After a 14 hour journey and a row with Spicejet about not having enough ID to prove who I am, despite having a passport, driving license, 3 bank cards and a Boots Advantage card, we arrived in the very calm McLeodganji, the home of the Dalai Lama. It’s 6,000 feet up in the air and can only be reached by a narrow track from Dharamsala designed for one medium family sized car, yet the locals manage to fit lorries and buses up it without flinching. One wheel is often dangling over the side of the Himalayas, but they just don’t care. A journey that’s best taken after a couple of banga lassis.
It’s about 1 hour 10 minutes by air from New Delhi to Dharamsala airport. Spicejet, among other airlines have regular flights; if you’re booking food on the flight, which is doubtful, but if you are, avoid the extra hot curry otherwise at least 45 minutes of the flight will be spent in the loo. McLeodganji is about 20 minutes drive from Dharamsala airport. Try to book a taxi ahead of arriving, not that there’s a huge queue, but you may have difficulty getting a taxi.
We stayed at Hotel Norbu House, http://www.hotelnorbuhouse.in/ which is truly a hidden gem, the views are magnificent and the staff just want to make everyones’ stay perfect. The hotel is very close to Namgyal Monastery (https://www.dalailama.com/) which is where the Dalai Lama resides. The Dalai Lama gives Teachings during the year; details can be found on his website, and it’s a great idea to try to conincide your visit with a Teaching. You will need a pass to attend a Teaching. Ask at your hotel and they’ll direct you to the office in the town where you can get one, you’ll need to take your passport and a passport size photo; and you need to go at least the day before the Teaching is due to take place.
We’ve been to McLeodganji previously, and last time stayed at Ram Yoga House, which is a beautiful experience. Huge rooms, with balconies, breath taking views, and so relaxing. The sign on the inside of my bedroom door read: Please do not smoke in the room, the balcony is large enough to smoke whatever you want: http://www.ramyogahouse.com/
It might be handy to note that Ram, of Ram Yoga House, has a nephew who is a taxi driver. His rates are fantastic and it’s about the only time I felt safe passing brightly coloured jugunalts on the wrong side of the road at 70 mph; I’d highly recommend him.
A visit to Namgyai Monastery is of course a must, but McLeodganji must be one of the most layed back places in the entire world. It’s spiritual, lots of robed monks wandering through the markets, and just relaxation on a plate. However, be warned, there’s no booze, it’s bring your own! It feels like ‘little Tibet’, the population of McLeodganji is mostly Tibetan, with their own schools, shops, markets and way of life. A truly beautiful place to visit, and once you’ve been, I guarantee you’ll want to go back, again and again.