Dhanaulti & Mussoorie : A Perfect weekend Getaway

Another month, another weekend and again a new quest to head to the mountains. Blessed are the people who live in Delhi as we literally can never run out of options when the wanderlust bug bites us. All we need to do is pack our bags, get into a cab and hit the road.
September weekend, another monsoon weekend made me do the same and the roads just led me to Mussoorie.
Another Solo trip and if you ask me I wouldn’t recommend this place for a solo trip exactly, it’s more of a family / couple / group destination. But if you are tired of being in the city and need an out in the mountains, well, this place isn’t half bad.

Day 1 :Dhanaulti & Surkanda Devi

Enroute Dhanaulti

Dhanaulti is a lesser known hill station 22 Kms ahead of Mussoorie and I decided to check it out first thing in the morning. The drive was quite a scenic one since it was one of those cloudy days in Mussoorie. Dhanaulti is around 50 – 60 minutes from the Mall road at Mussoorie and has quite a few options of adventure sports there. If you are travelling with a group of friends, Dhanaulti is a better place to stay in than Mussoorie. It offers the options of tented camps , camp fire and adventure sports.

Enroute Dhanaulti : Met Sheru on the way
Enroute Dhanaulti : Met Sheru on the way

When it comes to things to do in Dhanaulti they would mainly boil down to the following.
1) Dhanaulti Eco Park
2) Dhanaulti Adventure Park
3) Adventure sports in and around Dhanaulti
4) Surkanda Devi Temple
5) Terhi Dam & Lake (25 kms from Dhanaulti)
6) Kanatal (Forest area, 15 kms from Dhanaulti)
Since in the mountains, I was craving for a trek and wasn’t very sure of the trail I should pick specially since I was travelling solo. And, well, God came to my rescue. I was told that Surkanda Devi temple is a 3 km steep trek up to the highest point in Dhanaulti and that made it easy for to pick the first thing I wanted to do in Dhanaulti.

Surkanda Devi


Way to the temple : And yes, the entire path is that steep.
Way to the temple : And yes, the entire path is that steep

The temple is 8 Kms ahead of Dhanaulti and the trek starts up from Kaddukhal where the vehicles are parked. This temple has a great mythological story attached to it.

Temple entrance
Temple entrance

It was built for the worship of Lord Shiva’s first wife, Sati. Sati’s Father Daksh once organized a grand Vedic sacrifice for all Deities and did not invite Sati and Shiva. This enraged the goddess and she sacrificed herself in the vedic fire at her father’s place. On hearing this Lord Shiva came to get her corpse and in the anger began his Tandava (dance of cosmic destruction) and decided to continue till Sati’s body fell apart and there was nothing left of it. In this situation, Vishnu was sent to pacify Lord Shiva and he used his Sudarshan Chakra to cut off the goddesses head. The head fell on this mountain and hence the temple was built and called Surkanda devi. Lord Shiva finally stopped when there was nothing left of Sati’s body and her body parts fell in 52 different places on earth. All these places were declared Shakti Peeth and have a temple of Goddess Sati.

Surkanda Devi : Temple Building
Surkanda Devi : Temple Building

Not only is the path up to the temple extremely beautiful, it takes you up to a place with great views where in the North you can see the Himalayas and in the south you can spot Dehradun and Mussoorie.

View from the temple
View from the temple

After the temple I decided to pay a brief visit to the Eco Park at Dhanaulti and check out the adventure camps nearby. There are options of rappelling, Burma Bridge, sky walking, flying fox, zip lining and ATV adventure. And well, it isn’t exactly a hi tech adventure zone but these activities do account for a fun-filled couple of hours.

Adventure Sports at Dhanaulti : Zip lining
Adventure Sports at Dhanaulti : Zip lining

There were a couple of nice hotels and road side restaurants on the way back to Mussoorie and I decided to stop there for a typical meal of Aloo Zeera and Pahadi Tadka dal.


Another hour later, I was back in Mussoorie and decided to stop by at the Mussoorie lake before heading to the Mall road. The lake is around 80 odd steps down from the road and well, it’s actually not much of a lake. Just a small pond with a couple of paddle boats and few eateries around it. I had a nice time there since the weather was brilliant and I got some great ginger tea there, they were playing good music and it started raining after a while. So all in all, my visit wasn’t exactly a letdown but if you are short on time, visit to this place can totally be avoided.

Mussoorie Lake
Mussoorie Lake

It was time to head back to the Mall, and the two things this place is famous for is food and shopping.

Nepal Handicraft Shop
Nepal Handicraft Shop

I found this really nice shop there, must go for girls, as it had a lot of pretty handmade stuff from Tibet and Nepal. For food, well there are ample options here and I had heard a lot about the Lovely omelets stall here but I wanted to try the Tibetan cuisine here.

The Rice Bowl : Authentic Tibetan and Chinese cuisine
The Rice Bowl : Authentic Tibetan and Chinese cuisine

A couple of restaurants that serve Tibetan food, there is the Little lama café, the rice bowl and a couple more. And well, the food and ambience, both at the rice bowl was quite nice. Post dinner I was in mood for some dessert and well, only one place came to my mind, Chic Chocolate. The only thing to be noted here is that this place shuts down by 9, so have your dessert before dinner if need be but do remember to try this place when on the mall.

Chic Chocolate
Chic Chocolate

Their desserts, shakes and smoothies are quite popular in Mussoorie and rightly so. A coffee, one hot chocolate fudge and a gazillion calories later I decided to head back to my room and catch some sleep.

Day 2 : Kempty and Lal Tibba

The next Day, after a hearty breakfast at lovely Omelet station I headed up to Kempty falls. Though there are a couple of more fall in the Mussoorie region, Bhatta falls and Jharipani falls, Kempty is the most famous of them all and around 14 kms ahead of Mussoorie.

