Mcleodganj is popular among Indian and foreign travelers. This small hill town is better known as the home of Dalai Lama and affectionately referred to as Little Lhasa. The twin towns of Dharmshala & Mcleodganj are surrounded by Dhuladhar mountain and the weather remains pleasant throughout the year. While Dharamshala is not a popular tourist destination but over the years Mcleodganj became a popular tourist destination. The main street and square bustle with travelers throughout the year but during summer months it gets crowded. Once you move away from the busy market area there are some peaceful & interesting things to do in Mcledganj and Dharmshala. During my trips to Mcleodganj, I visited some interesting places and ate yummy food.
In Mcleodganj you will get a wide variety of Indian and international food.
The main square has crowds but once you go outside the town area towards Bhagsunath or Dharmkot, it is quite peaceful. The views are spectacular and the air is fresh. I had short trips to Mcleodganj but my short stays there refreshed my senses and taste buds.
Places to visit in Dharamshala and Mcleodganj
You can escape the city crowd to some extent in Dharamshala and Mcleodganj. The main street area remains busy and crowded as I mentioned earlier, more so during weekends. People for nearby areas of Punjab and Haryana visit it for short breaks. If you move beyond the main market you will find peace and experience nature.
Some of the popular Hill towns of North India.
There are some easy trails for walking, cafe to enjoy food & drinks, soak the natural surroundings and finish the day watching a sunset in the mountains. If you are visiting Dharamshala and Mcleodganj for a short duration then the following are the must-visit places to explore and get the essence these two most popular towns in the Dholadhar mountain range of Himalayas.
1.) Temple of Dalai Lama
This is the personal monastery of the 14th Dalai Lama and that’s why known as Temple of Dalai Lama. The temple is located near the main road of Mcleodganj after walking through a narrow lane. There are a Tibetan museum and few shops on sides of this lane.
The temple of Dalai Lama is also known as Tsuglakhang Temple and Namgyal Monastery. Most importantly it is the head office of the Tibetan government in exile and that’s why it has religious and political importance. 200 monks live and study in this monastery complex.
As we entered from the main gate, we reached a small compound. The most important place in the complex is the main prayer hall, hung with thangkas and has a statue of Buddha in golden color.
There are prayer wheels around the temple, which we spun in the clockwise direction for the goodwill. There is an open terrace at the back of the main temple from where we saw the whole Mcleodganj town.
Temple remains open from sunrise to sunset.
2.) Tibetan museum
It is very close to the temple of the Dalai Lama and situated in the lane leading to the temple. The museum showcases the relation of Tibet with India and China. In this museum, you will see how the Chinese government-controlled Tibet and suppressed the people. It shows the difficult conditions in which people left Tibet to escape the atrocities of the Chinese government. There is a large collection of photographs and videos showcasing Tibetan history and their struggle in modern times. a trip to Mcleodganj is incomplete without visiting the museum.
Some people may say its propaganda of Tibetan people to attract the attention of the world. Whatever your thing, it is a reality that Tibetan people left their motherland to avoid the Chinese atrocities and to save their culture.
3.) St. John in the Wilderness Church
The church is on the outskirts of Mcleodganj as you go towards Dharamshala. St. John in the Wilderness was built in 1852. This neo-gothic church is dedicated to John the Baptist. The church is set amidst deodar forests and is quite secluded. The church is known for its Belgian stained-glass windows, which look quite beautiful.
Other than church there is nothing else to see in the compound. It is a peaceful place to enjoy solitude.
4.) Dal lake
Dal lake is 11 km from the main town of Mcleodganj. It was named after the famous Dal lake of Srinagar but there is nothing common between two beyond the name. There is a small Shiva temple on the banks of the lake and it’s one of the most sacred places. The lake is small in size.
Unfortunately, the lake is not very clean and water is muddy coloured.
Despite this, it’s a nice place to spend some time here. What I liked most about the lake are its surroundings. The deodar trees surrounded the lake from 3 sides. There are few eating joints around Lake.
