McLeod Ganj is one of its kind hill stations near Dharamshala, in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. Snuggled in the Shivaliks, McLeod Ganj is popular among trekkers. The culture shows a beautiful blend of Tibetan with a British influence. Also known as Little Lhasa and seat to the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness – Dalai Lama, it has one of the most mesmerizing landscapes.
McLeod Ganj, in the entire state of Himachal Pradesh, attracts a lot of tourists throughout the year. Vibrant monasteries, quaint cafes, stunning backdrops, and thrilling adventure activities have made it one of the favorite holiday destinations in India. From treks to strolls, rooftop garden to organic food cafes, spiritual places to boat rides, Italian joints to monks, and nuns – the tourism list goes on.
How to reach Dharamshala
Dharamshala does not have a train station. You can book a ticket to Pathankot, which is 85 km to the East of Dharamshala and a then a 2.5hour drive.
You can also book a ticket for Kangara Airport and drive for about 30 minutes from Dharamshala.
Alternatively, you can take buses that drive along the mountain roads, the journey would be quite bumpy and rough though. You can also opt for Government Buses by the HRTC, which are comparatively expensive but worth the premium stops and comfort breaks. Privately-owned companies can also be of good help.
Traveling in a private car won’t be a budget-friendly option. But for the people with tight and limited time frames, a Private Car is the best option.
Things to do
1. Triund Hill
It is famous among trekkers as it the easiest of all Himalayan Treks. It is 13 km at 9500 ft above sea level. It is fit for beginners and enthusiasts. Available every weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). Group size above 4 people is allowed. It starts at 10 AM and ends around 2 PM on day 3. Hiring a pony or a horse is also an option for those who cannot trek.
Triund Hill Trek is one of the easiest treks to get around Dharamshala. It’s 4 to 5 hours ascend and 2-3 hours descend. You can choose between a package treks or carry your sleeping bag and book a tent at the top.
Tourists enjoy the breathtaking views of the Kangra valley and the snow-covered Dhauladhar ranges. Taking the extra mile can give you the chance of camping in the Alpine style tents on a triple sharing basis. You can play with snow and enjoy the view of snowcapped mountains.
The trekking route is closed during the months of January and February.
2. Bhagsu Nag Temple, Bhagsu falls, and Shiva Cafe
Also known as Bhagsunath Temple, The Bhagsu Nag Temple is one of the oldest temples located 3 km from McLeod Ganj. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Shesh Nag. The pools around the temple are believed to be sacred and contain miraculous powers of healing. It takes a 2 km panoramic mini hike from the main Mcleodganj area to reach Bhagsunag.
Hiking lovers should make sure to visit the 30 ft Bhagsu Falls during monsoons when the rainfall is constant around 90%. The Bhangsu Temple comes on the way to Bhagsu Falls. The beautiful waterfall cascades through the foothills of the Himalayas. The beauty of nature can be admired from the bottom or climb up the steep hill. You can enjoy the water by jumping into the springs.
Shiva Cafe is a small eatery located above the falls. Tourists can stop by for snacks, Bhagsu Cake, pizza, and milkshake with good music and seating inside and outside. Tourists can visit it at any time of the day.
3. The Dalai Lama Temple
It is the home to Dalai Lama. The temple is around 15 minutes’ walk from the McLeod Ganj bus stand. This pious and complacent is open for tourists from Sunrise to Sunset. You can enjoy the serene ambiance by joining the people in walks, prayers, and artworks. Experiencing the morning prayers with The Dalai Lama himself is an experience. It welcomes tourists from 8 AM to 8 PM.
4. Tibetan Museum
It is located right next to the Dalai Lama Temple. It shows the history of Tibet. It will make you understand more about Dharamshala. Thus, it is recommended to visit the temple on the first day to understand the area better.
5. Dal Lake and Naddi Village
Named after the Dal Lake in Kashmir, it is located amidst the lush green Deodar Forest closed to a village called Tota Rani, 4 km from McLeod Ganj. It offers a boating facility to the tourists. The shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva makes the Dal Lake sacred. A festival fair is held every year. It is open from 7 AM to 8 PM.
6. Kangra Fort
It is a royal palace built by the Katoch Dynasty. It is a war memorial and has witnessed numerous wars, invasions, and evolution.
Located near the bus stand, the museum was inaugurated in 1990 with a storehouse of cultural and aesthetic value items like artifacts paintings, jewelry, etc.
It is open from 10 AM to 1:30 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM
7. Tushita Meditation Center
A Buddhist Center up in Dharamkot, Tushita Meditation Centre offers 10 days Buddhism meditation courses. It’s a 25-minute steep walk uphill. You can also take a taxi. Each meditation lasts for about 10 to 15 mins. It feels very relaxed and calm. It runs daily at 9 AM (apart from Sundays).
8. HPCA Stadium
Located in Dharamshala, the world’s highest Cricket Ground is the Himachal Cricket Ground at 1457 meters. It is said to be one of India’s best cricket grounds. It is often voted as the most beautiful cricket stadium. The stadium houses a Gym, Indoor stadium, corporate boxes, Hotel, Practice Area, Rooms It is smaller than other stadiums but has a picturesque view with snow-peaked mountains as the backdrop. The stadium has hosted Ranji Trophy and Indian Premier League. With an accommodation of 23000 people, it is a home ground for IPL team Kings XI Punjab.
It is open from 9 AM to 6 PM.
Bir Billing is a decent place to go for Paragliding. Treat your eyes with the bird’s eye view of the Himachal Pradesh. It is at 2400 meters height and one of the best sites in the world for paragliding. It is not operational if the weather is not clear. You can enquire at adventure points on the streets of Mcleod Ganj.
A private car takes you to Bir Billing from McLeod Ganj and takes about 2.5 hours. After a safety protocol course, you are made to enjoy the 20 to 30 minutes fight.
It starts from 10 AM till 3 PM.
10. lliterati Cafe
The café is on the Jogiwara Road and famous due to the quirkiness of the decor in its ambiance and its views. It’s a bit of a walk downhill from McLeod Ganj to Illiterati Cafe, which feels like you are in Europe. It is a bookshop cum restaurant with a cozy feeling, Wi-Fi, and balcony views of the mountains. Do not miss international food, pancakes, burger, drinks, and cake.
Apart from food, people also enjoy games distant from the noise of the city. Winter is the best season to enjoy the beauty of the café.