McLeod Ganj – The land of spirituality

The busy schedule, regular and routine work, calls for a break. A relaxing holiday in some tranquil land can help gearing up for the coming week. Getting away to McLeod Ganj can be a great idea. Well-connected by railways and roadways, it is the perfect place for a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday. A small village in Upper Dharamshala in Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, McLeod Ganj is an incredible retreat for discerning travelers. Often referred to as Little Lhasa, this astoundingly beautiful land is the home of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. Tucked at an elevation of 2,082 m, McLeod Ganj is an irresistible destination, which sprawls across wooded ridges beneath the bleak rock faces of the Dhauladhar Range. The tranquil environment, yet a bustling hamlet, it is the place which is capable of leaving every visitor mesmerized making them visit over and again.

The enchanting land is beautified by the Dhauladhara Range of the Himalayan mountain range as its backdrop and the groves of pine and deod0ar trees lined all along.The captivating and charming McLeod Ganj have been named after David McLeod, who was serving as Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab during the British reign. In the year 1849, the region was annexed by the British soon after the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War, and a subsidiary cantonment for the troops stationed at Kangra was established on the slopes of Dhauladhar. It was a barren land with a rest house, which is termed in Hindi as Dharamshala and owing to it, the area got its name as Dharamshala. Later in the year 1852 it came became the administrative capital of Kangra district. McLeod Ganj developed into a famous summer retreat for the British until the massive earthquake in 1905, which destroyed the entire region. It has now been changed into a Tibetan village with the influx of Tibetan refugees, who fled from Tibet owing to Chinese tyranny in their native soil. In the year 1960, the 14th Dalai Lama sought asylum in this region of Indian together with his followers.

Thousands of Tibetans in exile have found their home in this beautiful land and Tibetan influence can be felt in this area strongly with the existence of monasteries, schools, markets, nunneries as well as meditation centers. Today, the place of untamed natural beauty, it developed into a major center for the study of Buddhism as well as Tibetan culture. A number of volunteers across the globe, who works on community projects intended for refugees, monks, nature lovers, trekkers and people in search of spirituality visits this place. The unusual blend of travelers from all over the World makes the place even more fascinating. It is an ideal destination for trekking as there are a number of treks that are not only capable of giving adrenal thrust but also mesmerize you with its beauty.

Things to do in McLeod Ganj

1. Namgyal Monastery: Trip to the spiritual land of McLeod Ganj will remain incomplete without a visit to the Namgyal Monastery. Overlooking the Dhauladhar mountain range, it is located within the premises of Tsuglagkhang Complex, which also the residence of His Holiness The Dalai Lama. It is also the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama and has about 200 monks, symbolizing all four main Tibetan monastic ancestries. The monastery was originally founded by Sonam Gyatso, the 3rd Dalai Lama in 1575, which was later shifted to McLeod Ganj in India. It serves as the center for Buddhist studies, meditation and teachings. It houses a gilded statue of Lord Buddha, which is about 9ft tall together with the statues of Guru Rinpoche and Chenresig. The temple opens at 4:30 am and closes at 8:30 pm every day. It is visited by a massive crowd of tourists, Buddhist followers, local people, etc. on a daily basis.

2. Bhagsunath Temple: One of the must-visit place in the astoundingly beautiful land of natural beauty is the Bhagsunath Temple. It is an ancient temple, which was destroyed by the earthquake in 1905 and was rebuilt again. It was built by King Bhagsu and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is about a kilometer from the town of McLeod Ganj and is thronged by devotees every day. The temple is situated amid lush greenery and placid lake at an elevation of 1770 m above sea level. The way to the temple has several café and restaurants along with the exhilarating beauty of the nature. The ambiance is filled with spirituality, and the pools that surround the temple is believed to have curative power and is sacred for both locals and tourists.

