A trip to McLeodganj, Himachal Pradesh is surely bound to make you spiritual with Buddhist ambiance all over the city. In a country infamous for its crowds and congestion, McLeodganj serves as a beacon of tranquility and beauty. Snuggled in the Shivaliks, McLeodganj is a one of its kind destination. Vibrant monasteries, stunning backdrop, quaint cafes, and thrilling adventure activities have made it one of the favorite summer holiday destinations in India. Lot of travelers comes to McLeodganj to know more about this culture & religion. Clam streets of McLeodganj never fail to surprise you at every corner & turn. This place becomes very crowded when Dalai Lama is around. In short, it’s a dazzling, and at times bewildering, kaleidoscope of color, culture and cuisine in what started off as a refuge for the 14th Dalai Lama and his Tibetan refugees. Amazingly this hill station is a strange combination of spirituality, adventure and fun. Even if you here on a short trip you cannot afford to miss these 10 things must to do.
1. Peace your mind and soul by visiting Tsuglag Khang.
Tsuglag Khang complex is one of the most sacred places for Tibetans in India. It is a quite complex located in the south west corner of McLeodganj and is the official residence of 14th Dalai Lama. Its grandeur clearly suffices its popularity. A tranquil dwelling at the edge of the city, the temple offers a glimpse into the rituals of Tibetan Buddhism. Apart from the home of Dalai Lama, the complex also has a Tibet Museum, Namgyal Gompa and Tsuglag Khang Temple. Its serenity almost feels tangible in the midst of Buddhist prayers.
There is so much to do inside the complex that you might feel a little lost. Besides getting a chance to meet Dalai Lama, you must visit the Tibet Museum and if time allows you, must perform Kora. The beautiful trail down the hill with several shrines and prayer flags and wheels will leave you enchanted and leave you gasping for more.
2. Glide your wings in Himalayan Mountains.
What better way to experience the mountains than to soar over them? What does it feel like to fly like a bird? For those of you who think what could be the best part of your trip to McLeodganj, the paragliding experience at Billing is once in a lifetime thing. Billing is known all over the world as one of the best playgrounds for paragliding and is a paradise for tourists who seek the thrill of paragliding in the Himalayan skies. The host of several international competitions including the prestigious Paragliding World Cup, only the best state-of-the-art gear is used to make your experience extremely safe and highly memorable. Sail above the Dauladhaur mountain range and Kangra Valley and enjoy the spectacular views. Taming the Himalayan skies is no small task.
3. Just let go all your worries and fall like a little Bhagsu Waterfall.
“There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”
The Bhagsu waterfall shares the mystical and spiritual history of being associated with the snake god, the ‘Bhagsu Nag’ and to Lord Shiva. The pleasant bickering, the pristine water and the lush verdant rolling slopes make for the most gorgeous jaw-dropping sites. It may not be the biggest fall in India but its beauty is the reason that’ll attract you towards it. If you are a tech geek, Bhagsu is your heaven. At present, the waterfall has become a famous tourist attraction with small cafes perched near the waterfall where you can have a wholesome experience of enjoying nature, relaxing and enjoying the local food and music of Himachal.
4. Ring the bells at St. John church in wilderness.
McLeodganj is not just an other tourist hill station, for it also offers you a glimpse in the history and archaeology of British Era. Set amidst beautiful deodar forests, there is an ancient and picturesque church built in Neo-Gothic architecture, near the scenic town of McLeodganj. For people who are planning a trip during Christmas vacation, this is a charming and rustic place to visit. Popularly known as “St John’s Church in the Wilderness” and constructed in 1852, this church is one of the oldest cathedrals in North India. The churchyard is the final resting place of Lord Elgin, who served as the Governor-General and Viceroy of India in 1861 during the British Raj. The church is also famous for its Belgian stained glass windows donated by Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Elgin. A stark difference from the crowded western tourist destination it precedes, Church of St John in the Wilderness morphs as a chameleon into the natural surroundings of the Himachal deodar forest. A visit to this peaceful abode will sure be a remarkable experience.
5. Conquer the Hills of Triund.
There’s nothing like fresh mountain air, stretching of the limbs and a little adventure to get that zest back into your life. McLeodganj offers the adventure junkies one of the best trekking and camping experience anyone can have in their life. The massive snowclad Dhauladhar Himalayas on one side, the vast Kangra Valley on the other. Triund is a ridge that overlooks the Dhauladhars and is the most popular, albeit longest, trek of the bunch. The easy four hour Triund trek takes you 9500 feet high, to a large green pasture that gets blanketed by snow in the winters, and offers panoramic views of the mighty Himalayas and the encompassing valleys of McLeodganj. If you are a tea lover, do stop by Magic View Café along the way, which is said to be oldest tea shop. The view of the evening sky from Triund is a good enough reason to pitch a tent here for the night. The length of the trek makes it apt for a weekend. If you have a day to spare, fancy trekking from Triund till Lahesh Cave and explore the meadows below Indrahar Pass.
