This post should have been up a long time back so to those who have been waiting, my sincere apologies. I’ve always wanted to write about my travel experiences on the blog but somehow never quite got into it. This year, things will change for sure. If you like reading about new places, if you are a travel bug like I am, watch out for some travel related posts on the blog. Dunno where I’m going yet but I’ll definitely plan some interesting places to visit in 2016. In this post, let’s talk about McLeod Ganj or Little Lhasa.
In November, I made a short trip to Amritsar and from there, took a bus to McLeod Ganj, a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time. First thing first. McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala are not the same. They are separate places and McLeod Ganj, the now home of the Dalai Lama is a suburb of Dharamshala and higher up. If you are going from Amristar, it takes about five hours and the roads are quite good so the ride will be a pleasant one. As with all hill stations, there are restrictions imposed on vehicles moving around within the place and from 6 pm – 8 pm, cars are not allowed inside. We reached the McLeod Ganj taxi/bus stand around 7 and had to walk up to our hotel with our heavy suitcases and bags. The distance was not much but the roads are extremely steep and by the end of our walk, we were all panting like dogs. Case in point, unless you love climbing steep mountain roads, don’t have young children or elderly folks and a lot of luggage, reach before 6 pm.
McLeod Ganj is a small place and if you are the typical tourist who gets up at 5 in the morning and wants to go out ‘sightseeing’ the entire day ticking off a ‘places to see’ list, you will be disappointed. There are not many places to visit but if you like quaint, peaceful and quiet hill stations, if you like walking around and discovering a place at your own pace, if you like sitting in small cafes enjoying a cup of hot honey ginger lemon tea (which is a Mcleod speciality btw and every café serves it. Must try!) and a chocolate cake while reading a book or looking at the mountains in front, you will love McLeod Ganj. Not that there is nothing to see. I would recommend visiting these places:
- The Dalai Lama’s temple – obviously the first choice. When the Dalai Lama is in McLeod, there is a specific time when he comes out to bless those who visit the temple. Find out about this beforehand. Outside the Dalai Lama temple, there are plenty of roadside shops selling trinkets and charms. Don’t miss these shops and do bargain.
- St John in the Wildnerness – An Anglican church which has the memorial of the British Viceroy, Lord Elgin. I love old buildings and I was fascinated by the architecture and feel of this small church which was built in 1852. The beautiful stained glass windows are worth seeing.
- Bhagsu waterfall – You have to climb a mountain to see this waterfall and it is rather steep so be prepared. Best to go during June-August when there is water. The waterfall is nothing spectacular but the hike is worth it because of the beauty of the mountains.
- Guna Devi temple – 8 kms from McLeod Ganj. The temple is located on top of a hill and the road leading to the temple is pathetic and full of pot holes. However, once you reach, the view is beautiful. Have a cup of tea from the small tea stall, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the view. Oh, and you will have a lot of langoors for company as well!
- Naddi – Want to catch a glimpse of the Dhauladhar mountain range? Go to Naddi, situated 2 kms away from the hustle and bustle of McLeod Ganj. And while you are there, don’t forget to eat aloo and gobi parathas from one of the roadside eateries. Piping hot served with a special achaar, these parathas are incredibly tasty!
Done with the sightseeing bit, now let’s come to my favorite part of any trip. The food! There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in McLeod but mind you, majority is vegetarian. If you are a hard core non-veg like I am, it can get a bit difficult but fret not, the vegetarian food is very nice. The places where I ate and loved the food are:
- Momos from the street stalls
- Pizza at Jimmy’s Italian
- Honey ginger lemon tea available pretty much everywhere
- Traditional Veg Himachali Thali at Moon Peak Espresso Coffee Shop. They make awesome cakes as well
- Tibetan Bakery, a small roadside stall. Try their chocolate chip cookie. Soft, chewy and very chocolatey!
There are plenty of other places to eat at McLeod. Next time, I’m going to Carpe Diem and Common Ground café. Also have to try the legendary Bhagsu cake which unfortunately I missed having this time.
Shopping at McLeod is limited to silver and artificial jewelry, Tibetan artifacts, winter wear, hand knitted scarfs, mufflers, caps and sweaters, Kasmiri shawls and stoles. If you are looking for authentic precious and semi-precious stones and crystals, go to John’s Crystal Cave on Jogiwara Road. He has some amazing stuff and I bought a few pieces from him. For Kashmiri shawls, there is a store next to Moon Peak coffee shop (forgot the name). He has a huge collection and everything is reasonably priced.
I was at McLeod for only two days and loved my stay. I put up at Hotel Mount View, an economically priced hotel. The location is slightly far from the main area where all the shops and cafes are but everyone at the hotel was really nice and friendly. They also arrange for day trips to nearby tourist destinations so find out at the reception. This stay was a short one but the place is so charming, I can’t help but think of going back!
Have you visited McLeod Ganj? Did you find this post useful? Do share your comments below and let me know if you want to read more such travel posts on the blog.