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.

Gireesh GV
Mist-shrouded hills are a common sight in Lansdowne
Mist-shrouded hills are a common sight in Lansdowne

 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.

Courtesy Wikipedia
Lansdowne View
Lansdowne View

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Savour the untrammelled 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 who 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 munchies on your walk into the forests, and if you happen to be in Lansdowne some time 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 photo-graphs and an audio-visual display of the regiment’s history.

Courtesy Wikipedia
St. Mary's church, Lansdowne during snowfall
St. Mary’s church, Lansdowne during snowfall

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

There are few options in this secluded cantonment. Fairydale Resort (Tel: 01386-262599, Cell: 09412081837, 09412025206; Tariff: ₹3,900–6,900, with two meals) is a great option, as is the Blue Pine Resort (Tel: 263088, Cell: 09899599229; Tariff: ₹9,600–15,100, with two meals). GMVN’s Tourist Rest House (Tel: 262509; Tariff: ₹1,200–2,800) is comfortable but their Tip N Top (Tel: 263109; Tariff: ₹2,200–6,500) is much better. Both the GMVN properties offer good food. If you are in the mood to experiment, try the dhabas or cafes near the bus stand. They have decent aloo parathas and pakoras. There are also some chaat shops and a milkshake parlour in the main bazaar.

THE INFORMATION

When to go All year round except January when it gets really cold

Tourist offices

GMVN Tourist Rest House, Lansdowne. Tel: 01386-262509,

GMVN, 102, Indraprakash Building, 21, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, Tel: 011-23350481; W gmvnl.com

STD code 01386

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun (135km/ 5.5–6hrs). Taxi ₹4,000–4,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Kotdwar (40km/ 1.5hrs). Taxi ₹800, shared jeep ₹70–80 per head

Road From Delhi, a 7.5-hr journey starting on NH58 to Meerut, then NH119 to Dugadda Bus Uttarkhand Roadways (W uttarakhandroadways.com) has services from ISBT Kashmere Gate, New Delhi (011-23860560, 23868641)