Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet

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Lansdowne acted as a pause in our busy life this rainy season. This place is best described as an unexplored, unspoiled, amazing greeneries and a deep natural silence. This place is best for my awaited personal time, and the pleasure is more significant if it is some not-so-popular place. Lansdowne resembles an antique painting and is the perfect getaway for me to explore.

Hence, I and a few of my friends planned a 3 day trip to Lansdowne in Moonson. A tiny cantonment established in 1887 by the Britishers is located 1706 meters on a hillock near Kotdwara in Uttarakhand. We left for our destination post office; it was 7 hours from Gurgaon to Lansdowne, the distance between the two places being approximately 270 km. 

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Sunset on the way to Lansdowne

We took a dinner halt at Meerut and stayed on the highway till Khatauli. Then took the road towards Bijnor via Mirapur, Bijnor, Najibabad, and Kotdwar to save time. We took a night halt at Rio Resort at  Kotdwar since it started to rain heavily.

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Way to Kotdwar

The morning was blissful, with clouds floating in the sky and fresh, crisp air, and my boys were in the river enjoying a bath.

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Rio Resort

Interestingly, the actual name of Lansdowne in the old days was Kaludanda, meaning the Black Forest in Garhwali; “Kalu” means Black and “Danda” means Forest. However, the place owes the credit for its development and name to Lord Lansdowne, the then Viceroy of India (1888-1894), who founded Lansdowne in 1887. It has the command office of the Garhwal Rifles division of the Indian Army at present.

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Cloud Floating across the Pine forest

We reached Lansdowne around 3 PM and were booked at the GMVN Tip & Top resort. After check-in & our high tea, we moved out for a trek, lushing greeneries of thick oak woods and blue Pine forests surrounding the route.

Tip & Top Resort

Since few people were there, walking amid silence was a pleasant experience. We passed through St. Mary’s Church, which was constructed in 1895 by the Britishers. It was now turned into a library. Every Morning at 8.00 AM, there is an Audio-Visual Presentation on the history of Lansdowne. Entry Fee: INR 10/- per person.

St Mary Church

We walked 1 km and met some locals who directed us to the Santoshi Mata Temple. We have to climb some 100 steps to reach a tiny temple.

Way to Santoshi Mata temple

The view from the temple was terrific, with solid wind hovering over us. Since it was getting dark, we started our descent to the hotel. I enjoyed that lonely moment of walking at Lansdowne- the narrow pine forest path with a serene and peaceful atmosphere. I could stay here for weeks doing nothing. 

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
View from the temple.

However, it was stormy night rain as the tears of the dark, gloomy clouds. I snuggled in my bed, listening to the rain pattern on the shingles. The sound provided me immense pleasure, and I drifted off to sleep. Even the following day was cloudy & windy, but it did not stop us from exploring Lansdowne. After a sumptuous breakfast, we started our day. 

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Morning view from my window

It was 7.30 AM when we started driving to Durga Devi Temple, 25 km from Lansdowne. The temple is inside a cave on the bank of River Khoh and is dedicated to Goddess Durga.

Durga Temple

The view from the temple is simply spectacular. Many devotees throughout the year find divine peace just by being here.

Cave Temple

While returning, we went to St. John’s Church. It is the only functional Roman Catholic church in Landsdowne, founded in 1936. The church was abandoned until 1951 before being handed over to the Indian government.

St John Church

The church has stunning interiors, and its surroundings offer spectacular views.

Interiors of the church

From there, we moved towards the museum but stopped at the viewpoint to take pictures. The viewpoint is adjacent to the museum maintained by SBI- the mountains and ball could be from here.

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet

In 1986, the Darwan Singh Museum in Lansdowne displayed a rare collection of Garhwal Rifles. This museum is named after Darwan Singh Negi, one of the earliest Indian recipients of the Victoria Cross. The museum has a fine collection of Armour, and photography was prohibited. Outside the museum was a lovely flower garden that had 10-15 varieties of roses. 

Darwan Singh Memorial Museum

Adjacent to the museum is a memorial, which the general public cannot attend. In front of the museum is a significant Parade Ground of the Garhwal Regiment. Nobody is allowed to go there. The parade ground and war memorial are impressive.

