McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town

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It was my season of the year-Monsoon, and I was craving coffee on a hilltop with drizzling rain. It is one of the favourite soul-filling menus in most of our life; that reminds the lines of Neelam Birthare-“He is a Mountain, she is fresh rain; Serenity spread when they met”—at the same time, browsing through the Nategeo photographs on my Insta. The picture of Bhagsu fall and the photo’s description caught my attention; it said- “As long as I live, I’ll discover waterfalls, where birds and winds sing.” Without wasting a minute, I started to search for the fall’s location- Mcleodganj.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Bhagsu Falls

I held in my calendar and took advantage of the long weekend to plan my trip to Dharamshala & Mcleodganj. After all bookings, I informed my mom we were again travelling to the hills. Though she was sceptical at first owning to rain, bad road conditions & landslides in the mountains during monsoon, but later gave in. At last, the day of our travel arrived; we started early morning, around 7.30 am. We chose the route Via Chandigarh, a journey of about 10hrs (473 km), but since the roads were better, the drive was smooth. On the way, we halted at Murthal to gorge on Aloo Paratha for breakfast before proceeding. Cloudy and breezy weather; gave all reason for on & of chai(tea) stops.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Way to Mcleodganj

Hunger pangs started to come to me again; when we stopped near a roadside Dhaba post crossing Bhakra-Nangal Dam. I was dazed by the view of the dam, as I had read about it only in my geography book. Like a child took numerous pictures as a memory. By the time we reached Mcleoganj, it was late afternoon.

Bhakra Nangal Dam

Mcleodhanj is a small hamlet in the shadows of the mighty Dhauladhars and the scenic Kangra valley lined with dense deodar-pine forest. Mcleodganj is the upper section of Dharamshala, a colonial hill station, hence one of the enchanting valleys of Himachal Pradesh. It is located nearly 2082m above sea level, and the place got its unique name from David McLeod, erstwhile lieutenant governor of Punjab. 

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town

The location is one of the few valleys- intact in calm & pure form. Aside from just being the summer residence for British Viceroy, it is the centre of His Holiness Dalai Lama. In 1959 with the Chinese invasion, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India from Tibet. And Indian Government offered him refugee in Dharamshala. And he put up the Govt of Tibet in exile in 1960. Ever since then, this outpost has expanded over the few decades. Mcleodganj is also named the “Little Lhasa”. Initially, even though I was diverted by the monks & nuns at the cafe, my eyes got accustomed. Exploding at the seams with everything Tibetan, from momos to monks, the small Tibetian shops all around, along with the Nirvana searching soul of every known nationality; hence the deep red robe was most seen colour everywhere.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Monk & Tibetian shop

As per my habit, I booked The Bhagsu under HPDTC, which was situated near the residence of His holiness. The hotel was surrounded by lush green deodar, with a background of the majestic Dhuladhar range. The room was spacious with french windows, from where I could witness the snow-capped mountains & the cloud-filled valley. Despite being a humble town, there is a decent option to stay from budget hotels to Homestay, hostels, and studio apartments, and you even can opt for a tent. The prices begin from Rs 800 per night up to Rs 5000 per night depending upon the choice of stay.

The Bhagsu Hotel

With my coffee mug, I sat along with the window panel; far away, I could see thunder. And in a whip of the second curtain of rain beat down from paradise. I should have been better in the beauty of nature because even the prettiest cloud is made of rain. And the night was cold, due to the rain & the thick forest around.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
View from the hotel

The early dawn was cold and cloudy; after a hot cup of tea, mom & I decided to take a walk in the woods. Walking through the mist and tall pine, I recalled lines by John Muir-” Between every two pines, there is a door to a new world”. Nature was in its purest form, with raindrops dripping from the folios of the pine, quaint unpaved streets, chirping of birds and deep silence. We saw a few children going to school and women carrying wood back home.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Walk in the Woods

Walking down the woods trail, we spotted a small tea stall. We sat on the wet wooden bench and ordered a Maggie & two cups of tea. Seated amidst the woods, I felt them whispering to me, “So if you are too tired to speak, sit next to me’ because I too am fluent in silence”- R. Arnold. I lost track of time in the wilderness while sipping my tea. Later returned to the hotel, took a quick shower & breakfast and started my day exploring the town.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Tall Deodars

My day took away by visiting Bhagsu fall since it was the whole reason for my travel. The fall is a famous tourist spot, as it is easily approachable by road, which connects Dharamshala & MCleodganj. Amidst the lush vegetation & tall cliff, I saw the stream cascading down. The Bhagsu Fall was at its peak since it was monsoon, falling from around 30 feet. And it was charming and breathtakingly beautiful. Considerably, you need to trek that leads up to the waterfall, which is yet another unparalleled experience. If you wish to get a dip in the chilly water of the fall, then a swimming pool is made to do so.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Trek to Bhagsu Falls

Adjacent to the falls is small cafes selling piping-hot Maggi and other mouth-watering snacks and beverages. You can sit in these coffee shops and soak in the beauty of the Bhagsu Fall. We tried the Shiva Cafe on the top of the Bhagsu fall, with good music & ginger tea with a soothing view. We visited the Bhagsunath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva-an ancient temple established by the 1 Gorkha Regiment.