6. Visit the Central Tibetan Secretariat: The Govt. in Exile.
McLeodganj a real cross section of Tibet is well known learning centre of Tibetan culture and Buddhist dharmas and culture and if you are really interested and want to know about the history of Tibet than one must visit CTS. It is the govt. headquarters of Tibetan govt. in exile and inside the govt. compound at Gangchen Kyishong, the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives began life as a collection of sacred manuscripts saved from the Cultural Revolution. Today it has over 100,000 manuscripts, books and documents in Tibetan, and over 13,000 volumes on Tibet, Buddhism and the Himalayan region in English and other languages. Upstairs you will find, fascinating cultural museum with statues, old Tibetan artifacts and books, and some astonishing three-dimensional mandalas in wood and sand. Also worth a visit is the colorful Nechung Gompa below the library building, home to the Tibetan state oracle.
7. Inhale the future and exhale the past at Yoga Centers.
Yoga is a perfect opportunity for those who are curios to explore themselves and curious about WHO YOU ARE? We all plan for a vacation to relax ourselves so that we can live our life peaceful and it is well said that, “Yoga is the journey of Self, through the Self, to the Self”. There are many yoga learning centers that offer meditation and yoga sessions for travelers. These kinds of activities are popular among spiritual tourists and solo travelers. McLeodganj is also known for the myriad Ayurvedic healing therapies and spa treatments for the complete rejuvenation of body and mind. One such famous place is the Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Centre. Om Yoga Centre, Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre, Universal Yoga Centre, and Tushita Meditation Centre are popular McLeodganj tourist attractions for those who seek peace and relaxation of the soul.
8. Match your dancing feet with FOLK OPERA at TIPA.
Once in McLeodganj, don’t miss the cultural shows on Tibetan culture – folk dance and music – in Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA). This cultural center showcases occasional Tibetan cultural stage performances including traditional Lhamo, the local folk opera. It is not just the place for sightseeing, but it also enables you to steal a self-indulgent moment for yourself as well. World standards, extraordinary architecture, innovative layouts, and well-thought execution make place a highly coveted point of tourist interest. Of these shows, the annual Shoton Opera Festival – a 9-day long celebration of Traditional Tibetan Opera – is the most popular one. The high-pitched singing accompanied by drums, cymbals, splendid costumes and a wealth of oddly appealing characters including witches, kings, wise men and fools, dakinis and yogis make for an unforgettable experience, so don’t forget your cameras.
9. Shopper’s paradise: Reasonable place to spend your money.
What really makes your trip memorable is shopping and if shopping doesn’t make you happy than you are in wrong shop. Like any other destination, shopping in McLeodganj has its own charm. The McLeodganj Central Square is known to have the city’s oldest shop – Nowrojee and Son – that opened in 1860. The entire market area is famous for its wooden carvings, Thangka tapestry paintings, and handicrafts. The streets are lined with vendors selling all kinds of hand made products such as Colorful tapestries, Tibetan singing bowls, figurines, paintings, jewelry, etc. While the street shops of Kotwali Bazaar are most popular for Tibetan carpets, rugs, & exotic sculptures, the Jogiwara Road holds a reputation of the go-to place for souvenir shopping. Additionally, McLeodganj is a fairly easy location for bargaining. Typically asking for a third or a half of the price will allow a shopper to reach a sizable discount without spending too much time or energy.
10. Needless to say, Indulge yourself in Tibetan Cuisine.
Good food is equal to good mood and McLeodganj could not be more right place for those who love to try new food. McLeodganj Tibetan culture equals loads of healthy and hearty Tibetan dishes. Most of the restaurants and cafes in McLeodganj have outdoor seating with stunning views of snow-clad peaks and towering deodars, so you won’t be staring at your phone while waiting for your food to arrive. The cool and funky cafes and eating joints in McLeodganj serve unworldly coffee, steaming hot Momos, and Thukpa (type of Tibetan noodle soup, don’t forget to try it).
Indique and Moonpeak cafes, with their outdoor seating, are perfect to nurse a beer and read a book whereas Ashoka Restaurant (on Jogibara Road) stirs up a mean Chicken Masala curry for those people who long for a taste of home. Apart from the usual suspects like Tibet Kitchen and Kailasha restaurant, known for their Tibetan delicacies, try out Olives Restaurant, for their delicious mouth watering food. In the end, don’t forget the famous SHIVA CAFÉ. The hippie culture of hamlet has made this café synonymous to the place. To reach here, you have to undertake a small 3km trek where people experience adventure through their dips in bone-chilling water and smoking chillum/hookah in the café.