There’s a mystic appeal about the Himalayan mountain range and its various hill-stations that attracts every human being and successfully teases their curiosity by drawing them deeper into its surreal realms. Maybe the power to mesmerize lies in its towering mountains, the magnificent guardians and overseers of times so old. Maybe its beauty lies in its sparkling crystal clear rivers, seemingly subtle but relentless in their fury. Maybe it’s the populace, people with disarming smiles and welcoming arms, who embrace the outsiders and make them feel at home. Or maybe it’s the fresh mountain breeze that stimulates our minds and pulls us out of the darkest of abysses. And in this line of oft visited Himalayan towns like Shimla, Manali and Kullu comes McLeod Ganj, which is basically a suburb of the mountain town of Dharamshala. It is situated in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh.
McLeodGanj: The Name
Located at an altitude of 6831 feet, McLeod Ganj is home to a large number of Tibetan refugees and serves as the base station for the exiled Tibetan Government and their spiritual head, Dalai Lama. It is located on the Dhauladhar mountain range and lies just in front of its highest peak, the Hanuman-Ka-Tibba. Named after a late British Governor who served in Punjab, McLeod Ganj, at an elevation of 1750 feet, has better weather than its counterparts in the lower parts of Dharamshala.
Main AttractionsYou can cover all the interesting tourist spots in McLeod Ganj in 2 days, and an additional day can be spent roaming through the deciduous growth and exploring the other parts of Dharamshala. Being home to the thousands of Tibetan refugees, McLeod Ganj is the place to explore if you are interested in Tibetan culture and crafts. Tsuglag Khang, the Dalai Lama’s temple, is an important site to visit once you are in the suburb, preferably on the first day of your trip. The temple has statues of the bodhisattvas Shakyamuni, Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava. McLeod Ganj has many other Buddhist sites including Namgyal Monastery and Nechung Monastery, the Mani Lakhang stupa and the Gompa Dip Tse-Chok Ling, which is the smallest monastery in the region.
The Karmapa, who is the spiritual and religious head of Tibetan Buddhism, lives in the Gyuto Monastery near Norbulinga. The second day can be well spent by visiting Triund and other sites. Triund, located around nine kilometers from McLeod Ganj, is a famous spot for trekking and other adventure sports. The spot offers spectacular views of the valley and the surrounding mountains, so it’s one hot tourist hub anytime during spring or autumn. The Dal Lake is yet another famous location in McLeod Ganj. Other sites you can visit are the Chinmaya Tampovan and the Osho Retreat Center. Major part of McLeod Ganj can be covered walking, but in case you see the necessity, you can hire Cars, Motorcycles and Auto-Rickshaws for travel within the city.
Planning your trip
The monsoon in Dharamshala is one-of-its-kind; hence visiting McLeod Ganj during the monsoon, that is, July-September is not advisable. The temperature during the summer can reach a peak of 38 degrees and the same could drop below freezing point during winter. Hence the ideal time to visit McLeod Ganj would be sometime between December and March. And, Losar, the Tibetian New Year is celebrated sometime in February, which is one of the major festivals there, and would certainly add more fun to your trip.
Reaching thereThe easiest and most preferred way to reach McLeod Ganj is through bus and road travel. Buses ply from Delhi to Dharamshala, and local and regional buses are available for access to McLeod Ganj. Buses from Delhi charge 400-500 INR for Deluxe coaches to McLeod Ganj. Kangra and Nagrota are the nearest narrow gauge stations, while Pathankot is the nearest broad gauge station. Gaggal airport, located at a distance of fifteen kilometers from Dharamshala, is the nearest airport. Air travel, however, is not advisable due to unpredictable weather. Being a suburb, it is easy to travel by foot to the various places of interest once you reach your destination.
The Bhagsu Hotel and Hotel Tibet offer clean, spacious and tidy rooms for moderate prices of around 1000-2000 INR. Glenn Moor cottages, known for their peaceful and quiet surroundings, offer rooms for slightly higher prices, and are frequented by various celebrities. McLeod Ganj, though is not a shopping hub, it is an excellent place to shop for shawls and paintings. The Tibetan art and craft there could serve as a souvenir for your trip. Om Hotel, in McLeod Ganj, offers great Tibetan food for cheap prices, while Pema Thang’s Guest House offers continental and general vegetarian fare for moderate prices. So, it costs around 1500 – 2000 INR for a couple to stay there for a day.
McLeod Ganj offers the entire Himalayan experience without burning a hole in your pocket, so just book your tickets and have an experience of a lifetime!