5.) Bhagsu Nag temple and waterfall
Bhagsu Nag temple is around 6 km from the main town. The temple is dedicated to Bhagsu Nag, who is worshipped as the snake God in this area. There is a statue of Nag (Snake) from the initial days of temples and it is worshipped as a local deity.
In recent years they have made a tunnel-like structure inside the temple. The entry to this is from the mouth of the snake and as you move inside this tunnel, there are several statues of different snakes and gods on the side walls. These states were made to depict the mythological stories. Everyone has different views about this tunnel, my friend found it very interesting whereas I was freaking out. I don’t like closed places so it was a bit claustrophobic for me. The exit from the tunnel is from the tail of the snake. This tunnel depicts that there is a whole universe inside the stomach of Bhagsu Nag.
View of the surrounding areas is nice from the temple.
Bhagsunag waterfall can be seen from the temple. The ascend to the Bhagsu Waterfall starts a little walk ahead of the temple. The path is about 2-feet wide for a 1.5 km climb, which leads to this waterfall.
There is a small Cafe on the way for the water and refreshments. There are no shades or a resting place on the way. So it’s advisable to carry an umbrella in case it rains and wear a cap to protect from the sun.
The view of the valley and mountains from the top is worth the climb.
Bhagsu waterfall is best during monsoon time or just after the rainy season. There is very little water in it for the rest of the year.
6.) Kangra Fort
This fort is 31 km from Mclodganj and 23 km from Dharmshala. The fort is mostly in ruins now except for a few temples in the compound. You have to climb from the base of the fort to reach the top part of the fort. The view of the snow-clad Dholadhar mountain range is worth climbing the fort. Even though the Fort is in ruins its outer wall is still in good shape. Audio guides are available to understand the history and architecture of Kangra Fort.
7.) Naddi viewpoint
It’s the highest viewpoint in Mclodganj with an up-close view of the Dholadhar range. But the view of the mountain range and snow-capped peaks depends upon the weather. The fog appears quickly and then nothing is visible. Other than the view, you can go for a nature walk in the surrounding areas.
There are several good cafes near Naddi point, where you can enjoy a meal with the view.
8.) Norbulingka institute
This institute was founded in 1995 to preserve the traditional art and culture of Tibet. Norbulingka institute remains open from 9.00 AM to 5.30 PM. Visitors can see how Tibetan people are working to preserve their heritage. You can shop the souvenirs from here. They have a canteen where you can enjoy a Tibetan meal.
Norbulingka institute organizes workshops also, check here for more details.
9.) Trek to Triund
A trek to Triund is one of the most popular things to do in Mclodganj. Triund trek is easy to moderate and the trekking path is well marked. The last 150 meters of the trek is very steep. It normally takes 4 to 6 hours depending upon the fitness level.
There are several cafes on the way, almost every 400 to 500 meters you will find a Cafe. Since the trek is well marked so you don’t need a guide but if you need help in climbing and like listening to interesting stories than hire a guide from Mclodganj.
You can return on the same day but it is advisable to stay at Triund top overnight for a complete trek experience. A tent can be booked in Mclodganj or even when you reach Triund. It gets cold at the top especially in winter months so carry some woolens.
A Triund trek is a great place to camp with a beautiful view.
Also, read my packing guide for traveling in India.
10.) Eat Tibetan food
When you are in Mcleodganj enjoy some traditional Tibetan food. There are many restaurants in the market, Dharmkot area, Jogiwara, and Bhagsunag road.
Tibet Kitchen, Jimmy’s Tibetan cuisine and Takhyil Cafe are some popular places.
Other than eating in these restaurants try momos, Lapsing and Thupka from street vendors. They serve freshly steamed momos in vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian options.
Norbulingka Institute is another good place to try authentic Tibetan dishes in Mcleodganj and Dharamshala.
