Nested in the arms of Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, Lansdowne, the little hill station makes a great weekend destination. Founded by and named after Lord Lansdowne in 1887, this is a cantonment area housing the Garhwal Rifles command office. Situated approximately 1,700 above the sea level, this is said to be one of the quietest hill stations of India easily connected by motorable roads.
I had heard the name of Lansdowne long time ago from a friend who had frequented the place for short holidays. Seeing the beautiful images, my urge to visit Lansdowne grew by many folds till I got a chance in March 2016 during the long Holi weekend.
Where- In the Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Lansdowne is the closest hill station from Delhi NCR.
Distance and how to reach-
Lansdowne is located at a distance of 270 km from Delhi. One can drive to place easily, provided you leave early morning, saving yourself from traffic snarls that usually occur in Ghaziabad or Modinagar.
The route we took was Gurgaon-Ghaziabad- Modinagar- Meerut Bypass Road- Khatauli- Bijnor- Najibabad- Kotdwar- Lansdowne
No Volvo or train service is available to Lansdowne. You can hop into a local bus or jeep from Kotdwar to Lansdowne, if you want to use public transport.
The roads are good, only broken in few places. Khatauli to Kotdwar highway is smooth, without potholes. The only turn off would be the reckless cutting of trees on the way. (We noticed that on way back). Expect sharp turns on the hilly curvy roads from Kotdwar to Lansdowne. You ought to drive slow and carefully!
The whole driving distance may seem quite long until you reach Kotdwar and the sudden sight of mountains instantly would excite you.
Since we reached on the day of Holi, all shops were closed and streets were crowded with locals playing colors and water. We were locked ourselves in the car to save ourselves and our camera from getting soaked. Surprisingly, no body threw colors or messed with us when we walked out of the car towards the hotel. In fact none of the visitors and tourists were smeared with colors or misbehaved with. Decent people all of them :-)
There was something about the place that kept us rejuvenated inspite of the long drive from Gurgaon. Was it the chill in the air, the neat & clean roads or the mesmerizing hills?
Shops re-opened post 3 pm and we dug into whatever food was available at the first shop in sight. You will NOT find many eating joints/ restaurant in Lansdowne, so you have to settle with the ones at Gandhi Chowk, though small tea stalls are available in lanes and inside the market place.
What to see-
Driving within the hill station, is not recommended for many reasons- You pollute the place, you don’t get to enjoy the beauty, you lose the opportunity to walk and connect with nature, you would never enjoy the weather. Being responsible and aware tourists, we decided to walk around and see the place. Barely a kilometers away, Bhulla Taal topped our must-see list. On the way, pine trees, spring flowers and beautiful nature kissed with warm sunshine greeted us. The peacefulness and serenity of the place is so relaxing. It was a pleasant break from the city hustle bustle.
Bhulla Taal is an artificial lake maintained by the Garhwal Rifles regiment. The neat and tidy place is surrounded by forests and an enclosure for rabbits & birds.
You can enjoy boating in the lake for 30 minutes at Rs. 80 per seat. Entry in the premises is charged at Rs 20 per person. Hubby enjoyed taking pictures of the lovely ducks while I soaked in some sun. A small souvenir shop run by the army wives welfare association in the premises gave me some time for shopping too. Gift items were a little over-priced there, yet I bought a sling bag for the sake of a small contribution to the army wives who lost their husbands in the line of duty.
After spending an hour and a half, we headed to Darwan Singh Museum, less than a kilometre from Gandhi Chowk and we chose to walk to it. Named after the Victoria Cross holder Naik Darwan Singh Negi, this museum was founded in 1983 with the rarest collection of Garhwal Rifles. It showcases artillery, coins, swords, pictures and much more from pre-independence era to recent wars. The tour of the museum was a treat to eyes! One can spend a good one and half hours to re-visit the rich History. Hubby’s joys knew no bounds on seeing the rifles and heavy duty war weapons. The brave one who laid their lives for the country also have their names on the wall of fame. Taking pictures inside the museum is prohibited, so we settled with pictures outside in the flower garden and war memorial.
