If you are looking for a relaxed holiday, an overnight away from Delhi, away from hordes of blabbering tourists and also for cheap but excellent Italian and continental food then Mcleodganj is the perfect place to be. Be it the international crowd, the less travelled trails or lazy breakfasts, at 2082 meters “little Lhasa” sure has a magic of its own. So what exactly is McLeod? 20 km from Dharamshala, this quaint but bustling town is the official headquarters of the Tibetan exiles in India. And trust me the word that describes the place would be “feel”.
When to visit?
It’s a cold place and it snows in January there. So you can form your own opinions on when to visit depending on your love for cold. But if you ask me for the right time, follow the three points.
•Offseason: Yes, and these would be the wintery months. You’d find the rates of all menus and hotels half, clearer streets and meaningful people around (read: no shouts of garmiyan hai hill station chalen?)
•Weekday: Again clearer streets, no monstrous SUV’s vying for spaces, packed with people looking for a quick getaway form the cities of Punjab and Delhi.
•Check out if some conference is happening: Why? Well, you could see the Dalai Lama; I did and it was an amazing experience. The atmosphere was so magical; one could see so many hopeful, eager people waiting; just to have a glimpse of him, to touch him. He felt almost prophet like.
So, how to get there?
For us students, a flight may not be a viable option. Though there is air connectivity from Delhi to Dharamshala. I’d recommend travelling by train or bus which is cheap and comfortable.
•BUS: you get a bus directly to McleodMganj or Dharamshala from Kashmere Gate ISBT, both run by Himachal roadways and by private operators. The fares range from Rs 500 to Rs 1200, for one side depending upon AC/non-AC or Volvo/non-Volvo buses. The buses start at 8:30 – 9 pm and reach the destination around 7 am in the morning.
•TRAIN: I haven’t travelled via a train but there is excellent connectivity from Delhi to Pathankot, and further to Dharamshala via bus or taxi. Both the modes take approximately the same time to reach the destination.
And, where to stay?
There are plenty of cheap and expensive hotels, dorm rooms to fit all budgets. Good rooms are available at 500-700 rupees per night with hot water and quilts along with triple sharing or more. Also these are lean season rates; expect them to escalate in the summers.
This place is a foodie’s paradise and believe me on this, if you are into Italian food, God bless this place. There are a number of Tibetan restaurants as well, if you wish to try. The author recommends (so does lonely planet) – Jimmy Italian Kitchen for its pizzas and beer. Nick’s Italian Café for quiches, apple pies, chocolate brownies and farmer’s breakfast, Oogo’s Café Italiano for the English breakfast (Eggs and bacon), pasta cooked in vodka and waffles topped with butter and maple syrup. Try Momo café, a pretty little shop with fantastic ambience which has fillings in any vegetable or meat imaginable. Oh I forget to add, each meal for one doesn’t exceed a hundred and fifty bucks tops, no matter where you eat or what you eat (off season rates).
What to see?
Mcleod has something to offer to all kinds, be it the adventurous, the spiritualist or the capitalist (nice shops around). I’d recommend a trek to the Triund hill, 15 kms on one side which can be completed in a day, to and fro. You can also plan to stay on the hill-top for a night in sleeping bags, for which you can contact a trekking operator in Mcleodganj itself. One can visit the Dalai Lama temple and the Tibet
museum adjacent to it. Also Bhagsu nag temple and the waterfall are worth visiting.
In short it’s a quiet and charming place with polite multi-national crowd all around. If you looking to take some time off and relax outside the throes of Delhi, then I’d recommend you this place. If you need to further clarify any doubts and need further information, feel free to contact me at email@example.com