Coffee Heaven : Our Top 5 Favourite Cafes In Mcleodganj
Created by Colleen Sims * 7 December 2023
Cafes in Mcleadganj : Finding The Perfect Cup Of Coffee
We love to travel. And we love travelling for extended periods and really exploring a destination. But this can sometimes mean that we miss our home comforts and for me those comforts include a great cup of tea or coffee.
We’re English and we live in France and Spain is just a few hours away; of course we love tea and coffee! We’re travellers but we’re not coffee connoisseurs, however we are fans of a Café con Leche or a strong but smooth Café Latte and we’re both partial to a nice cup of tea. If you follow us often, you’ll know that I’m gluten free and, if I can avoid it, I don’t eat dairy; so finding a great café is not an easy task.
At home we drink tea out of huge mugs and we also grind our own coffee beans every day for the perfect after lunch coffee. In short, we’re tea and coffee drinkers and we miss both when we’re travelling.
I know that India has Chai and they grow their own coffee but for some reason it’s just not the same. When we arrived in Mcleodganj and heard that the town has a great café culture we were excited to try for ourselves and went in search of the perfect cuppa.
If like us you’re missing a cup of something wonderful then read on because we did a lot of research to find our top 5 amazing cafes in Mcleodganj. They’re listed in alphabetical order as we struggled to agree on which one had the top spot.
Where Is Mcleodganj And Why So Many Cafes?
Mcleodganj in nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, with fabulous views of the snowy peaks of the Dhauladhar range. It’s a favourite spot for hikers and nature lovers but perhaps the biggest attraction a special resident. Mcleodganj is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile.
Today the town has a reputation as a centre for meditation and yoga and travellers come here not only because of it’s famous resident but also to study and partake in extended retreats. It’s also very popular with hikers; the famous Triund Hike brought us here.
During our stay, we felt as though many of the tourists had stayed a while. There was a certain level of camaraderie amongst cafe customers that we’ve not noticed elsewhere on our travels. Indeed, the cafes in Mcleodganj seem to be hubs or meeting points, and they have created comfortable spaces where friends can meet and spend long afternoons chatting and equally corners where you can go alone with a book and just enjoy the ambiance.
Mcleodganj is not a place to be rushed and perhaps for this reason, cafes and coffee shops have developed a certain style; there’s a coffee shop for everyone in Mcleodganj.
Is it Mcleodganj or Mcleod Ganj?
When writing about a new destination I like to get my facts in order, but this answer has eluded me; my guess is that there is no correct answer.
Sir Donald Friell McLeod was a civil servant and the Lieutenant Governor of Punjab when the British discovered this little hill station in the 1850s. The area had been settled for centuries but it was Mcleod that lent his name to this glorious little town.
Ganj is derived from an old Persian word meaning neighbourhood.
I have seen the town written as McleodGanj, Mcleodganj and Mcleod Ganj on a variety of websites and local and national newspapers. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus, so I think you’re good with any of these options.
Coffee Talk | One Of Our Top Cafes In Mcleodganj
We discovered Coffee Talk Café on our way to the Cable Car Skyride to Dharamshala; it’s also enroute to the Namgyal Monastery and the terrace is great for people watching. Someone at our hotel had told Gerry that their Lassi was good and that they served good pie so as we were passing it seemed rude not to stop.
Whilst it’s not specifically gluten-free they did me offer fresh fruit salad for a late breakfast and the coffee was very good. We’ve found that in India that coffee can either be a little weak with too much milk or when black can be a little bitter. There was no alternative milk so my coffee was black; but it was smooth with a great taste. This is always a good indication of a great coffee bean or blend.
Gerry can testify that the Carrot Cake was particularly moist and tasty. But they also served really delisious smelling toasted sandwiches and their banoffee pie is quite famous.
The feel of Coffee Talk is very much that of a café. Unlike some of the other cafes we list, this is the place to drop into for a quick coffee rather than linger all afternoon. But the coffee is great and it’s the perfect pick-me up sort of place.
