Travel Mussoorie: A Backpacker's Guide to Food, Art, & Adventure

The aroma of pines and cedars takes over as you begin your journey through the winding roads to reach here. You’ll spot villagers carrying cloth bags around their backs, families out on a vacation trying to get a picture clicked on every turn, and of course, the unending domino of mountain after mountain. This is Mussoorie- Uttarakhand’s Queen of Hills and every family’s comfort vacation spot for decades. Little do we know that it happens to have another side, ideal for backpackers and travellers, boasting of secluded places and hidden treasures. As we introduce you to our 39th Zostel that lies in one such offbeat area, here’s a Mussoorie travel guide that’s unique & backpacker-friendly!

Mussoorie hill station roads
Picture by Ankit Gupta

How to reach Mussoorie

One of the many reasons for Mussoorie’s popularity is the ease of reaching here from anywhere in the North really. Here are some of the most feasible options to consider for reaching Mussoorie.

By Bus: Direct buses from Delhi and neighbouring cities such as Meerut and Roorkee are readily available and take around 5-9 hours to reach, costing INR 500-800 approximately.

By Train: The nearest railway station is in Dehradun, 36 km from Mussoorie. Disclaimer: The station is closed for repairs and is likely to reopen from 7th February 2020, as stated on their official website. Until then, the closest railway station is in Haridwar. You can opt for a bus journey from thereon costing as less as INR 80 all the way to Mussoorie.

By Air: Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest to Mussoorie, at a distance of 58 km. You can carry on further to Mussoorie by a hired taxi or local buses. Local taxis charge INR 400-500 from Library Chowk to Zostel Mussoorie.

Views of Zostel Mussoorie from the balcony.
Views of Zostel Mussoorie from the balcony. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Things to do in Mussoorie

There are abundant things to do in Mussoorie, especially the likes of treks, forest trails, and moderate hikes to satisfy the inner backpacker in us. Other than that, a strong Tibetan inclination can be sensed when it comes to its culture and heritage. Cafes and eateries cover major cuisines, all in all making this place a kickass package for a short holiday or a long term escape. Here’s a list of the best places to visit in Mussoorie & its must-have experiences.

Snow Adventure Zone

Just an hour’s drive from the Library Chowk in Mussoorie on the way to Dhanaulti, a catalogue of adventure activities are conducted by the Snow Adventure Zone. This place hosts some of the best things to do in Mussoorie adventure-wise:

Sky Walk- Walking on a single rope suspended 120 ft in the air.

Sky Bridge- A local attraction, this is a 300-feet long bamboo bridge, suspended 7 storeys in the air.

Valley Crossing- Reaching point B from A, at the height of 70 meters with the help of a pulley. If you’re in for a little arm exercise, do give this one a try as it's not as effortless as other activities.

Zip Line- Zipping at the speed of 50 km/hr for 330 feet.

Zip Swing- A mix of zipline and giant swing at the height of 70 feet.

Every activity is managed with proper protection gear and harness in the presence of a guide. This place falls nothing short of an adventure junkie’s paradise and is worth a try for sure. :)

Cost per head- INR 1700-2000 (inclusive of these activities) depending upon the season. Open between 9:30 AM and 7:30 PM. The months of December to February receive snowfall of about 3 feet, making it the peak season.

Treks and Trails to Follow

For the entire backpacker community, I couldn’t help but mention the best treks and forest trails to be explored in and around Mussoorie that lead to some of the most beautiful views of the Himalayan Range. These are undoubtedly some of the most fun things to do in Mussoorie.

Trek to Nag Tibba

A scenic 2.5 hours’ drive will take you to Nag Tibba or Serpent’s Peak, which marks as an onset of the lower Gharwal region of the Himalayas. Camp out in a dense pine forest and rise up early to trek to one of the most visually pleasing summits in Northern India. A 360-degree panoramic view of the Bandarpoonch Peak, Gangotri group of peaks, Kedarnath peak, Chanabang Himalayas, and of course the Doon valley is what you’ll be looking at.

Mussoorie winterline sunset
Picture by Ankit Gupta

Viraatkhai Valley trek

A notable basecamp in Chakrata, this is a moderate trek of 2.5 hours from Mussoorie. You’ll walk through an old Pahadi village, with valley views on the side. The scenic pleasures include scattered rhododendrons on the path and the river Yamuna flowing beside. You’ll come across a wild mix of flora and fauna, including Bauhinia trees dotted by goats and sheep climbing on the hillside. Waking up to the clacking sound of woodpeckers and the red & blue bulbuls are only an add-on to the rich experience ahead of you.

