Capital of Uttarakhand since 2000, DEHRA DUN, 255km north of Delhi, is pleasantly located just below 700m, as the Himalayan foothills begin their dramatic rise, so it never gets too hot in summer, and snows rarely appear in winter. It stands at the centre of the 120km-long Doon Valley (dun or doon means "valley"), famous for its basmati rice and hemmed in by the Yamuna to the west and the Ganges at Rishikesh to the east. A popular retirement spot, renowned for its elite public schools, Dehra Dun has been occupied in turn by Sikhs, Mughals and Gurkhas, but the British influence is the most apparent.
Driven by Dehra Dun's status as state capital, increasing local investment has resulted in a mini-boom – and accompanying noise and traffic problems – within the city centre. Most of Dehra Dun's bustling markets lie near the tall Victorian Clock Tower, from where Rajpur Road, the lifeline to Mussoorie, stretches northwards. Four kilometres along is the vast leafy colony occupied by the Survey of India, founded in 1767. Its greatest achievement was to determine the height of Mount Everest and name it after the surveyor general, Sir George Everest, but the Survey isn't a place to shop for maps; stock is paltry and the 1:250,000 scale trekking maps pretty useless. Natraj bookshop at 17 Rajpur Rd is one of the best in the country for wildlife books.