Cemented paths, magnificent views, beautiful bungalows, blissful solitude, towering trees and crisp mountain air give a profound insight into the raw harmony we share with nature; Landour dazzles you at first sight
If we liked noise we wouldn’t live here. If you like noise, you shouldn’t be here’ says a wooden board on a deodar tree in Landour. Precisely, the only sound one can hear while roaming on the cobbled pathways of the small town is the rustling of dead leaves, whistling of soothing mountain air and one’s own footsteps. The harmony between the trees and the mountains seems magical. Home to one of the greatest Indian authors, Ruskin Bond, who lives here with his adopted family, it is not difficult to fathom as to why the enigmatic writer chose Landour as his dwelling. Other notable film personalities like Victor Banerjee, Tom Alter and Vishal Bharadwaj also fell in love with this rustic settlement and call it their second home. Taking its name from Llanddowror, a small town in Wales, the UK, Landour is situated in the upper reaches (1,000 feet above) of its more illustrious neighbour, Mussoorie. Characterised by steep winding pathways, this erstwhile cantonment is surrounded by lush vegetation of temperate broadleaf and mixed forests. The small town is best explored on foot and has some interesting phenomenon to witness and places to visit.
This is unique only to Landour and some parts of Switzerland. The sun drops behind a false grey coloured horizon with a bright line of yellow and orange colours at its upper end. Due to refraction of sunlight at a particular conducive angle at a few places in the world, this phenomenon is witnessed, especially from mountainous regions. The Winterline can be best viewed in Landour during the months of October to January when the skies are clear and cloudless. Coupled with the city lights of Mussoorie and Dehradun located below, the myriad shades spattering the horizon seem magical!
This is the only place in Landour where one can hear a bit of chatter. Contrary to the name, there are 5-6 shops neatly stacked alongside each other with a sit down area in front. It is a cozy marketplace with delightful options for food and beverage. Chocolate waffles, bun maska, bread omlette, banana pancake with nutella topping and honey lemon ginger tea are the most sought after offerings here. Anil’s Café (estd.1920s), Tip Top Tea Shop and the newly opened Café Ivy are must-try places.
Tibba in local Landour language refers to a high point or peak. A bright coloured red building offers the best vantage point in Landour to watch the famous and pious Himalayan peaks of Badrinath, Kedarnath and Banderpunch. A small old worn-out telescope, seemingly from the British era, is placed at the top of the place to offer a better view of the distant peaks. Being the highest point of Landour, it also offers sweeping views of the valley and adjoining mountain ranges.
KELLOGG MEMORIAL CHURCH
The largest church in town was established in 1,903 and doubled up as a Language School for the British. The church is named after Dr Samuel H Kellogg, an American missionary who had written a book on Hindi grammar in English. With shades of Gothic architecture and typical stained-glass windows, it is one of the famous landmarks in town.
Unknown to many, Landour is still the hub of secondary education for many young Americans. One will be surprised to hear a few of them speaking fluent Hindi. Many of them, on exchange programs or on gap years, come to Landour to learn the country’s national language in Landour Language School. This practice of understanding the local language started way back in the mid-19th century when Christian Missionaries arrived here. The famous Woodstock School here was founded in 1854 for the children of such missionaries.
Landour was a military sanatorium. With Indians being kept off-limits at Mussoorie, it used to be the exclusive territory of the British. The nurses working at the sanatorium had their barracks near the market and used to frequent this place often, hence the name Sister’s Bazaar. Post-independence, most retailers left and only a few shops remained here. Anil Prakash & Co. is a general store with a difference. It caters to the tastes and needs of the local English population and is famous for its locally produced peanut butter, homemade cheese, jams, marmalades, preserves and imported dark chocolates. A local store at the end of the bazaar sells clothes made of Himalayan ‘nettle’ fiber. Combined with silk, it’s a lustrous, long fiber spun by commercial mills to produce unique yarns for use in high-end apparel. Shawls and woolens consisting of nettle fiber cost almost three times more than the usual ones.
JABARKHET NATURE RESERVE
It is one of the first private forests of the country, which works towards environmental sustainability in association with the Forest Department. Just 5 km from Landour on the Mussoorie-Dhanaulti Road, Jabarkhet has a mix of tall pines, oak and rhododendron forests. With over 100 species of birds and 300 types of flowers, it’s a paradise for avian enthusiasts and anthologists. There are eight walking trails in the reserve, each having its own charm and appeal in specific seasons. The Rhododendron trail during spring wears a scarlet robe with fallen rhododendron flowers on the ground and new buds on trees. Similarly during monsoon, you will encounter myriad varieties of wild mushrooms, ferns and flowers in the Mushroom trail. The top of the reserve, replete with colourful prayer flags, offers an unmediated view of the snowcapped peaks of the Shivalik Range.
Text & Photos: Sugato Tripathy