Visiting Mcleodganj Dharamshala? In this travel blog, I will be sharing all the useful information you need to know – from how to visit, to where to stay, to what is the best time to travel.
But before we get into the details, let’s talk about my personal travel experience.
If you are not interested in reading my experience, scroll down to a heading that says Where To Stay In Dharamshala. From there, and further below to the end of this travel blog, you will find useful tips.
Also, if you are visiting more places around, read my Himachal Pradesh travel guide. You can also check this blog for some of the handpicked tourist places in Himachal Pradesh.
Now, let’s get started!
… my experience!
Home to Dalai Lama, Dharamshala is India’s own version of Lhasa!
We travel the most when we learn something new. And we learn that NEW when we come to a place full of stories and inspiration. What we find in such places is that it is the sadness that makes the sun shine brighter, and it is the spirit of people that makes this world more beautiful. This applies to McLeodganj Dharamshala – a nondescript sleepy hamlet in the foothills of the Himalayas – in an absolute and unconditional sense.
The sound of Buddhist prayers in Namgyal Monastery and the many friendly faces that I frequently stumbled upon there, often filled me with a sudden unanswerable sense – that I’d been to this place before.
I decided to visit this place to experience Tibetan Buddhist culture, as this place is now home to its government in exile and the revered Dalai Lama with his several thousand Tibetan people. And no wonder the city lives up to its tag of small Tibet and the “Little Lhasa”.
I found the Buddhist community living there is more religiously inclined, with almost everyone I spoke to having a higher sense of regard for the Dalai Lama.
I’ve visited quite a few other Buddhist villages around India (out of which I totally loved Bylakuppe, in Karnataka and Bodhgaya, in Uttar Pradesh) but when I was in McLeodganj, it felt different altogether.
It is like one of those inspiring places, where the exile and loss of its people are seen in the right light, it doesn’t seem depressing at all.
“The great courage is still, to gaze as squarely at the light as at death”
Though it’s a different and perhaps a sad thing that the Buddhist leader – who once had a home in the serene mountains of Lhasa – and ruled far beyond the boundaries of entire Tibet, is now living in the confined spaces of McLeod Ganj, and owns nothing more than a small house.
And, that’s not it. Almost every other person in McLeodganj Dharamshala had a gloomy past and a sad story to tell. But when you walk through its chill, sharp streets, all you see is a bunch of happy faces, with many walking with their prayer beads and chanting mantras as they go about their day.
And when your senses aren’t occupied by those happy faces, you find yourself smiling at the working amiable Tibetan women selling goods with a baby strapped to their backs. Their beautiful, smooth face, cheeks red from overexposure to the sun and a rosary, methodically moving in and out their sleeve as if each dark turquoise bead acts in an abacus for time and prayer.
As much as I loved this place for its people and its aura, the food there is also something that’s worth a mention. From pancakes to thupkas to momos, every café has its own variety of dishes with its signature Tibetan touch.
While there is a host of eatables to choose from – one thing that you, however, can’t afford to miss out on is the famous Tibetan butter tea – a stimulating sweet, salty mix. Other things to eat while in Mcleodgunj are Yak Cheeze Slice dessert, Chhurpi, Phaley and Tingmo. Tibetan food in Mcleodganj is certainly worth exploring while you are there.
It was one of those whimsical places for me where, for no reason, I found myself being able to decipher as if I was in a place I know better than I should.
During my entire stay there, chanting the many Mcleodganj and Dharamshala quotes I found myself shuffling through the gratings of the conscious mind, and into a place that observes a different kind of logic – of friendliness and peace.
Where to Stay In Dharamshala
When looking for a place to stay in the Dharamshala, look for something either in Dharamkot or Mcleodganj. I personally like Dharamkot the most because it is less crowded. Mcleodganj, on the other hand, is where the Buddhist leader Dalai Lama lives so staying there also makes sense.
I have moreover noticed that accommodation in Dharamshala is the most expensive and that around Dharamkot it is least expensive.
During my last visit, I spent almost a week there. Moreover, I have visited this place over 5 times. So from all those experiences, I have written this blog on best hostels in Dharamshala that will help you choose from some of the tried and tested places.
If, however, you don’t want to stay in a hostel, some of the best places to stay in Dharamshala are:
- Hotel King Castle
- D’s Casa Hotel
- Hotel Adivaha
- Pink House
Please note that I have not stayed at any of these places but are recommending them the basis of their ranking online.
Best Time To Visit
I’ve been to this fascinating Hamlet both off and during the season and I’ve found the best time to visit Mcleodganj Dharamshala is when this place is not crammed with tourists. If you visit it during the peak season, you don’t get to feel its warmth or watch all the monks in their flaming robes walking along the narrow, confined roads around the main market.
Having said that, the best time to visit Dharamshala is during winter or monsoon. In other terms, the months of July, August, December, January and February are the best.
Between May and June is when it is most crowded there.
I hope you found this blog with tips on where to stay in Dharamshala, how to travel to Mcleodganj, among other tips, useful. If you have something more to add, please leave a comment below!
Also, read my visit to Bhutan In Search of Happiness
I have travelled Dharamshala 2 times and according me there is no match of its beauty in this world. You can do adventurous things, religious things and many more things in this trip. Best place to enjoy holiday.
Hi Dev, Such a beautifully written article! As a person who has travelled to McLeod Ganj and Bhutan which would you say is a must do first? I have been debating between the 2 places at the moment and would love to hear your thoughts on the same.
Yeah totally agree with you guys. Amazing place with mouth watering food. I too visited Mcleodganj twice and wrote an article about how we 3 friends enjoyed the whole journey.
I just returned from McLeod Ganj on 30th and missing the place. It was my first solo trip and met some nice people there. While I had some great moments there walking alone, the best moments I had were with new people I met.
This is a place where I would definitely travel every year.
Thanks for sharing your experience Harish, and I can totally relate to your experience. Local people there makes your stay so magical that no matter what, you can’t stop feeling a tinge of melancholy once you’re back.
What beautiful pictures here! Just by looking and reading your post, I’m seriously considering visiting and exploring that place myself. Looks like a place worth visiting. Thanks for sharing.
Yea PJ, Dharamshala (often claimed as Little Lhasa) is definitely a must travel, if you’re around North India.
I have always wanted to visit india, what a beautifully written piece, and those dumplings look absolutely delicious,
Know what, I don’t mind going back to the same place just for the dumplings 😉
This sounds lovely! I’ve been always fond of the Himalayas.
Such a lovely article, would love to travel here sometime.
And you totally should. McLeod Ganj is a lovely place to travel.
Beautifully written! I felt like I was right there in McLeod Ganj. I have wanted to visit India since I was little.
I wholeheartedly agree with your first lines! I think a journey is most successful when you leave a part of yourself there and take a part of it with you. Travelling is a great excuse to open your mind and heart!
Thanks for your comment Ashleigh. I think when you’re in McLeod Ganj you feel that ‘It’s not the place, it’s the people’ that make things more beautiful.