if you're considering a trip to India I strongly recommend a stay at the Kasmanda Lodge in Mussoorie.
After two to three weeks spent travelling through Rajasthan a surfeit of sightseeing had left us hot and exhausted. Although it had been an amazing experience we had had our fill of temples, forts, royal palaces and all the other wonders India had to offer. We returned to Delhi on the overnight train from Varenasi (an experience in itself) and the following day travelled on the Shatabdi Express to Dehradun. Then up, up up into the hills to the former British hill station of Mussoorie. We travelled by hired car but I believe Mussoorie has a small airport with flights fom Delhi.
We knew nothing of Mussoorie prior to our visit. TransIndus, the company who had arranged our trip had offered it as an extension, suggesting it was a good place to round off our holiday. They were right: Mussoorie is a charming spot. Not as large or popular as Simla and other hill stations, it attracts only a small number of foreign tourists. The town spreads along a twelve mile ridge with incredible viws of the plains below and the Himalayan foothills above and there are numerous reminders that this was a popular spot with the British during the days of the Raj - the Victorian bandstand, the English library, the church, now sadly crumbling, that could have been imported from an English village.
Nowadays Mussoorie is a popular resort for visitors from Delhi and also with Indian honeymooners but there were few European faces in the busy mall, a fascinating place with numerous stalls, a Tibetan market and horses waiting to be hired for a ride into the hills. Browsing was a pleasure - no hassle from shopping touts and no pressure to buy from the shop and stall keepers.
We stayed at the Kasmanda Lodge, a former Royal hunting lodge situated well above the town and close to the English church. As soon as we entered the hotel we were in a different world. The hunting trophies and photographs of the former Royal family that adorned the walls, the old lady brushing the stairs who joined her hands in a gesture of greeting. We were back in another age.
The charming but rather vague man on reception seemed to have forgotten we were coming but an equally pleasant but very shy young boy showed us to an extremely spacious room which sported the biggest bed I've ever slept in. Like the rest of the hotel what the room lacked in luxury it made up for in atmosphere with gaunt antique type furniture and an ancient radiogram plus another collection of fascinating photographs. There was an equally spacious bathroom and a small sitting area with breathtaking views over the valley. The view of Mussoorie by night, a myriad of twinkling lights, was a recommendation in itself for the Kasmanda Lodge.
Kasmanda Lodge certainly had it's eccentricities but in the most delightful way. Dinner had to be ordered well in advance and we were the only diners in the rather spooky dining room. But the food was excellent and well on a par with the more upmarket hotels we had stayed in. The young man who had shown us to our room seemed to be the sole waiter - in fact he seemed to have the knack of turning his hand to most things and I later found him changing our bed! We did feel the absence of a bar however. In fact most of Mussoorie seemed to be 'dry' with little evidence of alcohol being sold anywhere. (Although I'm sure it's there if you know where to look for it) However, soft drinks, tea or coffee plus snacks were always on hand. Also a very cheap and efficient laundry service.
The gardens were wonderful, stretching over a large area with a terrace that gave further access to the spectacular views. No swimming pool but temperatures were much lower so we didn't feel the need of one. A notice requested 'please do not pick the blooms' and another warned us to beware of the geese! Each morning we ate breakfast in the open air, relishing the breeze and looking out over the distant mountains.
There are many opportunities for excursions up into the hills but we stuck to some gentle walking, taking in views of the snow capped Himalayas, best seen from the top of Camel Hill which is ascended by funicular. And where else would one come across such evocative names as Happy Valley, Fairy Hill and Humming Meadows? This was certainly a facet of India we had not expected to find. Walking along the road that winds round the foot of Camel Hill we came across an English cemetery, silent and neglected. We would have liked to look around but the gate was securely locked although I'm sure the key would have been available if we'd had time to seek it out.
We left Mussoorie with great reluctance and the Kasmanda Lodge lives on among my most treasured memories. The Ritz it was not but then it doesn't charge Ritz prices and no Ritz could touch its unique atmosphere. I would love to return but feel it might be a mistake -second visits are never so magical. Sometimes the past is best left alone.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A truly Heritage Property & Hidden Jewel of Mussoorie. The present Kasmanda Palace Hotel has been through many Avatars since it was constructed around 1836.Originally built as part of the Christ Church around 1836 it has been a Sanitarium for the British soldiers during the Crimean War (1853 – 1856), A school, known as "The Modern School" (1896 – 1910), the Summer Residence of the Royal Family of Kasmanda and finally it was converted into a Heritage Hotel (1992 - ). Kasmanda Palace is a perfect place to stay and spend quality time with loved ones while enjoying the beautiful outdoors which the hotel has to offer, terraced gardens, exotic trees & plants and the great Doon Valley views. Kasmanda Palace is ideally located in the center of the town, yet away from the noise of the Mall Road. If it gets too quite for you then the busy Mall Road is just a 2 minute walk away or take the hotel courtesy car. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Welcomheritage Kasmanda Palace Hotel Mussoorie
- Welcomheritage Kasmanda Palace Mussoorie