McLeod Ganj, most famously known as the ‘seat of Dalai Lama’ or also ‘mini-Tibet’, is peacefully located in the shadow of the mighty Dhauladhars. India is pretty full-on most of the times and the small condensed town of McLeod Ganj is one of the perfect destinations where backpackers from all parts of the world come to find entertainment and enlightenment.
I am never the kinds that travel in taxis & cabs! I love to smell & take in the true flavor of the place I am visiting, love being as close to it as possible. My travel to McLeod Ganj was as ‘local’ & authentic as possible. Post de-boarding the train at Pathankot, which is the nearest railway junction, I hopped on a local bus to Dharamsala. It took me 4 hours & 78 bucks to reach Dharamsala & only 20 minutes & 8 bucks to reach McLeod Ganj!! I had never imagined travelling could be so cheap!! While the bus journey from Pathankot to Dharamsala is not one to be boasted about, the journey uphill from Dharamsala would instantly refresh any traveler. Pristine natural beauty, lush green Dhauladhar mountain range, balmy weather… enough to get anyone feeling a lot better!
Of course the journey uphill to McLeod Ganj is not as smooth. The only thing remarkable about the ride is that once you come to terms with the potholes on the road, which the driver loves speeding into, and remove the curtains that haven’t been washed since like we got independent, and see the mighty Himalayas with snow clad peaks … It’s like “love at first sight”!!
As I stepped down at the McLeod Ganj bus stand, I was greeted by thick clouds playing hide & seek with the Himalayas. For a few minutes it was difficult to see anything beyond a few steps. In those few minutes when my eyes failed me my nose came to my rescue. As I breathed in the coolness of the surrounding, magnifying the sense of harmony associated with the place, I opened my heart to an experience as profound as this one.
As my vision cleared, I noticed how the town was so unlike India! McLeod Ganj is a remarkable vibrant center of Tibetan culture and Buddhism & all the roads seem to lead to Dalai Lama’s temple, ‘Tsuglag Khang’. ‘Namgyal Monastery’ is another important Tibetan site in McLeod Ganj.
Café culture has so patently housed itself in McLeod Ganj. Visit ‘Mandela café’ for the best espresso ever & the fastest Wi-Fi in the town! & Nicks / Kunga for great Americano, cheap cookies and 5 rupee water refills! Rogpa Café is another cool little shop with great décor serving amazing Vegan chocolate cake, awesome flapjacks & Korean style drip-coffee!
Food lovers will love the ever-so-famous ‘momos’ (dumplings) available at every corner in the town … chocolate peanut butter momo must be tried for a western twist! The salty, buttery Tibetan Tea must also not be missed.
The quaint streets of the town, that become much quaint-ter as the sun sets, are full of handsome looking dogs.
September is the most appropriate month to visit McLeod Ganj. The town is green & glowing during this time of the year & is covered with multi-colored umbrellas. No blog about McLeod Ganj can ever be complete without the mention of these super cute multi-colored jumbo size umbrellas!! The entire town is covered with these in case of occasional little downpour, which is common in September. This is a must buy … prices range between Rs. 60 – Rs. 250.
No trip to McLeod Ganj can be complete without ascending the Bhagsu waterfalls, next to the Bhagsu temple. The water seems to be coming out of nowhere, when viewed from the base of the fall. Covered with green on both the sides & colorful flags from one end to another, the waterfall is considered to have cleansing properties. Mid way there is a small cute café called “No Name Café” serving amazing hot tea & delicious Maggi.
McLeod Ganj is house to several travelers & tourists all year round, yet the town has magically retained a sense of rustic authenticity. It is a place that is waiting to be discovered & can be discovered in multiple unique ways. Every traveler can have his / her own story of the town. & there lies its beauty!