St. John in the Wilderness Church – A quaint church in Mcleodganj

St. John Church, Mcleodganj

It was my third visit to St. John Church, Mcleodganj in the last 10 days. By then I knew the church premises well and could feel the sense of belongingness to the place.  I strolled through the cobbled pathway inside the premises, admiring the huge deodar trees and settled myself on my favorite green bench facing the church. Having visited monasteries and temples during this solo trip to Mcleodganj, I knew this is the place where I find my solace and hence the third visit.

I traveled to Mcleodganj to experience how it is to travel solo, how it is to walk on some unknown paths, what it takes to make strangers friends, how it is to go to cafes and eat alone and mostly how to be myself. Somethings which I had never done before (for now, I park the solo trip story for next time).

Also read Things to experience in Mcleodganj

Where is St.John church, Mcleodganj located?

On the 3rd day of my trip, I decided to aimlessly walk down the hill (I used to pick a new trail everyday while I was there) from Mcleodganj. Past 10 minutes, in Forsyth Gunj, I saw a neo gothic structure almost hidden in the branches of Deodar trees. The lush greenery around this place was so inviting that in the blink of an eye,  I decided to know more about this place.


One of the entrance gates read Church of St. John in the Wilderness built-in 1852. It immediately struck to me that this church must be bathed in rich history and I knew I need to visit this church.

Church and its history

As I entered the premises of St. John church, Mcleodganj and walked down the cobbled path towards the church, the graveyard on the left sent a shiver down my spine. I walked upto the church which looked profoundly built-in neo gothic architecture. I have always been fascinated by churches but this one felt even more engrossing. The tall roof and the beautiful Belgian stained glass windows caught my eyes as I entered the church. I sat there for a while , offered my prayers and came out.

I took a round of the church premise and spotted a grave memorial of historical importance. St. John church Mcleodganj houses the grave memorial of Lord Elgin who was the Governor-General & Viceroy of India in 1861 during the British Raj. He died on the land of Dharamshala and in memory of her husband, Lady Elgin donated the pretty stained glass windows depicting Jesus and John the baptist (from whom the church takes its name).


I found a huge bell encapsulated in metal cast and an information board placed by Indian Army outside the church which mentioned all the important incidents around the St. John church, Mcleodganj. Having read all about the church, I found it even more intriguing. It was unveiling its historical layers one after the other. I was in awe of this place after having known what all it has seen and survived.

The church survived the Kangra Earthquake

The church survived the devastating Kangra earthquake of 1905 which took lives of around 20,000 people and destroyed many monuments of Kangra, Mcleodganj and Dharamsala. Although the earthquake couldn’t shake the foundation of the church and its structure, but it’s spire, Bell tower got destroyed. A new bell later in 1915 was brought from London and installed in the compound, outside the church.

I had fallen in love with this church when I visited the church for the first time as a tourist and I was sure it’s just the beginning of our love affair. After a few days, my parents visited me in Mcleodganj, I played a guide and showed them around my favorite place – St. John Church, Mcleodganj.  They seemed to love it too.

My love for St. John Church, Mcleodganj 

And I was there again after a few days and this time I was not a tourist. It felt like I knew the place, the huge deodars seemed to acknowledge me, the caretaker came forward for a personal talk, the vibe of the church had almost engulfed me. I sat on my favorite green bench for hours immersed in my own thoughts, appreciated the huge deodar trees for a while, observed selfie taking tourists and happily clicked a lot of honeymoon couples too.

There are very few places which move your soul. This church reaffirmed my belief that religion has absolutely nothing to do with the place where you find solace and calm. Have you found such a place for yourself?



St. John Church, Mcleodganj

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21 Replies to “St. John in the Wilderness Church – A quaint church in Mcleodganj”

  1. Beautiful! Lovely place and the way you have presented it through your pictures and words is impressive. I’d also like experience this place someday… Thanks for inspiring!

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      Hey, thanks Renuka! Coming from you these words mean a lot !

  2. I’m a huge fan of India and really didn’t think this looked like India when I viewed your pics. So good that the church has survived earthquakes (apart from the spire). I’d love to go here, thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      Vanessa, India has so many hidden spots that I have realized it is difficult to see it all in one lifetime. Thanks for reading my article!

  3. This place looks beautiful and surprisingly green and lush. Lovely photos too 🙂

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      Thanks so much Suzanne! Appreciate your kind words 🙂

  4. What a fascinating place, hidden in the trees. Would love to visit it!.

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      It was out of a dreamy world!what calm it gave me!

  5. Lovely write up..I was almost there while reading this post.I found such a place in Himachal.Garli,a heritage village near to Jwaladevi.

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      Thanks sweetheart! Himachal is filled with quaint spots like these

  6. Wow love that church! I have never been to McLeodganj and that makes me very happy because my home town is not too far from it! Hopefully I will visit soon and will surely refer back to your post when I do because I’d love to visit this church. So medieval!

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      Mcleodganj is special to me in more ways than one! My first solo trip, my first volunteering experience and lot of special memories!

  7. lovely write up sakshi, its beautiful place to experience it once

    1. saakshimaheshwari says: Reply

      Thanks Mayuri 🙂

  8. So I am actually not the biggest fan of churches and I usually only check them out if it’s super convenient and for architectural reasons. However I really like this one as it looks so dreamy located in the middle of nowhere. Also, it seems to have a really interesting story and it’s really impressive that it survived such a big earthquake! So I might be down to visit this one 🙂

  9. What a pretty place to visit, I can see from the photographs that it is peaceful and in a beautiful green setting. Great to learn a little on the history of St.John church as well.

  10. What a quaint church. I love that it is surrounded by nature!

  11. India is such a beautiful country with so much diversity. I had no idea you could find a church in the wilderness and just the idea of finding a church in the middle of the forest is so amazing. I’d probably have gone back 3 times too to enjoy nature’s serenity and make sure I got all the photos I wanted.

  12. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post and lovely photos. as I was reading it I imagined finding a shady spot and breathing in the tranquiliity.

  13. This church is so beautiful, especially set in the trees like that. I love how much simple elegance this building has.

  14. I had missed this church during my 2018 visit to Mcleod Ganj. Thus I visited back again in Sept this year and spent some time in the isolation here.
    Nice write up.

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