Hill stations in North India like Shimla, Manali, Mussoorie, Darjeeling and Nainital are similar with each one having a Mall road and few viewpoints, yet each one of them has its own USP. For me, the main USP of Mussoorie was spending a luxurious weekend at JW Marriott Mussoorie surrounded by the beauty of the Himalayas. On our Uttarakhand itinerary, we tried to cover all places in Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and Mussoorie in a day, so we could spend an entire day chilling at Marriott.
Day 1 – Mumbai – Dehradun – Rishikesh – Haridwar
Time – 1 pm to 8 pm
Hotel EllBee Ganga View (18 km, 30 min)
Our flight landed at 1 pm and we drove to Rishikesh by our pre-booked cab. First, we went to our hotel, dropped the luggage and had an enjoyable lunch with a view of the Ganga. When we went to our room, the bed looked too inviting and we were tempted to call the day off but we eventually left for Haridwar at 4 pm.
The Ganga Aarti also takes place in Rishikesh which is smaller, less popular and less crowded as compared to the one at Haridwar but we chose to visit Haridwar to see the bigger, more popular Ganga Aarti.
Ganga Aarti at Hari ki Pauri Ghat, Haridwar (21 Km, 45 min)
We reached at 5 pm for a 6 pm aarti. From where the car dropped us off there is a 500-meter walk to the ghat. We took cycle rickshaws for Rs 50 (per rickshaw) as we wanted to reach asap to grab a good seat.
There are two viewpoints – either sit on the stairs on the opposite side of where the aarti is performed or some Pandits offer benches inside the temple on the same side where the aarti is performed.
First, we followed a tout who offered us a bench to sit on inside the temple, but we gave his offer a pass since we were not allowed to go inside the temple with our shoes on. However, I feel it wouldn’t even offer a good view as there were endless rows of people standing and watching the Ganga Aarti from here. Then we crossed the footbridge, went on the other side and sat on the stairs. Surprisingly, it was well-organized. There were around 6 to 7 people managing the crowd very effectively.
Before the aarti started, mom accepted a Pandit’s offer and performed some rituals. He quoted Rs. 20 plus a donation as per our wish. While performing the ritual, he asked mom how much she would like to donate. She responded saying Rs. 500. The Pandit pushed her to increase the amount to Rs. 1100. Mom was adamant on the said Rs. 500 and did not budge even after two or three attempts from the Pandit. Finally, the Pandit gave up and continued performing the mantras for another 10 minutes after which he offered a small diya and some flowers to the Ganga that floated down the river.
Apparently, people managing the crowd belonged to the Ganga Aarti Samity started with their pitch to collect donations for performing the aarti i.e. Rs 100 and a meal for the underprivileged i.e. Rs. 500 providing a receipt for the payment. This was a mere donation where you don’t get to see any action.
Finally, the Ganga Aarti started at 6 pm. Unfortunately, what we had thought to be a good vantage point wasn’t a good one. It was a side view from where we could barely even get a glimpse of the aarti. In spite of being low season, by 5 pm, all the front view seats were full. I’m pretty sure the first place (were we were offered a bench inside the temple) wasn’t great either as massive crowds were standing in front of it to watch the Ganga Aarti.
- I’d read the Ganga Aarti starts at 5:30 pm in winter and 6 pm in summer. We went in Jan (winter season) but still, it started at 6 pm.
- Must reach an hour or hour an half early to catch a good place to watch the aarti.
- For a good vantage point, try to sit on the stairs on the opposite side of the temple where the Ganga Aarti is performed and make sure to grab a place directly in front of the temple. For elders, who can’t sit on the stairs, the best way is to try to find a bench inside the temple.
- Beware of all the touts trying to perform a ritual who ask for a donation. Be sure to ask the price before partaking in any of the rituals.
Chandi Devi and Mansa Devi Temple
- There is a cable car which takes you to the top of these two temples.
- It offers a good panoramic view of the city but we didn’t have time to visit it.
Accommodation and Meal
We stayed at Ellbee Ganga View hotel which was an excellent hotel until the air-condition turned out to be the only heater. We couldn’t sleep all night since it felt like sleeping in an oven.
For dinner, I wanted to try the famous restaurant The Mohan Puri Wala restaurant near the Ganga ghat but we were still full from our late lunch.
Day 2 – Rishikesh to Mussoorie
Time – 9 am to 9 pm
Today we had a long list of places to see as we wanted to cover Rishikesh, Dehradun and Mussoorie all in a day.
Lakshman Jhula (20 min, 6 Km)
- Obviously, if you’re in Rishikesh you have to see the iconic Lakshman Jhula.
- From the car park, there is a 10-meter walk and few steps to the bridge.
- It’s a suspension bridge with a good view of the Ganga.
- As two-wheelers are allowed to cross the bridge because of constant honking by them, it is really impossible to admire the beauty of the place.
- Make sure to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds. We went there at 9 am, still, there was a considerable honking of scooters.
- Can also hire a guide for Rs. 200 who takes you around some temples in the vicinity.