Bhagsunath Temple

The stream of the Bhagsu waterfall passes through the famous Bhagsunath Temple, creating a natural fountain. If you like to revel in the glories of nature and spend some quiet moments in peace and serenity- Bhagsu fall is the perfect place.

Temple complex with water stream

We drove to St John’s Church In The Wilderness. The church is less than 2 km from Mcleodganj and is en route to Forsythganj. Built-in 1852, the church is dedicated to John the Baptist. Nestled in a copse of mighty Deodar trees with neo-Gothic architecture, the church is aptly named as per the location.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
St.John Church In the Wilderness

The church is famed for its Belgian stained-glass windows donated by Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Elgin, who was Governor-General & Viceroy of India. Its churchyard is also the resting place of Lord Elgin. Despite the name, the site offers quiet and serene surroundings, which calm the senses. 

Interior of the church

Before moving to the next point, I dropped into a famous-Illiterati Cafe. It’s a book cafe; you must walk downhill, but it’s worth it. Illiterati is a cosy cafe with balcony views of the mountains. The cuisine is primarily Italian; hence the list of ravioli and gnocchi dishes goes on and on, along with the wood fire oven pizzas. Ah! How to forget Black-currant cheesecake and Banoffee pie as dessert? Enough variety to select from while I was busy deciding what to order; my mom was on the balcony with a book in her hand. That meant we were spending quality time here; trust me, it was worth it. 

Illiterati Cafe

Afterwards, we went to Dal Lake. The famous Dal Lake of Kashmir inspires the lake’s name, but this one is in the Kangra district. It is near a Tota Rani village, surrounded by rugged mountains and a luscious forest of deodar trees. Not an impressive lake, as Nainital’s lakes are more attractive. It’s a tranquil spot for a picnic and boating. In that location is a Shiva temple on the bank of the lake worshipped by the Gaddi tribe. A fair is organized in September to mark the presence of Lord Shiva. I walked along the lake, visited the temple and practised my photography skills.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Dal Lake

My last day was at Naddi Hills, a perfect location to enjoy Dhauladhar Range from such proximity. No walking or trekking involved, and no more stress on the knees! The entire valley could be witnessed. It’s also known as the sunset point of Mcleodganj. Though due to cloudy weather, there was no sun, the snow-capped mountains were peace to my eyes and psyche. This place reminded me of Gun hill point of Mussoorie, where I saw the Shivalik range and the entire Doon valley in the same proximity.

Naddi Hills

In the evening, I wished to explore the market of Mcleodganj, and while doing that, I discovered a monastery. Painted in vermilion and gold façade, a humble, tranquil Buddhist temple in the busy McLeod Ganj market known as Kalachakra Temple- The wheel of time. The essential rituals associated with Kalachakra to enhance spirituality are practised here.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Kalchakra Monastery

It’s even a regular venue for public meetings and discussions conducted by his holiness, the Dalai Lama. It is said the entire mural painting was done under the inception of the Holiness Dalai Lama.

Prayer wheels

The temple is one of the best examples of a Kalachakra-based architectural style. It’s a three-storied temple with murals adorned on the wall, and the principal deity of Buddhism – Shakyamuni Buddha, is depicted in a Kalachakra avatar. Surrounding the image of Shakyamuni is the frescos of seven hundred and twenty-two deities. This can be seen in the courtyard as you enter. On the first level is a chamber for the audience or prayer along with portraits of the 14th Dalai Lama and the thirty-two Shamblala kings, of whom the first seven are called Maharajas (Great kings), and the rest are known as Kalkis.

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town

The second floor has Images of Tibetan deities such as Guru Padma Sambhava, Milarepa, Palden Lhamo, Yamantaka, Atisha and Tsongkhapa. Finally, the patio is an open area overlooking the street of Mcleodganj. The temple’s columns and walls are painted with Tibetan “Thangka” symbols and surrounded by the prayer wheel. 

McLeodganj.-The Little Lhasa In the mountain town
Top view from the Monastery

We were exhausted by evening, hence decided to dine at the Tibet Kitchen. Though there are various options for Tibetan food, this is renowned as the best. I ordered a Thupka, along with a veg & non-veg Momo platter. The food was flavoursome and filling. It is a modest restaurant that serves delicious food at a fair price.

The Tibet Kitchen

The night was early for me since I will sustain an early start tomorrow.

How to Reach.

By Air: 

The Gaggal Airport, or Kangra Airport, is the nearest airport to Mcleodganj. One can hire a cab or take buses from the airport to reach Macleodganj, which takes around an hour.

By Rail: 

The Pathankot railway station is the closest broad gauge railhead serving those headed to McLeod Ganj, located at a distance of 90km. Only a few trains are available from New Delhi to Pathankot. Cab and buses are readily available outside the station.

By Road: 

The state-owned or private buses connect McLeod Ganj with major North Indian cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, and Dharamshala. HPDTC deluxe buses also ply frequently. You can also drive your vehicle; it’s a journey of 10hrs.


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