Note: By now few things changed:
- The Dalai Lama is now more frequently to be seen, as he is retired
- Sanghey is not teaching Momo making classes anymore, but you can find other teachers having a poster up. Or why not trying it out your self
- To camp in Triund in a fixed camp is not allowed anymore.
Mcleod Ganj in the Indian mountain state of Himachal Pradesh is the little Lhasa of India. Here lives the Dalai Lama and with him some buddhist monks and nuns and many Tibetan refugees.
Walking through the three streets of the small town, you’d meet women in traditional Tibetan clothes selling momos (steamed dough bags), monks sitting in cafes with a cup of butter tea, and old men tirelessly circling their prayer mill. From everywhere Buddhist chants sound, colorful prayer flags fly in the wind and the whole atmosphere is wonderfully relaxing.
The Tibetans know how to create cosiness and many of the small restaurants and cafes are made for hours of pastime.
The village is located in the middle of the Himalayas at 1800 meters and is a good starting point for several-day treks or short hikes.
The weather here is pleasant and on clear days, you will be rewarded with great views of the surrounding mountains.
Many Western tourists come to Mcleod Ganj for a longer period of time to study yoga, Ayurveda or Buddhism or to volunteer in one of the Tibetan schools or non-profit organisations.
If you are lucky, you can even see the Dalai Lama. He himself is not often in Mcleod Ganj due to his travels, but a few times a year, he gives teachings for a few days at the Dalai Lama temple or you can see him driving past in the car, while going to his resicence.
But even a stay for only a few days in Mcleod Ganj is worthwhile.
In the following I have listed 10 activities that should be done in the Tibetan place of exile:
Visit to the Dalai Lama Temple
Admittedly, the temple is not the most impressive Buddhist temple, but the atmosphere is great and occasionally the Dalai Lama teaches here. If you happen to attend one of the so-called “Teachings” in Mcleod Ganj, you should definitely take part at least for one day to at least have seen the 14th Dalai Lama. If you are more interested in Buddhism, you can also get a radio to get the translation live. The courses are free of charge, but you have to register in advance. More information here.
Visit of the Tibetan Museum
A very interesting museum that is worth a visit, if you don’t know so much about Tibetan history and the problems with China. Very informative.
Momo Cooking Class at Sanghey
An absolute must and for many the highlight of their stay in Mcleod Ganj. Momos are steamed stuffed dough bags and Sanghey instructs you in the art of folding and filling the delicious dumplings. The momos are not only delicious, but the lessons are fun and Sanghey likes to share his experiences and experiences as a Tibetan refugee. If you are interested in the momo making class, just look at the posters on the streets, there you will also find a poster with information about the class loaction and timings.
Meditation classes at the Tushita Center
The Tushita Center gives very good ten-day introductory courses in Buddhism. During the 10 days, you meditate in silence and intensively. If this is too long, you can also simply take part in the free morning meditation session for everyone.
Hike to Triund or trekking tour over the Indrahar Pass
If you have little time, you should hike at least to the green pasture of Triund at 2800 meters. Either you return on the same day or stay here in one of the fixed camps.
If you have longer time and don’t plan another trek in India, I recommend the five-day trek to Chamba via the 4300 meter high Indrahar Pass. Have a look here.
After a trek, a Tibetan or Ayurvedic massage in one of the countless massage centers is the right thing to do! Just get recommendations from other travelers, where to go. I can recommend Ram’s Thai Yoga Massage (you will find posters out there)
Walk to Baghsu to the Shiva Cafe at the waterfall
A small waterfall in the neighbouring village with a cosy café to relax.
Chilling out in The Shambahla or Shangrila Cafes
My two favorite cafes run by Tibetans. Both very cozy with delicious food, good cakes and at Shangrila the proceeds go to a monastery!
In Mcleod Ganj and the surrounding area there are countless yoga schools, all of which offer different styles. I recommend Universal Yoga with Vijay. He teaches Ashtangha and Hatha Yoga.
Paragliding in Bir
Bir is less than a 2 hours’ drive from Daramshala, but it’s one of the best places for paragliding in the world. In 2015 the World Cup in paragliding took place here and records are regularly set here. A flight is about 20-30 minutes long.
Incidentally, I myself spent a very Tibetan day yesterday. In the morning I had the honor of meeting the Dalai Lama as part of the MTB Himalaya bicycle race and shook his hand. Then I visited a Tibetan doctor who prescribed me some bitter herbal pills for my intestinal problems.
Then I enjoyed a relaxing Tibetan massage and ended the day with a Thentuk, a Tibetan noodle soup. Of all, one can only say “Tashi Delek” (Tibetan greeting, means “Be blessed and good luck”)!