It’s hard for me to describe the moment I sleepily got out of my bed, drew the curtains and stepped out into our hotel’s little balcony. The sight of the brightly colored homes adorning the lush green terrace farms like jewels nestled in the foothills of the majestic Himalayan range swept me off my feet! I let the soothing silence of the valley and crisp mountain air wash over me! Rejuvenating to say the least.
Where to stay in Mcleodganj
Our hotel (highly recommended budget hotel for this tiny town) “Pink House” was located several hundred steps downhill from one of the only main roads in Mcleodganj so hiking up/down was unpleasant at times, especially when it was raining. However, the owner Javid and his colleague Muzzafar went out of their way to make sure we had a wonderful stay and gave us great suggestions on hiking trails and places to eat. Positives of staying here include – a clean room with hot water, decent breakfast (try their Tibetan bread) and dinner options, and a space heater you could rent for an additional cost. If you’re looking for a luxurious stay though, this place isn’t for you.
Where to eat in Mcleodganj
1. Tibet Quality Bakery: We stopped by here multiple times during our stay! Definitely try the yak cheese muffins (so moist!), donuts, pizza slices and yak cheese! It’s in the market’s center so you can’t miss it!
2. Crepe Pancake Hut: I really wanted to like this place but a very long wait + average tasting food confirmed that this place might be hit and miss depending on several things. On our first visit, I got the eggs with potatoes for breakfast that were good; but nothing to write home about. My husband ordered the pancakes with an apple filling which turned out to be quite mushy very unlike American style pancakes. The second time around we ordered some coffee which was really good!
The place is quite cozy with tons of books to read so you could definitely spend a whole afternoon there sipping coffee or just taking in the views of the valley!
3. Cafe Indique: This was our favorite place in Mcleodganj! Outdoor seating, hip vibe, great food and drinks and live music! The cafe overlooks a local school and we loved watching the little kids line up during recess break to collect their “snack of the day”. We tried several different dishes including aloo paratha (bread stuffed with potatoes), french toast, dal makhani (lentil) curry with naan and a chicken dish on two different occasions. They had excellent wine and beer so I had no reason to complain at all 🙂
We wanted to celebrate my husband’s birthday someplace nice and after stopping by location 1 (McLIo’s) – overly touristy, loud, and located right in the heart of town next to the bus stop; and location 2 – Xcite – trying too hard to look like a lounge/club (which it’s clearly not) and blasting horrible trance music (nothing exciting about it); we headed back to Indique.
Skip: The french toast because it wasn’t your typical hearty bread drenched in delicious syrup kinda version but rather one that consisted of thin white bread lightly pan-fried in a sugary egg mix (aka a smack in the face at breakfast time)!
4. Tibet Kitchen: If you’re looking for authentic Tibetan food, you have to go to this place! It’s located just across from Mclio’s near the bus stop. The wall next to our table displayed this excellent verse of the Dalai Lama! Reminders of the importance of being spiritual are never too far in this town, and for good reason!
We were starving after a long day of hiking, so we ordered a pho like noodle soup with lamb, Tibetan bread on the side and an outstanding noodle stir fry with veggies! P.S. Check out the fresh cucumber outlined plate! We washed all of this down with a refreshing mug of their fruit beer!
5. Trek & Dine: We found this place while on a trek to Dharamkot! Who would have thought you would find pizza made in a wooden oven in a teeny tiny village high up in the mountains? We opted for a chili chicken dish as an appetizer that had us drooling for more with a DELICIOUS Margherita pizza as an entrée! Definitely one of the better bites we had in Mcleodganj.
6. Shiva Cafe: Anyone who visits Mcleodganj has to hike up to the Bhagsu waterfall. It’s a pretty easy walk from the center of Mcleodganj to Bhagsu temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The walk from there offers stunning views of the valley and many opportunities to stop for a bite on the way, for example: these delicious mini gulab jamun (essentially fried syrupy cheese balls) sold for only 10 rupees a plate. How can you resist this?
