“The mountains are calling and I must go!” – John Muir

This is exactly what happened when I planned to set my foot on my first ever solo trip. I had been planning this trip for quite sometime but the hesitance to travel alone kept pulling me back. One fine day, mountains called  me and the next evening I was in the bus to Mcleodganj with my backpack and a heap of anxiety in my heart. Everything about the solo trip deserves an entire blog which I will be writing soon.

This one is for my dear friends who have hopped onto the buses to Mcleodganj. Infact this blog will serve as a checklist for all my readers on things to do in Mcleodganj. For those of you who have limited time and want to see the best of the place, I hereby pen down the things to do in regard to my experience of the place.

H H Dalai Lama Main Temple: I have always been fascinated by Buddhism and monsateries. So, when I was told that this is the main temple for Tibetan exile community and Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso has his abode in the same complex, Tsuglagkhang Complex, I made sure to visit it the first day itself not that I did not visit the temple in my later days of the stay there. I was immersed in the tranquility of the temple so much so that I was there almost every alternate day. It is best to visit this temple in early morning hours to see the locales and monks praying and to avoid the tourist rush which gets crazy as the day progresses.

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Buddha statue in the main temple

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Passage leads to Dalai Lama’s residence

Tibet Museum: Not all museums take us to the bygone era. The exhibits in this museum not only talk about the gone times but yelled about the present plight of the Tibetans which left me teary eyed. The hung articles of self immolation of young kids shook me from inside and till date I am not able to make peace with the fact that even in 21st century, the red army controls Lhasa without spiritual and cultural freedom to Tibetans.

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Tsuglagkhang Complex inhouses both the Dalai Lama Temple and Tibet Museum, so can be visited one after the other, the same day. A definite thing to do after visiting the Complex is the circumambulation (Parikrama) of the complex which is considered highly sacred. The path starts from the left of entrance gate of the complex. It is like a sine wave which is a blend of crests and troughs and can be completed in 20-30 mins. On the way, one can spot the stupas , prayer flags, pictures of self immolated Tibetans, mounted mani stones and prayer wheels. One should not miss rotating the prayer wheels in clock wise direction and chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum”. Chanting this mantra is said to invoke the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.

St. Johns Church in the wilderness : Of all the temples and monasteries I visited on this trip, I found my solace at this Anglican church located around 2 kms from the Main square. The Neo Gothic architecture of the church left me mesmerized and the sight was no different than a spectacular church shown in movies. Amidst deodar forest, this church stands high in spirit even after affected by 1905 Kangra earthquake. The highlight of the church are its stained glass windows and the bell located just outside the church compound. I spent hours sitting on the bench facing the church and imagining about the times of Lord Elgin here. Only such soothing place could touch my soul!

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A shot from my place of solace, St. John’s church in the wilderness

Also, everytime I visited the church ( oh yes, I had visited the church thrice during my 15 day stay), I savoured the chaat from a chaat thela which is run by a young boy who eloped from his house at an age of 12 over some feud. But he enjoys his time at Mcleodganj and doesnt want to return back. Do give a try to the chaats there.

Bhagasunag waterfall & Shiva cafe : After I walked through Bhagsunag Road, crossed the Shiva temple on the way and trekked through to reach the waterfall, I wasn’t too glad to spot the waterfall as it was not an appreciable gigantic waterfall. Instead like any other tourist spot, people would not spare it too. Sights like a lady washing her towel in the waterfall, a kid throwing chips in the water ached my heart when I knew this water is used for drinking down the hill. After all this also, I am putting this in things to do list only for the reason to go and spend a marvellous time at Shiva cafe which can be reached only after touching the waterfall. Shiva cafe has a mystic charm and aura! The peppy music just adds to the finesse of the cafe. The food served is extra ordinary and the paintings on the rocks can give a run to the finest painters around! The cafe gives you all in the most perfect way.

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Shiva Cafe

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The art work collection

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The artist with his latest one

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The spectacular view from Shiva cafe

Volunteer at Lha Social Work : My travel to Mcleodganj was inspired by the concept called Voluntourism. It means to contribute your bit while travelling and I did that by being a part of English Conversation class at Lha Social Work. The tibetan refugees attend these classes to improve their spoken English, get ready for the world and make big for themselves. I found this initiative commendable as it prepares and aids Tibetans to move ahead in lives. They also have the drop in classes where Volunteers can just go for a day and engage in the conversations with the Tibetans there. This experience will remain very special for me forever as I will not be able to replace gratitude in their words and love in their hugs with any other joy of life. One should definitely contribute there atleast once, more for oneself than for anybody else.

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Felicitation on the last day of Volunteering

Triund Trek : The treks definitely give a physical and emotional kick. The quite similar kick for me was the trek to Triund. I set on to this trek from Gallu Devi Temple with a stranger whom I had met a day back. Well, that’s the whole fun of solo travel. The trek started with some smooth stretches, gradually taking me to patches of difficult terrains and finally to the meadows of astonishing beauty. It cant be better when rhododendrons hold your hand, the Tibetans kids teach you to write your name in Tibetan and you keep motivating a recently made friend. It is an easy to moderate level of trek which took 3 hours while going up and 2.5 hours while walking down. The spectacular view of Dhauladhar ranges, the tiny winy look of Dharamshala stadium and the lush green valley left me spellbound for hours. The small cozy cafes at the top will treat your taste buds to the best.

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The perfect treat to eyes- Laid down rhododendrons welcoming to the trek

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Dramatic clouds with the best ever view of the peak

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Dharamshala cricket stadium : Visiting a cricket stadium has never been on my list. But this stadium is not just another stadium, it is a unique site which stands at an elevation of around 1400m above sea level and the snow clad Himalayas provide the stupendous backdrop. I dedicated an evening of mine to visit the stadium and I could not be luckier to plan the visit at dusk. The rain gods blessed everything around and any sight could not be better than watching the green turning greener, setting sun bidding adieu and the dancing kids  who were on a picnic to Dharamshala.

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An evening at Dharamshala Stadium

Norbulingka Institute: An half an hour cab ride to Sidhpur took me to Norbulingka Institute, a one of its kind in true sense. The institute is set amongst little pretty gardens, safeguards the culture of Tibet and preserves it in artistic and literary forms. The institute showcases the art of Thangka painting, metallurgy, woodcarving, and a different kind of embroidery. The Tibetan refugees can stay there and learn these arts and contribute to enrich their culture. Free education along with free accomodation and meals are provided to the students at the institute. I learnt the details of the institute with the help of the free guide who took me through the institute.

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The temple instilled with tranquility

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Do let me know if you find other interesting places to see in Mcleodganj! I will be happy to add those my checklist 🙂