McLeod Ganj is a small hill station near Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. The place is popular among trekkers and adventure seekers due to scenic beauty and picturesque views. McLeod Ganj is located in the Kangra district and resembles a mix of Tibet and British culture.
McLeod Ganj, an overview
McLeod Ganj is also known as Little Lhasa and is popular worldwide for being abode to Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetans. The lush green mountains are nestled amidst huge mountains and contain some of the most mesmerising natural landscapes in India. Some of the religiously prominent and enchanting monasteries in India can be found in McLeod Ganj including Tsuglagkhag and Namgyal Monastery where Dalai Lama resides.
McLeod Ganj is at an altitude not less than 5,577 feet above sea level on the northern side of Himachal Pradesh, sitting in the laps of the Dhauladhar range. The area is filled with people following Tibetan culture hence is also known as India’ Mini Tibet. With Buddhist and Tibetan influence, this place is also known as ‘Little Lhasa’.
When can you visit McLeod Ganj?
Since the weather in McLeod Ganj is most pleasant between March and June, it is advisable that you must visit McLeod Ganj during these 4 months. If you like to enjoy the cold, visiting between November and February is also preferable. Although you may find the weather a little cloudy during the later one, there are various sightseeing places and a beautiful view of snow-capped hills that are worth watching during the winter season.
How can you reach McLeod Ganj?
One can easily reach McLeod Ganj via air, road or rail. Kangra Airport is the nearest airport if you seek travelling through air and is around 16.9 kilometres away from the city.Tthe nearest railway station is approximately 88.7 kilometres away at the Pathankot Junction Railway Station. You can take a cab or a bus to reach McLeod Ganj.
One another way to reach McLeod Ganj is from Delhi. You fly to Delhi and hire a cab or a bus to visit McLeod is less than 10 hours. Many Volvo buses are easily available that travel between Delhi and McLeod Ganj every day.
Where to eat and stay in McLeod Ganj?
The town has many hotels and restaurants that serve visitors day and night. You can choose a stay according to your trip budget or book them in advance through online travel booking agents. Apart from popular cuisines, do try Tibetan dishes in McLeod Ganj such as momos, thukpa and Tibetan butter tea. Some of the famous cafeterias include Jimmy’s Bakery, Indique kitchen and Tibet bakery that offers delicious baked food.
Top places to visit in McLeod Ganj
One of the most serene and spiritual places in McLeod Ganj is the Tsuglagkhang Complex which is also a holy site for Buddhist pilgrims. The complex offers a view of Tibetan Buddhism and includes many famous buildings such as Tsuglagkhang Temple, Tibetan Museum, Namgyal Monastery, library, café and a book store. You can find many shrine rooms in the compound which has the status of Guru Rinpoche, Lord Gautam Buddha and Chenrezig.
The Namgyal Monastery is another beautiful Tibetan monastery overlooking the Dhauladhar peak. It is said to be one of the biggest monasteries and was set up in the 16th century. This monastery is the 14th Dalai Lama’s seat and has a beautiful statue of Lord Buddha. Many images, scriptures and paintings ornament the monastery’s wall along with various Buddha idols. You can also catch a glimpse of maroon-robed monks chanting, performing daily rituals, meditating and sometimes debating with one another. The Namgyal monastery is regarded as an important place in McLeod Ganj as besides a huge monastery, this place is the centre for education, popularly known as Namgyal Tantric College. The college teaches the art of Vajrakilaya and Kalachakra along with various other tantric practices to the Namgyal Monks.
Within the Tsuglagkhang Complex is the Tibetan Museum which again offers a view of Tibetan culture and traditions through historical documents, pottery, paintings, manuscripts, handicrafts and Thangka images. Additionally, you can also find videos, pictures and interviews of famous people that reflect upon the struggles faced by Tibetans and their migration stories. Archeologically, the museum is built in a classic Tibetan style adding to the charm of the place. There is a souvenir shop too from where you can buy artefacts, handicrafts and various keepsakes.
