Cradled in the foothills of the Shivalik ranges, Dehradun is one of the few small cities in the country where despite vast commercialization and urbanization, one can still breathe in the clear air and enjoy the simple pleasures of nature. Also, a major scientific and educational hub with a great history for housing famous writers, Dehradun is famous for having contributed to much of what we know and study about India, especially in the fields of literature, botany, zoology and topography.
Although an old city, Dehradun has been built and grown mostly during Colonial times, therefore, one sees many colonial influences in the architecture, nomenclature and culture. Tibetan and Buddhist influences are also widespread due to the mass exodus of Tibetans into India who took refuge in mountain towns such as Dehradun. Thus Dehradun can be said to have been made of all the right influences.
Dehradun is accessible by road, rail as well as air. The Jolly Grant Airport is at a short distance from the main city, on the outskirts of Dehradun. It is a small airport and not many flights come in each day but one can easily find a connecting flight to Dehradun. The railway station, one of the oldest buildings in the city, is a busy one and very well-connected. Roadways, although well made, are sometimes uneven, especially during the monsoons, and not advisable for those subject to motion sickness.
One of the many wonderful things about Dehradun is its moderate climate, which makes it a pleasant stay during any season. However, the most recommended time to visit Dehradun would be during the late monsoon and autumn season, that is July to November, for this is when the climate is cool, and the plants are in full blossom.
1. Drive to the Mountains
As a town that forms the gateway to the Queen of Hills, Mussorie, Dehradun’s favourite recreational activity, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike, is driving through the town and up into the mountains. Smooth roads and organised traffic is to be found here, making for a pleasant drive, despite the hairpin bends. Vast cliff sides covered with lush greenery and offering shade to the roads complete the experience, as does the air itself, which gets cooler and clearer as one goes higher. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about these drives is that as one goes higher, one can have aerial views of the entire Dehradun city, far enough to see it end to end and yet close enough to tell buildings and structures apart. This is magnified in the evenings, when the settings sun lights up the sky and then as darkness befalls the city below turns into a carpet of lights. This is the view one can enjoy while sipping on tea and snacks at the local kiosks that are present in every corner of the hills.
2. Restaurants and Cafes
Restaurants in Dehradun have a legacy of their own and have been continuing for many years. They offer a range of delicacies, continental, Chinese, Indian etc. The most famous of these is President, located centrally and having the distinction of being one of the oldest running restaurants in the city with well-maintained standard of their food, decor and services. Other reputed restaurants include Salt and Cravings, the Countdown, the Grille, the Tavern and Kalsang.
In recent years, cafes have become a favourite with the people of Dehradun. Not only are there the large brands, such as Cafe Coffee Day, Dunkin’ Donuts and Barista with a bookstore attached to it have opened in the city. But locals have opened up small cafes and eateries of their own, of these the most famous are Cafe Marigold, which is located on the outskirts and specializes in a variety of cuisines. Cafe Hi Life specializes in divine coffee and cakes. Orchard is one of the oldest cafes in the city, where one can sit amidst nature and feast on authentic Tibetan dishes. Sunburn Bistro, with excellent décor provides a view of Mussoorie along with mouth-watering snacks and beverages.
3. Street Food And Local Confectionaries
Dehradun has found mention in much of popular culture for various local foods. People have been known to travel great distances just to try these foods. These include the pista biscuits and other confectionary items from Elloras and Nany’s Bakeries. There is also the famous pakore-wala, located on old Mussoorie Road, whose aloo ke pakore and pyaaz ke pakore are famous across the nation. Bun-tikki, a favourite with the kids is located close to the Convent of Jesus and Mary and has a special recipe which makes his dishes so spicy and juicy. Momo stalls, especially K C Soup Bar, near the National Institute for Visually Handicapped, are also known for serving delicious goods for many years.
4. Heritage Walks
The residents of Dehradun, aware of the great history and culture of the area and wanting to preserve it, organise heritage walks every Sunday. Every Sunday morning, anybody who is interested can join a group as they walk through the selected area for the week and enjoy the sights and sound while learning about the city and the roads they are walking on.
Other than this, there are also often exhibitions organised to showcase the culture of the area in one of the many clubs. These also include song and dance performances and make for a relaxing and informative event.
Inspired by a similar movement in Connaught Place, Delhi, the residents of Dehradun took it upon themselves to “reclaim their streets”. Every Sunday morning, from 8 am to 10 am, a few main roads, such as the road leading upto the Clock Tower, the roads are barricaded for cars and vehicles and become a spot for recreation instead. Stages are put up, where one can perform dances, songs and other live shows. A small dance floor is also present for the youth. Any activity can be organised there, such as cycle races, football, games, arts and craft etc. This not only brings people together and makes them one with their city but also gives artists a stage.
Dehradun is a city that is worth much more than it is credited for. Truly exploring it will give one much more than they would have expected.