Uttarakhand, India: The trip from Jollygrant Airport just outside the state capital Dehradun up to the Mussoorie ‘hill station’ takes only around 45 minutes along the area’s best road. After what seems an endless series of hairpin bends, the trip ends at the top of the 2,000 metre high Mountain crest, where hotels from modest to the highest international standard are situated side by side looking out over the valley.
The town’s history goes back to the 1820s where British officers and civil servants desperately needed a cool destination to spend their summers. Temperatures in the Indian lowlands often reach between 40 and 50 degrees of humid heat and it was simply too much for the pale Europeans and their families. Mussoorie was perfectly suited for the purpose. It is high enough to ensure a much more European-friendly climate and its situation on the edge of the mountains with a view over the lowlands makes the place relatively easy to get to and from. You don’t feel imprisoned in the mountains here.
It proved to be an excellent idea and Mussoorie grew quickly and soon took on the character of a distinctly holiday town that flourished in the Indian summer and pretty much closed down completely when the winter in the Himalayas coated the roofs with a blanket of snow.
Richer families built their own luxurious hideaways and the number of hotels on the mountainside shot up to cope with the demand for cool breezes and European culture. English women in droves – married, widows and unmarried ones on the look-out for a prospective husband – arrived at the beginning of the season in May and filled the town’s hotels right up to September.
Schools not scandals
But all good things come to an end, also the hedonistic life in the disreputable town in the mountains. Mussoorie simply grew out of its role as ‘sin city’. Very early in the town’s history a number of good boarding schools were established for the children of Europeans stationed in India who didn’t have the opportunity or money to send them to the best schools in Europe. The city became well-known for the quality of its schools, and it still is today.
Today, Mussoorie International School is the town’s biggest educational attraction. It is India’s finest boarding school only for girls and it caters to classes 1-12. Founded in 1984, this school teaches around 700 pupils from 65 different nations and the school always ranks very high on the list of schools with the best academic results in India. All the tuition takes place in English. A great many of the young schools pupils – who call themselves MIStars – have already distinguished themselves in adult life. But it is not the only boarding school in the town that has managed to gain an international reputation for being an excellent school.
A respected resident
It should also be remembered when looking back at Mussoorie’s colourful history that even during its golden age, this town that is oh-so-respectable today wasn’t only about ‘wine, women and song’. It was also home to a number of prominent people’s summer residences.
One such was the Scottish surveyor Colonel Sir George Everest, who was responsible for surveying the whole of India and did it with such precision that even today, his work is looked upon with respect in surveying circles. His monumental efforts for India and the British Empire were later honoured when the highest peak in the Himalayas was named after him.
Come feel the buzz
The modern town of Mussorie is an exclusive holiday destination for rich Indians, a popular place in which to withdraw from the world and a high-class holiday destination. Here you can find orderly conditions combined with lots of Indian cultural buzz and hotels of a high international standard.
We stayed one night at the Hotel Brentwood at the top of the town. The experience can be summed up very simply: fantastic rooms, unique views, exquisite food and every modern convenience. Mussoorie is definitely a place that is worth spending a few days in …