STARS SHINE DOWN
MCLEODGUNJ, DHARAMSALA, HIMACHAL PRADESH
Well if you are a Delhite or from Chandigarh and nearby, chances are you have been to McLeodgunj innumerable times, after all, it is indeed the most convenient and one of the nearby Himachali towns around.
This was my Second trip to this quaint little Hill station and boy oh boy it did not disappoint at all, maybe because I had an agenda this time. I wanted to capture its beauty, its details in small things, the local lives, and most importantly the STARS.
Being an Avid photographer, I was completely prepared to capture the beauty of this town. To say the least it’s not at all a Sleepy town.
If you are looking for a Himalayan getaway which has cafes, young crowd, bustling markets, mountains, peace, chaos, traffic, dope, temples, monks and of course His Holiness Dalai Lama, then you are at the right place.
Let me jump straight into the topic and Help you out with planning a getaway here.
Who Should Go:
Well anybody and everybody actually. Its a Family oriented Hill Station however youngsters have many nuances they would like and hence makes it a preferable vacay spot for the hippies and others alike.
When should you go:
Between March and June is the best time to visit actually, however, to beat the Delhi and the nearby crowd, it is advisable to reach there on a weekday and maybe club it over with a weekend.
Keep in mind, weekends and holidays do get crowded and often you’ll find you have no breathing space.
Mode of Travel:
There are 2 best options actually:
- By Train till Pathankot and then take a Taxi till Dharamsala/McLeodgunj. Many trains are available for this destination.
- Best way to book a train ticket is through www.irctc.co.in
- The journey will be around for 9-10 hours in train and then a taxi will take further 2-3 hours
- By Bus from Delhi. It takes about an overnight to reach McLeodgunj by bus. Many Luxury Volvo Buses leave from Majnu ka Tila in Delhi around evening and reach by early morning.
- Make sure the bus is going till Mcleodgunj since many have their final stoppage in Dharamsala, from where you need to take another bus for half an hour or so to reach Mcleodgunj.
- Buses and Car take around 12 hours to reach McLeodgunj, with proper meal and loo breaks
- You can book a bus or taxi online as well with redbus.in or makemytrip.com etc
- By Car from Delhi: If you are comfortable driving in Hilly regions (mind it, it does have some hair pin bends) then consider taking your car, the more people with you the merrier. The roads are Fantastic and you will find few pit stops for refuelling as well. It takes around 12 hours with breaks.
- Travelling by a car has its own advantages, you can decide the speed, stop to see gorgeous Sunrises and decide your own pace
Alternatively, if the above doesn’t suit you then you can Fly as well either till Chandigarh and then take the Bus/Train/Car route or till a very small airport near Dharamsala named Gaggal. Make reservations ahead since there are only 2 airlines which fly till Gaggal and that too it is at their discretion to operate or not to operate.
Where to stay:
Now this is the quintessential question we all have and with all my travelling I have decided that this maketh or breaketh a trip. At least for me it does. Sometimes in order to save a few bucks, I have ended up in unhygienic rooms, no views, poor services and what not.
I am not saying that you need a 5 star, though finding one in these hilly terrains is difficult, but you should definitely do a research before leaving.
Read reviews on Trip Advisor and ask friends like me for suggestions.
Now few things to keep in mind, Dharamsala is more of a busy City/town with businesses etc. Go further up and you get McLeodgunj, a small, very small Hilly terrain with not much Hotel options but still plenty to suit every budget.
My best bet would be at Hotel Bhagsu which is an HPTDC operated hotel and is often sold out.
This time, we stayed at a place called THE PINK HOUSE
Well, the name sounded cheesy but trust me I don’t regret at all, cos of the view it gave me. The hotel was nice and clean, big rooms (we stayed in a Superior Deluxe though) ask them beforehand to give you a room with a view and you won’t be disappointed.
Below was my view from my room:
Rates were reasonable and the staff was endearing. It’s run by mostly young localities and they were very helpful and pleasant. Though the FnB options were severely limited at the hotel, the small Library, and the games section kept us hooked.