Gun Hill

Just a 20 min walk from the Mall Road, Gun Hill is a popular viewpoint in Mussoorie. A 360-degree view of the Himalayan ranges namely Bunderpunch, Srikantha, Pithwara, and Gangotri is what you should be looking forward to. Interestingly, the reason why it is named so is that post-independence, a gunshot used to be fired from the peak to indicate locals about the time, so they could adjust their watches accordingly.

Lal Tibba

Just 15-mins on foot from Landour, Lal Tibba is as breezy as a hike can get. Start off from Char Dukan as you walk through forests of pine. Before you know it, you’ll be presented with a view of the Himalayan Range in all its grandeur. The viewpoint has a few eateries and a telescope to zoom into the gorgeous details of the snow caps.

Tibetan prayer flags in Mussoorie Uttarakhand
The Tibetan prayer flags at Lal Tibba, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

George Everest

A 10-min walk from central Mussoorie, the camping grounds of this sunset trek are known and welcoming and one of the best things to do in Mussoorie. Just 300 meters ahead lie the ruins of the George Everest house, scattered among the rural settlements of Benog Wildlife Sanctuary. The hike is short and perfect for beginners, and can also be converted to a camping excursion. As you reach here, you’ll be greeted by prayer flags replacing the clear blue skies above, with their own colourfulness and vibrancy. Mountain ranges greet you on both sides, and ruins of a long lost home that belonged to the discoverer of Mount Everest also lay attracting your eye.

Bhatta Falls

Apart from other things to do in Mussoorie, a moderate hike of 500 meters takes you to Bhatta Falls that cascade from a height of 30 feet. At 10 km from the Library Chowk in Mussoorie, an array of eateries and a kiddie area packed with swings make this place an overall picnic package.

Lambi Dehar Mines

Lying on the outskirts of Mussoorie, Lambi Dehar Mines are legendarily known to spook travellers with their mystery and charm. The story unfolds with a mining accident that occurred years ago, which resulted in thousands of workers dying on the spot. The place is ever since known to be an active spot supernatural occurrences, often unexplainable. It's 8 km from the Library Chowk, and make for an hour's stroll if you have the guts for it.

What's a Winterline?

And why are we talking about it? One of the most exclusive phenomena to happen in Mussoorie is the winterline. And when we say it is exclusive, we mean it! The only other place in the world to actually experience the same is New Zealand. But what exactly is the winterline? It is a vibrant bar of colours you see at sunset, appearing as a second horizon floating in the skies. A bright palette of orange and yellow takes over the skies ,usually in the winter months of October to February. The warm city air gets trapped beneath the cold air from the snow-capped Himalayas up above making it a magical sight to see.

Mussoorie Winterline
The Winterline in Mussoorie at sunset. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Mussoorie: An Artists’ Retreat

Interestingly but not surprisingly, Mussoorie happens to be an active seat for artists, mainly writers, poets & painters, and even activists. The long list of artists includes Bill Aitken, Stephen Alter, Sudhir Thapliyal, Hugh and Colleen Gantzer, Ganesh Saili, and of course Ruskin Bond. They’ve lyrically described its character in books and magazines, and its landscapes find place in soulful works of art by people who fell in love with this town & never left.

A number of mountain festivals are hosted at venues across Mussoorie and particularly attract eminent authors, mountaineers, conservationists, scholars, and filmmakers. Talks, discussions, folk performances, and exhibitions are open to the public as well. Artistic lineage, environmental impact and a whole lotta mountain talk are few of the many things that one should expect from these festivals, along with performances, concerts, and of course, food! :)

In and Around: Places to Visit in Mussoorie

Mussoorie is a gateway to many other offbeat towns that are equally picturesque. The higher up you go, the colder and more eccentric it gets. Here are some places you can drive down to.

Kempty Falls

Closest attraction to Zostel Mussoorie, Kempty Falls lie at the south of Kempty in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Flowing from the height of 40 feet above the ground, these falls cascade into 5 other waterfalls down their course. However, if you wish to spend some time peacefully around the waters, I suggest you don’t head here as they’re usually very crowded.

