Tag Archives: Visiting Mcleodganj

Your quick guide to Dharamsala
Your quick guide to Dharamsala


Things to do and places to eat at in Dharamsala


Everything you need to know to make the most of your time in Dharamsala. A wonderful blog shared by our friend, Yoga Instructor and more, Chris. You can find more of his musings here.

Dharamsala is a word that you’ll hear many travelers you come across speak with fondness.  When you first arrive in the mountain city at the foothills of the Himalayas it is easy to see why.  Green surrounds you as far as the eye can see from both the grass on the ground and the myriad of trees descending down valleys and up mountain peaks.  This is a sharp contrast to the dusty terrain that covers much of India and this change in environment creates its own special vibes.

Many tourists come to Dharmsala to escape the rising temperatures in the south before monsoon approaches (around May and June).  Some come for the chance to meet the Dalai Lama, who calls Dharamsala his home in exile from Tibet.  You can take courses on Buddhism, attend workshops covering all different topics from people around the world, go trekking to waterfalls or the forest depths, or just enjoy the slower paced life in the mountains.

Be warned that the weather can change very quickly in Dharmsala.  The sun may be smiling one hour and the heavens pouring down furiously the next.  But those storms can make for some epic lightning shows and the rain supports all the green around you.

Dharamsala is split up into three main areas for tourists, each with a slightly different vibe.

McCleodganj

This is the central hub of Dharamsala with many shops and restaurants and views of the distant snow covered mountain peaks.

Lung Ta Japanese Restuarant: This is one of my favorite restaurants in all of India.  The menu is all vegetarian and there are daily specials for each day of the week, from sushi to tofu steak with a variety of delicious accompaniments.  Make sure you arrive in plenty of time before they close as there will likely be a wait for a table to open up.  Definitely a must try while in Dharamsala.

Cinema:  There is a small cinema showing both Tibetan movies and new releases.  They show a few movies each day and post a weekly schedule on the notice boards.

Third Eye Tattoo:  If you’re looking to get a tattoo done there are many artists in Dharamsala.  I got one done by my friend KD at Third Eye Tattoo and can’t recommend him highly enough.  KD is very helpful and friendly, the studio is very hygienic, and most importantly the resulting artwork is amazing.

Bhagsu

The areas of Bhagsu and Dharamkot are around a 20 minute walk from McCleodganj.  Bhagsu typically has a wide range of tourists filling its restaurants.  If you want more solitude I suggest finding a guesthouse in Upper Bhagsu.  The higher up the mountain you go, the less noise there is.  Keep in mind this will add a small hike to anywhere you are going, but the views and sense of peace is well worth it.  There is also a public pool a few minutes’ walk from the main area of town on the way to the small waterfall so you have a few options to cool off during hot days.

Singh Corner:  While in Bhagsu you will see bright gold little boxes everywhere.  They are the wrapping for the infamous Bhagsu cake, invented at the Singh Corner restaurant.  This delicious blend of chocolate, caramel, and cookie crust is highly addictive and only 30 rupees for normal version (white chocolate and peanut butter additions are a bit more).

A bite of Bhagsu cake, definitely makes us happy

Art Cafe: This little hangout is truly unique in that all of the food is by donation.  A set menu involving a tasty soup, salad, and sandwich is offered as well as some vegan options.  Eat as much as you like and pay what you think appropriate, all proceeds go to benefiting a great cause to help children in need.

Dharamkot

Located just across the valley from Bhagsu is Dharamkot.  Dharamkot is very similar to Bhagsu and if you want more privacy once again just head up the mountain to Upper Dharamkot.  This area is a haven for Israelis as conversations in Hebrew pour out of many great restaurants.

Trimurti Garden:  The Trimurti Garden is a great place to grab a healthy bite to eat.  They have really good kombucha and vegan cakes available and a nice communal area to enjoy the garden.

The Bone and Body Clinic:  Many people come to Dharmsala for chiropractic work from Ringo and his staff.  People suffering from back pain and spinal issues speak very highly of the clinic and often stay months to work on alleviating chronic issues.

Tashita: Tashita offers 10 day introduction to Buddhism courses as well as different Buddhist and mindfulness related retreats.  You can join daily meditation by donation Monday-Saturday at 9:30. 

Things to do:

Trek to Triund:  Triund is the most famous destination in the area and rightly so.  A couple hour hikes up the mountains is rewarded with views of snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and all of the tiny houses spread out before you for kilometres on end.  There is a truly special energy to this area.  You can hike an additional 45 minutes to the snowline and have yourself a snowball fight or camp out overnight underneath the stars (or rent a tent or guesthouse).  You can hike up the mountain and be be back by mid-afternoon, there are many little chai shops along the way if you need some fuel for the journey.

Waterfalls:  There are two waterfalls nearby, one close to Bagsu and another on the opposite side of the mountain from Triund.  The first will take around 15 minutes to reach from Bagsu and is quite small but has a pool at the base you can submerge yourself in.  The latter is about 1-1.5 hours from Dharamkot.  While it doesn’t have a large sheer drop, you can follow the river up for a long time towards the mountains, climbing over large rocks and finding many pools of shockingly cold water along the way.  A very nice way to spend the day in the nature.

Courses and Yoga: Just check the posters around town to see what workshops are being offered.  There are many music schools if you’d like to learn bansuri (Indian flute), sitar, drums, or how to sing.  Thai chi, yoga, crystal healing, and everything in between are going on weekly so keep your eyes open for anything that draws your interest.  There are also a few schools offering yoga teacher trainings (such as Trimurti Yoga and Sarvaguna Yoga, which also offers meditation trainings).

