On the circular path of Landour, a board hanging on a tree announces ‘If we liked noise we wouldn’t live here, if you like noise you shouldn’t be here.’ Right away, a feeling of happiness rushes through me. This small, magical place is like a fairyland.
Landour is perhaps one of the tiniest mountain getaways in India. Back when India gained independence, this place had merely 28 houses and four shops. Can you believe it? Even now, Landour maintains the same count of 28 houses and only 4 shops. As someone rightly put it, 'Choubis Makaan aur Char Dukaan - Itna hi hai Landour.' And here's something remarkable: There hasn't been any chopping of trees or clearing of forests here for the past hundred years.
About 1200 people live in this local area. No new buildings are allowed, only fixing up or making old houses better is permitted. There aren't many hotels or guest houses in Landour, a charming small place. It's only 3.5 kilometres away from Mussoorie, known as the "queen of hill stations." But Mussoorie has changed a lot. It's become too busy, crowded, and full of traffic. It used to be a beautiful old place, but now it's all about business. The trees are gone, and the traffic is a mess.
On the other hand, Landour is still special. It's quiet, hidden, and not explored by many. It hasn't been changed or ruined.
You might be curious why Landour is different, even though it's very near Mussoorie. Landour has always been a part of the military area, and a rule from 1924 said all the trees and plants there belonged to the military. That's why Landour is full of greenery, and the trees have been taken care of for about a hundred years. Plus, making new buildings of any kind in Landour is against the law according to the rule. So, there haven't been any new permanent buildings constructed in Landour.
That's why there are only a few houses in Landour. Because of these rules, Landour hasn't really changed much due to modern ways and visitors. Mussoorie is 6500 feet high, while Landour is higher at 7500 feet.
If you go to Landour in winter and luck is with you, you might see something amazing: the Winter Line. This special natural event only happens in two places globally. The other place is Switzerland. The Winter Line is a rare thing that happens in the sky when warm air gets trapped under cold air. We were lucky to see it during a sunset in Landour. The whole western sky turned yellow, red, and purple.
This little hill town is really green. Because cutting down trees and building new things is not allowed in Landour, there are lots of animals, especially rare birds. The coolest part of Landour is 'Upper Chakkar' or Gol Chakkar. It's just 3.5 kilometres and the road has signs with cool quotes and poems. Walking there is easy, with not many steep parts.
The calm, curvy streets and the smell of flowers make a lot of tourists come to Landour. The special thing about walking on 'Upper Chakkar' is that you can walk, eat, look around, and then do it all over again. The road in Landour looks like the number '8', and there are lots of things to do and places to see on the sides of the road. If you really want to enjoy all the places, it's better to walk on the road instead of driving. The road is nicely made, and there are tall Deodar trees all around.
Landour offers stunning views of the Garhwal Himalayas that you can see up to 200 kilometres away on a clear day. You'll be able to spot peaks like Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath, and even Nanda Devi. Tibet is relatively close, about 110 kilometres away in a straight line.
The variety of birds you can see here is amazing. More than 350 kinds of birds can be spotted at different heights throughout the year. Some of these birds are special to this area, while others come from places like Tibet, Siberia, and Central Asia. You'll easily notice unique kinds of pheasants and raptors, which are impressive birds.
Leopards sometimes visit, preying mainly on dogs from Landour-Mussoorie and nearby villages. There are also barking deer, jackals, and the secretive sloth bear. Among smaller animals, you might see flying squirrels, jungle cats, and langurs. Monkeys are everywhere in abundance.
About five years ago, my wife and I went to Landour. My niece, Sona, who loves traveling, told us about this place. Sona lives in Faridabad, and we live in Delhi. She called me all excited and asked, "Have you been to Landour, Harish uncle?" I replied, "No dear, I've only been to Mussoorie." She said, "You've missed out on something amazing."
Sona had just returned from Landour, and she described it as a slice of heaven on Earth. Her words were so convincing that within a week, we found ourselves in Landour. We chose to stay at a Tibetan hotel called Doma’s Inn. This place was quite unique. It looked more like an old shop filled with interesting items than a hotel. There were pictures of Tibetan gods and dragons everywhere. The hotel had a lot of corners and bends, and the rooms didn't have windows. You had to be careful not to hurt yourself on the uneven floors. The whole building was on different levels, which was odd but fascinating.
The best thing about Doma’s Inn was its location – right next to the home of the British writer Ruskin Bond, who is famous for his books about India. Many people come to Landour from Mussoorie just to meet him. Even the Bollywood director and music composer Vishal Bharadwaj enjoys being in Landour. The journalist Pranab Roy from NDTV also has ties to this place.
