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McLeod Ganj: A Weekend Destination

Updated on July 8, 2021
Jaspals profile image

Lawyer, Consultant & Politician: Expert in Overseas Education & Immigration Matters, Traveller & Blog writer

If you are based somewhere in Punjab, Chandigarh, Jammu, or Delhi, and you plan a trip to a hill station and have just 2 or 3 days off your work, McLeod Ganj in upper Dharamshala can be your destination. Dharamshala is situated in the upper reaches of Kangra valley in the 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 a 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. The 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 a 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 many better options. The whole drive from Hoshiarpur passing through Chintpurni, Kangra till Dharamshala. McLeod Ganj is full of natural breathtaking views. Kangra Valley is situated in the southern part of the 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 its tea gardens.

Kangra Fort

While reaching Kangra by road, you can see 'Remains of Kangra fort'. Bhuma Chand built this fort. 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 a long list of those who made this fort their target. In the second half of the 18th century, following the decline of the Mughal empire, Raja Sansar Chand II succeeded in recovering the ancient fort of his ancestors 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 the hands of Sikhs till 1886, when it fell into the hand of British Rule. Kangra Fort is an attraction for tourists. There are two temples inside the fort. One is the Laxmi Narayan temple, and the other is the Adinath temple. Very interestingly, this fort is the largest in the Himalayas and probably the oldest dated fort in India. At present, the fort is under the control of the ‘Archaeological Survey of India’. It was badly damaged in the 1905 earthquake.

Remains of Kangra Fort. This fort is oldest recorded fort in India and Largest in Himalayas. It has Unique distinction of being ruled by great Hindu Kings, Muslim Invaders, Sikh Maharaja and Christian Rulers of British empire.
Remains of Kangra Fort. This fort is oldest recorded fort in India and Largest in Himalayas. It has Unique distinction of being ruled by great Hindu Kings, Muslim Invaders, Sikh Maharaja and Christian Rulers of British empire.
Tibetan Temple in Mecleod Ganj
Tibetan Temple in Mecleod Ganj

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 a ghost town after the British left India in 1947. Still, it 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 the Dalai Lama, it gained prominence worldwide, 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 McLeod Ganj, 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 trade are equally affected by international tourists. Today, this place has become an important tourist destination with many hotels, restaurants, shops, and cafes leading to growth in tourism and commerce. Several shops are 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 Reiki classes are also available where you can learn to relax your mind and soul.

Tsuglag Khang or Dalai lama's temple is important to visit while you are in Mcleod Ganj. It is the biggest Buddhist temple outside Tibet and is located opposite the Dalai Lama's residence. The temple is magnificent from the 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 a distance, covered with multi-coloured prayer flags. Depending upon the time of your visit and chance, you may get the opportunity to meet Dalai Lama as he often comes out to be with his devotees and followers.

Tourist enjoying near waterfall
Tourist enjoying near waterfall

Bhagsunag Temple

Bhagsunag Temple has situated around 2 km from McLeodganj. You may choose to go there by your vehicle or even on walking. Walking would be a better option if you want to feel a cool climate on the way. This Temple is dedicated to Lord 'Shiva' Very next to Bhagsunag temple is a waterfall, one of the major tourist attraction spots in Dharamshala. Bhagsu waterfall is an ideal recreation and picnic spot here. You can sit near to water stream and enjoy natural surroundings full of amazing views. You can also take a dip in the chilly water of fall.

McLeod Ganj is a great eating place, and the town has an abundance of restaurants, especially in the mid to upper range, that caters to foreign tourists. You can have various dishes ranging from the local Tibetan to Chinese, Korean, Israeli, and many more. The must-try is the momos 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 a perfect hotel with good accommodation.

Beautiful and impressive memorial of Lord Elgin, which has been declared a protected monument of national importance by local authorities.
Beautiful and impressive memorial of Lord Elgin, which has been declared a protected monument of national importance by local authorities.

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. The church is made of grey stones and looks very beautiful, and surrounded by a tall forest of pines. Being there you really enjoy green nature. It's always calm and quiet here. You will feel a beautiful blend of forest, mountains, snow in winters and the magic of the 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. The 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 the main building of the church.

St John’s in the Wilderness is an Anglician Church, surrounded by beautiful gardens and is a great place to have picnic for families with kids.
St John’s in the Wilderness is an Anglician Church, surrounded by beautiful gardens and is a great place to have picnic for families with kids.
View of Village Naddi. Here the majesty of the mountains was awe inspiring
View of Village Naddi. Here the majesty of the mountains was awe inspiring

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 a top-rated destination for nature lovers. Triund is a nice trekking spot in the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas, and it is around 9 km from Mcleodganj. The route to Triund from Mcleodganj goes through Dharamkot and Galu temple. The road is motorable up to 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 up to Triund passes through a forest trail and is full of natural beauty. View of mountain peaks and forests has many things to create long-lasting impressions on your mind and soul.

Mcleod Ganj 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.

Road way from Jalandhar to McLeod Ganj
Road way from Jalandhar to McLeod Ganj | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Jaspal Singh


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