It all started with a phone call that woke me up on a Sunday Morning. I hate waking up early on weekends but it was my best friend so I took the call. She told me about a common friend whose getting married and that we must get our tickets done asap. The wedding was in Delhi after which we decided to go on a holiday which was long overdue. The idea was to explore three she and I were to take off on our long planned holiday after – explore 3 cities in Uttarakhand. We had six nights to spare and and the initial plan was to cover Manali, McLeodGanj and Rishikesh but due to heavy snowfall, we finally froze on Dehradun – Mussoorie – Rishikesh. Needless to say, the primary objective of this holiday was to just have fun.
Skip to the part after the Wedding. We woke up at 9.30 am after a 3.5 days of relentless and absolute fun – Delhi weddings are known for that, but I will leave that story for another time. We rented a car from Delhi and back at an exorbitant price, safety was a priority as we were two girls travelling by ourselves. It was a long drive from New Delhi to Dehradun and the hangover from the intoxication or otherwise over the last couple of days was not helping. I did some quick research on my phone and stopped at a restaurant called Cheetal Grand for lunch. The food was decent and the price point was just right. The food kept coming to our table so the service was great, we were famished and ate out of our hands. The remainder of the journey was rather exhausting as we tried to find the hotel we were staying at. First mistake – we booked a hotel far from the city which meant no connectivity, let alone stepping out for dinner.
The resort we stayed in – The Sylvan Retreat is nothing less than what the name is, it resonates everything that is a perfect retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city. We had an individual cottage which over looked a lawn where we enjoyed our morning coffee and breakfast for the next two days. A word of mention for the fabulous service, not only did they give us two heaters for the room, they also provided our driver a staff quarter (complimentary). They also had a restaurant operational through the day with a seasonal menu, you could tell the chef what you wanted and he will make do with what’s available. The temperature drop was rather alarming for both of us – 2 degrees. Hailing from Calcutta and Bombay, that kind of temperature is not exactly the type we are accustomed to. After the long journey we had, first day ended with an early dinner and a drink each to keep us warm.
Since we had lost out on the first day, the second day was of the essence and the only day we had to explore Dehradun. We had already mapped out the places we wanted to stop by the night before so the route map was in place. We first headed to Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple which is listed pretty much everywhere under places to visit in the city. Stretched over large acres of land and between two mountains, this temple owes its name and popularity to the naturally water bathed shiv ling in the cave inside. It is further believed to be the residence of Guru Dronacharya, the cave is hence named Drona Cave as an ode to him. Additional to the cave, there are three temples here to visit here – another Shiv Temple, one with Goddess Santoshi(Hindu Goddess of Joy & Satisfaction) and one with Lord Hanuman(Hindu God of Power and Strength). The Hanuman statue beside the temple is quite fascinating and stole my heart. The Hanuman Chalisa has and continues to be a very significant part of my life – try it to believe it, its life changing.
Next we headed to Robbers Cave – believed to be an abode of Lord Shiva, this natural cave formation is about 600 meters long and has the river flows inside the cave making it both very natural and as you move towards where the waterfall is – extremely cold and eerie. Legend has it robbers used to hide stolen valuables in this cave, hence the name. The cave is known for its 10 metre fall which can be seen right at the end of the cave. A long walk in almost knee deep water in chappals (which you can rent from outside the cave, not quite sure why they suggest you use these) and a difficult trek up and then down in the water again and we managed to reach the fall. We saw no one go all the way till here given there’s no clear path to it, the directional arrows can be seriously misleading so one must proceed at their own risk. We were looking for some adventure so went with it and boy, was it worth it or what!
We were cold and drenched so after indulging in some hot tea and delicious steamed dimsums. We started for the Tibetan Market near the Dehradun Clock Tower and frankly, this was quite a disappointment. Tired from the long walk and a little hungry so the last stop for the day was at Nany’s Bakery. Having grown up in Calcutta, legendary bakeries like Nahoums, Kookie Jar and Monginis brought back both sweet and savory memories from my childhood days. From Puffs, Patties, Cookies, Cakes to a menu with the most commonly ordered dishes – this is a fab place to just sit and chill. After spending an hour here, we called it an early night as our hotel was far and there was a long drive to Mussoorie the following day.