Enroute Kempty : Santura Devi Temple
Enroute Kempty : Santura Devi Temple

The drive up to the falls isn’t half bad and the first view of the falls is breath-taking as you can see the origin up ahead in the mountains and how the water is trickling down to Kempty.

Kempty Fall
Kempty Fall : Aerial View

The base point of the fall, however, is kind of a let down again. There are 2 ways of reaching it, either a cable car or walking down 200 odd steps. The good thing is that I took the steps and had a nice time browsing through the shops in the market. Very pretty handicrafts & woolens and all priced at half of what you would get them at the mall. Must visit if you want to shop for woolens, cute caps or wooden show pieces but the main attraction , the fall not that great at all.

Base Point : Kempty Fall
Base Point : Kempty Fall

The base point is very crowded, too many people in the base pool and the water didn’t seem clean enough for me to jump in. There is another small lake and a pool made right next to the fall base point but that too looked more like an attraction for kids to me.

Kempty Lake
Kempty Lake

All in all, the falls are quite pretty but way too much crowd to really be able to enjoy the beauty. You can take a nice aerial view and avoid going all the way down to the base point if you are not in the mood to shop.

Kempty Fall
Kempty Fall

There is a municipal garden on the way to kempty and is marked in the top 10 things to do in Mussoorie. But I decided to skip the visit to the garden and head to Lal tibba for a Mussoorie view.

Enroute Lal Tibba
Enroute Lal Tibba

Lal Tibba

Lal tibba is the highest point in Mussoorie and on a clear day you can see the tip of the Himalayas from here. It is a very steep climb even for a car and it’s best that you take a local taxi / driver there as the roads are very narrow and steep and only a seasoned driver can drive through without complications.

Lal Tibba & Himalayan View cafe
Lal Tibba & Himalayan View cafe

There are two restaurants at the end point of Lal Tibba and I decided to go in the one of the left as it seemed like the view would be better from there.

Path to the private properties at Lal Tibba
Path to the private properties at Lal Tibba

Though the view wasn’t much since it was a cloudy day and I wasn’t able to see anything at all, let alone the Himalayas but the food at this place turned out to be great. Their signature cold coffee and the Momo’s were quite amazing. They have also stationed a telescope up on the roof and well, I was able to spot a temple and a nearby village.

Lal Tibba cafe
Lal Tibba cafe : And that’s Shubham , the manager

I liked this place the most in Mussoorie, mainly because there was peace and very little crowd and good food all in one place.

Amidst clouds at Lal Tibba cafe
Amidst clouds at Lal Tibba cafe

I got talking to the restaurant manager, Shubham, and he told me they run treks here as well in season time where they will take you all the way down to the river and camp there for the night. They do some biking tours here as well and though it was time for me to head back to the city life then I kind of got a clue of what my next weekend get away from Delhi was going to be. 🙂

At Lal Tibba : He just wanted to be clicked, didn't he ?
At Lal Tibba : He just wanted to be clicked, didn’t he ?

How to Reach

By Road : Distance is 280 Kms and around 8 hours with couple of pit stops. Best way to travel as the places to visit are all scattered around Mussoorie and it’s best if you have a vehicle with you.
There are both government & private busses that ply for Dehradun and Mussoorie. You could take a post 10 PM bust to reach at a good time in the morning.
By Train & Flight : The nearest railway station and airport is in Dehradun which is 34 kms from Mussorie. You can easily get a shared / private taxi from there to take you to Mussorie.

Local Travel : There are a lot of local tour operators available who will provide cab and guide for a variety of nearby tours or you could just rent a car on daily usage basis. The rates for these tours are from INR 800/- to INR 5000/- depending on the places / spots you want to cover.

Where to stay

Mussoorie : Stay on the mall road, that’s the most fun area of Mussoorie and is open till 10:30 – 11:00 which is very late by hill station standards
Hotel Shiva Continental is a good option is you are travelling with family, YMCA hostel or Bunkotel if you are travelling solo
Dhanaulti : If you are travelling with friends you are better off staying in Dhanaulti. Dhanaulti adventure camps is one good option here.

Places to Visit

Mussoorie : The Mall , Lal tibba , Camel back road, Gun Hill, Bhatta falls, Company Garden , Kempty falls, Jahripani Falls, Mussoorie lake
Places around Mussoorie : Dhanaulti , Kanatal, Tehri , Surkanda devi, Dehradun

Things to do

Adventure sports in Dhanaulti, shopping at the Mall road, Gaming (Arcade games) at the Mall road , boating at the Tehri lake, trekking at Lal Tibba

Where to Eat

1) Lovely Omelet corner
2) Chic Chocolate for Desserts
3) Madras Café for south Indian
4) Little Lama for Tibetan
5) The rice bowl for Chinese , Tibetan
6) Around the Banyan tree , Dehradun Mussoorie highway on the way to Mussorie

In an attempt to make the planning process easier for you, we have made a super-handy cheat sheet which you can use as a PDF reference or take a printout for your journey. Download it here.

If you have already been here or to other similar places, share your experiences or engage in a conversation below. (Alternatively, here’s a link to the discussion on our facebook page)

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A complete geek traveller, he makes the most of his gadgets even while on the move. Loves Driving, Photography, Blogging. Has lived in 10+ Indian cities and plans to continue the trend.

One thought on “Dhanaulti & Mussoorie : A Perfect weekend Getaway”

  1. Try exploring Landour(St. Paul’s Church) and Cloud’s End at Mussoorie, Worth it! The atmosphere, the breezes, the hot maggi and a stroll down the street will surely enhance your love for mountains Also, making a visit at First Gear Cafe en’route Mussoorie is a mandatory ritual you just can’t skip!

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