Magnificent McLeodganj

2020 has been a tough year for all of us around the globe. The ongoing pandemic has not only put our personal and professional lives in jeopardy but has also changed our perspective in many ways. It has taught us to appreciate and enjoy the simple joys of life, and if my recent trip to McLeodganj has taught me one thing, it would be to appreciate nature in all its magnificence!

When my husband parents-in-law and I decided to go on our first holiday together after the pandemic, we were looking at a destination that was safe and away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and McLeodganj ticked all the boxes! The hill station, located in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, is a suburb of Dharamshala, and is known for its scenic treks, mesmerising landscapes, Tibetan culture, serene monasteries, thrilling adventure activities and vibrant cafes and restaurants. The town is famous for being home to the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness Dalai Lama, and hence it has a prominent Tibetan culture. Also known as Little Lhasa by the locals, McLeodganj is located a little above the more popular town of Dharamshala, and it stands 6,831 feet above sea level. It is nestled amidst the majestic Dhauladhar Range of mountains and is a popular holiday destination amidst trekkers and culturally inclined individuals.

After landing in the Dharamshala airport, we drove an hour up to get to our hotel, Fortune Park Moksha, McLeodganj. The hotel offered a beautiful and serene view of the mountains and was the perfect abode for our three-day trip. On day one, we visited the McLeodganj city centre that is packed with hundreds of small and quaint cafes and restaurants and tiny shops selling local handicrafts and semi-precious jewellery. After a delicious lunch at Tibet Kitchen, we walked through the narrow roads of the city, absorbing the local culture and admiring the architecture of the temples. We then headed to watch the sunset at the popular Naddi sunset point.

This spot is very popular amongst tourists, photographers and locals alike for its breathtaking views of themountain ranges. It is a real treat to watch the sunset here while sipping on a hot cup of chai and savouring the delicious Maggi noodles that are on offer at the nearby stalls.

Day two of our trip began with a visit to the Bhagsunag Temple followed by a trek up to the Bhagsu Falls. The former is one of the oldest ancient temples in the state and is very popular amongst the Hindu community while the latter is the most frequented spots in McLeodganj and Dharamshala amongst tourists. The Trek to thewaterfalls takes about 45 minutes and the trail is steep and narrow in most parts. However, it houses several small cafes selling refreshments for people who wish to take a break during their Trek. The view from the top is unparalleled, to say the least! Watching the waterfall from a height of 30 feet, into the Bhagsu Valley is captivating and breathtakingly beautiful. You can choose to bathe in the waterfall (at your own risk since the water is often freezing) or relax at a cafe and enjoy a hot cuppa while admiring the view. We did the latter. Post this, we visited the hippie village of Dharamkot, a small town located above McLeodganj. This area is popularly known as the yoga village and is where many foreigners come and settle for months together while studying and practising yoga. Trekking is one of the most popular activities here and many popular hikes have its base here too. After a short walk around the area, we chose to dine at Trek n Dine, where we enjoyed an Italian fare. Owing to the number of foreigners living in the area, Dharamkot offers many small lodges for stay and restaurants serving global cuisine. During peak season, this area is known for its hippie parties too!

A quick visit to St. John in the Wilderness Church was next on our itinerary. Built-in 1852, the church is one of the oldest and most important churches in the state and it is set amidst lush forests which is where it gets its name too. A Neo-Gothic church, it is the final resting place of Lord Ergin who was a Governor-General of India during the British times. In view of the pandemic, entry into the church is banned; however, we walked around the surroundings to get a good view of the exterior architecture. We also visited the Dal Lake, which was more a “dull” lake owing to the low water levels.

Next on our itinerary was paragliding in Dharamshala. It was the most thrilling part of our trip, what with the mighty Dhauladhar mountain ranges as the backdrop. My husband, Akhil, and I decided to give it a try and I must admit it was one of the best experiences of my life! Soaring at an altitude of 1500m, we got a bird’s eye view of all the hill towns. Although not for the faint-hearted, it is a must-try for the adventure-seeking junkies.

Offering a wide range of cuisines, Dharamshala and McLeodganj are a paradise for every foodie! Some of our favourite spots were Orchid at the Fortune Park Moksha, House of Tibet, McLlo Bar & Restaurant, Illiterati Cafe, and Labooz Bar.

Although McLeodganj is famous for Tibetan temples and monasteries, we couldn’t visit them as they were closed in light of the pandemic, leaving us quite disappointed. However, on an optimistic note, that only gives us more reason to come back!        – Niharika