Ram Jhula (15 min, 3 km)
- This is exactly like Lakshman Jhula.
- We stopped for a quick photo from the top and moved on.
Other than this, Rishikesh is famous for Yoga and endless temples which we were not interested in. It is also a hub for river rafting trips and other adventure activities like Air Safari, Bungee Jumping, Flying Fox etc. I wanted to do Air safari but it was costly according to Indian standards and we were short on time.
Next up, Dehradun city which is a slight detour if going to Mussoorie.
Mindrolling Monastery (51 Km, 1.5 hrs)
- It’s a massive complex with beautiful huge Buddha statues.
Summer – 8 am to 12 noon and 2 pm to 7 pm
Winter – 9 am to 12 noon and 1:30 pm to 6 pm
- It’s a flat walk unlike many monasteries in India.
- Unfortunately, we reached exactly at 12 pm and could only see it from outside. It was a beautiful complex and worth the visit.
- Inside the monastery, there are some shops selling bags, shawls and souvenirs. Do check them out. We got a shawl for Rs. 400 only.
- Around the monastery, there are many small joints selling momos which should not be missed. It was just Rs. 30 for a delicious plate of momos served with extremely spicy sauce.
Forest Research Institute (12 Km, 30 min)
- It’s a huge institute with beautiful architecture surrounded by forest all around.
- Timings – 9 am to 5:30 pm
- It houses 6 small museums on different subjects like timber, forest products, etc. which are decent to visit.
- Do ask the driver to take you around the complex to see the massive forest or just sit, chill and have a picnic in the forest.
- If in Dehradun, you really can’t miss this.
- Around 10 minutes ahead of FRI, there is an Indian Military Academy (IMA) which is worth seeing for the beautiful building from outside unless of course, you know someone in the army who can get you a permission to go inside.
If interested, can visit Robber’s Cave (Guchchi Paani) on the way. It looked beautiful but we skipped it as it involved walking 500 meters in knee-deep water to a waterfall.
We managed to cover all places we wanted to see in Rishikesh and Dehradun. Next up, Mussoorie!
Mussoorie lake (28 Km, 55 min)
- It’s on the way to Mussoorie and if you have 5 minutes to spare, you can stop to take a photo from the top.
- To get to the lake, you have to descend at least 100 stairs and on the return, climb them back up.
- It’s a very small artificial lake. There is nothing much there except boating.
- I will say it’s not worth it even if you have endless time.
- We stopped here as it was en-route.
- It’s a small temple and didn’t take more than 10 minutes to visit.
- This is the only temple we’ve seen in our lives which has big banners everywhere stating “Donations are strictly prohibited”.
- It’s a privately run temple and they even offered warm delicious prasad.
It was around 5 pm, we were in two minds whether to cover Lal Tibba or go straight to our last stop – Mall road. Our driver denied to take us to Lal Tibba making an excuse that this big car won’t be able to climb up as the roads are narrow. Hence, we went straight to Mall road. The driver also hyped Gun Hill by saying that we can see five points from there including Lal Tibba.
Mall Road (8 Km, 20 min)
Every hill station in India must have a Mall road – It’s a typical pedestrian street filled with shops and eateries. But somehow there were endless cars honking on Mall road. On inquiring with people, they said cars are allowed till 5 pm. But it continued beyond 5 pm, then some said it’s allowed during the winters. I think the cars must have stopped by 7 pm or 8 pm.
After trying all the street food, we took a cycle rickshaw to the cable car which goes to Gun Hill. Dad loves cable – cars and he wouldn’t miss it for anything. We waited for an hour in the line. By the time we reached Gun Hill, the sun had set and we could only see the night view. There isn’t much there except some food stalls and games for kids. It was chilly. We sat in a dhaba like a restaurant and had a delicious plate of rajma chawal and chole kulcha. Again, we stood in a line for 30 minutes to get back down. Thankfully, even at this time, there were many cycle rickshaw available to go back to the car park.
- About 100 meters from the car park, there was a roadside stall selling spring rolls, pakoras, tikki and tea. Do not miss this place if you love street food.
- Also, there are many vendors selling burgers, sweet corns and momos.
- Cable Car to Gun Hill – It is fine to take a ride if there isn’t any line. Otherwise, I’ll give it a miss and spend time shopping and trying the street food. Cycle Rickshaw is available at a cost of Rs. 50 during the day and Rs. 100 during the night (Per Rickshaw and not per person) to go to the base of the cable car, otherwise, it’s a 1 or 1.5 Km walk.
- You can also take a cycle rickshaw or walk to the Camel’s Back Road which has a viewpoint. We didn’t have time for it.
Totally exhausted by now, we went straight to our hotel rooms and crashed.
Accommodation and Meal
We stayed at JW Marriott, Mussoorie and had dinner at various food joints on Mall road.
Day 3 – Mussoorie
We did a crazy day yesterday, so we could chill all day in our hotel today. JW Marriott offered a perfect combination of a luxurious resort with family activities and various restaurants to sample different cuisines. We loved every minute of our stay.
