Here I am, writing down this piece to provide some context to what the city has to offer, and hoping to encourage people to look at the city as an independent tourist destination, and not just as an entry point to the state.
Table of Contents:
The 5 Places
1. Sahastradhara – The staircase of water.
2. Robber’s cave – Stream and Rocks.
3. Tapkeswar Mahadev Temple.
4. FRI Dehradun
5. Mindrolling Monastery
How to Reach Dehradun
Best Time to Visit Dehradun
Around 1675 AD, Baba Ram Rai, the son of the seventh Sikh guru, setup a camp in the Doon valey which lies between the Himalaya and Shivalik range. This camp later on took shape of the town we now know as Dehradun, the name of which is a combination of two words, “Dera” meaning camp & “Doon” denoting the name of the valley.
Dehradun today is the summer capital of Uttarakhand, on route to become a bustling metropolis. It is also known as the school capital of India as it has some of the best schools in the country.
Top 5 Dehradun:
1. Sahastradhara – The staircase of water.
Where: 16 km from city center.
Timings: 8 am to 7 pm.
Entry Fee: Free (optional ropeway ride Rs. 120)
Literally meaning ‘Thousand folds of spring’, Sahastradhara is a cascading series of small waterfalls on the Bandi River, located 16 KM from Dehradun. The waterfalls are not huge or aggressive, rather small, short ones that go for some distance before transitioning into a subsequent fall. It looks like steps with water dripping down when you look at it from a distance. Coupled that with the hilly surrounding, proves to be a beautiful affair.
The area between two adjoining falls is relatively smooth thus forming small pools, which the visitors to Sahastradhara love to bath in. There is also a good quantity of sulphur in the water which has some medicinal value, which provides for a additional incentive to take a plunge into it.
There are lot of small and big shops those have come up around the falls, which is a kind of buzzkill as it has marred the raw natural beauty of the place. The crowd tends to get really thick as the day progresses, so the best time to visit this spot is in the morning when it is very peaceful and calm.
There is a ropeway which visitors can use to reach the top of the nearby hill for a fee of Rs.120. The top offers panoramic view of the lush green surroundings, which is simply breathtaking.
The hill top also has a restaurant, a small park, a gaming area and a dance floor (yes, dance floor). The restaurant provides simple food but amazing views from it’s tables.
2. Rober’s cave (Guchupani):
Where: 10 km from city center.
Timings: 7 am to 6 pm.
Entry Fee: Rs. 25
Robber’s Cave which is locally known as Guchupani is a limestone cave with a river stream gushing through it. The stream is pretty steady, so one can walk through the stream to quite some distance inside the cave with no real threat of being washed away. The thrill of a walk through gushing water, that too inside a cave, has become one of the most sought after experience in Dehradun.
The whole cave is approximately 600 meters in length with high walls on both sides. At places the walls are wide enough to let in some light from the top and at some places so narrow as to induce claustrophobia. If one is determined, the cave can be traversed to reach the source of the water, which is a kind of small water fall.
The walk inside the cave, which appears easy in the begining becomes a challenge as soon as one reaches the middle. The water which is ankle deep at the start of the cave gradually raises to knee height as you move in some distance. The stream flows out of the cave, so to reach the source you need to walk against the flow in icy cold water. The ground is rough, laden with small stones, some of which move around in the water. All these factors actually make reaching the end of the cave a pretty surreal experience.
Only problem though is the sheer number of people visiting this place, which undercuts the eerie nature of the cave. Trust me, you wont dare enter the cave if you were to go there alone. Word has it that this cave was used by robbers and thiefs as a hideout during the British rule. I must say they had found an amazing spot to be safe from the eyes of the public.
There are some shops at the entrance of the cave, which serve maggi, momo, omlete etc. To make matters more enchanting, they have setup chairs and tables in the running water itself, where patrons can enjoy the delicious meal while their feet dipped in the cold running water. I must say, eating a plate of Maggi never felt so romantic.
3. Tapkeswar Mahadev Temple:
Where: 7 Km from city center.
Timings: 6 am to 7 pm.
