My definition of McleodGanj in Himachal Pradesh: “A serene little place where any mountain-lover would want to settle and open up his own café”.
McleodGanj was in my checklist since years. Blame it on my secret desire to lounge in the Himalayas and experience the trance scene in the mountains, at least once in my life! I'm always onto some adventure in the Himalayas, otherwise..
I had planned it few weeks after my Chadar Trek (Feb end - when the temperature touched 0 degrees and tourists were away), as a reason to unwind myself in the place I call my second home. The Himalayas. One of those things I am addicted for life! And I would say, this cozy place tucked in the Dhauladhar Range of Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh served me just right.
The best thing about this place is that it lends fluidly to different genres of travel. There's something for everyone here.
Stay at one of the cozy guest houses overlooking the snow-capped mountains
Enjoy teas and food at different cafes. I bet the freshness that oozes out in the food here will leave you spellbound. I would recommend to explore as many cafes as possible, you will find unique things at each one of them.
Walk around the vibrant streets and explore exciting things - monks on streets and cafes, Tibetan massage parlors, tattoo studios, handicrafts, paintings, flea shopping. The local wines here are worth a try, they are available in various flavors like plum wine, apple wine, kiwi wine to name a few. You can actually walk around the entire town on foot.
Enjoy some lip smacking street food. The uncle at the Tibet Quality Bakery is so sweet that you'll want to stop over and buy something every time you cross him. And the momos here are just too irresistible.
Walk to Bhagsunath and climb to Bhagsu waterfall (30 minutes). Climb a little further and get into Trance at Shiva Café, and don't be surprised to see a "baba" welcome you here.
McleodGanj has very strategically located Monasteries and church which makes them special. There are quite a few yoga and meditation centers for spiritual journeys.
Gyuto Monastery in Sidhbari (15 kms from McleodGanj) is located amongst lush green fields in serenity with Backdrop of the Dhauladhar mountains. The monks here are known for their "chordal chanting".
Dip Tse-Chok Ling is a small Monastery located among trees in beautiful valley which is 300 mtrs below McleodGanj
St. John in the Wilderness is a very old church from the 1850s, located amongst dense deodar trees. The peace inside as well as outside the church is one thing to be looked forward to.
Seat of Happiness Temple (Deden Tsuglakhang) in Sidhbari (15 kms from Mcleodganj) is located inside Norbulingka Institue. This institute is a prime center for Tibetan art and culture. Various Tibetan art forms like painting, sculpture, fabrics, woodwork are taught and displayed here. It also has a doll museum depicting Tibetan culture.
Rent a bike and ride through the tea gardens of Palampur (approx. 40 kms from Mcleodganj) and Bir (approx. 60 kms from McleodGanj).
Paragliding: Bir-Billing, at the height of 2400 mtrs, is 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 McleodGanj.
Trekking to Triund (9 kms, 2800 mtrs height): Its a 4-5 hrs ascend and 2-3 hrs descend. Facilities are there to eat and stay there overnight, else you can carry your own tents to camp there. Hike further for 6-7 hrs (9 kms) to reach Lahesh caves after crossing the Snow Line. This route further leads to Indrahar Pass.
Where to Stay:
There are ample of options from guest houses to homestays to resorts. I'll give a brief idea about the map of McleodGanj and you can choose where you would like to stay.
Jogiwara Road: This road has lots of cafes, stores, flea shopping and guest houses. Pink House, situated around 100 steps below the main road, is one guest house which is famous amongst the backpackers .
Bhagsu Road: The cheapest of the accommodations can be found on this road. It also has a variety of cafes including few organic cafes. You'll find lots of foreigners, mainly Israelis staying here for a long time.
Dharamkot Road: This road is peaceful and almost non-commercialized. Secluded guest houses and homestays can be found here.
Where to Eat:
Each café here has unique and awesome things to offer. You won't regret trying any of the cafes here. I'll list down my favorite ones:
Black Tent Café: Cozy low-sitting, Tibetan decors, Bottomless Teas (They refill your tea mugs with hot water)
Jimmy's Italian Kitchen: Very nice menu, fresh ingredients and cozy dinner place.
Mcllo Beer Bar: It's more like a restaurant, but the only place that serves beer and wine. Rooftop candle-lit dinners are beautiful here.
How to Reach:
If I have been too descriptive about this fascinating place, I won't mind because this place deserves it all! So finally, how to reach there:
By Air – Gaggal airport is the closest (25 km), flight frequency is low and cost is high.
By Road – lots of comfortable HRTC buses available from ISBT Delhi. The buses stop at the Main Square Mcleodganj. McleodGanj is just 9-10 kms away from Dharamsala. Frequent taxis are available from Dharamsala bus station to McleodGanj
Tickets can be booked here: http://www.hrtc.gov.in/hrtctickets/.
The tourist season is from March – June and mid-September - November. Rainy season is from July-Sep. However, if you are one of those kinds who like keeping away from crowds, I would recommend to go just before the season starts . Also, there’s nothing better if you can avoid the weekends.
Over the years, Mcleodganj has become a hub for the expats, who have been lured by the mountains to leave the city life behind. Mcleodganj has slowly turned into a centre for performing arts, creative arts and spirituality in the Himalayas.
Namaste! I'm Medhavi Davda.
I travel to Evolve..
In Nature, I confide..
I find my calling in the Himalayas..
In the Oceans, I meditate..
A High-Altitude Trekker & PADI certified SCUBA Diver, I love exploring the heights and depths of the planet with my regular doses of mountains and oceans.
Discovering myself & life through nature, adventures, travels, sports and dance has been an addiction since my existence!
Quite fond of the natural & cultural diversity of India, I've travelled extensively in my own country before exploring international destinations.
I had left my 9+ yrs of career in Software Industry in a quest to make a living out of my passions. I packed my basics in my car (gave away the rest) and lived in different parts of Himachal Pradesh for 16 months. This invaluable time taught me to experience life from a broader perspective.
I'm currently living in Mumbai to work with an Adventure Travel company as a product manager for Scuba Diving. I continue living a minimalistic life.
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