Written by Kriti Dhingra.
McLeodganj is also referred to as ‘Little Lhasa’. McLeodganj is one among the few places in India where one can witness the right blend of Indian and Tibetan cultures living in peace with one another. Located within the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, there are many things one should try here. From visiting the local markets for purchasing handicrafts and jewellery to dining at its antiquated and vibrant cafes and restaurants, exploring the monasteries to taking an exhilarating trek, there are many activities to do in McLeodganj to make a memorable trip.
So now that you’re ready, let’s take a look at all the places to visit on your first trip to McLeodganj.
1. Dhauladhar Range Trek
The Dhauladhar Range trek is one of the most visually gratifying treks. The name literally translates into ‘White Range’. This peak is visible all throughout the higher altitude treks in Kangra. This trek is worth the view from the top. The highest peak of the ranges is called “Hanuman Ji ka Tibba”. The mountains provide a spectacular view of the Valley, with Pine and Deodar trees covered with snow. The mountain ranges comprise slopes and valleys that are loved by backpackers and trekkers.
Best Time to Visit: September to March
2. Triund Trek
Triund is the easiest Himalayan trek. The trail is short but steep. There are various songbirds along the trail which make it enjoyable. The trek from McLeodganj to Triund takes you through breathtaking landscapes and rocky terrains. The trek starts from Galu Temple in Dharamkot and one has to trek for about 7-8km to reach Triund. One must carry a water bottle and food because it’s a long way. Camping here is an amazing option. There are small shops where you can get Tea and Maggi refreshments. It takes about three to four hours to reach the top. It is a beautiful trail that goes through a mixed forest of oak, deodar and rhododendron.
Best Time to Visit: March to December
3. Namgyal Monastery
The Namgyal Monastery is often referred to as “Dalai Lama’s Temple”. This place opens up your mind and also helps you introspect the true meaning of life. The Dalai Lama is believed to have his home at Namgyal Monastery in McLeodganj. It is also the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet. The inside of the Namgyal Monastery is adorned with paintings, sculptures and images of the Lord. Namgyal Monastery comprises a Tibetan museum, a cafeteria, a book shop and a library. The peaceful ambience that this place creates in the minds of its visitors is enough to attract even those who are not inclined towards this religion.
Best Time to Visit: Summer Season.
4. Bhagsu Falls
Bhagsu Waterfall is situated near Bhagsunath Temple. It is the most famous tourist spot in Dharamshala and attracts many tourists. It is great for people who wish to spend some alone time in peace and enjoy the natural beauty. The cafes and coffee houses nearby serve delicious food and tourists especially love to sit by and enjoy a cup of coffee, while viewing the gorgeous waterfall. The waterfall is truly phenomenal during monsoons. Trekking in this peaceful environment is a blissful experience. The view from the top of the valley surrounding the waterfall is astounding and should not be missed by any nature lover.
Best Time to Visit: April to August, preferably monsoon
5. Bhagsunag Temple
Surrounded by lavish greenery, the Bhagsunag Temple is one of the oldest ancient temples located about 3 kilometres from McLeodganj. Also known as Bhagsunath Temple, it is worshipped by the local Gorkha and Hindu community. Bhagsunath Temple is a shrine of great importance. The two pools around the temple are believed to be sacred and are considered to have miraculous healing powers. The Bhagsunag Temple is on the way to the famous Bhagsu Waterfalls. Tourists can stop by at the temple and seek the blessings of the Almighty. The temple attracts a huge number of followers and tourists throughout the year. The temple is also surrounded by major tourist attractions, such as the Dal Lake and the Kotwali Bazaar.
Best Time to Visit: All Seasons
6. Sunset Point
The sunset at Dhauladhar Range is something that one has never experienced before. It transports you to a whole other dimension as you watch the blue sky blend in with shades of red. It is one of the best places to visit in McLeodganj for photographers and nature lovers. It’s a very calming experience, it rejuvenates you and masks you feel alive. The Sunset can be viewed from the Naddi viewpoint.
Best Time to Visit: All Seasons, but preferably monsoon.
