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  • The dream of every backpacker, McLeod Ganj is a suburb located in Upper Dharamsala, on the Garhwal range. The snow-clad Hanuman Ka Tibba forms a fitting backdrop to the tranquil McLeod Ganj. Since the exile of the Government of Tibet, McLeod Ganj has become the seat of the Dalai Lama and is an important centre of Tibetan Buddhism and culture. Befittingly known as Little Lhasa, the town is home to scores of important temples, monasteries and other ancient complexes. 

    The scenic hilltop has seen a surge in the number of tourists flocking over the years, with absolutely charming markets selling souvenirs, thangkas and handicrafts to local restaurants dishing out scrumptious Tibetan delicacies, and not to forget the town’s proximity to a handful of the best treks in India. The noteworthy places to visit in McLeod Ganj are tailored for the ultimate relaxation that travelling can offer you.

    Here are some of the best places to visit in McLeod Ganj:

  • 01The Dalai Lama’s Temple

    Image Credit : Jeff and Neda Fields - Flickr

    The huge complex is also known locally as Tsuglagkhang, this is the residence of the Dalai Lama. Although the private residence of His Holiness is out of bounds for tourists, the complex comprises of several shrines, temples, a Tibetan museum and souvenir stores. Each day, students congregate in the courtyard of the Namgyal Monastery and study ancient Buddhist philosophy—which makes for a highly intriguing visit. 

    A massive gilded statue of Buddha and two smaller statues of Guru Rinpoche and Chenresig stand amid natural serenity that the complex is filled to the brim with. 

    Following many bloody sacrifices, parts of the statues situated inside the largest shrine here were brought over from Tibet. The chanting, drumming and the soft flowing of monks brush past you, and this iconic place to visit in McLeod Ganj is also the nerve centre of the town’s distinct culture.

    Image Credits : Nick Lockey - Flickr

    Lingkhor is a meditation trail that one must not miss. Dotted with small shrines and stupas, a rare opportunity to indulge in the intrinsic soulfulness presents before yourself. A small western hall next to the main shrine is the Kalachakra temple, where the extremely fine work on murals are showcased on its walls. Other shrines are full of similar detailed works, and the Dalai Lama temple is a short walk away from the centre of the town.

  • 02Bhagsunath Temple and Bhagsu Waterfall

    Image Credit : Rochak Chauhan - Flickr
    Legend has it that King Bhagsu incurred the wrath of the snake god, and following a war, the king was pardoned. In honour of the snake god’s generosity, King Bhagsu built the shrine. This medieval Shiva temple is one of the most important places to visit in McLeod Ganj and is frequented by members of both Hindu and Gorkha communities. The location of the temple is surrounded by pristine-looking coniferous forests, hills and a cascading waterfall that flows through the temple itself!

    Crowded at times, hallowed pools in the vicinity are said to have been built by subsequent Gorkha rulers, into which the waterfall which is 500 metres away collects into. Swimming in the pool is open to public, and the cool dip is held sacred by devotees. The 30-feet Bhagsu Waterfall is a sight to behold, and is a mere two kilometres away from McLeod Ganj. Short, casual treks around the place are a wonderful to explore the scenery, with a slew of cafes around providing refreshments. 
  • 03Saint John’s Church in the Wilderness

    Constructed in 1852, the church was built on the lines of neo-gothic architecture and is dedicated to John the Baptist. Around 50 years after being built, the Kangra earthquake destroyed the church’s bell tower—leaving the rest of the church undamaged. The church is embedded amid a grove of Deodars, with a quaint graveyard lying in the same grounds. Lord Elgin, once the Governor-General and Viceroy of India is known to have been mesmerised by McLeod Ganj so much, that he wished for it to be the summer capital of India. 

