Location: At 5,597 ft, Lansdowne is in Pauri Garhwal, 40 km from Kotdwar
Distance: 233 km NE of Delhi
When to go: March to June, September to November
Tourist Offices: GMVN Tourist Rest House Lansdowne
Delhi Office: GMVN, 102, Indraprakash Building, 21, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi
Tel: 011-23350481; Fax: 23326620
Rail Nearest railhead: Kotdwar (40 km/ 11/2 hrs)
Road Route: NH58 to Meerut via Modinagar; NH119 to Dugadda via Bijnor, Najibabad and Kotdwar; state road to Lansdowne
Tiny Lansdowne is one of the quietest hill stations in India. So quiet and so hidden that you know you’ve reached only when you actually turn past the gates of the elegant Garhwal Rifles Cantonment. And the town is as picturesque as you were led to hope for by the drive up from Kotdwar – past a mountain stream (the ‘lost’ River Khoh) so clear you can see the pebbles on its bed from far up the mountainside.
Back in the Raj, Lansdowne was one of the most popular hill stations, where the Sahibs, mostly from the army, galloped across the ridge that overlooked a sprawling valley and the Greater Himalaya, or drove to the Church on the hill (the popular Tiffin Top) every Sunday in their horse-drawn carriages. The town itself is named after Sir Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, 6th Earl of Kerry and Viceroy of India from 1888 to 1894. Shaded, winding roads are still lined with Colonial bungalows, some in a state of disrepair, some steadfastly retaining their charm with ornate gates and window sills hidden behind blanketing bougainvillea.
Things to see and do
Savour the untrammeled pleasure of a walk in and around the stimulating environs of these gentle slopes. In the not-so-distant past it was no surprise for a late night traveller to chance upon a solitary leopard that would walk past too busy with his own agenda to bother about human beings. Silver fir and spruce cover the hills in and around Lansdowne. Carry some water and a few assorted munchies on your walk into the forests, and if you happen to be in Lansdowne sometime around mid-June, carry a raincoat or an umbrella.
Do stop by the tiny Anglican St Mary’s Church. This Protestant church, made in 1896 by Lt AHB Hume of the Royal Engineers, fell into disuse after 1947, and had deteriorated to quite an extent before it was taken over and restored by the Garhwal Rifles regiment. There are no services here, but it is a museum of sorts, with pre-independence photographs and an audio-visual display of the regiment’s history.
Where to stay and eat
There are few options in this secluded cantonment. Fairydale Resort (Tel: 01386-262599, Cell: 09412081837; Tariff: INR 3,900-6,900; fairydalelansdowne.in) is a great option, as is the Blue Pine Resort (Tel: 263088, Cell: 09899599229; Tariff: INR 9,600-12,800; bluepineresort.com). GMVN’s Tourist Rest House (Tel: 262509; Tariff: INR 940-2,200) is comfortable but their Tip N Top (Tel: 263109; Tariff: INR 2,200-6,500) is much better. Both offer picturesque views of a valley dotted with old houses set amid pine trees.
Both the GMVN properties offer good food. If you are in a mood to experiment, try the dhabas near the bus stand. Some have decent pakoras and aloo paranthas. There are also some chaat shops and a milkshake parlour in the main bazaar.
Tarkeshwar Mahadev (36 km)
A barely motorable road leads to this important temple dedicated to Shiva. It is considered to be one of the ancient Siddhpeeths and is nestled in a thick forest of deodar, blue pine and oak. It lies on the road heading back to Kotdwar. After you park, it is a 20-minute walk to reach the shrine, in its peaceful, serene setting. There is a special worship held here on Shivaratri.
Don’t forget to carry water and snacks along as there are no shops here.