Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj
The town of Dharamsala is the base for a number of treks that cross the rocky Dhauladhar range, into the valley of the Upper Ravi and Chamba district. This is prime hiking terrain, the place to be if you’re looking for trekking thrills, and a date with the snowline in the high Himalayas.
Explore Trekking in Dharamsala
Dharamsala itself has little to recommend it, but it is bustling McLeod Ganj, the upper town, which has the charm and the atmosphere (it’s Himachal’s most popular destination, for foreign visitors and adventure tourists alike). Created by the British to remind them of home, McLeod Ganj, or ‘Little Lhasa’, has a sizeable population of Tibetan refugees. It is the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, and the home of the Dalai Lama. You might, if you’re lucky, bump into a celebrity – ‘international’ Buddhists Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn drop in every now and then.
Instead of catching transport up to McLeod Ganj, trek up – a steep 3km path starting from behind the vegetable market is the quickest way up (the trail goes past the secretariat and the Tibetan library).
Know more about Trekking in Mcleodganj
McLeod Ganj owes its name to one David McLeod, who was Punjab’s lieutenant governor when the hill station was established in the 1850s. The town was also a garrison and administrative centre under the British. The Dalai Lama made McLeod Ganj his home in 1960 (initially temporary) and over time, the town has become an important centre for the study of Tibetan culture and Buddhism. Tibetans, many of whom sought haven here to escape Chinese repression in their homeland, outnumber the local residents.
McLeod Ganj lies more than 3000ft (almost 1000m) above Dharamsala. The two ‘towns’ are separated by 10km of winding road. The ‘twin’ towns stretch out across pine-swathed ridges below the almost-perpendicular bare cliffs of the Dhauladhar range.
Expect intense cold and heavy snowfall during winters here, and persistent downpours in the summer. In fact, cloudbursts are frequent here (McLeod Ganj is one of the wettest places in India). It gets quite warm during the day in summer, but nights are chilly.
How to reach
State-run buses connect Dharamsala to Delhi. Daily, there are two HRTC buses heading to Delhi (via Chandigarh). Only a few private (and deluxe) buses coming from Delhi and Manali go onwards to McLeod Ganj – best to catch a local bus (40min), or take a shared taxi. The railhead closest to Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj is Pathankot.
State-run buses connect Dharamsala to Kangra, Manali, Mandi, Pathankot and Shimla. Daily, there are three HRTC buses heading to Manali, four to Shimla and two to Dalhousie (besides trips to other destinations in the state).