Though yesterday's episode of reaching McLeodganj was full of surprises (Read the full episode here), from the moment we stepped in our hotel, we loved every minute of it. On day 5 of the trip, we woke up to the utter calmness and peace at Dharamkot. We got to know that it rained previous night and so the weather today was very pleasant. We found people practicing yoga on the terrace of neighboring hostels. Definitely, it would have been very peaceful in such a wonderful location. We, however, were in perfect holiday mood and set out to explore McLeodganj and Dharamsala.
Our driver was parked somewhere in McLeodganj, so we had to start from Dharamkot on our own and meet him. The hotel staff informed us that the famous Bhagsu Nag temple is at walking distance from the hotel and we can reach there in 15-20mins. After a hearty breakfast, we started on our hike down the hill to reach Bhagsu Nag temple.
Bhagsu Nag temple & waterfalls
On reaching down the hill from Upper Dharamkot, a road led us to Bhagsu Nag temple. This road was lined up with Himalayan artifacts stores, cafes serving German, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and Indian cuisines, yoga and Indian cooking classes and spa centers.
Bhagsu Nag is a beautiful temple, located in Bhagsu village (~2-3kms from McLeodganj) and dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is set with a waterfalls in the background and a natural spring in the front where the devotees can take a dip. To reach the waterfalls, you would have to take a small trek. But during this time of the year, the water in the falls was very less and it was clearly visible from the market place itself, so we did not trek up to the falls. The location of the waterfalls though, was very picturesque amidst lush greenery on all sides. This falls during monsoon would be a must visit place near McLeodganj.
We explored the market around temple and then met our driver who took us to our next destination, McLeodganj.
Kalachakra Temple, Mcleodganj
The Kalachakra temple, one the most sacred places in Dharamsala, is located on the main street of McLeodganj. It is dedicated to the Kalachakra (The Wheel of time). The temple is also used by Dalai Lama to deliver public teachings. The walls of the temple are filled with vibrant Tibetan paintings. There are also multiple colorful prayer wheels in the temple. On entering the temple, one will find a huge stupa of victory. The temple has many more stupas on the upper floors, with unique designs symbolizing the life of Lord Buddha. The temple also offers stunning views of snow clad mountains in the background.
Dalai Lama Temple Complex
Located further ahead of the Kalachakra temple, at the end of the road was Dalai Lama temple complex. It is the official residence of Dalai Lama and a Tibetan pilgrim site. The temple complex has a Tibetan museum and a Buddha temple. From this temple as well, the magnificent Dhauladhar mountain ranges can seen. Prayer wheels are located around the temple which should be rotated in clockwise direction to recite the mantra "OM MA NI PADME HUM".
After visiting the Dalai Lama temple complex we headed for lunch at the Namgyal cafe on main temple street.
We ordered thin crust pizzas and steaming momos. The pizzas were good, though could have been better; momos were the best we had till now in Himachal. This place is a good option for a quick lunch!
Shopping at McLeodganj
There are many shops on the main temple street selling jewelry, woolen caps, socks, winter jackets, Tibetan artifacts, souvenirs, first copy branded shoes and footwear, T-shirts, key-chains,etc. McLeodganj market is the best place to buy gifts to take back home. The items are of good quality and sold at reasonable rates. However, the winter jackets were sold for almost the same price as anywhere else in India; this was little disappointing, since we expected to buy good quality branded jackets here at lower rates. Definitely bargain the price before buying anything. We did our share of shopping and started to Dharamsala.
Dharamsala Cricket stadium
Dharamsala is at 6-7kms from McLeodganj and it boasts of not only being the home of Dalai Lama but also of the picturesque International cricket stadium, Himachal Pradesh Cricket Assosiation (HPCA) stadium, situated at a height of 1,457 m above sea level. It has hosted many international and domestic cricket matches. This stadium is the most beautiful one in India with mighty Himalayan mountain ranges as its backdrop. When we went, the snow on mountains was less visible from here, but during winters or towards end of winter, the mountains in the backdrop are totally covered with snow.
When there are no matches being played, the stadium is open to the visitors at a minimal fare of Rs.20 per person. The visitors can enter the stadium and watch the players practicing.
Situated at around 5-6kms from the cricket stadium is Norbulinga institute. It was established by Dalai Lama as an educational institute preserving the Tibetan culture. We reached the institute when it was about to be closed for the day (around 5pm), so we could not go in. But the institute is a must visit for all tourists in Dharamsala. The architecture, depicts the traditional Tibetan architecture. It has a peaceful interior of comprising streams and gardens. The staff informed us it would take minimum 2 hrs to explore the place and learn about all the activities at the institute.
Sunset at Naddi Hills
Next stop on our list was the Naddi Hills. Naddi is a village situated at 3kms from McLeodganj and it offers a sunset viewing point. We left from Norbulinga at around 5.30 pm and rushed to reach Naddi hills before the sunset. It had started drizzling while we were at the cricket stadium itself, so we were not very hopeful of getting a glimpse of the sunset. Rightly so, when we reached the viewing point, it was very cloudy and blocked the sunset. However, the view of the mountains and valley from this point was absolutely stunning. It was totally worth to drive up to this point.
There are many cafes at this point, so we enjoyed our hot cup of tea while taking in the beauty of this place.
Returning back to hotel
As our hotel was situated on non motorable road (Read the full episode here), we packed our dinner from McLeodganj and our driver dropped us at Dharamkot, like yesterday. We decided to walk the stretch of 1-1.5 kms, instead of taking a cab, till the hike point to our hotel (Good decision or not??? We were about to figure out...)
There were street lights till about 300-400 m, but after that, it was pitch dark. We took out our mobile phone torches and kept walking on the narrow path amidst dense trees with no sight of any vehicle on the way, occasionally one or two people were sighted on the way. There were many many dogs along the path (Believe me, I am not exaggerating!!!). We were lucky they remained away from us due to the mobile torch lights. Somehow we reached the hike start point where our hotel staff came, met us and guided us till the hotel.
Would I take that path, on foot again, at that time of the hour? Definitely not!!!! We laughed about the walk after reaching the hotel, but then each one of us felt that it was a bad decision to walk on that road after sunset. It is better to take an auto or cab from Dharamkot till the hike start point. After that hiking is perfectly fine..!!!
Apart from the adventurous walk, our day exploring Dharamsala and McLeodganj was absolutely wonderful. Totally exhausted from the sightseeing, we had a relaxing dinner and retired for the day, hardly knowing that next day would turn out to be the BEST and HIGHLIGHT day of our trip.
Stay tuned to know more about the next day.
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