Step farms near Kempty Falls Mussoorie Uttarakhand
Step farms on the way to Kempty Falls of Musoorie. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Landour

Chaar Dukaan, the Sister’s Bazaar, and Cafe Ivy are a few notable places in Landour. It is a refreshing change from the touristy hub of main town Mussoorie. And if you’re feeling frisky enough, you can walk here as well, pretty much like I did. Hopping around local bazaars and the village life on your way is definitely the highlight. You can stop for pancakes at Anil’s Cafe, one of the Chaar Dukaans that are so very renowned.

The Prakash Stores in the Sister’s Bazaar is popular for its local produce of jams, breads, peanut butter, marmalades and imported items for sale. The Kellogg Church nearby is yet another Milestone here.

I stumbled upon something very interesting about Landour while researching- it claims to be one of the first places in India to commercially produce peanut butter!

Distance from Mussoorie- 5.2 km. You can book a private taxi from the taxi stand near Library Chowk for INR 500-600.

Dhanaulti

With minimum tourist intrusion, Dhanaulti provides solitude and adventure alike. If you’re on the lookout for snow, you’re likely to find it here. There’s not a lot to do here and that’s the beauty of this place. You can sit and relax, or visit a themed park.

Distance from Mussoorie- 45 km. You can book a private taxi from the taxi stand near Library Chowk for INR 1000-1500 or ride in a local bus for INR 80-100.

View of Himalayas from Dhanaulti near Mussoorie Uttarakhand
View of the Himalayas from Dhanaulti, a town near Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Kanatal

Out of all the places to visit in Mussoorie, Kanatal takes the prize for sure. At 8500 meters, Kanatal is a usual haunt for people looking to camp out amidst apple orchards, thick pine forests, and little to no human contact. Unaffected by the crowd of Mussoorie, Kanatal makes for yet another tranquil escape.

Distance from Mussoorie- 43.6 km. You can book a private taxi from the taxi stand near Library Chowk for INR 1500-2200 or ride in a local bus for INR 150 onwards.

Dehradun

Dehradun has everything a capital city should but with added benefits- plush greenery and close proximity to the hill stations. Boasting of trendy cafes and young college crowd, you’re likely to feel the energy of it all first hand. The Tibetan Mindroling Monastery and the Chakrata road should top your list of places to visit in Dehradun. Since it falls on the way, it only makes sense to make a generous stop here!

Distance from Mussoorie- 36 km. You can book a private taxi from Dehradun to Zostel Mussoorie at INR 1800 and a local bus ride would cost INR 50-70.

A sunset view of Dehradun Uttarakhand
A sunset view of Dehradun Uttarakhand. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Uttarkashi

Devbhoomi, Uttarkashi is one of the four holy shrines in Hindu Mythology and its religious relevance is daunty. A recent discovery of moderate treks and adventure activities in and around the area now invite a sudden spur of travel enthusiasts as well. The town has an unmissable spiritual vibe to it, and the mountains around add to the overall charm.

Distance from Mussoorie- 112 km. You can book a private taxi from Library Chowk for INR 2500-3200 and a local bus ride would cost INR 100-150.

Kimadi and Dalai Hills

Unlike other places to visit in Mussoorie, if you’re looking for pleasant spots for riveting views of the Himalayas minus the tourist crowds, head to Kimadi or Dalai hills. You can explore the area with random hikes through the coniferous forests.

Hike to Dalai Hills of Mussoorie
A hike to Dalai Hills of Mussoorie. 

Distance from Mussoorie- 22.1 km (Kimadi), 2.8 km (Dalai Hills). You can book a private taxi from the taxi stand near Library Chowk for INR 500-600.

Rishikesh

An ideal backpackers’ destination, Rishikesh is home to the Ganges, river rafting and occasional cultural turns, being one of the most sought after religious places in India. Be it the white sand beaches or countless ayurvedic ashrams spread across its terrain, Rishikesh always gives away unforgettable memories as parting gifts. Zostel Rishikesh lies in the bustling locality surrounding the Ram Jhula, Shivpuri.

Zostel Rishikesh, best backpacking hostel in Rishikesh Uttarakhand
The rooftop of Zostel Rishikesh, a backpacking hostel in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Distance from Mussoorie- 64 km. You can book a private taxi from the taxi stand near Library Chowk for INR 1000-1200 and a local bus would drop you there in INR 80-110.

Best Places to Eat in Mussoorie

Other than proffering stupendous views, Mussoorie happens to be a hub for fine cafes & restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines.