Entry Fee: Free
Water droplets, trickling down stone crevices of a cave, end up falling on top of a Shiva Linga. Sounds too dramatic to be true, but this is exactly what is happening in the Tapkeswar Mahadev Temple of Dehradun.
This temple dedicated to lord Shiva is located 7 km from the city centre, stands beside a beautiful stream of river Nandi. The sound of the river making its way through the rocks adds to the ambience of the already beautiful cave temple. The main shrine is inside a natural cave, with claims placing its existence in the Mahabharata era.
To reach the cave one needs to walk down 108 steps from the main gate, which besides the distance is quite comfortable as the steps are very well made and maintained. The temple complex is pretty simple, until you enter the cave. The cave, curves, bends and leads to the main shrine, which is presided by a Swayambhu Shiva Linga (a naturally occurring Shiva Linga).
Since ages, this linga is bathed by water, that trickles down from the top of the cave. This dripping water is what has rendered the name Tapkeswar as Tapka means dropping in hindi and Iswar is god.
The clean river stream besides the temple attracts tourists and locals alike, who like to bathe or simply relax in the tranquil atmosphere.
4. Forest Research Institute:
Where: 5 Km from city center.
Timings: 9:30 AM to 5 PM
Entry Fee: Rs.40
The building known as St. Teresa in Student of the Year (both 1 & 2), Forest Research Institute, Dehradun has played some popular properties in Bollywood. Established in the year 1929, this National Heritage Monument now a days hosts 6 museums, including Forestry, Timber and Pathology, besides being a deemed university in Forestry. But more than the museums it’s the beautiful building that attracts most visitors to this place.
The institute’s history is virtually synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry, not only in India, but over the entire sub-continent.
Built over 450 hectares, with the outer Himalaya forming its back drop, the institute’s main building combines Greco-Roman and Colonial styles of architecture, with a plinth area of 2.5 hectares. Trust me, its huge. The building and its lawns has featured in so many Bollywood movies, that its become a go to place for most pre/post wedding shoots in Dehradun. People come here to marvel at the perfectly symetrical arches, high doorways, humongous halls and some really ancient peices of furniture.
With a modest entry fee of Rs. 40, Forest Research Institute, is an unmissable stop on any Dehradun trip.
5. Mindroling Monastery:
Where: 9 km from city center.
Timings: 8 AM to 12 Noon and 2 PM to 7 PM
Entry Fee: Free
The original Mindrolling Trichen Monastery in Tibet was damaged during the communist invasion in 1959. In 1965 a group of monks began the process of re-establishing the Mindrolling Manastery in Dehradun after they took refuge in India. Today the monastery is one of the largest in India, standing beautifully amidst lush green trees and 2 acers of landscaped garden.
The monastry is adorned with beautiful intricate carvings, with liberal use of vibrant red and gold. The building also features elaborate frescos, doors and statues all of which come together to form a symphony like no other.
The monastery also known as the Budha Temple of Dehradun, contains a stupa, which is 185 ft tall and 100 sq feet wide, making it one of the largest in the world.
Known as the World Peace Stupa, this structure is five floors tall with prayer halls present in all five floors. However only two floors are accessible for outsiders. Accompanying the main stupa, 8 miniature stupas also dot the monastery complex along with beautiful statues of Budha, Padmasambhava and Yangchenma, the goddess of wisdom.
It is the natural beauty, landscaped gardens and spiritual serenity that attracts tourists not only from India but also from different parts of the world to this monastery. A tour of Dehradun is incomplete without making a stop at one of the biggest monasteries in the country.
How to Reach Dehradun
Dehradun is well connected to the rest of India through both land and air. The Jolly Grant Airport of Dehradun is infact the only major Airport in the state with regular flights to and from New Delhi, Kokata and Mumbai. Dehradun Railway station has frequent trains from all major Indian cities, while plenty of busses also ply between New Delhi and Dehradun.
Best Time to Visit Dehradun:
Dehradun, despite its proximity to hill Stations like Mussorie, hosts pleasant weather throughout the year, hence there is no best time to visit. One can come at any time of the year and enjoy the city to the fullest.