Day 4 – Mussoorie – Dehradun – Delhi – Mumbai
Time – 11 am to 4 pm till the airport, reached home at 1 am
Our main agenda for today was to visit Lal Tibba and cover two other sightseeing spots in Mussoorie. For the three places, the driver wanted us to leave at 9 am and said it would be impossible to cover all the places if we left at 11 am. According to my calculation and speed at which we do sightseeing, I stuck with 11 am. In the end, it was more than sufficient time and we still reached the airport two hours early.
Kempty Falls (6 Km, 15 min)
- Since it was only 6 km ahead of Marriott, we went for a quick photo stop.
- It’s an artificial waterfall
- Need to walk 750 meters to reach the base of the cable-car and then you can take the cable car to the bottom of the waterfall.
- It’s possible to swim at the base of the waterfall in chilly water but it is way too commercialized with a lot of shops.
- We just saw the waterfall from outside as were not interested in the cable-car and moved on.
Company Gardens (15 Km, 35 min)
- We went as we had time and dad likes these kinds of places.
- It’s a small garden with an artificial waterfall, wax museum, haunted house and boating.
Left with our final and the most awaited stop of our trip – Lal Tibba
Efforts we took to convince our driver to take us there:
On the firsts day, our driver had already denied to take us to Lal Tibba but before hiring him again for this day we confirmed several times with him that he will drive us there. In spite of that, he tried his best to avoid it by making excuses like there will be a problem to drive since our car won’t be able to climb up the narrow roads, we may have to get off the car and we could visit Buddha temple instead.
Seeing our aggression, he finally agreed.
Eventually, with all these efforts, we reached LAL TIBBA. Honestly, the road was narrow, more like one and a half lanes, but well maintained and not really dangerous. In the end, it felt easy. It’s just a trend that driver’s do not want to take any efforts to drive up there.
Lal Tibba (8 Km, 35 min)
- It was a clear day and we could see the Himalayan ranges.
- It was definitely the best part of our trip, so make sure your driver takes you there.
- There is a small Lal Tibba Cafe which charges Rs. 50 as an entrance fee for their viewpoint and use of a telescope. It can be adjusted against the food bill.
- The attendant very nicely showed us all the spots through the telescope and explained to us about the religious site like Badrinath, Gangotri etc. pointing to the peak on which they lie.
- There was a photographer charging Rs. 150 to 250 (depending on the size) for a photo. For a change, dad wanted to click a family photo with the Himalayan backdrop. He is the one who is camera-shy and is hardly in any of our pictures. The photographer sends the photos by speed post as he doesn’t have the facility to print. I was sceptical but the photo reached our home within three days and it is definitely a prized possession for us.
- At the cafe, we ate momos, pizza and Maggi with a view of the Himalayas. The food is super expensive, Rs. 90 instead of Rs. 30 for a plate of momos, but must at least order a dish to compensate for the entry fee. Make sure to check the bill as he didn’t subtract the entry fee on his own.
- Only disappointment was the chilli, ginger, lime pickle which we bought from a local seller for Rs. 300. It had no taste, it tasted like chilli dipped in oil with no spice.
- There are four shops a little away from Lal Tibba famously called “Char Dukan”. I wanted to try their pancakes but just bought some chips for the journey and left.
Airport (60 km, 2 hrs)
We left from Lal Tibba at 2 pm, again our driver said it will take a whopping 3.5 hours to reach the airport whereas Google Map showed only two hours. Dad trusted the driver more than Google maps so we headed straight for the airport. Eventually, reached the airport at 4 pm for our 6 pm flight.
Our flight was on time from Dehradun and landed early at Delhi airport. Hence, we had a three-hour layover at Delhi airport. Connecting through Delhi domestic airport is always a pain as flights are delayed and it runs beyond its maximum capacity. There was no space in the food court or a lounge or restaurant. Eventually, we got a place in a restaurant called Punjab Grill. We had a decent meal for an exorbitant price. Our flight to Mumbai got delayed and took off at 10:30 pm instead of the scheduled departure at 9:30 pm. It finally landed in Mumbai at 1 am instead of 11:30 pm due to the congestion at Mumbai airport. It was a long travel day and felt no less than the journey of an international flight.
That’s it. An Uttarakhand trip covering Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and Mussoorie is done and dusted. The best part of this trip definitely was Lal Tibba and Teppan restaurant at JW Marriott Mussoorie. Next on the bucket list is to plan a trip to Jim Corbett National Park and Nainital in Uttarakhand!
Planning an Uttarakhand itinerary?
Check out all the other posts in Uttarakhand series:
Uttarakhand: Trip Planning
How I managed to buy points and book JW Marriott Mussoorie at a massive discount
JW Marriott Mussoorie Hotel Review
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or free trip – We have paid for all our Holiday expenses but I spend a lot of time researching for the best deals and at times do get a discount as I run a travel business as well. However, this post contains some (not all) affiliate links. Any purchase made through the links will help support this blog at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!