Dharamkot: A Quite Escape from McLeodganj’s Mishmash

Dharamkot and McLeodganj are our favourite places for a quick getaway. We are fond of McLeodganj for its amazing restaurants and souvenir shops but we have never spent a night there. Blame the crowd or the tourists who bursts their car speakers with loud Punjabi music. Each to its own but a vacation to both us means rewinding and relaxing. Dharamkot is an easy escape from McLeodganj’s mishmash.

Dharamkot is a quaint village about a kilometre away from McLeodganj. As you move uphill, the scenery changes, air gets lighter, landscape gets greener, noises mellow down and winds get colder.  If this doesn’t sound like an ideal escape from reality, what would?

How to reach Dharamkot from Delhi?

Take an overnight bus from Delhi to McLeodganj. The journey is about twelve to thirteen hours long. Usually all the buses stop twice or thrice on the way. The first pause is taken after crossing Delhi border for dinner, brief second pause for nature’s call and third for breakfast before reaching McLeodganj. 

Once the bus drops you at McLeodganj’s bus stand, you can either take an auto or hike till Himalayan Tea Shop in Dharamkot.

Walkie-Walkie: About half an hour or more depending on your pace. Google Maps say that it’s only one kilometre from the Main Square in McLeodganj but it seems like forever when you walk. We would still highly recommend walking as the terrain is exquisite.

Auto: You can take an auto from the Auto Stand in McLeodganj. It’s next to the bus stand. The auto wala would charge around sixty rupees till Himalayan Tea Shop. Don’t even bother bargaining, they won’t charge any less. At night or early in the morning, they also add surge charges.

Walkie-Walkie: About half an hour or more depending on your pace. Google Maps say that it’s only one kilometre from the Main Square in McLeodganj but it seems like forever when you walk. We would still highly recommend walking as the terrain is exquisite.

Auto: You can take an auto from the Auto Stand in McLeodganj. It’s next to the bus stand. The auto wala would charge around sixty rupees till Himalayan Tea Shop. Don’t even bother bargaining, they won’t charge any less. At night or early in the morning, they also add surge charges.

Where to stay in Dharamkot?

Dharamkot is a backpackers’ paradise not only because of its chill vibes but also because the stay is super affordable. Travellers come here and don’t leave for months.

A basic room would cost you around five hundred rupees. Thumb rule: The guest houses in the beginning will quote higher prices but as you keep walking inside the village, the rates will also slash down. If you want to stay here for long, say for two weeks or a month, then you can talk the guest house host, they’ll charge you accordingly. Collectively, the price should be less per day.

We have stayed at Shiv Shakti Guest House a few times. They charged us five hundred rupees during off season. The rooms are basic with attached bathrooms with water heaters. They charge about a thousand rupees during high season.

Shiv Shakti’s location is great. It’s the first guest house as you enter the village. It’s also close to the cafes like Trek n Dine, Moonlight, etc. They also have their own café, which is awesome, but it can get a bit noisy as it’s accessible by cars and two-wheelers. Choose your bet wisely! 😀

Since last few times, we reach Dharamkot first and then search for rooms. The last time, we stayed at a guest house owned by a family. We don’t think it has name but let’s call it Subhash Guest House. They charged us five hundred rupees during high season.

The location is decent. It’s very close to Bodhi Green café. They also provide laundry services. In this area, there are a lot of foreigners, so, it would be great for somebody who likes to interact with travellers from different backgrounds.

We’ll provide all the contact details at the end of the blog

Is Dharamkot an ideal destination for you?

Dharamkot is not everybody’s piece of cake. It’s a small village and there’s nothing much to do apart from nature walks, yoga sessions, café hopping and trekking. If you’re the one who doesn’t enjoy walking or just endlessly staring at the mountains or sky, this isn’t the place for you. If you want your vacation to be lively then you must head to McLeodganj.

Dharamkot has a very relaxed vibe and that’s what people come here for. It’s an escape from noise and chaos of everyday world. It’s a great place for people who like to indulge in meditation, yoga, nature and everything peaceful.

The village has a few hotels but majorly there are guest houses, which are pretty basic. There are a lot of Israelis and they aren’t very picky and the hosts have got used to it ,so, don’t expect a fully furnished room with fancy amenities. Sometimes they won’t even clean the room properly. In this situation, you just have to politely ask them to clean the room or do it yourself.

It’s a small village and the dwellers really appreciate friendship and kindness. Remember that it’s a community of people that is allowing you to use their facilities. The least you can do is respect this fact, and maintain decorum.