    His final resting place lies very close to the church. The enchanting glass windows painted by a Belgian artist is known to have been gifted by Lady Elgin, the wife of Lord Elgin. Not far from the main square of the town, the Church of St John’s in the Wilderness is an important place to visit in McLeod Ganj, and is on the road to Forsyth Ganj. Your chance to experience the remnants of the days when it was a treasured British hill station is here.

  • 04Dal Lake

    The slopes of McLeod Ganj have one of the most picturesque lakes around. Named after the more-celebrated Dal Lake in Srinagar, this small lake is close to a beautiful village called Tota Rani. Flanked by Deodar trees, that are so typical of the region, lend the lake a mystical ambiance. A small shrine dedicated to Durveshwar Mahadev causes Dal Lake to be considered sacred, and a festival-fair held every year is evidence of that. The mid-altitude lake takes a greenish-hue and has varieties of fish inhabiting the water. 

    The mist in the mornings and evenings make Dal Lake the perfect place for an introspective walk alone, or with the beloved. If you’re lucky, boating in the lake is an amazing experience, when available. The lake next to the Tibetan Children’s village is a nice stopover before you proceed to other attractions, and is regularly listed in the places to visit in McLeod Ganj. A kilometre-and-half from Dal Lake is a spot in Naddi that offers a scintillating view of the Kangra valley and Dhauladhar peaks, and is famous as a sunset point.

  • 05Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium

    Image Credit : Roshan Panjwani - Flickr

    At 1317 metres above sea level, the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium is one of the highest altitude cricket grounds in the world! The Dhauladhar range looming at a distance are an enthralling sight, and the ground had Pakistan, its first international team visiting the stadium in 2005. 

    When in Dharamsala, make sure to drop by at this spectacular venue for a dose of fresh, chilly winds blowing past the stands you are standing in. 

    Image Credits : Roshan Panjwani - Flickr

    As you enter, be prepared to be astounded by the abundant natural beauty that makes this stadium unique in India—with potential to be one of the most popular venues in the country. The 25,000 capacity HPCA stadium regularly hosts Ranji Trophy and Indian Premier League matches. Very close to McLeod Ganj, HPCA is fast gaining popularity on the itinerary of places to visit in McLeod Ganj.

  • 06Triund

    Image Credit : Aleksandr Zykov - Flickr

    Constituting one of the top trekking trails in the country, the 9000-foot ridge behind the Dhauladhar range is Triund. Situated just nine kilometres away from McLeod Ganj, the extremely popular nine-kilometre trek is much sought-after. The Triund trail begins from Tushita road which is a not far from the main square. 

    The trail is also blessed with a view of the Moon Peak-Indrahar Pass, and it only gets better with snow-engulfed Dhauladhar Mountains on one side, and the Kangra valley on the other. If you are even remotely interested in bird-watching, this trek will amaze you with rare sightings.

    Image Credits : Ashish Gupta - Flickr

    Often described as the crown jewel of Dharamsala, the evening sky will compel you to camp overnight and soak in the comforting lap of the Himalayas. Trekking at Triund remains one of the most popular adventure destinations from McLeod Ganj, suiting beginners and professional hikers alike. Make sure to be here during the months between March and December at one of the most adventurous places to visit in McLeod Ganj.

  • 07Dharamkot

    Image Credit : Axel Drainville - Flickr

    Dharamkot is a village adjoining McLeod Ganj that oozes sparkling sceneries. Just three kilometres to the north of McLeod Ganj, forests of towering pines and rhododendrons welcome you to experience bliss first-hand. Not far from Dal Lake, the festival-fair organized every year adds to the vividness of Dharamkot. More spellbinding views of the Dhauladhar range await you, and a spiritual retreat at one of the several dedicated centres is just a step away. 

    Although located only a stone’s throw away, the village of Dharamkot is in complete contrast to the Tibetan realms of McLeod Ganj. Trek to the villages at Naddi and Triund, which are right around the bend, and delve into the offerings of bountiful nature. A few cafes en route to Dharamkot sees the crowd dwindling, and peace is on the offing at throwaway prices. 