The plant that caught my eyes was Handrea, also known as Green Lotus, which is imported from Russia. The petals of the Handrea resembled rose petals and the plant itself resembles a closed lotus flower. Could not resist taking pictures of this beauty! The war memorial is next to the museum building in Parade Ground, entry to which is restricted for public.
Entry fee for Museum- Rs 60
With deep thoughts of war and the fallen heroes, we left from the museum to Gandhi Chowk for lunch. Out of the few eating joints, this time we had lunch at Oaktown's Flavour Restaurant. Lemonade followed by "Veg Handi" (Mixed vegetables) and hot tandoori roti made a fab lunch. Post walking quite a distance, we retired to our room and relaxed till evening.
Gandhi Chowk market peps up during evening with tourists and beautiful lights. You cannot indulge in handicrafts or clothes shopping since Lansdowne is not a commercialized place yet. However, the place has its own charm. Small tea stalls, regular grocery stores, little vegetable shops or bakery shops, every little store compels you to stop as you pass by. A walk after dinner around the Gandhi Chowk round-about is a must do for all. Shops start to close after 9 pm. The streets are safe even during the wee hours. As we walked hand in hand, soaking in the stunning full moon light and pleasant air, the romantic night grew deeper, quieter and more beautiful.
Tip in Top
Also known as Tiffin Top by the localites, is a vantage point (literally) from where you see the Lansdowne town. It is a picnic spot fringed by cottages and thick pine forest. There is nothing much to do here apart from taking selfies or pictures of sunrise/sunset. I befriended a lab there, so my visit was worth it. hehe.
On the way back, you can visit St. Mary's Church. An old church against rustic backdrop and beautiful trees. The church is open only on Saturday and Sunday.
About 40 kilometers away from Lansdowne, this temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is much talked about and visited. The curvy roads are very sharp and bumpy in many places. Advisable not to drive on your own. We hired a taxi. Local shopkeepers offer taxi services at Rs 1200 for a round trip. Since we pooled in with two more passengers, we were charged Rs.600 only. It took us a little more than an hour to reach Tarakeshwar Temple. A long ride on the curvy roads made us giddy. Call it motion sickness or inertia of motion, we could not stand still for some time after de-boarding the cab.
The down-hill walk towards the temple was around 800 meters, which is isolated and feels eerie at times.
The moment you see the temple, you enter a totally different frame of mind. An array of bells chiming in the air reverberates your soul with a positive energy. Surrounding forests, no shops, no garbage, chirping birds- all will make you feel the presence of a strong heavenly force. May be it's the forest gods and Lansdowne locals have worked hard in protecting them!
Among the tall pine and oak trees with the backdrop of lush green ground, you will spot a tree top in the shape of a trishul. This tree is said to be God's own tree and is worshiped in the temple.
Post the temple visit we spent time in the woods wrapping ourselves with Nature's beauty. Such greenery is a rare luxury in cities.
A good time spent and we returned after an hour at the temple. The journey was worth it.
Do's and Don'ts in Lansdowne-
-Since Lansdowne is maintained by the Cantt board, it is not a commercialized place, hence leaving you with fewer activities to indulge in. Visit the place only if you want some peaceful time and if you love nature. Two nights are more than enough to spend in Lansdowne.
-Weather changes at the drop of a hat. Be prepared for sudden winds or rains. Carry a jacket or shawl even during summers.
-Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Lansdowne. So if you plan to behave like a drunk hooligan, you will land up paying a penalty.
-The whole town is neat and clean. Polythene or plastic is strictly banned and people follow it diligently. Kindly do not litter the place. As a responsible tourist, you never should. Respect the sanctity and rules of the place. Garhwal Rifles has worked very hard to maintain the forests, reduce pollution, and conserve wildlife for which they have been duly recognized. Let's contribute in our own way, and this will help in our survival. Saw a strong message on a wall there, questioning people on their recklessness.