It didn’t take us long to reach Mussoorie and on the way is when I got the most unfortunate news which would eventually almost ruin our day. I had made all our hotel bookings via Booking.com and I got a call from the hotel saying they cant accommodate us and will offer us a better hotel instead at the same rate. He said he would make the required arrangements and call me back with the revised hotel location. Since we had already reached and it was around lunch time we thought best to grab some lunch. We walked up mall road to dine at this eatery I was looking forward to visit – Kalsang. Established years ago, this place is a hot-spot for youngsters and is always buzzing. We managed to find a seat upstairs and it was less crowded. The menu was traditionally Tibetan and reminded me of all the soulful meals I had in Bhutan. We had our server make a recommendation, he placed an order for a steamed dimsum along with a signature pan fried momo soup dish. Both were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. I also ordered their cold coffee which was really good.
By the time we finished the meal, we were getting paranoid as we still hadn’t receive a call back from the hotel representative. After several failed attempts we finally got through to him and we reached the location of the alternate hotel. I am a hotelier and this was by far the shadiest hotel I have seen in my life- it gave me the creeps. After giving a piece of my mind, we started hotel hunting in the car. We went to about 3 hotels and they were all charging around INR 700 extra per night for the heater alone which we thought was ridiculous. It was getting extremely cold- Mussoorie touched -1 the day we reached so we settled for the first hotel that popped up online – Honeymoon Inn. It was expensive (there goes the budget trip) but well, we were tired and had wasted almost half a day already. Glad that we have somewhere to stay, we got into our car and headed towards the hotel. Here is where I have to tell you about the completely screwed up road rules in this city. Beyond a certain point on mall road, the tourism board doesn’t allow any private cars between 4:30pm to 10:30pm. To our bad luck, it was 5.30pm so we walked it up while our driver waited for after 10.30pm to get our luggage to the hotel. We had to walk up a concrete ramp to get to our hotel. We quickly freshened up and headed back out for some dinner as the walk down to the restaurants was about an hour. We chose a cosy place – The Tavern Restaurant, which served Asian food and had live music – a lovely gentleman who played english pop while we had dinner. We ate at ease till it was around 11 pm and the driver came and picked us up. Advantages of staying in a nice hotel is that they have staff quarters so our driver could stay at the hotel itself. We crashed immediately after we reached as Mussoorie had a surprisingly large number of tourist attractions and we had less than two days to cover them all.
The next morning we managed to get out of the hotel by 9am – the temperature was pleasant so we decided to walk. First stop was the Ropeways which I was really looking forward to (I have faint memories of my last experience). It was under maintenance and closed so we headed to the famous Christ Church and it was shut as well. Disappointed, we headed back to the hotel, checked out and walked down to Mall Road – our driver was to meet us there in some time. Just when Mussoorie was about to become our worst decision, is when we discovered a place to visit – Cafe By The Way. What will truly stay with you about this place is the counter-culture vibe, the beauty lies in the details. The delicious food and beverage offerings are just the perfect icing on the cake. This has to be one of our most favourite discoveries from the trip given the number of options we had on our list. Ruchi and me didn’t want to leave this place, it kind of reminded us of the times when we would meet at ChaiCoffi or Moshes to catch up on the week gone by . We would just order coffee and bite-sized food and chat away – Mumbai Memories.
Content with the experience, we headed out to for some shopping. We still had 2 other places before headed to the other part of town – we were staying at the JW Marriott Mussoorie for the night. I am not sure why Mussoorie Lake listed on all websites as top 5 places to visit because I have not witnessed anything more ordinary. It’s an artificial lake with some really terrible food stalls and shops needless to mention a scary house – the screams from there still gives me nightmares (lol). Mossy Falls was our next destination and my best friend was loosing it as this was her first time witnessing a waterfall up close. The trek here again was not too long but very steep. Point to note – there are a lot of monkeys in this area. At the end of the road, there is the waterfall and immediately opposite is a shiv ling which is popular as waters drips on it naturally, we were told. While the waterfall was pretty and Ruchi had started singing and dancing in front of it, the story of the natural water was not so true.
We climbed back up and now drove towards Jharipaani Falls – the pictures on Google were very pretty and we were looking forward to it. This path was by far the most critical, roads were slippery and not well maintained. After walking down for about an hour, we figured we were the only ones there and that kind of freaked us out. So we gave it a skip as rightfully mentioned in the movie, Jab We Met – Akeli Ladki Khuli Tijori Ki Tarah Hoti hai (Let alone Ladkiyan :p). We then left towards the hotel as it was getting dark. On the way was Lal Tibba Viewpoint – the highest point of elevation in the city, we stopped and admired the lovely snow-capped landscape. By the time we reached the hotel, it was dark. After a speedy check-in and a long bath, we both grabbed a drink each and ordered in some Garlic Bread and Pizza. The room size was just average but the bed size – this was definitely a Texas King and more than spacious for us. We hit the sack early as we didn’t want to miss breakfast and needed to wake early to explore Cloud’s End.