Parade ground

We started walking back towards Bhulla Tal or Bhulla Lake, an artificial lake. Bhulla’ in the local Garhwali language means ‘Younger Brother’. The lake is dedicated to the young members of the Garhwali Rifles who helped construct it. Although Bhulla Tal is far from our idea of a lake, it is still a pleasing sight surrounded by pine trees.

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Bhulla Tal

We started to trek again amidst a thick forest downhill on a rough path, towards two big rocks, known as Bhim Pakoda- placed one above the other in a perfect balance. It was a 30-minute trek to this popular point, which has a legend that, during exile, the Pandavas stopped at this place. Here, the second Pandava Bhim placed a rock above another so it could never topple. While looking at the stones, I realised they could easily be made to wobble on their axis with a gentle push. But the local confirmed it never slid down the slope. 

Bhim Pakora

It was almost lunchtime, and my hunger pangs were active. We took a lunch break as our next destination was Lovers Lane. It is one of the most popular attractions in Lansdowne and is considered the best trekking route.


The overcast valley on one side of the trek offers beautiful views of the mighty Himalayan Ranges, which we could not see due to cloudy weather. This trek road is surrounded by pine and oak trees. It offers many hints of the British Raj’s former glory. 

Lansdowne: A charming colonial Hamlet
Mystical Trek

Further, we visited the Kitchener Lines Cemetery, among the more enigmatic locations of Lansdowne. The tombs at the old cemetery, which date to the middle of the 1850s, are the final resting places of many war soldiers. The mist and pine trees surrounding the place gave a spooky feel.


Our last place of visit was Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple- a centuries-old Shiva temple. It is one of the oldest temples in Lansdowne and is believed to be 500 years old. It is an ode to Sage Kalun, who meditated at this site. Kaleshwar Mahadev temple Shivlinga is Swayambhu (Self-formed). Hence, the Garhwal regiment’s brave soldiers visit here to offer their prayers.

Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple

According to the legend, on a Mahashivratri day, locals found that their cows went missing. However, they were found milking upon a Shivlinga on their own in the cave. Another folklore is believed that about 5000 years ago, Sage Kalun meditated here, earlier known as Kaludanda after the Sage Kalun.


The sky started to change colours; it was grey and gloomy. The mist began to cover the tall one & cedar trees, confirming a heavy shower. So we walked towards Lansdowne Trip Travel Cafe, which will get to your heart with its retro feel and warm and cosy ambience—a cafe with finger-licking good food and playing board games. We spent our evening there watching the rain pouring down on the same hamlet.

Trip Travel Cafe

We spent the night dining at Victor Bar. The bar transports you to the old colonial majesty with its magnificently designed rooms. And then early to bed.

Victor Bar

The next day, we woke up early as it was time to say goodbye to Lansdowne. But on our way, we decided to bow at Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple. Around 37 km from Lansdowne, it perched 2092 meters above sea level on a hill. It is one of the oldest shrines, or SiddhaPithas, amid the deodar & pine forest. After our breakfast, we left for the temple.

Route to Tarekeshwar Mahadev Mandir

As per Hindu mythology, the demon Tarkasur meditated and worshipped Lord Shiva for a boon at this place. Interestingly, Lord Shiva’s idol performing tandava (Nataraj) is worshipped. The sound of thousands of bells the devotees offer adds a different charm to this place.

Way to the Temple

There was a natural But pond, and it’s a notion that one needs to bathe in that water before offering puja in the temple. A tree that branched in perfect “Trishul” was adjacent to the temple. This spot was an ideal blend of serenity with spiritualism. 

Mahadev Temple

After offering our prayers, we drove back to Gurgaon. The quaint hillside has a quaint mountainscape decorated with deodar and pine groves and a colonial period’s old-world charm—a place to do nothing but soak in silence and serenity.

How to Reach

By Air

The city’s nearest is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. The airport is 83km from the city centre. A cab or public bus can be taken from the airport to Landsdowne.

By Rail 

The nearest railhead is Kotdwar, which is 40 km away from Lansdowne. A cab or Auto can be hired to reach the destination. 

By Road

The road connectivity of State and National Highways is excellent. State and private buses are available from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and nearby cities. These buses ply at regular intervals. One can also book a cab or self-drive to Landsdowne.


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