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Tourist Places To Visit In Mcleod Ganj
McLeodGanj, a district of Dharamshala, is a spiritual place, mostly Buddhist in nature. The biggest draws for McLeodGanj are its Tibetan culture and crafts, study of Buddhism, and meditation. The town is also known for its Tibetan handicrafts, carpets, garments, and of course the Monks who have come to symbolize the ethos of this little town. You will find dozens of budget hotels, trekking companies, net cafes, traveller restaurants, video movie parlours and wall-to-wall shops selling Tibetan souvenirs here. McleodGanj has become a major centre for the study of Buddhism and Tibetan culture and lots of foreign travellers come here to work on community projects involving the refugee Tibetan community. Here we have the top tourist places to visit when in McLeodganj, from Kangra Fort to meditation centres, Handicraft cooperatives to Tibetan children's village.
The Tsuglagkhang Complex is the palace/temple of His Highness the Dalai Lama. There are two temples here; one belonging to the Goddess Green Tara and the other to Lord Buddha. Between these two temples, you will get the chance to see beautiful statues and rare collections of Buddhist texts.
The Kangra Fort (aka the Nagarkot Fort), was the Royal seat of power during the rule of the Katoch dynasty. You climb through a total of seven gates as you trudge up the cobbled paths of the fort. Inside, 3 richly-carved temples lie in ruins. The fort is massive, and the crumbling beauty of the stony structure lends it a poetic charm. At the entrance is a museum showcasing valuable photographs of the fort prior to the devastating earthquake of 1905, and some exquisite stone sculptures, carvings, idols and other artefacts.
A trip to the Narbulingka Institute is a must if you are keen to absorb yourself into Tibetan culture. There is a nice monastery and a doll museum that is a visual treat- a good peek into Tibetan life and culture. Take some time to look around and you will find many little details that fascinate such as the gold coloured prayer wheels. The in-house Norling Cafe dishes up some good Tibetan fare.
Tibetan Children's Village
The network of Tibetan Children's Villages or TCV's, is an integrated community for the care and education of orphans and refugee children from Tibet who may have been separated from their parents during the perilous trail across the Himalayas. It is a registered, non-profit charitable organization with its main facility based at Dharamsala/McLeodganj. But TCV's are akin to a network spread across India with over 12,000 children under its care. The children of TCV all live together with two foster parents as self-contained family units called "Khimtsang". Approximately 20 girls and 20 boys are usually raised together as brothers and sisters. The children have packed days, rising every day at 6:00 AM. Prayer begins at 7:00 AM, and the day carries on thus, with assembly, classes, sports, cultural co-curricular training, drama etc. until evening prayer and study at 7:00 PM, and finally, lights out at 9:00 PM. Visit this village, meet the kids, volunteer, teach or make a donation. It'll make you happier.
Tibetan Handicrafts Cooperative Centre
The Tibetan Handicrafts Cooperative Centre employs newly arrived Tibetans in the carpet weaving industry. Watch the weavers in action as they painstakingly handcraft the pure wool carpets in beautiful colours, textures and designs. For custom- made clothing, you can head over the road to the tailoring section.
A lot of people come up to McLeodGanj to enroll themselves at one of the many meditation centres. The peace and quiet coupled with the inherent spirituality of the place makes it an ideal retreat for people trying to find their Zen.
Several NGOs are established in the McLeodGanj area with volunteering activities. Some of these are:
Dharmalaya offers educational and service-learning programs and requires volunteers to serve as English or Computer tutors or to help with the environmental programs of the Tibetan Welfare Office.
Learning and Ideas for Tibet (LIT) aims to offer free education for Tibetans, and to inform visitors in the McLeodGanj area on the Tibetan situation.
The Lha Charitable Trust provides medical assistance and clothing to the Tibetan community in in McLeodGanj and needs volunteers who can participate long term as teachers in language and computer training.
The Mountain Cleaners are involved in waste management activities for businesses, locals and tourists in the Dharamshala area and require volunteers for clean-up treks in the hills of the region.
Bhagsunath Temple & Waterfall
King Bhagsu once enraged the snake god. A war followed, but at last, the king was forgiven. To honour the mercy of snake god, King Bhagsu made a temple in the hills and called it the Bhagsunath Temple. It worships Lord Shiva too and is one of the oldest shrines in the area. Gurkha communities also throng this temple along with Hindus; and they together visit the nearby coniferous forest and waterfall. A dip in the pool at its base is considered holy. Bhagsunath Temple & Waterfall are 5 km from Mcleodganj.
