Famously known as ‘Little Lhasa’ of Himachal Pradesh, Mcleodganj is a favourite haunt of the travelers, explorers, riders and trekkers. It is mainly famous for its Buddhist temples and the abode of the great Dalai Lama. Located in the lap of Dhauladhar range of Himalayas, it has a great view of snow capped mountains standing like a guard over it. But maximum travelers who rush to this place without research, run short of places to be visited and things to do in Mcleodganj. And hence, I decided to put up a complete guide of all interesting things to do in and around Mcleodganj based on my exploration on a solo trip to this quaint place.
How to reach:
By Rail: Take a train till Pathankot station (main station and not the cantonment) and then take a bus to Dharmshal — Mcleodganj
If your train drops you at Pathankot Cantonment, taking a sharing rickshaw (INR 20) till the bus stand and then board a bus to Dharamshala.
- Option 1: There are direct buses plying from Delhi –> Dharamshala/Mcleodganj
- Option 2: Take a bus from Chandigarh –> Pathankot –> Dharamshala –>Mcleodganj
The nearest airport is Gaggal Airport from where you can either take a cab till Mcleodganj or can take a walk till the main road from where you would easily get any public transport.
The colourful stupa at the market square
Market square is the place where all the main roads meets creating a noisy crowded square at the centre of the town. If you face towards the temple road, just a few steps away is the bright red and golden building on your left which wouldn’t fail to attract you. This stupa is the symbol of dedication of a jeweler of Mcleodganj , who converted his residence into a Stupa temple. The doors, windows and interiors of thee temple is beautifully designed by a Nepali metal artist whom you can meet on the way to Dharamkot. The miniature paintings on the wall depicting the Kalchakra Avatar of Lord Buddha is perfect for some vibrant photography.
The topmost room is the Buddha Temple where miniature of different stupas has been showcased. Do read about each stupa depicting life phase/ milestone achieved by Lord Buddha. The stupas with steps, lotus, square steps, bell shape have their own meanings giving us information about the life of Buddha.
Admire the beautiful side of Buddhism at Kalchkra Temple
Followed by Mahayana sect of Buddhism, Kalchakra temple depicts the ten avatars of Lord Buddha, on its walls. As per the Mahayana sect, after the renunciation, Lord Buddha’s Kalchakra Avatar preached at Amravati, the new capital of Andhra, and gave knowledge about ‘tantra’, the karmic and tantric procedure to attain moksha. The knowledge of Mandala and thangka painting spread in the sect after His preaching. Feel free to ask questions to the lamas who would give you detailed information on your queries. The huge idol of Kalchakra minutely carved and decorated with metal designs and ornaments is a beautiful thing you would notice in the temple.
Namgyal monastery is also the part of the temple premise where the young lamas are taught about the facts of Buddhism and importance of meditation.
Meet and discuss your queries and worries with Dalai Lama
Right in front of the temple, is the residence of Dalai Lama whom you can meet with prior appointment and relevant purpose of the meeting. You can enquire at the office at the front right corner, where you would be given the time for the meeting depending upon the availability of the Lama.
In case you are visiting for the short period of time, you can drop a detailed mail with the days of your visit, your profession, a description about yourself and the purpose of the meeting.
The Tibet Museum
The Tibet museum is an another place you must not miss in the temple premise. Each photo, item or the description will lead to the increment in the emotional attachment with the condition of Tibetans living in Tibet rules by China. Every Indian would be able to relate it with their history lessons about the free fighters and movements against the British.
With the occupancy of Lhasa Palace and other cities of Tibet by China, the innocent weaponless lamas had to find refuge to surrounding countries. This was when, Indian government complied and permitted the Tibetan colonies in Dharamshala, Ladakh, Bylekuppe and other north east states where Buddhism is quite prevalent.
The documentaries shown at the museum at 11 am and 3:45 pm will guide you more about the struggle to free Tibet.
- Time: 9 am to 6 pm
- Entry: Free
Get enchanted by the beauty of St. John’s Church in the wilderness
The church is located in not so deep forest area 1km away from the market square on the way down to Dharamshala. If you are moving towards Dharamshala you will see the beautiful stone architecture on your left hidden among the Cedar trees. Evenings and early mornings are quite peaceful as well as less crowded. The front left of the church has the heaviest iron bell of India which was transferred from England. The building had lost its charm during an earthquake and was then rebuilt from its ruins. The backyard was used as a crematory and the martyrs of the wars were cremated here.
