Mcleod Ganj – A foodies’ paradise – A trekkers dream – A place to meditate
Since I am not much of a trekker I will write more about food, tourist places and travel information here. There are really nice places to eat, beautiful places to visit, peaceful places to meditate at, but this place is really getting polluted and over populated because of us and unless we really get a little careful, very soon Mcleodganj will be in our history books.
The Blog is divided into 3 parts and divided by colours, just in case you want specific information scroll down to that colour:
1. How to reach and where to stay
2. What to do
3. Where to eat
Mcleodganj, also known as Little Lhasa because of the large population of Tibetans is indeed a beautiful place. It’s Located about 5 km away from Dharamshala. I have been visiting this place for the last 10 years multiple times as I am simply in the love with this place for various reasons that I am going to talk here today. This blog is a small compilation of my experiences that I have gathered in the last few years.
Let’s start with the basic information that a traveler or tourist would like to know from me while planning their trips.
How to reach:
By road – Self drive: I love my car and I love driving so I usually suggest driving as the roads are beautiful, well maintained and the drive is very scenic. Driving your own vehicle also gives the freedom to stop wherever you want to eat, take a little rest or click a quick picture for your social media or bedroom wall. If you are driving yourself I would suggest you to park your car near the bus stand just before entering Mcleodganj as a responsible traveler. This will help keeping the place clean, pollution-free and traffic-less.
The route from Delhi is via Chandigarh, Anandpur Sahib, Una, Dharamshala and Mcleodganj. The distance is about 550km and since the roads are really well maintained it takes about 10 hours with 2 small breaks in between. The hills start after Una but roads are good and easily drivable and not too narrow. If you are lost use your GPS just dont go towards Shimla while entering Chandigarh and don’t go to Manali while crossing Ropar area.
By Volvo Bus: My second most preferred way of travelling is the Volvo bus that leaves Delhi’s kashmiri gate ISBT or Majnu ka tila in the evening around 6-9 pm and reaches Dharamshala or McleodGanj early in the morning around 5-7 am. It usually stops once somewhere around Karnal for dinner. It also stops usually at Chandigarh and Una if they have to pick up or drop a few passengers and one can even get down here and there if they have to use the toilets by requesting the Driver usually called as Ustad ji. I prefer the Himachal roadways Volvo busses as they are usually punctual and don’t stop here and there other than its scheduled stops and also stops at clean and hygienic places for dinner etc. The journey is very comfortable, air-conditioned with semi sleeper seats. I have even travelled with a few private Volvo operators too but the experience wasn’t too great. A Volvo ticket usually costs around 1000-1200. It’s advisable to carry a shawl in the bus as the AC gets very chilled at times. Tickets of these busses are easily available online through travelyaari or goibibo and many more.
By Train: The third option is by train till Pathankot or Una and then by Taxi or busses. I have never used this option.
By Air: The airport is very small located at Gaggal on the hills and because of bad weather flights get cancelled a lot. So I don’t prefer this option much. The airport is about 20 km and would take about an hour to reach Mcleodganj.
Where to Stay:
There are thousands of places to stay in and around Mcleodganj from Luxurious condos to backpacking places. To find the most suitable accommodation for yourself check pricing reviews and availability at tripadvisor.com. There are hotels everywhere, I am trying to explain a little here.
Mall road – Dirty, congested, over crowded but closer to Dalai Lama temple and all facilities.
Jogiwara road – The road behind Mall road – some properties are nice and hill facing, you might have to walk a little uphill while coming to the mall or anywhere else. But it’s worth staying there.
Bhagsu – 2 km away from Mall road but cars would go and the walk is pleasant too. There are some nice clean affordable places to stay. Mostly backpackers, trekkers and foreigners prefer staying here. The place is not too crowded as Mcleod Ganj, has nice german bakeries and small cafes and few shops. This place is closer to Triund, Bhagsu waterfall and Shiva cafe. It’s a more peaceful place, if your idea of Mcleodganj is playing Punjabi tracks in your car, getting drunk and dancing till 3 am please avoid this place.
Dharamkot – Little away from the mall but within walkable distance. Nice clean peaceful place, usually people who come for meditations or trekking and backpackers prefer staying here. There’s nothing much to explore except for nice homestays and guesthouses. Once again if you are a party animal avoid this place too.
Other options are Naddi and Dharamshala – which are far off places – One would need a personal vehicle or taxi if planning to stay at these places.
What to do or What I usually do: I usually go there either to eat or just walk around, click some pictures or meditate. The places one usually visits are:
Dalai Lama temple which is also his residence, so if one is lucky one can have the opportunity to meet him.
Norbulingka Institute located at Sidhpur, 12 km away on Palampur road is another beautiful monastery where you’ll get to see Tibetan families and kids learning some skills, studying and meditating. It has a beautiful guest house also. Visit this place on your way to Palampur if that’s in your itinerary.
Bhagsu waterfall is about 3 km away from Mcleodganj mall road. Cars or auto will take you till Bhagsu from there it’s about 15-20 minutes easy uphill walk. It’s a beautiful waterfall and one can even get down in it during hot summer days and take a nice chill dip and also enjoy Maggi and tea. If you are planning to get in the waterfall please carry some clothes and don’t just go inside in your kachha baniyan…..that looks awful!! The famous and highly overrated Shiva cafe is just above the waterfall, another 10 minutes easy uphill walk.
