This was going to be my first ever experience of traveling solo in India. With due apprehensions, I embarked my journey towards the hills amid winters. And now that I have done it and been there, I can say it was worth it.
McLeod Ganj was my chosen destination for I read, its safe, scenic, and surreal. Though now it has become well commercialized and is always booming with tourists, especially on long weekends; but I would say it wasn’t a waste of my time and energy to be there.
The sole purpose of my trip was to experience solo traveling in India. I also intended to explore the beauty of hills to soak in some nature and get spiritual with my visit to His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s Monastery.
The beaming Dhauladhar Ranges will immediately capture your attention as soon as you enter the Dharamshala district. En-route McLeod Ganj, you can witness few of them peaking out and shining in the bright sunlight. That is when I realised my coming of age once again and being able to enjoy the rustic beauty just as it is.
If you are visiting the hill town for the first time like me, be prepared to get overwhelmed by the crowded streets and narrow alleys bustling with cars. But once you settle in and move out from the main street, the town has much more to offer.
Reaching there – I took the Volvo from Delhi (book on Makemytrip.com) and it dropped me directly to the main Bus Stop in McLeod. I was quick to reach my hotel – Shallom Backpackers which was newly constructed and is a safe place for solo travellers. Initially, I was anxious about traveling alone, but with time, I felt safe. No one bothered me or tried to sell anything unwantedly.
Once I settled in, I looked up for places to visit and the first one on my list was the Shiva Temple –
A walk down the hill from my hotel took me straight to the temple. Starting my journey on this note made me feel good about this place and now I was ready to stroll out and explore more. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has a narrow waterfall alongside. In the middle of the temple is a common bath where devotees wash themselves and offer prayers.
The trail that leads to the waterfall throws in an excellent view of the mountains and lush green forest. You may or may not find water there depending on the time of your visit. I visited in December and there was a thin trail of water gushing down the rocks which was hardly noticeable.
Moving upwards from the waterfall is the famous Shiva Café for those who want to soak in the mountain sun and enjoy some good food. Reach there before lunch time, else you must wait long to get a seating. The path to the waterfall and café is dodgy, sometimes slippery due to rains, and can be tiring in the sun. All said, it is still worth paying a visit.
Next on my list was the Illiterati Café down towards the Tibet Museum. Therefore, I first stopped at the Museum and the Namgyal Monastery. Writing anything about this would be under-rated. This is an experience every traveller coming to McLeod should have on their own.
However, once you have walked enough around the temple, the museum and the narrow roads of the town, you can relax at this small café overlooking the white mountains. (Don’t forget to buy Chicken & mutton pickle on the way to the café)
With variety of dishes to choose from, you also have the liberty to pick a book and immerse yourself in the wonders of the world by renowned travel writers and photographers.
Having said that, I would recommend McLeod Ganj to any traveller looking forward to some cultural experience with the locals, resting in peace with the sun shining above to have some “Me Time”, and if Trekking is what they like.
Triund Trek is much recommended for beginners as well as experienced trekkers as the much-awaited sunrise is mesmerizing and surreal.
Apart from the above places, you can also visit the Dal Lake, St. john Church, Jimmy’s Kitchen, Masroor Temple, Indrahar Pass, Guna devi Temple to make it your journey more interesting.
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