McLeod Ganj with kids
The home to the Dalai Lama, we were keen to visit McLeod Ganj with kids not only to enjoy the mountain area but also learn about Tibet. McLeod Ganj is a much smaller and compact town than Shimla and surprisingly it was a little warmer too!
As it is home to the Dalai Lama there are a few more things to do within the area with kids such as the Dalai Lama Temple & Museum. Plus there is a lovely walk to the nearby Baghsu falls.
The only way to reach McLeod Ganj is by road so be prepared for a long and sometimes nail biting journey! But well worth it and although bus journeys are not my favourite method of travel we arrived without drama.
Exploring the Region
I’m the first to admit that I don’t travel too well on windy bus journeys. So I definitely wasn’t looking forward to this leg! I’m not going to deny I was considering prayer beads at this point!!! I get that travelling will bring some challenging journeys, but 10 hours on a locallbus, next to cliff edges really didn’t sound like fun! And certainly not with kids!
This greatly influenced my decision (not Keith’s!) to skip Manali and Lakshmi on our mountain adventure. I mean we’d already adventured in the Himalayas in Nepal, so I didn’t see that it was worth taking a journey on one of the world’s deadliest roads!
But I was keen to see the home of the Dalai Lama so I agreed to endure a 7 hour journey to Dharamshala first.
The journey itself was as expected, slightly bumpy, very windy and at times a bit of a white knuckle ride. At times things did get a little hairy; rounding blind corners while over taking was… interesting at times!
I’m writing this story so needless to say we arrived at the bus station in Dharamshala in one piece! PHEW!
However, the journey wasn’t over yet. Our next challenge was to see if there were any taxis to take us the 30 minute journey up to McLeod Ganj. It was midnight so we had all our toes and fingers crossed! If all else fails we were hoping Uber or Ola would be available.
When we arrived luckily there was a tuk tuk available and we jumped straight in for a reasonable Rs 350.
Where to stay in McLeod Ganj
We booked to stay at the pink house and plastered all over their pages are comments about 100 steps to reach us. The tuk tuk driver dropped us at the top of the steps but we didn’t think they were challenging! Similar to Shimla, McLeod Ganj is built on the hillside and so up hill walks are to be expected.
Unfortunately when we arrived at the Pink house, everything was shut. No signs of life and competent darkness.. eek! By now it was after midnight and the kids just wanted their bed! I was beginning to regret my booking.
After several hundred doorbell rings someone arrived, looking rather sleepy. Our phones had stopped working and when they couldn’t contact us they assumed we weren’t coming! All resolved and checked in by 1am. It was making for an eventful 24 hours! We were all sooo tired and just collapsed.
The next morning we got up for breakfast on the roof top terrace. WOW!!! It literally took my breath away!! Just amazing mountain views. Now, this made yesterday all worthwhile.
Unlike our last stay, the warmth was radiating through the windows and onto the terraces. Oh yes! This was a much better option. We also found we had a lovely room with a big terrace area – bliss!
Things to do in McLeod Ganj
The town is only small but a great place to wander around all the little shops and stalls. Plus, there are monks walking around the streets – definitely a novelty factor.
Plus, the people were so friendly here. Many people come here to find peace and and harmony – I can see why. The clear air and stunning views are just a portion of what makes this place so amazing!
There is a waterfall attraction located outside the next village, about 30 minutes to walk to it from there.
As it was only a short walk we found a route through the trees from McLeod Ganj. It was only 30 minutes and easy to follow on osandm offline maps.
We reached Baghsu town and were surprised to see the amount of development going on. There are lots of hotels here, much of them look to be newer builds too. We wandered past the developments and walked through the town.
There were quite a few eateries and shops – plus these local dhabas (streets stalls).
Bizarrely, we also found an open public swimming pool – it seemed very clean and people were bathing. However, it was far too cold for that! Brrrr…. So we wandered on to the waterfalls.
It was all well signposted and there were a number of people on the, paved and even, pathway. The walk only took around 20 minutes, and although uphill, it wasn’t too difficult.
The boys enjoyed playing on the rocks in front of the falls and dipping their toes in the freezing cold water! Nothing better than free play!
They then scrambled up the rocks to the main waterfall while I (typical mother packhorse) carried all their stuff and proceeded along the path. I was so surprised to find 3 little shacks right next to the waterfall. It was quite bizarre, but a nice place to stop.
After a play at the waterfall, we decided instead to proceed further along the path to a cafe called Shiva Cafe. It was highly recommended and we certainly enjoyed a fabulous lunch with fantastic views. Prices were very reasonable and the menu was very extensive! It looked like many people had come here to chill out – very nice vibe.
Dalai Lama Temple
This wasn’t an overly lavish temple. There was a small security team checking bags before you enter.
The temple has a couple of rooms that you can walk around and there were lots of monks wandering around the site.
We saw a few monks creating the candles which were dotted around the temple – it was a dark and sooted room and didn’t look like comfortable working conditions.
As well as monks there were a number of people practicing their meditation, yoga and spiritual rituals. We wandered around for a little while before leaving.
Dalai Lama Museum
Although the temple was open when we first visited, the museum was not. I believe it is closed on a Monday, but actually there was a private event on the afternoon we went so check the opening times early on and don’t rely on it always being open.
I really like this museum, I thought it was laid out well and gave sufficient detail without being overpowering to get the message across.
The boys felt huge empathy for the Tibetan people and after just travelling from China they were surprised at the impact China still has, even today! It was very enlightening story to follow and gave good history about the course of events which led to the Dalai Lama being in India.
Eating out in McLeod ganj
There are lots of places to eat in McLeod Ganj, but mainly vegetarian. Although we had a restaurant in our hostel we did eat out a few times:
Moon Peak Espresso – great little cafe with delicious thalis and delicious coffee. It’s only a small place but always busy.
local Dhaba with no name – we found a fabulous little dhaba (on the lower street opposite the clay oven). If you are after a cheap Thali then look no further. There’s only a handful of seats though.
The guy running the shop seemed to be on his own but was always busy. We went back a couple of times. There’s no choice, it’s Thali or Thali – not too spicy and plenty of food, which he’s happy to top up!
The clay oven restaurant – based on reviews we visited here, but weren’t that impressed. It always seemed to be busy but for us the menu was too varied and food not very impressive for the price.
Nick’s Italian Restaurant – the boys were in need of some non-indian food so we visited here to get them some pizza. The food was actually very tasty and not a bad price. It was very busy and had a good ambience. Call in, if you are looking for decent non Indian food.
McLlo Restaurant – situated at the main junction at the top of McLeod Ganj. It is one of the few places that we found which served beer. We ordered a few vegetarian indian dishes and all were nice. Portion sizes were o.k. for the price, but getting a cold beer was the icing on the cake for us!
I know I had a whinge at the start about the journey here – but I’m really glad we came, as I really enjoyed McLeod Ganj (I think this was helped with the warmer air and the nice accommodation we had booked!)
I also preferred the compactness of the town and almost calmer nature of the surroundings. We had a chance to catch up with ourselves here and I could almost feel myself finally relaxing.
India has the ability to put you on heightened alert from merely crossing a road to negotiating a trip in a tuk-tuk. But I had also still not quite gotten over our Delhi dramas but finally I could feel myself loosening up again! So in a nutshell that’s what McLeod Ganj does to you – it makes you chill the “beep” out.