3. Bhagsu Waterfall: About 2 km trek from the town and about 500 m from Bhagsunath Temple is the Bhagsu Waterfall. It is set in the midst of lush greenery and soaring hills with mesmerizing landscape. The walk passed through the Bhagsu Village and the pool in Bhagsunath Temple, you will reach this amazingly beautiful waterfall that cascades from a high hill into a gorge, which offers a spectacular view. The waterfall during monsoon cascades from 30ft flanked by lush green mountains. There are some tea stalls that serve tea, coffee and snacks where visitors can enjoy hot tea and snacks while witnessing the spectacular waterfall. If you trek a little more above the waterfall, there is a café which is a haven for peace lovers.

4. Tibet Musem: Located within the Tsuglagkhang complex, Tibet Museum offers a glimpse of the brilliant Tibetan art. The museum attracts a huge crowd of tourists and displays paintings, pottery, historical documents and handicrafts. It gives the visitors an insight of the rich culture of Tibet as well as the struggle of the Tibetan people during the oppression of China in Tibet. The museum also displays Tibetan architecture, which is unique and beautiful.

5. St. John Church: One of the oldest church in the entire Himachal Pradesh, the St. John Church was built in the year 1852. It is located on the way to McLeod Ganj from Dharamshala. Displaying neo-gothic architecture, it is an important church in Himachal Pradesh and has been named after a Baptist missionary St. John. It is the resting place of the Governor General as well as viceroy of India during British Reign, Lord Ergin. It offers a tranquil and serene environment and is surrounded by pine trees, which adds to its beauty.

6. Dal Lake: Dal lake is another popular tourist attraction of the town, which is about 3km from the market. The lake is named after the Dal Lake in Srinagar but is quite smaller as compared to it. The lake offers boating facility and is surrounded by deodar trees, adding to its beauty. There is also a temple near the lake dedicated to Lord Shiva and attracts a horde of devotees from the nearby villages.

Besides these places, you can as well go for trekking to Triund and Dharamkot, which is a small village located above the spiritual town of McLeod Ganj.

McLeod Ganj Traveling Tips

1. How to reach: Traveling to McLeod Ganj is not difficult as it is well-connected with both railways and roadways. It is true that traveling to hill station is difficult, but visiting this enchanting land isn’t difficult. There are direct buses from Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi to McLeod Ganj, which takes about 10 hours. The non-AC bus fare ranges from Rs. 650 to Rs. 750, which varies from one service provider to another. You can as well take a bus from Kashmiri Gate to Dharamshala and from there you can get local buses up to McLeod Ganj. There is go by train, which goes from New Delhi Railway Station to Pathankot and from Pathankot, you can take a local bus or taxi up to this Tibetan village.

2. Best time to visit: The ideal time to visit this citadel of natural beauty is between February to June and from September to November. Monsoon season, i.e. between July and August should be avoided. December and January are also not very good months to visit this place owing to heavy snowfall and road might be closed during this time, but if you want to enjoy snow you can definitely visit it. October and November are the best time for trekking in Triund, which a 1 day trek from this spiritual land.

3. Accommodation: Owing to the growing popularity of the place among the travelers and vacationers across the globe, there are umpteen accommodation options in the town. Ranging from luxury hotels to budget hotels and guest houses to Homestay, there are different options speckled all over the town. You can even find good hotels at low as Rs. 500 per day with different facilities for a comfortable stay.

4. Where to eat: Eating at McLeod Ganj is not a problem. You can start from having American or European breakfast and end up with Tibetan or Chinese dinner. There are even roadside stalls that serve different cuisine at cheap rates, which you can savor. There are a number of cafes that sever a variety of beverages along with Wi-Fi facilities.

5. Where to shop: A trip to any place is incomplete without shopping and in the same way your trip to this captivating land is incomplete without a small shopping spree. There are a number of shops in the main town that sells a variety of Tibetan artifacts, prayer Thangkas, bronze statues and lots more. Jogibara Road, Bhagsu Road and Temple Road are some of the popular places for shopping. If you want to buy some authentic hand-woven Tibetan carpets, you can visit the Tibetan Handicrafts Cooperative Center.

McLeod Ganj is a must-visit travel destination in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is an ideal destination for those discerning travelers who are in search of tranquility and peace. It is a spiritual land and if you are lucky enough, you can even meet The Dalai Lama. It is a place to relax and enjoy a rejuvenating vacation.
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