By Surangya Kaur
Home to thousands of refugee Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama also took asylum here when ousted from his own country by China. Its popularity is increasing by the day and the weekends are especially crowded with people flooding in from all the nearby cities in search of a change of weather. It is named after a British governor of the province, Sir Ian McLeod.
In the midst of the majestic Himalyas, this little ville is also known as upper Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Located at an altitude of about 2082 meters, it offers a splendid view of the snow-capped Shivaliks. A view like none other, the image of the high rising mountains hardly distinguished from clouds, seems nothing less than heaven.
Situated on the Dhauladhar range, in the north Kangra valley, it is fondly called as Little Lhasa or Dhasa (short for Dharamshala) by its inhabitants.
The nearest airport is Gaggal which is around 21 km from the main town. It is connected to Delhi.
The nearest railway station is Chakki Bank which is around 76 km (or 2.5 hours) away. It is also connected with Delhi and Kolkata.
From Delhi by road, you will have to traverse the NH1 an NH21 to reach Kiratpur via Chandigarh. From there drive to Kangra and McLeod Ganj is about 31 km from here.
Receiving copious amounts of rainfall, a bright sun is a rare sight for the residents of McLeod Ganj. Dark clouds covering the sky every moment in the monsoons make umbrella shops not hard to find.
The winters are replete with snowfall and sleet and the summer months offer pleasant temperatures. The best time to visit it is from September to June.
Apart from the picturesque sky, not many tourist spots are found here. Being a small town, its biggest attraction is to be called the abode of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. However, we do find a waterfall, the Bhagsu waterfall, close to the Bhagsu temple. But it is nearly impossible to visit it on a busy weekend due to the hordes of people who turn up, it being one of the few tourist attractions. So plan ahead and move out early. If on a short trip, the waterfall can be skipped.
There is also the Dal Lake. Due to Indian Army’s far ranging attempts to widen it, it has lost most of its original splendor and what remains now is merely a pond. Still one should visit it to be nestled in quaint scenery, and feed the pretty goldfish in the pond.
The most significant tourist spots are of course the monasteries and the Buddhist temples, the one absolute must visit being to the Tsuglakhang temple, the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The temple is said to be a replica of the original Tsuglakhang, the main temple in Lhasa lovingly carved by exiled Tibetan craftsmen.
Among the first buildings to be erected here when the British first lodged in is the church of St John-in-the-Wilderness. It has exquisite stained-glass windows depicting John the Baptist with Jesus, and now the only surviving monument of that time.
The place already being so much is also a sheer heaven for foodies. Rows of restaurants line the market, big and small, suitable for all price ranges and offering a multitude of cuisines. The best one would undoubtedly be the café located in the Tsuglakhang temple itself. Training en course, you will be served lip smacking, finger licking food by the future cooks of the Dalai Lama himself. The place offers Tibetan, Chinese and Italian food.
Another note worthy restaurant is Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen. Go here for an amazing variety of pastas, pizzas, coffees and other mouth watering Italian dishes at a great value for money. It also offers a gorgeous view of the hilly sky from its rooftop.
Hotels are a plenty on the weekdays, but finding a room on a weekend in the middle of the vacations can be a real pain in the neck. So you might have to suppress that spontaneous adventurer in you and book ahead, or sleep in the car.
Below are listed some of the best hotels of every price range:
- Himachal Tourism’s Hotel Bhagsu. Tariff: Rs 1000-2000
- Chinar Lodge. Tariff: Rs 1000-1200
- Glenmoor Cottages. Tariff: Rs 1000-3000
The market, although small, offers an eclectic menagerie of stuff. It can keep you occupied for more than a day. But for those here to enjoy nature, regular camps and trekking trips are available for you to take a walk among the pines, mount the majestics and be engulfed in the roaring sky! Of course, you’ll have to plan that prior to reaching the place as the bookings can have quite a long waiting.
A plethora of small events are organized by the Tibetans with the aim of spreading awareness about the plight of their country. These include street plays, photo exhibitions, talks, etc.
And for the spiritual ones (and well others too), nothing can be better than attending the prayers with the Buddhists and being enlightened by their ways of life.
There is definitely something here for everyone!