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McLeod Ganj: A Weekend Destination
If you are based somewhere in Punjab, Chandigarh, Jammu or Delhi and you are planning some trip to hill station and you are having just 2 or 3 days off from your work, McLeod Ganj in upper Dharamshala can be your destination. Dharamshala is situated in upper reaches of Kangra valley in Himachal state of India. It is around 166 Km from Jalandhar, another important city in Punjab state. Distance from Chandigarh is 239 Km. It is approximately 4 hour drive from Jalandhar, if you are having your own car. After Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur is the last city of Punjab state touching Himachal. Hills start when you leave Hoshiarpur and enter Himachal Pradesh. Nearest airport is Gaggal airport located 15 km. from Dharamshala. Other airports having regular service are: Jammu 200 km., Amritsar 210 km. and Chandigarh.
Dharamshala offers the magnificent view of snow capped Dhauladhar peaks. As my hometown is Jalandhar, I always prefer to have my short vacations to this place. Other nearest destinations are Dalhousie, Jammu and even Shimla but Dharamshala- McLeod ganj still has so many better options. The whole drive from Hoshiarpur passing through Chintpurni, Kangra till Dharamshala. McLeod ganj is full of natural breath taking views. Kangra Valley is situated in southern part of Dhauladhar Ranges (White Mountains) of Himalaya. Kangra valley is one of the most picturesque valleys in the Himalayas.
While being in Dharamshala you can have access to Palampur, another nice place in Himachal. Palampur is famous for tea gardens.
While reaching Kangra by road, you can see 'Remains of Kangra fort'. This fort was built by Bhuma Chand. It is located at strategic heights surrounded by Ban Ganga and Manjhi rivers. The importance of this fort can be judged from the common saying that 'Kangra belongs to those who conquer Kangra Fort'. The first attack on this fort was made by Raja of Kashmir in 470 AD. After that there is long list of those who made this fort their target. In the second half of 18th century, following the decline of mughal empire, Raja Sansar Chand II succeeded in recovering the ancient fort of his ancesters in 1789 but very soon in 1809, he was compelled by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab to surrender this fort to him. It remained in hands of sikhs till 1886 when it fell into the hand of British Rule. Kangra fort is attraction for tourists. There are two temples inside the fort. One is Laxmi Narayan temple and other is Adinath temple. Very interstingly, this fort is the largest fort in the Himalayas and probably the oldest dated fort in India. At present the fort is under the control of ‘Archaeological Survey of India’. It was badly damaged in 1905 earthquake.
Mcleodganj-Land of Monasteries
Mcleod ganj is well known worldwide for its scenic beauty and as the residence of the Dalai Lama. Mcleodganj was also known as ghost town after the British left India in 1947 but is came into prominence after the Tibetan spiritual leader and Noble Peace Prize winner, Dalai Lama, settled here with thousands of his followers in 1959.
As Dharamshala became the headquarter of the Tibetan Government in exile, headed by Dalai Lama, it gained prominence all over the world and prominent personalities started arriving here. McLeod ganj emerged as a major Buddhist centre. During the last three decades, The Tibetans have built many religious, cultural and educational institutions in and around McLeod Ganj. Several monasteries and Tibetan schools came up at McLeodganj and today, it is often referred to as the 'Little Lhasa of India'. With all this mix, Mcleod ganj presents a multi cultural face. Tourists come from different nations and cultures. Business and trades is equally affected with international tourists. Today, this place has become an important tourist destination with many hotels and restaurants, shops and cafes leading to growth in tourism and commerce. There are number of shops selling Tibetan art and literature stuff. McLeod Ganj, is not a shopping hub, it is an excellent place to shop for few things like shawls, woollen dresses, ornaments, statues and unique paintings. Tibetan art and craft items are also there to shop. Yoga and Reikhi classes are also available where you can learn to relax your mind and soul.
Tsuglag Khang or Dalai lama's temple is important place to visit while you are in Mcleodganj. It is the biggest Buddhist temple outside Tibet and is located opposite to the Dalai Lama's residence. The temple is very beautiful from inside and you get the opportunity to rotate the prayer wheels in a monastery. The temple has statues of the bodhisattvas Shakyamuni, Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava. Temple is visible from distance covered with multi coloured prayer flags. Depending upon time of your visit and chance, you may get opportunity to meet Dalai Lama as he often comes out to be with his devotees and followers.
Bhagsunag Temple is situated around 2 km from McLeodganj. You may choose to go there by your vehicles or even by walking. Walking would be better option if you wand feel cool climate on the way. This Temple is dedicated to Lord 'Shiva' Very next to Bhagsunag temple is a water fall, one of the major tourist attraction spot in Dharamshala. Bhagsu waterfall is an ideal recreation and picnic spot here. You can sit near to water stream and enjoy natural surrounding full of amazing views. You can also take a dip in the chilly water of fall.
McLeod Ganj is a great place for eating, and the town has an abundance of restaurants, especially in the mid to upper range that cater to foreign tourists. You can have a variety of dishes ranging from the local Tibetan to Chinese, Korean,Israeli and many more. The must try are the momos which are available in and around the restaurants, even in tiny carts and stalls. During our recent visit to this place, we stayed in Hotel Jungle Hut situated on Bhagsu road. It was really good hotel with good accommodation.
Church of St John
Church of St John is another place that should not be missed if you are in Mcleod Ganj. It is ideally situated in the Deodar forest. Church is made of gray-stones and look very beautiful and surrounded by tall forest of pines. Being there you really enjoy green nature. It's always calm and quite here. You will feel a beautiful blend of forest, mountains and snow in winters and magic of sun's rays filtering through tall and green deodars trees in summers. Life scenes of St John the Baptist are depicted on a pair of stained glass windows. Church is dedicated to Lord Elgin, one of the Viceroys of India, who died and was buried here in 1863 A.D. There is a memorial to him near main building of church.
Naddi- A tiny village near to sky
‘Naddi’ is another scenic picnic spot located 5 km northwest of McLeod Ganj. Naddi offers a spectacular view of the Kangra valley. You can trek to Kareri Lake, Triund, and Guna Devi from here. It's very popular destination for nature lovers. Triund is a nice trekking spot in the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas and it is around 9 kms from Mcleodganj. The route to Triund from Mcleodganj goes through Dharamkot and Galu temple.The road is motorable upto Galu temple from Mcleodganj. Beyond Galu temple, the actual trek path to Triund starts.The trek route is very rocky and one needs to be careful when walking. The whole way upto triund passes through forest trail and is full of natural beauty. View of mountain peaks and forest has a lot of things to create long lasting impressions on your mind and soul.
Mcleodganj is undoubtedly a beautiful place with natural beauty. It has everything to make your trip, really memorable and wonderful. You will certainly love to be there again and again. I like this place so much that I have been there so many times.
© 2011 Jaspal Singh