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McLeod Ganj Hotel Accommodation

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trover photo by Sachendra Yadav

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Where to stay in McLeod Ganj

Exploring McLeod Ganj

The mountain village of McLeod Ganj forms part of one of the most important settlements in India’s Himalayan hill station of Dharamsala. Dharamsala became a candidate to be the summer capital of the British Raj until an earthquake in 1905 thwarted all plans. The town fell into obscurity for around 50 years until a young Tibetan monk, fleeing in the dead of night to escape persecution from Mao Zedong’s Red Army in China, headed here seeking safe shelter. The monk turned out to be the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who established a government in exile here.

Sitting at an elevation of about 5,700 feet, McLeod Ganj stands higher than the rest of Dharamsala. Climate is considerably cooler here, which suits the hundreds of thousands of Tibetans, who like their holy leader, fled towards this place and made it their home. McLeod Ganj is now the site of a large Tibetan community.

Sights nearby

It is not surprising that the main attraction in McLeod Ganj is the Dalai Lama himself, his temples and government offices. Aside from the Dalai Lama, it's the great Himalyan outdoors which attract people here. Accommodation in McLeod Ganj is mostly comprised of guest houses, but there are some three-star offerings like the Pink House, Bella Heights or the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department’s Hotel Bhagsu.

The Dalai Lama
Even though the spiritual leader is out travelling the world spreading the word out about the Tibetan cause for the better part of the year, travellers to McLeod Ganj will still see his face in the many posters, postcards and other mementos of him around. In the rare occasions that he is in town, both tourists and pilgrims head to the main temple, the Tsuglagkhang Monastery, to hear his lectures.

Norbulingka Institute
A bit of a commute but definitely worth a morning or afternoon visit is the Norbulingka Institute. Set in a beautiful garden with very distinct Tibetan decor, this educational and cultural institution is set up for the preservation and the propagation of Tibetan culture. Visitors here will see young students painting, carving and creating beautiful and incredibly detailed Tibetan art.

The Himalayas
Those looking to explore the great outdoors of the area will not be disappointed as this Himalayan district is not short of natural attractions. The trek to Triund is a great way to spend one to two days in the Himalayan wilderness, and from here the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas can be viewed. The more adventurous can trek further from Triund to the more than 4000-metre-high Indrahar Pass.

Attending classes is also a popular activity in McLeod Ganj. Visitors can choose from a wide range of courses. There are yoga institutes and instructors as well as meditation and healing centres. Learning how to make the quintessential Tibetan dumplings, called momo, in Tibetan cooking classes is also a great option.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

There are a wide range of restaurants in McLeod Ganj being a popular traveller hub for many years. Indian and Tibetan restaurants as well as Italian eateries and German bakeries can all be found here. Cafes and tea shops can also be found lining the narrow streets. They include Moon Peak Espresso, Heart Rock Cafe and Cafe Illiterati. Found in the main square, Xcite is a Western-style bar which has a dancefloor popular with Westerners. Tibetan goods make for the most popular buys here, from prayer flags to thangka.

Public transport

To get to Dharamsala, the simplest, albeit not the shortest, route is via public buses or the more comfortable tourist buses. Tourist buses from Delhi originate from the Tibetan colony in the Indian capital, Majnu ka Tilla. As the bus ride goes through valleys and mountain roads, the whole trip easily takes 14 hours. Those opting to take the train can take the overnight sleeper to Pathankot and take a three-hour bus or taxi to McLeod Ganj from there. Once in McLeod Ganj, visitors will find that walking to the main attractions are easy as the town is fairly compact. To get to more far-flung areas, hailing the small but very hardy white cabs plying the streets or parked at the terminal near the town centre is very easy.