Just next to our hotel, there's a steep path that's a quick way to reach Char Dukaan. Char Dukaan is a line of four shops. These shops take care of the things people from other countries studying at Landour Language School need for their homes. All the shops sell food and snacks that are good for the hills, like hot tea, coffee, Maggi, pakoras, parathas, pasta, and bun omelettes. Anil's cafe and Tip Top tea shop are two famous shops at Char Dukaan that have been here for more than 50 years. They're proud of all the famous people who have come to their shops.
Right next to Char Dukaan is St. Paul's church. It's an old church that was built in 1840 for the army. It's right next to Char Dukaan. The church area is quiet and peaceful, and it smells nice because of the tall deodar trees around it. The church is painted yellow and looks amazing with the blue sky and green trees around it. St. Paul's Church is the best place to go in Landour if you want some peace and quiet. Even the parents of the famous hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett got married in this church. Jim Corbett is known for dealing with tigers that were causing problems, mostly in Kumaon. But he also had a strong connection to Mussoorie.
Just where the roads cross in the shape of a '8', stands Kellogg's Memorial Church. It seems really old-fashioned and full of history. The church has beautiful colored glass windows and was built in a special style called Gothic in the year 1903. Right behind the church is the Landour Language School. This is where the British people used to learn Hindi back when they were in charge of India. A person named Dr. Samuel Kellogg wrote a book about Hindi grammar in English so the British could understand Hindi better.
This school is still open and teaching languages even today. It's quite amazing because they teach languages like Hindi, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Urdu, and the local language Garhwali to students all around the world. This is something really special.
As you walk from the Language school towards Lal Tibba, you'll come across the lovely English-style house of the experienced actor Victor Bannerjee. Lal Tibba gets its name from the reddish-brown soil on the hill where it stands. It's the highest spot in Landour town and offers views of famous Himalayan peaks.
On Lal Tibba, there are two cafes with binoculars on their terrace. They ask for a small fee to use these binoculars, which help you see the snowy Himalayan mountains and distant villages. The view from Lal Tibba is truly stunning, and you can even see all the Char Dhams from here. If you visit Lal Tibba during sunrise or sunset, you're in for a treat. It's the top thing to do in Landour, and it's a sight you won't want to miss.
At Lal Tibba, there's a cafe called Klick Cafe. We went there to have some Maggi and tea. Inside, the cafe is all about photography. Down the road shaped like the number 8, you'll find Sisters Bazaar. Back in the British colonial days, nurses used to live here. The bazaar has a few shops and Landour Bakehouse.
In the 1830s, every Parish used to have a commune oven to bake their own bread. In the 1900s, people in Landour came together and made a book called the 'Landour Cookbook' every year. They wrote down all the old recipes. Today, Landour Bakehouse serves bakery products based on tried and tested recipes from the old Cookbooks.
The bakery cum cafe has an old-world charm with wooden decor, rustic ambiance, and 19th-century kitchen construction . It serves delicacies like croissants, desserts, puddings, buns, and cookies.
The best seat at Landour Bakehouse is by the window. You can see a deep valley with tall Oak trees in the Himalayas. At the cafe, there's a blackboard that makes you smile. It says, "No Wi-Fi here. Pretend it's the 1980s and talk to each other." Another funny line is written right outside Landour Bakehouse on an abandoned van saying , We'll start deliveries as soon as our vehicle is fixed.
Landour is home to a lot of celebrities; including author Ruskin Bond (this, everyone knows!), Bill Aitken, Stephen Alter, Ganesh Saili, actor Victor Banerjee, the late Tom Alter and Vishal Bhardwaj among other distinguished names.
In 1827, the British Indian army constructed a sanatorium in Landour for injured soldiers. This created a lasting connection between Landour and the military, making it a special area called a Cantonment.
The very first building in Mussoorie came to be in 1925, thanks to Captain Young, who also discovered Mussoorie. He built it in Landour. The Clock tower in Landour marked the start of the town, and Indians were restricted beyond that point.
Landour has managed to keep its old-fashioned appeal. It has wide open spaces, lush green surroundings, lots of different bird types and animals, and not many houses. In this chaotic world filled with commotion and businesses, Landour stands as a peaceful haven.
As you wander through the picturesque landscapes of Landour, you're not just traversing hills and valleys, but stepping into a realm where tales of creativity, resilience, and bravery converge, creating a living tapestry of human experiences.