Look out for interesting things like htis

In Conclusion

Dharamsala is an easy place to connect with nature and meet many interesting people.  There’s always new classes and workshops going on every week and amazing views every day, although it can rain heavily for days at a time.  If you are a hardcore nature buff, make sure to explore other parts of Himachal Pradesh as well such as the Parvati Valley and Manali.  Dharamsala allows you to choose whether to hang out all day in a cafe surrounded by interesting people, find peace and quite in the mountainside, or get involved in a variety of interesting activities.

 


Trekking in Mcleodganj Dharmshala
Trekking in Mcleodganj Dharmshala

Trekking options from McLeodganj

A good friend of India Someday, Aditya Lalla shares his stay and trekking experience in text and pictures.

Walking across McLeodganj takes all of twenty minutes. Built up around a one way ring road (Temple Road going downhill, Jogiwara Road going back up) and a handful of side roads branching out from the main square at the Northern tip of the circuit, McLeodganj is a fantastic starting point for a number of great treks.

Heading due north out of the main square, through the local khao gully (lit. food lane) and bazaar, you will suddenly find yourself walking on a quiet paved road used only by the locals and the occasional cattle. Known as the Dal Lake-McLeodganj road, it has almost no gradient and is a pleasant, scenic route approximately 2.5km long. Once at Dal Lake, one can either go on a bit higher to Naddi village or visit the Tibetan Children’s Village.

Bhagsu Nag is a small village about 1.5km to the east of McLeodganj. Known for its Shiv temple and spectacular views, it is also the starting point for a short but steep hike going up to Bhagsu Nag waterfall. There is a guardrail, the path is paved, and there are steps for the steeper sections. This is a popular spot for most tourists visiting McLeodganj, so it’s not unusual to see people of all age groups making their way up and down the route.

The most famous trek from McLeodganj is the trek to Triund Hill. You can either start from near the government primary school at Dharamkot, or from the German Bakery at Bhagsu Nag. The route up from Bhagsu Nag is a little shorter, but a lot steeper, and gets too slippery to attempt safely when it’s raining. Both routes meet at a temple called the Gallu Devi Temple which is where the trek really starts.

Near the temple are a couple of cafes. These are the first in a set of three groups of cafes that you will come across on the way up to Triund Hill, and mark the end of the first leg of the journey. Each leg gets progressively steeper and slightly harder to climb, but the path is always well marked, and nowhere does the trek get more than moderately difficult.

Getting to the top takes between 2 & 6 hours, depending on the number of stops made and how quickly you walk, but the view is more than worth the hike. The journey up does give you occasional glimpses of what to expect, but the flat meadow on top of Triund gives you a spectacular panoramic view of the Dhauladhar Range on one side and the plains on the other.

Longer journeys are also possible, walking a 3 or more days circuit looping around to the snow line or onwards through sections of the Dauladhars, but these will require signing up with an experienced group of guides and carrying around the required food and survival gear.

Where to stay in Mcleodganj

8 Auspicious Him View

It’s simple, it’s reasonably priced, and it’s got a view of the Himalayas. A family run guest house on Jogiwara road with surprisingly large rooms, the 8 Auspicious Him View is a quiet and comfortable place to stay. Decor is exclusively pine wood, and the food is vegetarian (with eggs). The rooms are approximately Rs. 3,000 per night and the included breakfast is simple, but excellent.

Where to eat in Mcleodganj

8 Auspicious Him View

Eat the breakfast if you’re staying here. They serve traditional tibetan breakfast food, and it is delicious. Especially the Him View Sandwich.

The Crazy Crepe Pancake (aka The Brew Club Book Club)

A cosy little cafe which serves incredible vegan crepes and waffles, you can choose your batter as well as the toppings (cinnamon oat flour crepe with arpicot sauce? Done!), and the portions are (really) big too (nutella crepe with extra nutella? Done, and done!).

They encourage you to sit around, read, and sip your brew of choice while slowly contemplating which particular crepe will be your indulgence of the day.

Shiva Cafe

Hidden away above the Bhagsu Nag waterfall, Shiva cafe is a great place to relax and while away some time. The path up is partly overgrown in places and not very well marked, but the astonishing view is worth the extra effort. You can choose to sit either inside or outdoors (weather permitting) while snacking on their offerings.

What to carry/wear

Sensible shoes and a sweater or a waterproof jacket (in case it rains) should cover most short treks. Water and snacks are a good idea, but not essential since you’re never too far from a shop or cafe. In case of overnight/multi-day treks—listen to what your guides suggest. The weather can be unpredictable, and the mountains unforgiving.

What else to do in Mcleodganj

McLeodganj is famous for being the residence in exile of Tibet’s spiritual leaders. The Dalai Lama resides here, and the temple complex built around his house is the reason most people visit McLeodganj in the first place. Visitors are freely allowed to walk around the entire complex (except for his holiness’ actual residence) and watch the monks pray, or learn about Tibetan history, or just sit in some of the spectacular gardens.

Do remember however, this is also a seat of political power, and there is a blanket ban on all electronics carried by visitors as well as armed security guards cordoning off certain areas.

The Tibetan Children’s Village is a non-profit integrated educational community for destitute Tibetan children in exile, as well as for the hundreds of those escaping from Tibet every year. The headquarters of the institute are found next to the Dal Lake, and it now has established branches in India extending from Ladakh in the North to Bylakuppe in South, with over 16,726 children under its care.

There are also a number of monasteries, stupas, museums, and libraries scattered in and around McLeodganj with scriptures and histories carried by the people of Tibet to India.