Capital of Uttarakhand, Dehradun, 255km north of Delhi, is pleasantly located at just below 700m, as the Himalayan foothills begin their dramatic rise, so it never gets too hot in summer, and snows rarely appear in winter. It stands at the centre of the 120km-long Doon Valley, hemmed in by the Yamuna to the west and the Ganges at Rishikesh to the east.
A popular retirement spot renowned for its elite institutions, the town dates its origins to 1676, when Guru Ram Rai, eldest son of the seventh Sikh Guru Har Rai ji, set up a dera (camp) in this tract of the dun or doon (valley). It was later occupied by Mughals and Gurkhas, but it’s British influence that is most apparent. More recently, driven by its status as state capital, increasing local and government investment has led to a commercial and IT boom in the city, with much of the surrounding agricultural land swallowed up for development – Dehradun’s legendary high-quality basmati rice is fast becoming a rarity. The accompanying noise and traffic problems are most intense around the markets near the tall Victorian clock tower, and along Gandhi and Rajpur roads.