For Backpackers there are several new, trendy Inn’s which have opened up can also be tried.
The only Drawback with Hotel PINK HOUSE was that you had to go down 100 stairs, to be precise to reach the hotel. Ahh well, you need to climb them up as well to roam around town. So if you don’t mind the forced fitness routine, then go for it.
But for views like the above, i was ready to climb as many stairs as required… pheewwwww
Pssssst: I have added MAPS to most of the destinations for your convenience. You can open my blog and click on the maps on your smartphone for directions 🙂
The maps are at the end of the post
Well there isn’t too much to do in Dharamsala/McLeodgunj but few staples are a must:
- The Temple of His Holiness Dalai Lama. Its at the absolute end of the street of McD (McLeodgunj) and if you happen to visit it during the Sunset then its bliss..
Watch the Sun set over the horizon or the Monks chanting in the evening. Its serene to say the least. Remember it closes just after the sunset. Visit the temple or just take in the beauty of the simple lives the monks lead.
2.) Shop till you drop : Torusim is one of the main sources of income for most of the people of this region hence do not haggle too much for those pair of earrings. You will have plenty of choices and options, almost everyone’s selling the same thing. Often i found that the older ladies got angry, if we bargained too much. We need to respect their trade
3) Visit Norbulingka institute in Dharamsala: It is an institute for the preservation of Art and Culture of Tibet. You can see a museum, workshops, Art gallery and a high end retail shop. Ofcourse a temple as well. Go there for the sheer beauty of it. The pathways, the water, the prayer wheels, it will transport you to another realm. It has an in house cafe as well.
4) St. Johns in the Wilderness Church: a Beautiful church with beautiful views. Period.
5) Eat, eat and Eat : After you are exhausted with walking, the best thing to do is EAT, ofcourse, so here is my list of things and places to try in McLeodgunj:
Places to Eat in McLeodgunj
- Try the authentic dish of the mountains THUKPA. This is basically a Noodle Soup and very very filling. You will get them almost in every cafe you visit
- You may try the MOMO’s but honestly, I felt Delhi NCR has better tasting MOMO’s (ouch) though you try the varieties there like Aloo Momo, Paneer Momo etc etc
- I found they make awesome GINGER LEMON HONEY TEA better than what we make here, a must try
- Jimmy’s and Nicks Italian Kitchen : Well, well, well, as the name suggests they serve Italian cuisine and often a good one. Try their Pizzas and Pasta with other exotic Italian dishes. The prices are nominal and the portion size is good. We went to Jimmy’s for dinner and found it bustling with people. While Nicks was our stop for the breakfast next day, and oh boy we were surprised. What delicious line up they have. a MUST try
- All the restaurants are on the main McD road only which is called Jogiwara Road.
- Few others to try is Indique, Clay Oven (only Lunch n Dinner), Tibet Kitchen for authentic Tibetan food, Seed Cafe, and Namgyal Cafe.
- These are not easy to locate, though, you can ask, or simply switch on your Maps. All is in walking distance
And now just Relax and take in the Fresh air (that is if you reach before the rush hour)
As promised find below some Important Tips and most importantly MAPS
- It being a Mountainous region, may rain anytime, specifically post July, so carry a UMBRELLA
- Mountain air is fresh and clear meaning more sunlight, meaning Tanning, use a Sunscreen always
- Sip on WATER before and after your trek, trust me it helps, though, Beer does too…
- Needless to say, wear good shoes, incase you feel like hiking up to TRIUND for gorgeous Himalayan views, you would need a good sports shoe.
- You can Avoid going to Bhagsu Falls, cos there, not much water left in the waterfalls, just saying
- And the most important, respect the people, their customs, it’s their hometown, we are just visitors.
Mountains teach you a lot, so leave your ego behind and come back with a fresh mind.
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Till then, Stay Curious!
Pssssst: Below, those MAPS I talked about