Dharamshala and McLeodganj places to visit

Dharamshala and McLeodganj places to visit: After our last year’s trip to Varanasi and Bodhgaya, my friend ‘Smiling Buddha’, Deepak, and I were back on the road again; this time to the abode of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet in Dharamshala (Dharamsala – also known as ‘Little Lhasa of Tibet’). This is my Dharamshala travel blog.

We researched places to visit in Dharamshala in December and developed a four-day itinerary.

We looked for cheap places to stay in McLeodganj and chose a small room through Airbnb – https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/14228545 – one overlooking the Mighty Dhauladhar ranges in McLeodganj.

McLeodGanj houses the Tibetan government-in-exile and is the political, cultural and spiritual hub of the Tibetan diaspora in India.

This is a brief picture story of our trip and covers places to visit around Dharamshala and Mcleodganj.

Flight from Bengaluru to Dharamshala

We took an early-morning flight from Bengaluru to Dharamshala. I slept through a significant part of the journey but woke up to a grumbling stomach. Slurping down a masala-filled cup-o-noodles seemed like a great way to satiate my morning hunger, so I went ahead and ordered one.

Flight from Bengaluru to Dharamshala
About to land in Dharamshala

Just when the 200 rupee cup-o-noodles that I consumed for breakfast onboard my flight to Dharamshala began wreaking havoc in my stomach, the pilot announced our descent. I looked out of the plane window to see the beautiful sight of colourful houses basking in the early morning sunlight with mountains in the backdrop.

The pleasant conditions outside seemed to be in stark contrast to the stormy one building inside of me.

Cup-o-noodles on an empty stomach never again; I scribbled a mental note as I stepped out of the aeroplane.

December morning in Dharamsala
Stepping out to a cold December morning in Dharamsala

Dharamsala in December

Just as I stepped out of the aircraft, I froze. I mean: I froze.

I can take a bit of cold, and I enjoy cold weather. So even though I knew that it would be cold in Dharamsala in December, I hadn’t packed any winter clothing.

Here I was, in my tees and shorts, stepping out into a cold, near-zero degree December morning in Dharamsala.

What was I thinking?! (Whoever finds my peanut-sized brain, please return it. Thank you.)

Dharamsala to McLeodganj by road
Dharamsala to McLeodganj by road

Dharamshala to McLeodganj by road

We hired a prepaid cab from Dharamshala to McLeodganj (one of the best places to visit in Dharamshala). After looking through some of the best places to stay in McLeodganj, we had chosen a basic bed-and-breakfast place through Airbnb, one that had a beautiful balcony with a view of the majestic mountains.

The prepaid cab that I had hired from the airport was driven by a young maniac who drove at top speed through the winding roads, blaring his horns almost non-stop, playing remixed Punjabi songs at high volume and taking calls along the way.

I was thrown around quite a bit but clung to dear life.

Triund Trek

Triund camping near Dharamsala
Triund Camping near Dharamshala. Picture courtesy: Deepak

Deepak, meanwhile, had reached Dharamsala earlier and had decided to do Triund camping (Triund is a small hill station in the Kangra district). He did the Triund trek (an easy Himalayan trek near Dharamshala) and camped there at night.

McLeodganj Street Photos

Walking through the streets of McLeodganj is a great experience (once you learn to ignore the honking vehicles).

Street vendors selling merchandise, eateries, coffee shops and cafes are all cramped up along the narrow streets.

Watch your step, and don’t stumble over cows and sleeping dogs.

mcleodganj city square
McLeodganj city square

Food and prayers go well together – McLeodganj is testimony to this fact. You will find numerous Momo stalls along the streets and in front of monasteries in McLeodganj’s city square.

Street vendors in mcleodganj
The kind of items being sold on the streets
dream catchers mcleodganj
It looks like Dream-catchers are popular among shoppers. They add a lot of colour to the streets.
mcleodganj street photo
I don’t know what these are, but they sure look lovely.
mcleodganj graffiti
Watch out for some awesome graffitis on the walls. Here’s a beautiful painting on the wall of a rundown house that I stumbled on.
dogs of himachal
If I am reborn, I would like to be a Himachal dog in my next life. Sleeping and eating are all they do. (come to think of it, that’s all I do in my current life. But dogs are cuter.)
Streets of McLeodganj
Streets of McLeodganj
vegetable vendor in Mcleod Ganj
A vegetable vendor in Mcleod Ganj
Bob marley merchandise mcleodganj
Hmm. Bob Marley merchandise. Hmm.