Best Cafes in Dharamkot

Mostly all the cafes in Dharamkot are really good and offer Indian, Israeli and Italian food. Trust us, eat wherever you want to, you wouldn’t be disappointed.

We really like Moonlight Café in Dharamkot. It’s only a few steps away from Trek n Dine. All of their preparations from Hummus, Pasta, Pizza to Dal Makhani are scrumptious. Even their coffee is really good.

We would highly recommend Hello to the King  sundae at Moonlight Café. It has everything you would dream to have in a sundae. A bowl layered with warm crushed cookies, topped with a heap of vanilla ice-cream and dressed with Bhagsu cake, chocolate syrup and caramelised bananas. You will fall in love with it!

Trek n Dine has to be one of our favourites. We know that we are not the only ones saying that. It’s a bit expensive than Moonlight Café but their food and ambiance is on point. Their breakfast menu has a lot of options and God bless their smoothies and juices!

Bodhi Greens is yet another infamous café amongst travellers. It’s known for it’s vegan food options. They also use metal straws instead of plastic straws, which we think is a great idea.

For knick-knacks and inexpensive breakfast you can head to Himalayan Tea Shop. It is right at the entry of the village. Anil, the manager of the shop, is a friendly chap. He also remembers people, which is extraordinary. You can try their banana pancake, parathas, sandwiches, liquorice tea and masala tea. All this at a very reasonable cost.

Wish to have a home-cooked meal? Walk a bit towards Bhagsu and try to locate Big Mama Café. This little place is owned by a woman who hails from Punjab. She has a daughter named Jyoti, who is extremely talkative but you’ll enjoy her company. Big Mama cooks fresh meals every day and if you have any request then you can ask her to prepare it for you. 😊

If you are hanging out in McLeodganj then you must absolutely try Nick’s Italian Kitchen (it’s a vegetarian restaurant). All of their preparations are drool-worthy. The desserts are also amazing. We are all praises for this place!!!!

Okay, last one.

Chilly Beans Café and Restaurant  is a must visit if you are in Bhagsu. They have a few amazing vegan, and gluten free dishes, which makes it a nice option for vegetarians.

We are listing down few of our must haves in Dharamkot:

  • Ginger Lemon Honey, drop in a black tea sachet (Moonlight Café)
  • Bhagsu Cake
  • Hello to the King/ Queen sundae (Moonlight café or Trek n Dine)
  • Liquorice Tea (from Himalayan Tea Shop)
  • Arrabiata Pasta, Hummus and Pita, and woodfired oven Pizza (Moonlight Café)
  • Nutella/ Banana Pancakes (from Himalayan Tea Shop)                  
  • Spinach and Mushroom Ravioli, Cannelloni, Thukpa, Veg Momos, and Cheesecake (Nick’s Italian Kitchen in McLeodganj)
  • Buddha Bowl ( Chilly Beans Café and Restaurant in Bhagsu)

Note: Moonlight Café and Chilly Beans café are closed during off season (November to February/March)

Things to do in Dharamkot

Though Dharamkot is a small village, it has got a lot to keep you busy. Below we have listed a few activities that you can do while you’re there:

Hike from Dharamkot to Bhagsu Nag and McLeodganj

If you’re in a mood to explore, the hike from Dharamkot to Bhagsu Nag will give you a nice opportunity to go wild. Walk towards Bodhi Greens café and keep on walking till you reach an unpaved path. You may think that you’ve have taken a wrong alley and it may seem like a dead end but keep on moving. You’ll come across Big Mama’s café, a stable, a small farm, few house and then the unpaved path towards Bhagsu. At the end of it, you’ll reach upper Bhagsu.

The hike from Dharamkot to Bhagsu Nag is only fifteen minutes long. Once you reach Upper Bhagsu, you can either eat at a nice café or go for a shopping spree. There are au courant hippie fashion stores from where you can buy harem pants, cotton kurtas, tie-dye tees, silver jewellery and a lot more at cheap prices. As you keep descending, you’ll  reach Bhagsu Nag from where you can head to the temple and Shiva Café or walk towards McLeodganj.

Bhagsu Nag temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. People come here to seek the blessings of the divine. There’s also a swimming pool right in front of the temple. Shiva Café is another half an hour walk from the Bhagsu Nag temple. We’ve been there once and certainly, it wasn’t worth the hype.

While you are in Bhagsu, don’t forget to try Bhagsu Cake from one of the bakeries. You will definitely come back for more.

