussoorie. Its steep lanes are lined with everything from video game parlours and skating rinks, to stores selling wooden and leather artefacts, even winter essentials—the hunt for souvenirs ends here. Lovers of Bond… er Ruskin Bond, would like to know that on Saturdays he’s known to come to Cambridge Book Depot for book signings.
12.30 p.m. Lunch with a View
It is at this moment, when the stomach rumbles for food, that Mussoorie’s status as a tourist hub shines through. Mall Road and Landour Bazar Road have old favourites such as Lovely Omelette Centre (they really do serve lovely omelettes) and Chick Chocolate, but there are a host of new cosy cafés that now vie for attention. Little Llama Café near Union Church and Café By The Way on Mall Road are a huge hit with tourists and locals alike. Expect Italian fare, desserts and coffee, and a good serving of scenic panoramas on the side.
2.30 p.m. Embrace the Tourist Traps
Head to Gun Hill, Mussoorie’s second-highest view point for all the local tourist traps. Interesting fact: It is accessible by cable-car (Rs75 round trip) from Mall Road itself. Alternatively, you can also choose to make the 20-minute trek to the peak. The summer months, which is also the high season, see an almost carnivalesque atmosphere here. There are balloon-shooting stalls, hawkers selling Maggi and fast food, and women offering to dress people in Garwahli costumes for photos. Go regardless, and soak in a 360-degree view of the Doon valley.
4.00 p.m. Soak Up Some Colonial Charm
Sir George Everest’s House, or Park Estate, is more than just another view-point. The early 19th-century house is a half-hour drive from Mall Road and pleasantly away from the hubbub of the main town centre of Mussoorie. It was built by George Everest of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India fame, after whom Mount Everest is named and is worth a visit for some downtime and old-world charm.
When at Park Estate, drive up to Tibbi Point, the ‘sunset point’ of Mussoorie for that perfect mountain sunset shot.
8.00 p.m. Have the Perfect Sundowner
City slickers, be warned, everything shuts earlier in the mountains. For dinner, drive back to Mall Road and head to The Tavern, one of Mussoorie’s oldest restaurants. Until swankier options like Marriott opened in the hill station, this was the place to go for fancy dinners. You could also try Kalsang, for good Tibetan food, or the Clocktower Café, if you are a breakfast-for-dinner person. Most shops down their shutters by 10-11 p.m., so end the day with a stroll before you head for a snuggly good night’s rest.
Pooja Naik is Senior Sub-Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She likes to take long leisurely walks with both hands in her pocket; channeling her inner Gil Pender at Marine Drive since Paris is a continent away.