7. St. John’s Church
St. John’s church depicts authentic neo-Gothic architecture. It is one of the oldest built structures of Dharamsala. Dedicated to John – the Baptist, this church is situated in the remote forest area of Forsyth Ganj, and is known for its rock-solid architecture, surroundings, and soothing vibes. The extraordinary church was built in dense woods which is why it is famous as ‘St John in the Wilderness’. It is set in the midst of deodar forest and is full of memorial stones of British soldiers. On the outside, it may look old and abandoned but on the inside, it is very well maintained. This church attracts a lot of tourists, especially on Sundays.
Best Time to Visit: March to June
8. Markets in McLeodganj
Shopping is one of the best things to do in McLeodganj because this hill station is popular for traditional Tibetan hats, bags, trousers and slippers. Singing Bowls produce a beautiful melody when rubbed with a wooden stick. Tourists buy wind chimes, carved boxes, wall hangings, cushion covers, lamps and other colourful items and other souvenirs to bring back for family and friends. There are many craft shops near the Dalai Lama temple. Many shops selling these handicrafts are NGOs and charitable organisations. McLeodganj Central Square has several shops where you can buy Mandala Paintings.
Best Time to Visit: All Seasons
9. Norbulingka Institute
Norbulingka Institute is a popular learning centre that is located 7.5 km from McLeodganj. It is built in a traditional Tibetan Style, set in a beautiful garden of winding paths, flowing streams, small waterfalls and beautiful ponds with a spectacular view of Dhauladhar Mountains in the background. It is a great place to learn about the culture of Tibet and Buddhism. The Norbulingka Institute is a centre for practising Tibetan art and crafts. The structure itself is a fine specimen of Tibetan style of architecture and design. The Losel Doll Museum here tends to be one of the favourites here, which has beautiful dolls depicting the Tibetan cultures and livelihoods.
Best Time to Visit: All Season
10. Kareri Lake
This shallow, freshwater lake is frequently visited by tourists to capture the scenic beauties. The lake starts from McLeodganj and leads up to Karen village. This lake is a great place to admire the natural beauty. Snow, being the main water source, the lake water is crystal clear. Since the water is provided by snow, the lake is quite shallow and in most places, the water bed is visible. A short trek to Kareri Lake makes the trip worthwhile.
Best Time to Visit: September to October; May to June.
11. Dal Lake
The lake is surrounded by rugged mountains and deodar trees. Quaint and calm, the lake invites nature-lovers to watch different kinds of fishes in their natural habitat. Dal Lake is also a perfect place to stop over and relax if you are trekking up to Naddi, also known as the Sunset Point. Tourists can visit Shiva Temple near Dal Lake. A grand fair is organised at the banks of the Dal Lake every September, to mark the presence of Lord Shiva.
Best Time to Visit: May to October; September Festivity
12. Illiterati Café
Illiterati Books & Café is one of the most popular cafes in McLeodganj. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this place is a perfect blend of books served with hot coffee and amazing food. Sitting on the balcony gives you a stunning view of the Dhauladhar range. Amongst the best places to visit in McLeodganj, Illiterati is a book cafe famous for its mesmerising decor. The bookstore cum cafe is ornate with wooden stoves, a vast genre of books and a breathtaking view of the mountains. Apart from the books, there are several board games one can enjoy at the cafe.
Best time to visit: October to February
The little village of Dharamkot is located near Dharamshala and McLeodganj. Dharamkot is a quaint town and is not visited by a lot of tourists. Popularly known as the “Yoga Village”, it is an ideal place to spend some time away, meditating in peace. The tiny village, surrounded by deodar forest, is blessed with astounding views of the Kangra Valley and the mighty Dhauladhar ranges. Dharamkot is home to the Dhamma Sikhara Vipassana Meditation Centre and Tushita Buddhist Meditation Centre. Dharamkot is the base to some of the famous hikes including the Triund trek. This tiny town is said to be a haven and a must-visit for travellers.
Best Time to Visit: September to June
The above list just gives you a short glimpse at the reasons as to why McLeodganj should be on the list of every traveller.
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Kriti Dhingra is a contributor at The Strong Traveller. She is a student at JIMS pursuing Journalism and Mass Communication. She is passionate about reading fiction novels, watching movies, listening to soulful music and travelling. When she’s not writing, you can find binge-watching shows on Netflix.