Haridwar Rishikesh Mussoorie in 5 days. A vacation postponed by more than a year, thanks to COVID-19

2nd Mar 2021
Photo of Haridwar Rishikesh Mussoorie in 5 days. A vacation postponed by more than a year, thanks to COVID-19 by Gaurav Andhansare

I was very excited to finally book a family trip around my birthday week where we could relax and spend some quality time. So I planned & booked a 5N/6D trip to Haridwar (1N) - Rishikesh (1N) - Mussoorie (3N) for the month of April, in December. That was 2020.

Then, COVID-19 happened. My money was stuck as the agent refused to refund but offered rescheduling the trip anytime till 2022. With no one having any idea back then when this nightmare of a situation would end, I hoped beyond hope that things would be back to normal soon

Cut to February 2021, after almost a year of lockdown due to the pandemic that struck in March 2020, finally things started to look better and we could manage to reschedule the trip in March.

Here's how it went.

Day 1

Apart from the usual checks at the airport for photo ID and ticket, there is now an additional layer of checks - Arogya Setu App (status should be green), thermal scans and you better wear that mask correctly and lower only momentarily to confirm your identity with the ID

A couple of hours of flying we landed at Delhi airport, where after few more checks we came out where our cab to Haridwar was waiting for us (it was a bit late).

It is a long ride with the okay-ish roads. It takes a while to get out of the main city due to traffic but is a smooth ride after that till Haridwar. We stopped at a dhaba for lunch on the way and reached our hotel - the Golden Tulip

After a bit of relaxation and freshening up, we visited the most anticipated Ganga aarti at Har ki Pauri. Preparations were already underway for the upcoming Kumbh Mela and Mahashivratri next week (we went a week earlier to avoid the mad rush, especially considering added risk of COVID-19). It is a surreal place, even for someone like me, who is agnostic at best. The largest river in India, considered as the holy Ganga (or Ganges), is a magnificient sight to behold as it flows alongside as you walk towards the ghat were the aarti is performed. Ganga aarti happens twice a day - morning and evening both of which are usually attended by thousands. We were not comfortable with so many people swarming, most of them not wearing masks, or not wearing it properly the whole time, so we kept our distance. Once the aarti was over and the crowd dispersed a bit, we went down to the banks and dipped our toes in the water which was refreshingly cool

Day 2

Next day, after a heavy breakfast, we checked out and were on our way to Rishikesh, which is approximately a 25-30km ride

Since our hotel was beyond all the tourist attractions, we decided to visit Rishikesh first before checking at the hotel. Rishikesh, like Haridwar, has a lot of places with religious significance and stories. It also has something for the more adventurous - river rafting and bungee jumping. We only had time for one of these two activities so I chose river rafting. Once you arrive at the market leading up to the Laxman Jhula, you can choose any of the river rafting booking agents there, rates are almost standard, varying slightly. There are two versions of the rafting you can do here - 9km till Brahmpuri (Rs. 500-600) and a longer one of around 15km till Shivpuri (Rs. 1000-Rs. 1200). There is also a small Rs. 20 forest reserve fee which is directly paid to the authorities. The shorter distance rafting takes about 2 hours while the longer one can take around 3.5 hours including transport to the starting point.

Photo of Laxman Jhula, Tapovan, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare
Photo of Haridwar Rishikesh Mussoorie in 5 days. A vacation postponed by more than a year, thanks to COVID-19 by Gaurav Andhansare

I booked my 9km rafting and while we waited for other bookings to complete a raft (usually a raft takes 7-9 people, so if you are booking it alone or with 1-2 people you might have to wait a bit for other bookings, usually takes 20-30 mins. Meanwhile, we roamed the markets, crossed the Laxman Jhula, visited a few temples, learned about the stories and significance of the structures. You can also hire a Govt. approved guide which can provide a guided tour to you (Rs. 200 an hour, irrespective how big the group is. The tour usually only lasts about an hour or so)

Finally, it was time for some river rafting and I joined my fellow rafters to our transport vehicle which took us to the Brahmpuri rafting point where we were given our safety equipments and paddles. And off we went into the river! Even though it was bright, sunny and warm, the river was cool and refreshing as it splashed while we paddled hard through the rapid sections of the river. We even stopped at the Maggi point where you can pause and enjoy the view while eating a hot plate of Maggi (Rs. 50) or sipping hot tea/coffee (Rs. 20). After Maggi point, it is only a short distance till you arrive at your starting point. River rafting. Check.

