Nestled in the Doon Valley between the Ganga and the Yamuna lies Dehradun. A couple of centuries ago (17th) the eldest son of the 7th Sikh Guru camped (Dehra) in the Doon valley which led to its name. Dehradun the capital of the hill state of Uttarakhand is home to some of the most prestigious schools (Doon School) and national institutes of repute. Most people visit Dehradun while on a trip or a trek to the Himalayas and I was no exception. Every time, I thought about Dehradun, I imagined a picturesque town nestled in green where every road led to the hills. When I stepped out of Jolly Grant airport and traveled towards the city, it appeared to be at cross roads caught between the old and the new. If the traffic congestion in Rajpur Road, the nerve centre of Dehradun was anything to go by then the city is slowly shedding its leafy green quiet image to emerge as a business centre in the foothills.
I went around some of the most important places in the city in a day before leaving for the trek to Rupin Pass. I set out at about 9.30 am in the morning and returned by 5.30pm after which I set out to explore the eateries and Paltan Bazaar.
- Sahastradhara – My first stop was at this 1000 fold sulphur water stepped spring. I was expecting 1000’s of streams from a mountain tops but what it actually was small pools of water arranged in steps. I walked along the spring, climbing a dozen or more watching families take dips of health in sulphur water occasionally reaching out for the plate of hot steamy pakodas from the eateries located alongside. On the other side there were natural caves with pools of water where middle aged ladies draped in sarees sang hymns of praise for Shiva and Parvati; all the while allowing the natural spring water that trickled down the stalactites to drench them. I controlled my temptation to plunge into water since I was traveling alone. The best way to enjoy Sahastradhara is to be in the middle of it, uninhibited, allowing the water to do wonders. There are many shops that rent clothes which can be used to take a dip.
- Robbers Cave: This is a river cave formation through a limestone area at the outer area of Dehradun. I walked through the narrow gorge within a limestone formation with ankle deep water. Somewhere in the middle there was a small waterfall and had to carefully walk past it and climb a slippery rock to reach the inner most cave which had a 10 meter high waterfall. The sun rays peeping through the gaps on top created an ethereal atmosphere. It is best to rent a pair of rubber or plastic slipper for Rs10/- at the entrance to walk through the caves. In case you want to enjoy the spring on your shoulder there are options to rent clothes as well.
- Tapkeshwar: This is a famous Shiva Temple where the Shivalinga is located within a natural cave. It is widely believed that Guru Dronacharya resided here. Apart from the continuous flow of water on the Shivalinga, the rudrakhsha adorned shivalinga in the inner temple is a must visit.
- Forest Research Institute: When I entered the campus of Forest Research Institute, with its tree lined roads and manicured lawns; it occurred to me that my imagination of Dehradun which was largely influenced by Ruskin Bond was uncannily similar. Walking through the arched passages of the Greeco Roman structured brick building was a welcome respite from the hot afternoon sun. The museum is spread out across the building in 5 different halls each of which has details of silviculture, timbers, social forestry initiatives and non wood products. Officers who are recruited in Indian Forest Service are trained here. Spend some time on the steps, watch the trees and the play of light and shade. I did that too remembering the lesser known Bose – freedom fighter Rash Behari Bose who worked here as a clerk for a few years and later served as a guide and inspiration for Netaji – Subhash Chandra Bose
- Indian Millitary Academy: This is where the Indian Army Officers are trained to protect the soil. The campus is out of bounds for tourists and all you can do is peep at the main building through the grill gates !!
- Buddha Temple and Mindrolling Monastery: The Buddha temple, stupa and monastery are co located in Clement Town. When you enter the sprawling garden, the first thing that catches the eye is the white stupa. The temple has multiple floors where Lord Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava are enshrined; the walls of the hall adorned with paintings of their lives and scenes from Tibet. There is a small shopping complex with a few grocery and food outlets where you can check out on some hill crafts. A few meters ahead young monks from the Mindrolling monastery walk in and out of their quarters with a glow on their face.
- Clock Tower and Paltan Bazaar: The Clock Tower locally known as Ghanta Ghar is a busy circle in the city, reminder of some old times when life revolved around it. The adjoining Paltan Bazaar is like any other market; the sounds and colors weaving a strange thread of familiarity that binds all Indian bazaars !! I love strolling around markets, watching other people bargain for that rupee here and there; their faces awash with satisfaction of having struck a winning deal 🙂
- Food: I gorged on some of the best chaats and sweets at Anandam. I drooled over the Chenna Kheer which was creamy at its best and the Tikki had more peas than aloo with an outside crunch that made it unique. The slurpy Tibetan Thukpa at Kalsang and the chicken cheese momos from the street corner Singh Soup Bar was just what I needed before a long trek.
The Malsi Deer Park, Lacchiwala Picnic Spot are also frequented by locals and tourists. I could not cover them during the day since the deer park was closed and Lacchiwala on Mussoorie Road was a little far away.
Incase you are planning to spend some more time in the area then consider the following:
- Trips: Mussoorie, Landour, Dhanaulti in the hills ; Haridwar, Rishikesh along the Ganga are all located within 60 kms of Dehradun
- Treks: The hills are not too far away and Dehradun is the gateway to Har Ki Dun, Kedarkantha, Rupin Pass, Nag Tibba and several other treks as well as adventure activities in the region.
Stay Tip: The once upon a small town is now a bustling city with its nerve centre in Rajpur Road. If you are a solo traveler staying on Rajpur Road closer to stations, shops and eateries gives easy access to most sightseeing places. I stayed at Hotel Shiva Residency off Rajpur Road which was pretty convenient to move around the city.
Travel Tip: Dehradun is well connected by rail, road and air to all major cities in India. The Jolly Grant airport caters to Rishikesh, Dehradun and Haridwar conveniently located within 35 kms. There are autos and taxis available for all the sights. Best is to hire a taxi or auto for the day since the locations are not too far away. Cost for taxi approx Rs 1600.