A freshwater lake, located about an hour’s drive from Mcleodganj — Kareri is perfect for a serene getaway. The lake is formed by the water of the melted ice of Dhauladhar mountains, rendering it sweet and pure and crystal clear. You can enjoy walks, photography, picnics and idle leisure on the banks. Summers and winters are good time to visit.
The summer and monsoon months in Mcleodganj attract a lot of tourism. And one of the foremost activities on most tourist itineraries is the Triund Trek. You must climb the 9000 ft ridge at the back of Dhauladhar range, which, obviously, is named Triund. The trail is a must visit if you are into adventure and thrill and can sustain a 9 km trek that starts at Tushita, gives you gorgeous views of Moon Peak-Indrahar Pass and ends in Kangra. Overnight camps are also arranged if you’d like to observe the stars!
How can you come to Mcleodganj and not visit a monastery?
This little Tibetan town is the base of Buddhist teachings in the Himalayan mountains and finds its epicentre in the Namgyal Monastery. It is also called the Dalai Lama’s Monastery and is open to all. You can witness the rituals here, from Vajrakilaya to Kalachakra to Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka. Guided meditation sessions are also running on a daily basis here, where they welcome tourists with open arms. You get to learn about Tibet, its tantric college and much more on the side. So a win-win for spirituality and history!
8 km from the town of Mcleodganj lies the village of Dharamkot. It is a village of beautiful views and is perched on the banks of Dal lake (of Himachal, now Kashmir). The Dhaulandhar Ranges rise and fall in the distance, soaking your eyes with snow and magnificence. The culture of this village is completely contrasted from Buddhist essence of Mcleodganj, so you get a taste of something new. Hikes, treks, cafe-hopping and village fairs are the best tourist activities around here.
As you might have guessed, the Dal Lake on the slope of Mcloedganj is named after the one in Srinagar. It is rimmed by tall Deodars and is close to a small hamlet named Tota Rani. A temple dedicated to Durveshwar Mahadev is located near Dal, giving it a sacred aura. The festive fair of the area is held on this lake and it attracts heavy local as well as tourist footfalls. Other than the chaotic happy fairs, you can visit Dal lake to take long walks as the mist settles at sunset or go boating. Dal Lake is 4 km from Mcleodganj.
The Dhaulandhar range is intercepted by a pass. This pass is known as Minkiani Pass. The view of the entire Himalayan landscape from here is awe-inspiring. Photographers visit this spot for some nature love and trekkers, of course, come here to pump some adrenaline. Birds and leopards are also frequently spotted around this pass. Minkiani Pass is 12 km from Mcleodganj and can easily be reached via a taxi or local bus.
The Dalai Lama’s Temple
Also known as Tsuglagkhang, the Dalai Lama’s temple is the official residence of the Dalai Lama in India. Tourists are not allowed in the private sanctuary but the outer complex — museum, shrines, souvenir stores etc welcome one and all with open arms. You will get to see a huge Buddha statue with two small ones of Chenresig and Guru Rinpoche in the complex, brought to India from Tibet after a string of blood sacrifices. The chants, drumbeats and Buddhist fragrances make this place a must visit when in Mcleodganj.
A cliche as most hill stations go, but beautiful nonetheless — the sunset point is your place to go to if you love skies, horizons and sunsets. Sunrises are equally coveted. Hotels, eateries and street food carts are easily found nearby where the Dal Lake lies. And this point is accessible and open through the year, making it a popular place for all.
Saint John’s Church
Built on the lines of neo-gothic style of architecture, the Saint John’s Church is dedicated to John the Baptist. It was nearly destroyed in early 1900s in an earthquake, especially the bell tower. Today it is in tip top condition, located in the serene quietness of a deodar forest, with a graveyard on the side. The Viceroy of India Lord Elgin loved Mcleodganj so much that he wanted to make it India’s summer capital. Alas, that’s didn’t happen. But he is buried here, near this church.
Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake
The Maharana Pratap Sagar Lake, constructed on the flow of river Beas is a pleasant little paradise open to tourists for boating, walks, picnics, sailing, rowing, canoeing etc. Water skiing is also coveted here. Maharana Pratap Lake is 3 km from Mcleodganj and best visited on idle winter afternoons. You can also see the birds that flock here, especially in summer.
Illiterati Cafe is a book and coffee house, best known for its delicious burgers. The interior of this place is also beautiful — with tall wooden bookcases, wood stoves, board games and ornate furniture. The cafe falls on the Jogiwara road, away from the city din. Therefore travellers prefer to chill here. You may pick a book and while away your day absorbing gorgeous views. If you are not into reading, then the food and the coffees here are equally great!