The breakfast spread was quite good after which we checked out and headed to Cloud’s End. The roads were all lined with snow on the sides signifying it snowed the night before. We played with the snow like kids and walked up to the highest point in Mussoorie. The view was breathtaking and we sat there by the rocks and enjoyed it for a while. You can choose to pay an entry fee and walk in through the short cut, we chose to explore and figure things out ourselves. After spending considerable amount of time here, we started for Rishikesh – the goal was to reach there before the evening ganga aarti at the temple.
Situated at the banks of the Ganges, Triveni Ghat is the biggest and most famed of all ghats in Rishikesh. Known for cleansing one off their sins, it is believed that the ghat was visited by Lord Krishna when he got hurt by the arrow of Jara – a hunter. The ghat is most famous for the Ganga aarti performed to the chants of Vedic hymns – every morning and evening. The traditional aarti is a sight to behold and is said to be witnessed by those who deserve it. Although the drive to our destination was about 2 hours, but the rain slowed us down causing us to just reach in time for the evening aarti. It was raining but we literally ran to the Tribeni Ghat lest we miss it. We reached just in time and it was beautiful. Half way through the aarti, I even video called my mother and she was mighty happy about it. There are a couple of temples in the vicinity as well and lots to shop. Triveni Ghat is also where the iconic Shiva Statue stood before the floods destroyed it.
It was late so we headed for dinner – now this one was in the other side of town, quite shady but serves good food with an awesome view of the river. We ordered delicious vegan food along with hot coffee – helps in the cold. We went back to the hotel soon after and crashed for the day. We woke up the next day to realize we only had one day left to explore Rishikesh and very sad that the trip was almost ending. We really wanted to experience white water rafting, the hotel was enabling it for us and he told us we had three hours before we had to head back. So, we decided to go to Beatles Cafe for lunch. Cafe Delmar better known as the Beatles Cafe is one of the most famed cafes of Rishikesh. The decor, walls and the music they play at the cafe make you reminisce the fact that the Beatles have indeed been here. The food and mocktails are mostly vegan and delicious – definitely worth a try. We had an hour before we went white water rafting and thank God we included this in our itinerary – the experience here was most peaceful, what with the view and the ambience. Bottom line, I am definitely going back there.
Of all the things that top my travel list, the most unmatched was the White Water Rafting experience we had. Rishikesh also happens to be the rafting capital of India’, offering one of the best rafting experiences. We had to choose – between Beetles Ashram and River Rafting given the one day we had. The hostel we were staying at, the owner told us he would any day recommend the latter and we took it. One point to note here is both Ruchi and myself don’t know how to swim so this was no less than an adventure for us. We were taken to the location where the rafting would commence and asked to wear the gear. The rest, as they say will be embedded in our memories for the rest of our lives. It is best experienced so I am not going to type any further on this. Our guide had a GoPro and so, I have some photos below to share. Hot Tip : If you are in Rishikesh, you must river raft. Period!
We came back to the hotel, quickly changed and went out with for a quick stroll through Tapovan. I have to tell you there is a lot of reasonable yet amazing stuff to shop here – from hippie clothes to accessories. After spending a lot of money here, we settled for dinner at this restaurant next to Beetles Cafe. Tat Cafe can be easily missed given its location but its a must visit. This was our last stop at Rishikesh before we left for Delhi the next morning and we knew this place is going to give us major FOMO later on. It’s beautiful to say the least, the vegan food and beverages are to die for. What we also couldn’t ignore was the Incredible music they were playing – I must thank Shazam here. Of all the places we want to re-visit when in Rishikesh again, this is definitely one of them, Ruchi would -agree.
Uttarakhand – the last trip before the pandemic, was the most memorable trip not to mention – our first trip together. I would always recommend taking a holiday with someone whose like-minded which contributes to an overall fulfilling travel experience. I end on this note and advocate at Uttarakhand is indeed the “Devabhumi” – Land of the Gods, which it is known as and this is indeed the closest you can get to nature. So while you can and given the current challenge of no international travel – quickly plan this!
Needless to say, always happy to receive your feedback. I hope this was a good read. Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think.