And, “No Name Cafe”! Don’t you just love “unedited” sign boards like this? I would also like to enjoy rappelling fear and pleasure together someday 😉
There are places to eat right next to the walkway that leads to the falls, but we skipped it and walked the extra 20 minutes up a steep path to get to Shiva Cafe. Once there, a cute puppy greeted us and led us to the main “cafe” area that was tucked in between a waterfall and towering cliffs. You can choose to sit inside or outside on mattresses that are spread out all over the place.
We ended up ordering chai, a plate of maggi noodles to share and a nutella crepe! Pretty damn satisfying. This isn’t food to write home about but rather something to fill you up after your hike!
7. Rogpa Shop & Cafe: You know that special time during your vacation in the early evening when you don’t want to have a big meal because you’re looking forward to a nice dinner, but still want to enjoy a small snack with your coffee? Well, this place served us perfectly during those times. It is located right across from Crepe Pancake Hut on Jogiwara Road. We had some of the BEST coffee in Mcleodganj here. They actually had hand-drip coffee here. None of your watered down instant crap or milked up puke inducing concoctions! I was in heaven! The sweet treats were delicious too. There were several local crafts, accessories and clothing on sale made by Tibetan women displayed here!
What to do in Mcleodganj
1. Trek the Bhagsu Falls. Relatively easy hike. Lots of places to stop by on the way to grab a bite and take pictures. Also, before you begin to complain about how tiring it is to make your way up to the falls, spare a thought for these local women who spend all day cutting and then carrying these plants (most likely fodder) on their backs home.
We also managed to run along like school kids with a herd of beautiful goats. This good-looking guy was my favorite!
2. Trek to Triund: I’m not going to go into too many details about doing this trek because there are tons of blog posts on this topic out there. All I’ll say is that PLEASE do it when the weather is good, and wear the right shows. We tried doing this trek in early March which wasn’t a great time to do this because there had been a snowfall prior to us arriving there, and soft snow-covered the ground in many places creating very slippery conditions. We made it up to Magic View Cafe and Best View Cafe which was the halfway point and should’ve turned around at this point because we weren’t carrying any gear or even wearing trekking shoes. We got caught up in the moment and continued on thinking we would be able to make it all the way. Needless to say, it was a terrifying experience trying to walk/sink through soft snow; and with the help of a group of strangers we made our way out of this narrow trail directly leading down into a deep gorge on one side and a sloping hill of ice on the other. The thought of us making out of that section of the hike alive still makes me shudder.
All was not lost though. We had so much to be happy about! The breathtaking views, the adorable fluffy dogs that led you through the trails and the chai! Warm, sweet, invigorating cup of chai at one of the oldest chai shops en route to/from Triund Hill.
On our way back down we met the 60-year-old owner of these mules and chatted with him for a bit. Every hiker who buys anything from the cafes on these hills needs to thank him and his hardworking team for the trips they make up and down every single day. On this particular day, they were making a second trip transporting water and gas cylinders because it was a relatively warm day, and there was a huge influx of tourists which meant more supplies needed to be delivered to the cafes.
3. Dharamkot: Tiny village with a picturesque setting. The picture says it all. A short walk or auto/taxi ride from Mcleodganj.
4. St. Johns in the Wilderness: We picked the perfect day to visit! Rainy and cold with no tourists around added to the eerie experience. This place is arguably the oldest Anglican Cathedral in India.
5. Dalai Lama Temple: Such a tranquil place. I could spend hours here listening to the monks chanting prayers. Something about the tone of their voice was mesmerizing! We were also offered Tibetan butter tea that tasted very rich and was almost broth like in consistency. Definitely warm and soothing!
After checking out the temple grounds, we walked the “kora” around the temple which basically means walking in a clockwise direction around a sacred site, in this case the temple! We were the silly tourists who ended up doing this in a anti-clockwise direction because we followed the trail blindly and didn’t realize until much later that this was a trail people took to pray and find peace within themselves. I highly recommend everyone to do this! Enveloped by beautiful trees on this very quiet trail you will find people holding prayer beads chanting to themselves, monks deep in prayer spinning wheels; some small and some as large as a whole room, several monkeys and Himalayan birds! This was one of my favorite hikes during our stay in Mcleodganj.
Have you been to Mcleodganj? What were your favorite eats and places to visit?