Bhagsunath Temple and Bhagsunag Falls
At an elevation of 5,577 feet from sea level, Bhagsunath temple is surrounded by lush greenery and the freshwater springs. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. You can find a spring in the temple premises named Bhagsunag falls which is believed to have medicinal properties and hold healing power. The Bhagsunag falls forms a pool at the base because of cascading waterfall. The cold water of the fall serves many spiritual purposes for the town people. You can take a dip in the cold waters and relax on the stones nearby to soak up sun rays while having a view of majestic falls from the top.
After visiting the temple and the falls, do visit Shiva Café that serves authentic Tibetan cuisine besides various other delicacies. The café walls are decorated with Bob Marley posters and psychedelic artwork. The café plays trance music each day which transverses its visitors into a hippie period.
Kora circuit is the prayer-flags draped circuit surrounding the Tsuglagkhang complex which has prayer wheels, pictures of those Tibetans who self-immolated in 2009 to protest against China’s rule against Tibet and Buddhist shrines. This place has huge wheels that can be spin by the visitors while circumnutating the Buddhist shrines or the chortens. Many enthusiastic travellers and Pilgrims visit Kora Circuit every day to explore major attractions in the place.
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts
One must-to-visit place in McLeod Ganj is the local folk opera named Lhamo at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Art. The institute is popular for its music and folk dance that are showcased in Tibetan style. Every year in the summer months, the Tibetan Opera festival named Shoton Festival is organised for nine long days.
Top Things to do in McLeod Ganj
Visit the local market for shopping and souvenir
Although McLeod Ganj is a small town, it has many shopping spots such as McLeod Ganj Central Square that is popular for selling wooden carvings, tapestry paintings and handicrafts. Do visit Nowrojee and Sons General store which abodes in the town for more than 157 years, since colonial past in India. For keepsakes and souvenirs, you can check out Mini market and Kotwali Bazar. You can find some of the best rugs, exotic scriptures and handicrafts in Kotwali Bazar while Jogiwara is famous for artefacts.
Enjoy a Spa treatment, Ayurvedic Therapy and Yoga Session
Many yoga and spa centres can be found in McLeod Ganj where you can relax your body and find peace. Some of the popular centres include Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Centre, Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre and Tushita Meditation Centre. Some of the yoga centres provide yoga sessions and mediation classes to travellers. McLeod Ganj is also famous for various Ayurvedic healing therapies
Boating and chilling at the Dal Lake
At the height of 1,775 metres above sea level, Dal Lake is surrounded by Deodar forest and is only three kilometres away from Mcleod ganj. The lake offers a perfect site for boating, chilling and photography. There is Lord Shiva temple along with a small water spring beside the lake.
Other than Dal Lake, you can visit Kareri lake for boating. The lake is a picture-perfect site for nature’s lovers as it has a good combination of scenic beauty and offbeat trekking in the middle of a snow-capped mountain. You will find the melting snow of the Dhauladhar range very mesmerising that flows into Kareri lake. Along with trekking, many people visit this place for camping and picnic by the lakeside and to enjoy the scenic beauty of the meadow under the Minkiani Pass.
Go Camping and Trekking
If you are an adventure seeker or like trekking, McLeod Ganj is the perfect place for you. You can find many guides who will help you in trekking and camping to the nearby mountains such as Triund. The mountains are a little challenging for the freshers as the trekking areas have steep mountain slopes where the cold breeze blows day and night. Amidst the undulating terrain, you can find many forests that have green rhododendron and oak trees.
Triund trek is considered as one of the most scenic and beautiful treks in India. McLeod Ganj is the base camp for the trek before the mountain trekkers reach the peak of the mountain. To start with, you will have to reach Dharamkot from where a 9 kilometres trek begins leading towards Deodar forest and opening in the Himalayas. Once the elevation arises, picturesque valleys and hilltop views become clearer. When you reach the top of the Triund, far off hills such as the Dhauladhar mountain range can be seen which looks so close as if it can be touched by extending our hands.