Naddi / Dal lake located about 4-5 km away from Mcleodganj is a total touristy place and has nothing worth visiting unless you are visiting during winters when there could be some snow as it is little above Mcleod. One can get an auto or taxi from the taxi stand to visit this.
Triund is a nice and easy trek of about 6 km from Mcleod. One can either do a day trek by starting early morning and return by evening or can stay up there for a night in camps. There are many operators at Mcleodganj who organise such camping at Triund. I have not been here yet but would surely do this soon and update this blog as I am highly motivated after successfully doing Tiger’s Nest Trek
Osho Nisarga Meditation is a place where you can participate in Osho meditation retreats, therapy groups, rejuvenation cures, and training sessions. It’s a beautiful place located in Sheela about 12 km away from Mcleod on the way to Palampur. There are many other meditation places around Mcleodganj like Vipassana, Tushita and more.
Himachal Pradesh Cricket Stadium Dharamshala also known as HPCA Stadium located in Dharamshala is the beautiful red coloured stadium on the hills you see during IPL matches.
Palampur is about 40 km away from Mcleod and a very beautiful and picturesque location for photography with tea gardens and greenery. The whole journey to Palampur is really beautiful, one can even get down on the river banks on the way. From there one can even board the Toy train.
There are many many places around Mcleodganj like Kangra, Bir Biling, Chintpurni, Jwalaji mandir and more that one can explore depending on availability of time
Where to eat: Here comes the most important part of the blog – What to eat – Where to eat – Most of my travel stories are usually around food as I really love to explore the best places to eat. Mcleodganj has hundreds of cafes from Tibetan to Korean to Japanese to Continental or Indian ..you name it you get it!! But not all places are worth trying as everyone travels with limited money and time and it’s always helpful to get some recommendations from other travellers. So here are my recommendations as per my preferences. Remember Mcleod Ganj is totally vegetarian on Wednesdays
1. Tibet Kitchen – located right on the Mcleodganj roundabout on the back lane of the main mall road. If you love Asian, Tibetan, Chinese, Bhutanese, Nepalese food, this is the place for you, Non vegetarian’s heaven this place is but it also serves a good variety of vegetarian items too. I love their Mutton momos and Pork dishes. They do have amazing chicken dishes too.
2. Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen – Located a little ahead of Tibet kitchen Jogiwara road on the back lane of the mall road on first floor. It is a must visit place in Mcleod ganj, rated very highly on all travel portals since ages. They specialise in wood oven Pizzas, pastas, other Italian and continental dishes. Their apple pie is to die for.
3. Moonpeak Thali / Espresso – Located on the mall road on the way to Dalai Lama temple. This is one of my favourite places to eat Himachali Thali with mutton curry. They even make some amazing Indian food and nice naan. They are more popular as a cafe that serves some amazing tea coffee etc and free wi-fi. Do try their Ginger Honey Lemon Tea.
4. Crepes Pancakes Hut located on the Jogiwara road opposite Mount view hotel run by a Tibetan lady and her daughters is a beautiful vegetarian cafe that serves some nice crepes, pancakes, burritos and even sushi and nice beverages. They even have some nice collection of books for visitors to read till they prepare their food fresh. Must try their home-made beer. The best thing about this place is the way they serve the food in such nice and colorful manner.
5. Lung ta on Jogiwara road is a Vegetarian Japanese restaurant but they do serve eggs. I never expected vegetarian Sushi and other japanese food would be so great. Loved everything I ordered. It’s quite reasonable and neat and clean. Food really tastes awesome.
6. Korean Cafe Ri is a nice little place facing the valley with outdoor seating arrangements run by two Korean sisters and helped by a few Tibetan locals. The menu has a lot of variety and authentic Korean dishes served in a very nice manner in nice crockery and cutlery and service is very prompt and fast. One must try their Fried chicken, pork, chicken and tofu dishes. I would really recommend everyone who likes to try variety cuisine to pay a visit to this restaurant and try their food.
7. Wooser bakery located on the Jogiwara road in the basement of a small mall on the back lane of the mall road, serves some amazing desserts and coffee. It’s a must visit place if you have a sweet tooth
8. Nick’s Italian located on the road to Bhagsu, has a nice outdoor seating on the terrace and a beautiful place to dine at. Though I didn’t have a great experience here as their service was pathetic but food was good and had a good variety of desserts too.
9. Illiterati located downward towards the end of the Jogiwara road is a nice small cafe but not open always. They have some nice but limited items to offer and a lot of books to read. It’s an experience to visit this one but not just for food.
10. Shiva Cafe located above the Bhagsu waterfall and one has to walk uphill for about 15-20 minutes from Bhagsu to reach this place. Well, this is a highly overrated place and serves nothing that’s actually worth eating, but it’s quite an experience to visit this place. It has a huge open seating area and located on the hills with beautiful view. They even serve hookah.
Other than these 10 places that I recommend visiting there ar few more nice places one might want to visit if they have time, but you won’t regret if you miss these. They are Norling restaurant – Tibetan, Carpe Diem – Continental, Indique – Indian restaurant, McLlo restaurant – Multi cuisine and bar, Clay oven – Nepali Thali and Pizza and Coffe Talks – coffee shop and bakery.
I think I have covered everything that I have known about Mcleodganj and tried to share the best of my knowledge here. Feel free to ask if you want any more information and leave a note if you have liked or disliked anything here. Thanks for reading 🙂