A trip to Mcleodganj and Dharmshala is incomplete without eating Tibetan food.
11.) Learn Yoga and Meditation
Since Mcleodganj and Dharamshala are an important destination for Buddhism so, you will find several options to learn yoga and meditation. People staying for more than a week can take lessons on these. After Rishikesh, Mcleodganj and Dharmshala are a popular place in India to learn these ancient arts.
If you are interested in spirituality and meditation then read about my experience at Himalayan ashram Satkhol.
12.) Attend lectures of Dalai Lama
If you are spiritual and like to listen to the teachings of Dalai Lama then check his schedule here and plan your trip accordingly.
For people interested to attend the lectures they are advised to reach the venue 1.5 to 2 hours before the scheduled timing. In this way, you will get a seat closer to the main stage and have a better experience. Also, you need time to clear the security check post for the event.
Mcleodganj is a good place to do Souvenir shopping in India. The main market & central square in Mcleodganj, shop near Dalai Lama temple and Norbulingka institute are some of the most popular places for shopping.
My favorite items to buy from Mcleodganj are singing bowls, prayer flags, Thangka paintings, prayer wheels, stones, artificial fashion jewelry, colorful clothing materials, woolen garments, Buddha statues and books on Buddhism. You can also buy Kangra tea in Mcleodganj.
Be prepared to do bargain if you are buying in the market of Mcleodganj. Also, carry cash for shopping because many shops don’t accept cards for payment or may charge you a little extra for card payment. It will be easy to bargain if you have cash in hand.
Read more about souvenir shopping in India.
14.) HPCA Cricket stadium
If you are Indian or a cricket fan then a visit to the HPCA stadium in Dharamshala is a must. HPCA stadium is located at an altitude of 1,457 meters and one of the highest cricket grounds in the world.
The stadium is neat and scenic. You can visit the stadium from the inside, see the stands, gallery and VIP stands. The entry to the stadium is restricted for public view during and before a match for security reasons. Check out the match schedule before visiting the stadium.
Places to visit near Mcleodganj
Visit Palampur from Mcleodganj
This quaint little town is 40 Km from Mclodganj and Dharamshala. Palampur is popular for the tea estates of the Kangra region. You can spend a couple of days here to unwind yourself and exploring tea gardens. The tea gardens are well maintained and beautiful though they are not as big as Munnar in Kerala. For religious experience in Palampur visit Baijnath temple, which is 17 km.
Visit Bir Billing from Mcleodganj
For adventure seekers Bir Billing is a perfect place, it’s 70 Km from Mcleodganj. Bir is Asia’s best paragliding destination. If you have 2 to 3 days extra then visit Bir Billing. You can stay in Billing and go to Bir for paragliding. Other than that there is a monastery in Billing.
Best time to visit Mcleodganj
Most of the Indian tourists visit Dharmshala and Mcleodganj during summers to escape the heat of plains or around the new year to see the snowfall. I think Mcleodganj is good throughout the year.
April, May, and June are the best months when weather is mildly warm and temperatures in North India at 40 to 45-degree Celcius.
December and January is the best time to see snowfall. Temperature goes sub-zero degrees.
It is the wettest place in Himachal Pradesh and if you don’t like rains then don’t visit in July – August.
Triund trek remains close in January and February, so plan accordingly.
Best places to stay in Mcleodganj
It all depends upon personal choice. Mcleodganj caters to all type of budgets, you can get a private room with shared bathrooms for 400 INR or stay in luxury resorts. There is something for every traveler.
If you don’t mind hustle and bustle then stay near the main city square of Mcleodganj. There are several cafes, restaurants and coffee shops.
For people who don’t want to stay away from city Square but still like the peaceful surroundings, they can stay in Bhagsunag area or Bhagsu road.
Naddi road is 3 km from Mcleodganj and a peaceful place.
Dharmkot is the best suited for people who want to stay away from all hustle-bustle in the middle of nature. It’s 5 km from the city square.