Spreading for 15km along a high serrated ridge, MUSSOORIE is the closest hill station to Delhi, just 278km north of the capital and 34km north of Dehra Dun, from where it is visible on a clear day. At an altitude of 2000m, it gives travellers from the plains their first glimpse of the snow-covered Himalayan peaks of western Garhwal, as well as dramatic views of the Dehra Dun valley below.

These days, Mussoorie is a very popular weekend retreat for middle-class Indians up from the plains. Most foreign visitors come to Mussoorie to study Hindi at the excellent Landour Language School, but the town is also a useful base camp for treks into the western interior of Garhwal. Dominated by the long Bandarpunch Massif (6316m), with Swargarohini (6252m) in the west and the Gangotri group in the east, Mussoorie’s mountain panorama may not be as dramatic as some other hill stations, but it forms a pleasant backdrop to the busy holiday town.

Surprisingly, the Mall and the town’s main hub face away from the snows towards Dehra Dun; the distant peaks can best be seen from the flat summit of Gun Hill, which rises like a volcano from central Mussoorie. This can be ascended on foot or pony on a bridle path that forks up from the Mall, or on the 400-metre “Ropeway” cable car from the Mall (Rs55 return). Alternative prospects of the mountains can be seen on a peaceful stroll or ride around the three-kilometre-long Camel’s Back Road, which girdles the northern base of Gun Hill, passing by the distinctive Camel’s Rock and an old British cemetery (closed to visitors). Another vantage point, the highest in the immediate vicinity, is Childer’s Lodge, 5km east of the Mall above Landour.

At the eastern end of the Mall, beyond the bustling Kulri Bazaar, the road winds steeply upwards for 5km through the fascinating market of Landour, where you’ll find shops overflowing with relics of the Raj, silver jewellery and books. At the top of Landour Bazaar, a square surrounded by cafés attracts both travellers and the local intelligentsia. Nearby, the lovely forested area of Sister’s Bazaar is excellent for walks, especially to the Haunted House, a deserted Raj-era mansion, and around the famous Landour Language School.

Away from the noise and bustle, close to Convent Hill and 3km west of the Library, the Tibetan settlement of Happy Valley holds a large school, a shop selling hand-knitted sweaters and the small but beautiful Tchechen Choling gompa overlooking the Doon Valley and surrounded by gardens. It makes an enjoyable walk from the Mall along wooded roads, but you can also catch a taxi (around Rs120 return).