A few years ago, sometime before the onset of the summers in North India, we (a bunch of travelers) were thinking about a destination for a long weekend getaway. After much contemplation we zeroed in on Mcleodganj, a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India. As it was a long weekend, all trains were booked, and all we got was to find the back seats of a Himachal Tourism bus. We reached Connaught Place (CP) and boarded the bus on a Friday evening. It was a thirteen-hour journey and was quite a bumpy one too, given the potholes and broken patches of road from Chandigarh upwards to the hills!
After the bumpy ride..
We reached Mcleodganj early next day, and without little or rather no sleep at all, we were fresh and energetic. I have often observed that this is what hill stations do to you. The fresh air makes you forget all tirednessr. I remember the first glimpse of the majestic Dhauladar ranges, its snow-capped peaks in the far distance. It was truly beathtaking!
We could only check into the hotel after 11 am. So we kept our luggage in the hotel and headed to find some breakfast. We finally settled in Ogo’s, an Italian joint. We ordered a variety of breakfast. But the most interesting was the Tibetian breakfast. First came the pan cake among other things and a cup of salted tea!! Yes, you read it right, it was salted. And when we were all ready to pay the bills, there was a big bowl of porridge waiting to settle itself amongst us! We had to excuse ourselves from it. Well, we had no room left in our stomachs, so we paid the bill and went straight to the Dalai Lama Temple. We could hear the the monks chanting in Tsuglagkhang (Dalai Lama temple). The 14th Dalai Lama resides here. And if you are lucky enough, you even hold a chance to see him. Well we were not among those.
Visit to the Dalai Lama temple and market area
Traversing the market, looking at singing bowls, and other artifacts, we walked on and reached the St John’s Church, one of the oldest Gothic churches in the country. It is worth a visit, especially to see its Gothic architecture. When we reached there, it was almost dark and closed, we still went inside, it was eerie. Later on the second day, we found that there is a cemetery next to the Church! No, nothing haunted us the previous night!
With some boating in the Dal Lake surrounded by pine and oak trees and a visit to Bhagsunag temple (which is about 20 minutes from Mcleodganj), our holiday was just going perfect. Further above the temple is a waterfall where we enjoyed the gushing water. I have so far been to about 15 odd hill stations, but Mcleodganj has something different about it.
Time for some serious fun!
The next day we we planning to get some adrenaline rush. After talking to the locals, we found out there is a trek that can be taken to Triund (about 9 km from Mcleodganj). The trek is quite strenuous, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. We spent the entire day hiking and reach the tabletop only at about 3 pm. Some trekkers prefer to go only till the Magic Point- which is about half way. I wonder why there are always these ‘points’ on hill stations – like the sunset point, suicide point and so on. I guess it’s to lure lazy bones to embark on a tiring trek, which they would otherwise give a pass.
Only three of us made it to the top, with fruit juices and water giving us a little relief. This experience will surely be breathtaking yet beatific. So, the troika reached the table top finally and just about when we were about to collapse, we could see the snow clad Dhauladar Ranges – right there in front of our eyes! I stood there in silence taking in the sheer beauty of the mountains! There were other groups of people on the top and we could see some snow flakes on one side of the table top.
After having some soupy maggi noodles we sat there to just look at the mountains – it was quite a calming experience. But it was time to return as it was getting dark. The place is ideal for picnics and one can stay overnight in the tents on the hilltop plateau and wake up to a morning view of the spectacular snow-clad mountains right in front of your eyes.
The descent as always was easy and quick and we reached the base in less than what it took us to reach the top. The trek remains one of the best treks I ever took in my life till now. But the after effects were horrific. Not only were we tanned, I could barely move my legs, even a good foot massage didn’t help and I had to limp around for about a week after the holiday came to an end. But remembering the snow clad mountains it felt that it was just worth it!
A place for everyone
Everyone will find a place and find something interesting to do and see in Mcleodganj. You can enjoy the Tibetan food, multi-cuisine restaurants, good luck charms, thangkas as well as the singing bowls—all of which is spread along the market lanes that takes you to the Dalai Lama temple. This colorful place will surely add a dash of vibrant energy to your life with its rich culture, food, and especially its people.
Whether you are a seeker of spiritualism or a backpacker, the place that every young and every old will definitely enjoy is ‘Little Lhasa’, or more popularly known as Mcleodganj, a hill station in the Dhauladhar ranges in Himachal Pradesh, India.
Best time to visit:
- Between July to September (though tourist throng the place throughout the year)
How to reach:
- It is connected through road from all major cities in Himachal Pradesh and also with regular bus services from Delhi
- The nearest airport is Gaggal (about 15 km from Dharamshala)
- The nearest rail link is at Kangra and Ngrota (about 20 km from Dharamshala)
- It’s recommended to take an overnight bus from New Delhi