Apparently, it has become the loveliest place away from the hustle and bustle of the main town.
Try your hands at street photography in the market
The vibrant and delicate jewelries, kettles, wall hangings and dream catchers turns out to be the best street photography subjects. In case you do not want to buy anything, the sellers on the roads are quite generous to allow you to take a few pictures. You can see a few of the clicks of mine at the temple road stalls.
Hog on the Tibetan, Italian and Himachali delicacies
The Moon Peak café on Temple road serves Himachali Thali which is good if you are keen to try not so spicy food while Snowlion on Jogiwara road serves heavenly mocha coffee and pastries. If you wish to dine with a view, you can go to Carpe Diem; they serve good Italian and Mexican food and has a great ambiance to spend your evenings. For authentic Tibetan delicacies you must try Peace Café or Norbulingka Café. The restaurant at Om Hotel also serves great veggies. Jimmy’s Italian kitchen is something you shouldn’t miss at any cost.
Volunteer for conversation classes at LHA
This is a perfect way to connect with local Tibetans. From Monday to Friday, from 3:45 am to 5:00 runs the conversation classes where you would just have to sit with 3-4 students and converse about daily life, culture and philosophies or any random topics. I came across many interesting thoughts and facts about Buddhism and Tibetan culture. On my first day I got chance to discuss the beliefs of Hinduism and Indian culture with a Lama. I was glad to know that they had keen interest in the country where Buddhism originated and spread far and wide. On another day we discussed the troubles and efforts taken by Tibetans to reach India just to meet Dalai Lama. It is literally enlightening to brush your mind and feed it with unlimited knowledge on culture, humanity and existence of life on this planet.
Hike to Bhagsu Waterfall upto Shiva Café
The chilling water of Bhagsu waterfall is ever refreshing. Though you can have a dip into the pool in front of the temple, the fun of getting drenched in the flowing natural water is incomparable. Once you have enjoyed enough, you can climb a little further to sit among the flower plants grown outside Shiva Café and devour the amazing view of the valley while sipping on a hot cup of ginger lemon tea.
The café and the waterfall are overcrowded during peak times, that are late morning or evening/night. Shiva café is the hub for the stoners, who get high as the sun goes down.
Have a glimpse within your heart at Tushita
If you have been a hyper active creature like me, Tushita is a great place for you to take a break. Tushita, is a meditation centre , located away from the touristy joints and noisy restaurants. Located at the edge of hills, the place provides you with extreme serenity where you can be just with yourself. Apart from enjoying the peaceful ambience of the place, you can also read a few books at the library open for all. In case you would like to have an experience, you can go for a free guided meditation from 9:30 am to 10:30 am. One can also opt for a week-long course on Buddhism at Tushita or can opt for a regular course on meditation. Mantra chanting and documentary session is held on festivals. Documentaries are shown on Saturdays.
Once you have fed your mind enough with thoughts, your tummy would surely crave for some sugar bites, and don’t worry, the shop outside Tushita at the rickshaw stand has everything to satisfy the cravings of your taste buds. Try homemade chocolate bars and black currant cookies at this Himachal Café. Parathas, Banana curd, omelets and sandwiches can also be tried here.
- Location: Dharamkot Rickshaw Stand
- Time: 9:30 am to 12:00 pm and 4:00 pm to
Enjoy camping under the stars at Triund and touch the snow line
Trekking up to the Triund hill enjoying the view of the valley covered in the blanket of cloud is an experience of lifetime. It is a medium range trek to the foot hills of Dhauladhar mountain range. Believe me, your heart will dance will glee when you would see the sky turning bright orange during the sunset, and when the sky gears up for the party with thousands of twinkling stars and the warming bonfire. For more details you can read The Triund Trail and to read my unforgettable experience, read The Triund Saga.
You can extend the trek till Indrahar Pass which would take 2-3 days more but the advantage is you can set up your camp in the snow. It isn’t preferable to move ahead without a guide for the extended trek.
The list of the things to do at Mcleodganj is never-ending and to know which all places you can visit from Dharamshala read Roam Around Dharamshala
For any query you can leave a comment below & Have a happy time… !!
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