Renowned as the residence of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, the Himalayan hill town is situated in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Situated in Dhauladhar mountain range, it is a suburb of Dharmasala region. It is also known as upper Dharamsala. The town was named after David McLeod, the former Governor of Punjab during British rule. Mcleod Ganj is a well known learning centre of Tibetan culture, rituals and Buddhism. It is also called Little Lhasa. Tibetans started settling in Dharamsala in 1959, when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet. Prime Minister of India Jawharlal Nehru allowed the Dalai Lama and his followers to settle in McLeodGanj.
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Thousands of Tibetan exiles have made McLeod Ganj their home. In addition to monasteries, the Tibetan exiles have also built temples and schools. McLeod Ganj is also an ideal destination for trekking. The trek to Bharmour which crosses the 4300m Indrahar Pass is the most popular in addition to trails to Lahaul-Spiti Valleys, Kullu and Chamba. Short walks around McLeod can also be undertaken. A trip to Bhagsu (2km) and Dharamkot (3km) offers scintillating views of the Dhauladhar range. Travelling and transport in the hilly region is quite difficult. Mules are still used as means of as transport.
Avoid visiting Mcleod Ganj during December and January, unless you like to enjoy the snow. Beware of quacks who claim to have knowledge of holistic and alternative therapies. Visit the Chinmaya Tapovan and the Osho Retreat Center. Meeting Dalai Lama is not very easy. Best way is to plan your trip when the Dalai Lama is in town. Check outwww.dalailama.com for annual schedules of His Holiness. To attend prayer meets, tourists will have to register with Branch Security Office. Passport and two passport photographs are required for registration.
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Mcleod Ganj has many ancient temples, monasteries and monuments. Tsuglagkhang is the main shrine here with idols of Sakyamuni Buddha, Avalokitesvara and Padmasambhava. The ambience in the town is distinctly Buddhist and one can discern it in the religious practices and lifestyle.
If you are lucky, you might get to meet the Dalai Lama. Besides that, tourists can enjoy viewing the paintings and stories of Tibetan leaders at the Tsuglagkhang complex. There are various Stupas, temples, monasteries to be explored. If history or religion doesn’t excite, you can just relax in this calm town and visit the bookshops, cafés and museums.
Tourists can also visit the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. They hold a ten- day festival of theatrics, music and dance in May.
Mcleod Ganj basically thrives on tourism. It is also famous for the Buddhist handicrafts, garments and Thangkas.
The Namgyal Monastery, abode of the Dalai Lama, is the most important attraction here for Buddhists. St. John in the Wilderness is an Anglican church built in the neo-gothic style and is definitely worth a visit. The Naam Art Gallery is also a good place to visit. The Gallery is open from 10 am to 7 pm and remains closed on Mondays.
Tibetan artifacts, bronze statues, prayer Thangkas and metal prayer wheels can be bought here. The main shopping areas are Jogibara Road, Temple Road and Bhagsu Road. Shops remain open from 8:30 am to 8 pm. For authentic hand-woven Tibetan carpets, go to Tibetan Handicrafts Cooperative Center on Jogibara Road. The Centre employs newly arrived Tibetan refugees in weaving of carpets. You can also watch weavers in action. Bargaining is acceptable in most of the shops here.
WHERE TO STAY IN MCLEOD GANJ
Most of the hotels here are fully booked during peak season, that is, summer. Mcleod Ganj is a small hill-town; hence hotels are generally affordable with rooms priced between Rs 400 to Rs 600 per night. Some hotels offer deluxe rooms with additional facilities. Hill resorts are also quite popular and provide good comforts. They usually offer heater and internet facilities, and even offer interesting adventure packages to tourists. Rooms in these resorts cost around Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000.
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WHERE TO EAT IN MCLEOD GANJ
There are numerous restaurants in Mcleod Ganj offering Indian as well as international cuisines. Vegetarians can go to Lung Ta on Jogibara Road serving Japanese food, and Pema Thag Pizzeria on Bhagsu Road for delicious pizzas. Tibetan snacks like momos, thupkas and tingmo can be found at some restaurants on Jogibara Road. Again, for Chinese, Continental and Indian cuisines, tourists can go to Jogibara Road. Some coffee bars on Temple Road and cafés on Jogibara Road are bar-cum-restaurants with well-stocked bars, serving good veg and non-veg dishes. Restaurants are generally open from 8 am to 10 pm.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MCLEOD GANJ
March to June is summer time and the temperature ranges from 22 degree Celsius to 38 degree Celsius. Winters (October to February) are chilly and snowfall is common in December and January. Best time to visit is all through the year.
BEST TIME TO VISIT DHARAMSALA
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Dharamsala is as given below. The best time to visit Dharamsala is also specified.