have fond memories of driving from
Nearly four decades later, I went back.
Delhi to Mussoorie in my father’s old
Ambassador car as a teenager. It was a
six-hour trip, or a little under 300 kilo-
meters, from Delhi to the foothills of
the Himalayan mountain range. We were
escaping the brutal summers of North
India, just as the British did when they built several
resorts, or hill stations, in and around the Himalayas.
A lot has changed since my teenage years. Mussoorie,
or the Queen of the Hills, is now a bustling—at times
even crowded—city. And it is still a popular destination
for India’s middle and wealthier classes.
But on the outskirts of the Himalayan Mountains,
there is enough quietude for a vacation away from
other vacations in North India. If one is looking for
cool weather, meditative serenity in the hills, quiet
walks, and a taste of creative local and Western foods,
then a few days in this iconic Indian destination is
A COLONIAL HISTORY
Established in the early 1800s by the British, Mussoorie
has touches of old colonial India: churches, cemeteries
and neighborhoods that still carry Western names.
The main thoroughfare is a shopping strip called Mall
Road. It runs through the heart of town, and in order to
encourage foot traffic, cars are not allowed along it from
afternoon through evening. In the British colonial period,
Mall Road had a sign that forbade the local population
to walk on the street: “Indians and Dogs Not Allowed.”
Generations later, as a teenager, I took evening strolls
with my parents there, window-shopping and stopping
to eat. There was a small-town feel to the street. Today,
Mall Road is packed with young Indians enjoying economic freedom, shopping at stores that sell international
brand-name products. Western tourists and backpackers
frequent its antique stores.
Chick Chocolate is a busy coffee shop, serving cappuccino and dessert that includes a good New York-style
cheesecake. More important, though: Chick Chocolate
has free Wi-Fi. Also on Mall Road is the Tibetan-run
Little Llama Café, a popular hangout for the students
and American instructors of India’s best-known private
boarding school, Woodstock.
Woodstock is located in Landour, perhaps the pretti-
Named after Llanddowror, a small town in Wales,
est and most interesting suburb of Mussoorie. Founded
in 1854, Woodstock’s early graduates were children of
Christian missionaries and diplomats. Today most of
the students belong to wealthy, elite Indian families.
Landour has neatly laid out, quiet streets, but it also
tells a story about the dark days of the British period.
In the early 1800s Landour was a convalescent center
for British soldiers suffering from malaria and other
tropical diseases. Many died there and are buried in the
town’s old cemeteries.
A TRIP TO LANDOUR
Nearly two centuries later, Landour’s prime real estate
and natural beauty has attracted Bollywood celebrities
and writers, who build country homes there. Landour
was a new experience to me. I imagine it was too quiet
and serene for my father, who liked being surrounded
by the commercial hustle and bustle of Mussoorie.
On the day I visited Landour, I spotted the house
of Sachin Tendulkar, considered one of the world’s
best cricket players. Ruskin Bond, a British writer of
children’s books who was born in India in 1934, has also
made Landour his home. Author Anita Desai, who has
been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times,
was born here.
Among the spots I visited during my day in Landour
was Sisters’ Bazaar, a quaint street named after the British
nurses who once lived along the road and which now
houses a single shop—A. Prakash & Co. As I walked in,
the store had a rich aroma of freshly baked banana bread.
Prakash is renowned for its jars of homemade peanut but-
ter and orange and ginger marmalade, which hint at the
American and British influences that have remained since
the store opened in 1928.
Down just a couple of blocks along the winding
streets is an area referred to as Char Dukan, or
“Four Shops.” Established in 1910, the site now com-
prises six eateries, each offering street food such as
parathas, fried Indian flatbread stuffed with potatoes
or other vegetables. Though the restaurants are simple, the food is excellent. Char Dukan’s Tip Top Tea
Shop makes chocolate pancakes, waffles, pizzas and
milkshakes. It is even better to take your food to
go and enjoy it on the sunny benches of the park
across the street.
For more elegant dining, Emily’s is a quaint restaurant
serving both Western and Indian cuisine. The inviting
space is filled with the aroma of fresh bread, and the
apple pie—rich, warm and flavorful, with large chunks
of apple slices—is a real treat. Doma’s is a colorfully
At right, clockwise from
top left: A classic car on
the road in Mussoorie;
a patron at Chick
Chocolate enjoys the
cheesecake; ears are left
out to dry in the famed
"Corn Village"; carrying
loads on the way