Mcleodganj - Dharamshala Travel Guide
The Kangra Valley is known for a number of things. The Kangra tea, a breathtakingly beautiful valley, adventure sports including paragliding at Bir-Billing and famous temples including the one at Baijnath. But above all, it is known as the home of his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Though the Buddhist establishment took refuge in the valley in the 1950s, the town has really come to prominence on the tourist map over the last 15 years or so.
The history of Mcleodganj and Dharamshala dates back to the mid 19th century when the British established a subsidiary cantonment to the one in Kangra in 1850. The place came up around a Hindu Resthouse, which gave rise to the name Dharam-Shala. Mcleodganj along with the Forsyth Ganj came up as prominent civilian towns near Dharamshala by the mid-1860s. Much of these towns and the valley saw mass destruction during the 7.8 magnitude Kangra earthquake of 1905 but slowly came back to prominence at a later date owing to a significant political event.
In 1959 the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and took refuge in India where the Indian government assigned land in Mcleodgang for the community to hold as its base. Mcleodganj became the official residence of the Dalai Lama and today has evolved into a vibrant tourist and trade hub in the region.
Places of Interest & Things To Do
Dalai Lama's Temple
The Dalai Lama's temple is to Mcleodganj what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. While the comparison may sound rather drastic, the significance of the structure on the community and the city itself cannot be understated.
Located at one end of the town's Mall Road, alongside the residence of his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the temple is a must visit for devotees, travellers and seekers alike. Open from sunrise to sunset, the best time to visit the place is early in the morning when one can even join in on the morning prayers.
Accessibility & How To Get There
Recommended Mode of Transport:
Volvo Buses from Delhi / Chandigarh
Though the best way to experience the beauty of the valley is on foot, a drive along the Kangra valley is equally rewarding for those willing to drive the long distances.
While the road to Dharamshala is fairly straightforward along the National Highways, via the towns of Nangal and Una, there are 3 approach roads from Dharamshala to Mcleodganj, the chief among which passes via the Cantonment area. The second road is a rather steep shortcut that joins Mcleod from the other end near the Dalai Lama Temple. The third road mostly along the main highway itself takes a slight detour 2 km before Mcleodganj and connects at the Mall via taxi stand.
- Nearest Railway Station – Pathankot – 90 km
- Nearest Airport – Dharamshala – 20 km
- Distance from Delhi – 474 km
- Distance from Chandigarh – 245 km
Where to Stay
Given the popular nature of Mcleodganj and Dharamshala as a tourist destination for North Indians and the added influence of the Tibetan community, there are several kinds of places to stay in Mcleodganj available to a whole host of tourists and travellers. With the Kangra valley itself blessed in terms of the length and breadth of its tourist appeal, the valley offers large hotels and quaint cottages, cute homestays and camps for the backpackers.
Known commonly as the Little Lhasa owing to its strong Tibetan heritage, Mcleodganj is perched at an altitude of 2,082 meters or 6,831 feet, barely 7 km from Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. With the Dhauladhar Ranges further north and the Kangra valley down below, the town one key access road, along with two other narrower and steeper peripheral roads.
While driving is regarded as the best means to get to the place, a good number of high-quality Volvo Buses ply on this route every morning and night from Delhi and Chandigarh as well. Given the pleasure of a walk along the hills and the traffic congestion during peak season, we strongly recommend a bus ride instead. Distances from key places listed below:
from Delhi – 474 km
from Chandigarh – 245 km
from Pathankot (nearest train station) – 90 km
From Dharamshala Airport – 20 km