To start with, the Mussoorie Mall Road happens to host a lot of them, with Picture Palace and a few other areas being popular hubs as well. From contemporary cafes to quintessential mountain munchies such as boiled corn and authentic Tibetan restaurants to streetside North Indian- the variety is impressive.

Cafe Tea Totaler- From fresh fruit crepes to tacos and waffles, this cafe in Mall Road serves Italian and Continental food starting @ INR 120.

Chick Chocolate- My personal favourites from this cosy little cafe are the hot chocolate and the truffle brownie. You can go for one of the wood-fired pizzas or the all-day breakfast options too. Mains start @ INR 200.

Cafe De Tavern- Fine dining with alcohol, right on the Mall Road. Mains start @ INR 250.

Cafe By the Way- Known for their subs and hot cocoa, the lovely ambiance and a variety of in-house books add more charm to this cafe. They also sell postcards here.

Kalsang- Try authentic Tibetan cuisine at this chain, present across India. With mains starting @ INR 170, you’ll get many options to choose from.

Lovely Omelette- This small shop on the Mussoorie Mall Road serves good chilli cheese omelette amongst other snacks. A heads up, the seating is scanty and the shop is usually full during peak hours. Omelette starting @ INR 60.

Madras Cafe- Very close to the Picture Palace in Mussoorie, the Madras Cafe serves good South Indian. The butter masala dosa is my usual order here. Mains starting @ INR 110.

Little Llama Cafe- The vibe of this cute little cafe, just a little ahead at the Mall Road is literally EVERYTHING. They serve a variety of fast food options and desserts to sort you out for a couple of hours. Mains start @ INR 250.

Commuting in Mussoorie

Getting around Mussoorie is no hassle, especially with a mix of e-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws running around the hilly terrain. The happy faces of the pullers readily take you around town and may even share a useful local tip or two. A rickshaw line is efficiently maintained at the Library Chowk, and serves travellers systematically. Consider bargaining for a fair price, depending on how far you have to go.

P.S. you can also rent a two-wheeler or bicycle, whatever your speed is, from Hill Queen Riders right at the Mussoorie Mall Road, Kulri Chowk.

Best time to visit Mussoorie

Mussoorie is pretty welcoming almost 8-10 months a year. The months of April to July are the ones that usually see a splurge of tourists, as everyone wishes to escape the scorching heat in central and South India. Monsoon (August and September), on the other hand, is not advisable as the hilly area is prone to landslides and lack of mobility. If you wish to see snowfall and experience chilly northern winters, November to February is the best time to visit Mussoorie.

Mussoorie temperature varies from 18 to 28 degrees in peak summers, whereas winters go at a low of 0 and sometimes even in minus, with magical bouts of snowfall.

Kids enjoy Mussoorie snowfall in winters
Kids enjoy snowfall in Mussoorie. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

Zostel Mussoorie

Our very vibrant and plush hostel near the Kempty Falls of Mussoorie is more of a campus, consisting of a Stream Cottage, a Hobbit House and a Tree House, along with an in-house cafe, community kitchen, and lively common areas.

The campus of Zostel Mussoorie, a backpacker hostel in Mussoorie Uttarakhand
The campus of Zostel Mussoorie with a Hobbit House, a treehouse, and views of the hills. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

A class apart from the existing hotels in Mussoorie, the old-school wood and stonework frames the foundation of the place. Just 20 mins from the Library Chowk, the hostel is the right blend of solace and socialising. There’s also a stream flowing right across, along with a many winding trails that lead to the jungles.

Zostel Mussoorie, the best backpacking hostel in Mussoorie Uttarakhand
The common area of Zostel Mussoorie. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

You can check out Zostel Mussoorie and book your stay here.

About Us

We’re Asia’s largest chain of backpacker hostels, present in over 39 locations across India and Nepal. Our purpose is to help travellers like you explore the country without burning a hole in your pocket, for we believe in affordable accommodations and a rich travel experience. And hey, we’re not just about bunk beds! Best travel recommendations, everyday activities, gigs, workshops—we’re pretty social and we love it! And we’re quite sure you’ll love us too. You can check our Instagram to know more.

The common area of Zostel Mussoorie.
The common area of Zostel Mussoorie for you to hang out with friends & travellers. Picture by Ankit Gupta.

P.S. If you're looking for luxurious stays at offbeat locations, you should also check out our 13+ ZostelX homes.

Writer, Kanak Kundlani.


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