After two crazy weeks in Delhi dealing with some unexpected and particularly unpleasant visa issues I was in much need of some time to recharge. Within hours of finally sorting out the visa, I had booked a flight for the next morning to take me to Dharmshala’s tiny airport, a short hop from McLeod Ganj. Often referred to as ‘Little Lhasa’, McLeod Ganj is where the Dalai Lama sought asylum and established the Tibetan Government in Exile, as well as the home of tens of thousands of Tibetans who followed in search for freedom. It has since evolved into quite a bustling village, popular with domestic and international tourists for many kinds of spiritual and outdoor pursuits. I only spent four nights in McLeod Ganj, but it was just what I needed to continue my adventures with renewed energy and enthusiasm. However this was my fourth visit, so I have many more tips and recommendations to share which I will do in a coming post. But for now, this is how I spent a lovely four days in beautiful McLeod Ganj.
First and foremost, I relaxed. I slept well, I read, I spent time in the hotel garden, I watched a movie in McLeod Ganj’s tiny cinema, I wrote in my journal, and I took lots of photos. I just took advantage of the cool air and peaceful vibes and rejuvenated my body and mind.
Most mornings for breakfast I would end up at one of McLeod Ganj’s cute little cafes and tuck into a big bowl of fruit salad and a pot of green tea or a soy latte. I also enjoyed many bowls of my favourite Tibetan dish, Veg Thenthuk, which is a clear veggie broth filled with fresh vegetables and hand made square noodles. The perfect change from often heavy and greasy north Indian dishes. I also stumbled across the nicest little healthy cafe Crepe Pancake, where I devoured amazing avocado salads, green juices and soy fruit smoothies.
Getting my heart pumping and pushing my body always helps me feel happy, healthy and alive. I did the short walks to the Bhagsunag waterfall and Dharamkot a couple of times each, and for the first time took on the day hike to Triund hill. The hike is all uphill on the way, with epic views from the top, and then back downhill the same way into town. It was such a fun little walk, and I will definitely be doing a post all about it.
There are so many opportunities to learn in McLeod Ganj. There are courses on Tibetan language, buddhist philosophy, yoga, Ayurvedic massage, Thangka painting, jewellery making and even momos (Tibetan dumplings)! And that’s what I did. As I only had a few days I didn’t take on anything more profound, but I have taken Tibetan cooking classes before in McLeod Ganj and am a keen momo maker at home, so enjoyed the opportunity to refresh my knowledge! After trying different companies, I would highly recommend the taking a class with the lovely Sangye from Sangye’s Kitchen. I also make sure that whenever I am in McLeod Ganj I devote some time to furthering my knowledge about the plight of Tibet. Amongst other things, this time I viewed the updated exhibit in the Tibet Museum, which included the heart wrenching and underreported tales of the many Tibetans who have self-immolated. I also spent time in the fascinating Dalai Lama temple, a must in McLeod Ganj.
Coming from Delhi, McLeod Ganj is virtually hassle free! The Tibetan people are usually friendly and not at all pushy. Further, it is a traveller haven, and as a solo traveller I would often end up sharing a table in a cafe with another traveller, a local, or even a Tibetan monk, which resulted in some fascinating conversations. I also ended up staying in the lovely, clean and cosy dorm room at the friendly Hotel Ladies Venture which was another great way to meet people.
Let’s be honest, a bit of shopping can be great at making you feel better. However, when travelling, it can be hard to find the balance between budget, bag space and the desire to buy all of the beautiful and exotic things you encounter, which you certainly will find in McLeod Ganj! For me, I try to only buy things that are quite small and will be useful throughout my travels. I also prefer to buy fewer things but spend a bit more on getting things that are unique, good quality or ethically produced when I can. In McLeod Ganj I found the gorgeous little Rogpa cafe and charity, which amongst other things employs Tibetan women to produce beautiful handcrafted products. I treated myself to this lovely printed shirt which will be a perfect, slightly nicer addition to my travel wardrobe.
So if you’re ever feeling run down, fed up, or exhauseted by your Indian travels, a few days in lovely McLeod Ganj will have you back on the road ready to take on India again!