Restaurants in McLeodganj

You will also find some small restaurants in McLeodganj serving great food. I tried out one of these during my stroll through the town – a little place named Tibet Kitchen.

Tibet kitchen mcleodganj
The first restaurant I visited in McLeod Ganj. Tibet Kitchen.
Thukpa from Tibet kitchen, Mcleodganj
Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup) from Tibet Kitchen restaurant. What an excellent way to beat the cold!
Interiors of Tibet Kitchen restaurant Mcleodganj
Interiors of Tibet Kitchen restaurant

McLeodganj Street food

It is difficult to restrain yourself from trying out the different foods on offer when you stroll through McLeodganj. I tried out some tikkis too.

tikkis mcleodganj
I couldn’t resist this tikkis. But I think he took me for a ride. Rs 80 for two tikkis. What do you think?
mcleodganj pastries
Try some of these pastries from the tiny bakeries in the town square.

Famous cafes in McLeodganj

McLeodganj has some great coffee shops, cafes and eateries. I managed to try a few of the famous cafes in McLeodganj.

Cafe Budan – centrally located.

Cafe Budan Mcleodganj
I spent quite a bit of time in various eateries and coffee shops. They all offer decent coffee and free wi-fi. Here’s me in Cafe Budan.

Illiterati Cafe – Awesome ambience

The Illiterati cafe in McLeodganj is trendy on Instagram – in fact, I found it while I was surfing through Instagram. It is also a rooftop cafe in McLeodganj. I had to wait to be let in and wait for some more time to get a balcony seat that offered a great view of the mountains.

illiterati cafe mcleodganj
Illiterati cafe has a nice ambience, tons of books, a beautiful balcony view and great food.
illiterati cafe mcleoganj images
We had a 15 minute wait time before we were shown our seats in the Illiterati cafe.
illiterati cafe mcleoganj images
While sitting on the balcony of Illiterati cafe in McleodGanj, my gaze fell upon the shrubbery there and caught sight of this li’l flower reaching out to get its share of sunlight. I thought it would make a good picture, and it did.

Cafe Ri – Korean food

Cafe Ri Mcleodganj
Cafe Ri was another small place that we went to. They serve tasty Korean food.
korean food mcleodganj
Japchae with rice from Cafe Ri.

Lung Ta – Vegetarian Japanese food, anyone?

Lung Ta Japanese food Mcleodganj
This is a Japanese restaurant we wanted to try but found it closed both times we went. Maybe next time.

Nik’s Italian Kitchen – Good food

niks italian kitchen mcleodganj
Nik’s Italian kitchen. Another lovely place with good food and ambience.
niks italian kitchen mcleodganj
Their farmer’s omelette was terrific.

Namgyal Monastery Dharamsala – Dalai Lama’s temple

Namgyal Monastery is the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama. It is also known as Namgyal Tantric College and plays a crucial role in assisting the Dalai Lama’s rituals.

Namgyal Monastery Dharamsala - Dalai Lama's temple
Buddha statue at the Dalai Lama temple.
Namgyal Monastery Dharamsala - Dalai Lama's temple
A view from the Dalai Lama temple.
Dalai lamas temple shopping
Hand made dolls for sale.
gyuto monastery mcleodganj
Gyuto Monastery

McLeodganj departure

St. John In The Wilderness, McleodGanj on Christmas eve, 2018
Interiors of St. John In The Wilderness, McleodGanj on Christmas eve, 2018. Constructed in 1852, it is one of the oldest churches in the region.
mcleodganj road trip
My partners in crime: Smiling Buddha (the one trying to board the truck) and Deepak.
dharamsala airport
Parting shot from Dharamsala airport.

In parting: McLeod Ganj has a chilled out vibe that will calm you down and help you look at life from different perspectives.

McLeodganj is a place to come if you want to slow down and reflect on your life and priorities. I have heard many stories of creative souls who have come here and stayed back for many years, some for life.

Read about our previous adventures here:

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