River rafting squad

Photo of River Rafting Rishikesh, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

Maggie point - a brief stop in the river rafting adventure to admire the scenic surroundings

Photo of Jain Tea Stall & Maggi Point, Pundir Bhojnalya, Mayakund, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

Exhausted, we then left for our hotel after having light snacks at the market to reach our hotel, Summit by the Ganges. We retired for the day while enjoying our beautiful view of the Ganga river from the balcony followed by a nice buffet dinner.

Day 3

I woke up early to catch the sunrise as I knew our balcony faced the eastside which also had the riverbank. A nice morning walk along the peaceful river, the sun rising steadily and a cool breeze is a great way to start your day. Caught glimpses of few Himalayan birds around the bank along with our fellow tailed primates (monkeys). After an hour or so after the sunrise and satisfied with my clicks, I returned for a quick breakfast before we checked out to leave for our final destination of the trip - the Queen of Hills

Sunrise at the Ganges river

Photo of Summit By The Ganges Resort & Spa, Rishikesh, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

We reached our hotel in Mussoorie, Hotel Shilton, after around 3 hours of drive. The hotel is bang in the centre of Library Chowk and just before the Mall Road. Again, having a room with a view meant we spent the rest of the day relaxing as we had more time to explore Mussoorie than our previous locations.

Next morning, we woke up to yet another beautiful sunrise on the horizon visible from our balcony.

Photo of Hotel Shilton Mussoorie, near Wynberg School, The Mall Road, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

Post breakfast we headed straight to the main attraction the hill station has to offer - the Kempty Falls. Once you reach the farthest your cab can take you, you have to walk through a narrow sloping lane flanked on either sides by numerous shops of various kinds, towards the waterfall. You can also take a cable car for Rs. 150 and skip the walking but I would recommend the walk as it hardly takes 15-20 mins. Kempty falls is mesmerizing sight with its gushing white water which falls into a pool like structure arranged where people can enjoy a dip (the water is freezing plus COVID-19 made the decision for me to not oblige). You can still enjoy the view while having tea or a quick bite if you wish at a nearby stall. We came to know that there is another point situated above from where you can see the waterfall from a different perspective. It is mildly more difficult considering you have to ascend rather than descend but it was worth it. Far lesser crowd and a more clearer and closer view of the Kempty falling from overhead.

Kempty falls, lower level view

Photo of Kempty Falls, Lakhwad, Kempty, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

Kempty falls, upper level view

Photo of Kempty Falls, Lakhwad, Kempty, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare
Day 4

We then visited the Company Garden, which is not very far from Kempty Falls. It is a picinic location just 3km from the Mall road. Entry fees is Rs.25 per person which you pay at the gate. It is basically a huge garden area with fountains, a smaller replica of the Kempty, greenhouse having a variety of colorful flowers and a few amusement park rides for children. It also has a restaurant where you can have snacks or even lunch. After spending a couple of hours, clicking pictures and having few snacks, we came back to our hotel.

An old car is redesigned to be home to flowering plants inside the Company Garden

Photo of Company Garden, bazar Road, Landour, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare
Day 5

Woke up the other day to see a cloudy sunrise and came to know that it had rained early morning. That dampened our spirits a little, but we hoped it would be clearer as the day went on. We decided to just explore the Mall road area and nearby cafes. Found this neat little bookcafe by the name of Charleville Bookstore and Cafe. It has a great collection of books you can buy from or read while you wait for your order (Ham and cheese sandwich is what I ordered and was delicious). The owner is helpful in finding the right book you might be looking for. With nothing much to do, I spent my evening there perusing through a couple of books while it was still cloudy outside, enjoying my hot chocolate.

Photo of The Charleville Bookstore & Cafe, near SBI Bank, LBSNAA, Charleville, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

Ham & cheese sandwich and a book at the Charleville Bookstore and Cafe is all you need to while your evening at Mussoorie

Photo of The Charleville Bookstore & Cafe, near SBI Bank, LBSNAA, Charleville, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Gaurav Andhansare

I returned back to the hotel for dinner early as we had to leave early for Delhi next day.

Day 6

An early checkout and a 9 hour drive back brought us out of the cool Mussoorie to the familiarly warm capital at the airport where we were dropped off by our cab. We took our flight back home along with loads of memories of the trip.

Waiting for the flight back to Mumbai and IGI Airport

Photo of Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), New Delhi, Delhi, India by Gaurav Andhansare