From the main Bhagsu area, McLeodganj is about thirty minutes away. The road is not inclined, so you can walk easily.

Once you reach McLeodganj, you can take a break at Nick’s Italian Kitchen. The food and desserts are absolutely drool-worthy.

Things to do in McLeodganj

Below are a few things that you can do in McLeodganj:

Visit Dalai Lama’s Temple

Dalai Lama’s Temple is a must go if you are in McLeodganj. It is nestled amidst towering Himalayas and blends perfectly with the landscape. The best time to visit Dalai Lama temple is during morning or evening prayers. It is synonymous to peace and mindfulness. Close your eyes and hear them chanting in a language you don’t understand but it’s absolutely an experience that you must have.

Shop at McLeodganj’s Mall Road

McLeodganj is a shopping heaven for everyone who likes silver jewellery, woollen goods, solid perfumes, bohemian clothes, herbal teas or Tibetan artefacts. Everything has really good quality and is available at super affordable rates. Our favourite has to be a Tibetan shop next to State Bank of India.

Visit McLeodganj Square Temple aka Kalachakra Temple

McLeodganj Square Temple, as the name suggests is a Buddhist temple near McLeodganj’s Main Square. There’s a huge prayer wheel inside the building and it is magnificent. You can also climb up the stairs and explore other parts of the establishment. Though the temple occupies a small space, it is very beautiful and colourful.

Book a Day Tour to Bir Billing and Experience Paragliding

You can book a day tour to Bir Billing from McLeodganj from any of the tour operators or even taxi drivers (yeah).  Cost per person for paragliding is about INR 2,000 and taxi charges around INR 1,500 (for two people) if you share it with somebody. If you wish to record your flight on a GoPro then you can hire it at the spot for INR 500.

The day tour starts early in the morning. Taxi driver will pick you up and leave for Bir. It takes around two hours to reach Bir from McLeodganj. Once you reach Bir, a jeep will come to pick you up and it’ll drop you at a point in Billing where the paragliding starts. You would be accompanied by a paraglider throughout the flight. The flight is supposed to be 30 mins long but it cab vary as your altitude is dependent on thermals.

It is an enthralling experience that you must have at least once in your life. The closest we can explain, it felt like we’re a human drone.

Trek to Triund

Triund is about 6 kms from Dharamkot. You can either start your trek from Dharamkot or take a taxi to Gallu Temple. From Gallu temple, Triund is about 5 kms away. The trek is so much sought-after that even the government tried to regulate the number of people visiting it every single day.

What makes this trek so preferable is the fact that it is an easy terrain compared to other treks in Himachal Pradesh, yet it is a perfect getaway to the enjoy the breath-taking view of Dhauladhar Mountains and Kangra Valley.

If your stamina allows then you can come back to Dharamkot the same day or you can get a tent to spend the night at Triund under the star-studded sky. Usually the tents are booked beforehand and the package includes dinner and breakfast. We remember paying INR 2500 for a double occupancy tent. If you don’t wish to buy a package, you can also rent a tent from McLeodganj and set it up yourself.

Hike to the Tibetan Flags, Dal Lake and Naddi Village

This hike is perfect for anybody who enjoys solitude and sounds of nature but also likes to walk, a lot.

Hike to Tibetan Flags begins from the Himalayan Tea Shop. If you walk a bit towards the vegetable seller, you’ll see two roads diverging. One leads to McLeodganj and the other one leads to Tibetan flags. You have to take the later one.

After you have walked for a kilometre or so, there’ll be an uphill diversion to Gallu Temple. You don’t have to take that. Keep walking straight until you reach Tibetan flags. There are a lot of flags, so, it is quite prominent. Spend some time here soaking in the positivity.

From Tibetan flags, you can either directly go to Dal Lake or first visit Naddi Village and then Dal Lake. You can refer Google Maps or ask for help from the locals to find your way from here. There aren’t any landmarks that we can remember. You just gotta find your own way.

There’s nothing much to do in Naddi village, only a few places to visit like Sunset Point and Tibetan children’s village.

It’s a really long walk, so, you need to be in your best shape and be mentally prepared to walk a lot. Literally, a lot!

Jewellery Making

There are a lot of jewellery and crystal shops in Dharamkot. They all sell beautiful jewellery pieces which are made with precision and intricate details. The shopkeepers can teach you the art of making jeweller

 If you are keen to learn the art making jewellery, the shopkeepers can teach you

Yoga sessions

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Learn Music and Painting

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