    Image Credits : Dave Kleinschmidt - Flickr

    One of the most popular things to do among hikers is to rent a room in relatively noiseless Dharamkot and travel back and forth to McLeod Ganj—with the goal being solitude. Getting one’s own stock of alcohol from a kilometre away and chilling in the cafes is another one of travellers’ favourites. 

  • 08Nowrojee and Sons General Stores

    Holding a special place in the hearts of early Tibetans on exile, Nowrojee and Sons is a store located close to the Tsuglagkhang complex. Started in 1860 by a Parsi man who welcomed Dalai Lama himself, Nowrojee and Sons remains one of the oldest businesses of McLeod Ganj. As time passed, five generations have run the iconic store and is one of the very few buildings to have withstood the destruction of the 1905 Kangra earthquake.

    A variety of memorabilia from the colonial era decorate the insides of Nowrojee and Sons, and the shop itself is reminiscent of the architecture prevalent in the long-gone past. Located in the heart of the Main Square in McLeod Ganj, it wouldn’t be a mistake to call it a museum. If you are looking to trace the heritage of the town, which is closely attached to the Tibetans, this is among the best of McLeod Ganj’s tourist places. The shopping affair in the markets, which sell items, artefacts and clothes relating to the Buddhist-Tibetan culture at the square is an added bonus. 
  • 09Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa

    Image Credit : Lisa Tully - Flickr
    300 metres downwards on the steep hillside of McLeod Ganj is a very popular monastery. The Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa was actually constructed to replace the original monastery bearing the same name in Tibet—after being destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in China. Descending a few hundred stairs from the town, the Dip Tse-Chok Ling monastery has a captivating statue of Sakyamuni. A curious Tibetan custom of making beautiful butter sculptures every Losar (the Tibetan New Year), and destroying it the following year is a continuing tradition at this Gompa.

    This is meant to signify that even the most beautiful and the most cherished things are meant to pass on. An idyllic trail from the Dip Tse-Chok Ling monastery leads you to the Tsuglagkhang complex—a momentary escape from the worldly chaos. This gem of a place is neatly tucked away from all hustle and bustle, and ranks among the best of McLeod Ganj’s tourist places.
  • 10Masroor Rock-Cut Temple

    The 15-temple complex is an astonishing example of ancient rock-cut architecture in India. A short drive from McLeod Ganj, it is counted among the hidden gems around and the sights subdue the bumpy ride here. The ornately carved cluster of monolithic rock-cut shrines are among the most unexplored temples in Himachal Pradesh, and the crowds are sparse. Partially in ruins, this stunning monument is believed to have been built between the sixth and the eighth centuries. 

    The Masroor temple complex is set on a hill, in front of which is a rectangular pond that’s filled with water all year round. The elaborate nest of monolithic temples has three black stones of Ram, Sita and Lakshman in the central shrine called Thakurdwara, with Shiva occupying a paramount location inside it. Legend states that the Masroor temple complex was carved by the Pandavas during their Agyaat Vaas. The surrounding environment maintains the aura of an era bygone, and is comparable with other rock-cut architecture marvels such as the Rashtrakuta-built Kailasa at Ellora and the Pallavan temple complexes at Mahabalipuram. 

    The reflection of the rock-cut temples on the pond before it are simply indescribable for the beauty on offer. Counted on top of the most exhilarating places to visit in McLeod Ganj, the view of the snow-draped Dhauladhar Mountains from the temple premises is unmatchable. An ideal amalgam of awe-inspiring man-made wonder and untouched natural beauty indeed. A compulsory visit.

    Other important places to visit in McLeod Ganj include the Tatwani Hot Water Springs, Tibetan Children’s Village, Kunal Pathri Temple, Aghanjar Mahadev Temple Trek and many, many others. McLeod Ganj tourist places speak directly to your soul. Start packing!