It would be fair to say this wasn’t our top café in Mcleodganj but because the coffee was so good and the cake was one of Gerry’s favourite it made the list.
Crepe Pancake Hut | One Of Our Top Cafes in Mcleodganj
Ok. So if you visit Mcleodganj then you have to visit Crepe Pancake Hut at least once. Seriously, you feel healthier just walking through the door. This café caters for all kinds of special diets including gluten free, vegetarian and vegan so it’s perfect for folks like me!
The food is really wholesome and tasty. They make crepes to order and use buckwheat flour which means they’re naturally gluten free. I opted for extra banana and chocolate on mine and could happily have eaten seconds! They also do a peanut butter option which sounds perfect! And if you prefer waffles they’ll make these also.
The coffee is good and strong, without the bitter after taste and you have the choice of alternative dairy-free milk. And the gluten-free coconut cookies are perfect for dunking in your coffee.
They’re called Crepe Pancake Hut but they offer so much more. Gerry opted for vegan quiche and a green smoothie; he loved the quiche but regretted the smoothie choice. It was nice but not his ‘cup of tea’. Having said that the food here is wonderful and you’re spoilt for choice.
This café is popular. It’s a favourite for breakfast but equally busy at lunchtime. It seems that everyone in Mcleodganj has heard of it and it’s busy with both locals and tourists alike.
If you find yourself a seat then allow time to linger over more than one cup of tea or coffee or juice or lassi. You won’t regret your choice.
Piano Piano | One Of Our Top Cafes in Mcleodganj
This isn’t really a café and is more a guesthouse and restaurant; the guesthouse is called Pema Thang. But we didn’t know this when we stopped for a drink; it looks like a bar/cafe/restaurant and the sign says Piano Piano. The biggest attraction by far for us was the glorious terrace and fabulous views of the Namgyal Monastery below; which is why it made our list.
The restaurant has strong Asian/Tibetan influence but also offers Italian choices, which was a nice change from eating Indian foods. You can also by alcohol here, although it was expensive.
You are welcome to stop for coffee or cold drinks, it’s not required that you order food.
This bar is tucked away so you need to visit it specifically, as you’re unlikely to stumble upon it. Having said that we found it walking back to our hotel after visiting the Dalai Lama’s monastery, the view was so good we returned for lunch.
The coffee is good, but no alternative milk. They also offered cold drinks like cola. Gerry opted for tea and was given a choice; Assam was his choice and he very much enjoyed this.
If you’re looking for something a little different it’s worth the detour. We enjoyed Piano Piano but we walked by it so didn’t need to make a special trip.
Snow Lion Café | One Of Our Top Cafes In Mcleodganj
Another Favourite café in Mcleodganj, not only as a café, but also as a great little restaurant was Snow Lion Café. My favourite drink here ended up being not their coffee (which is great) but their large Honey, Ginger and Lemon Tea.
The Snow Lion Café is located right in the heart of McLeodganj, almost opposite the Kalachakra Temple. They cater for gluten free, vegan and vegetarians, and they have alternative milks. They also make their own Kambuca although we didn’t try it.
We did love sitting, drinking our tea and chatting to other travellers; the cafe actively encourages you to share tables so making friends is easy. There is a great ambience and it feels more like a meeting point with regulars rather than a ‘drop-in’ customer.
We had dinner here too, the food is a mix of Asian and Tibetan. I absolutely loved their Roasted Garlic with Broccoli and Spinach; you have to love green veg but for me it was so good I had it twice!
Snow Lion is also a hotel and offers simple accommodation too; we never checked out the rooms but they get good reviews.
Woeser Bakery | One Of Our Top Cafes In Mcleodganj
I really loved Woeser Bakery and Café. It’s a little tucked away off the main thoroughfare but only a couple of minutes. You need to look up as you arrive though because it’s on the first floor, up a flight of stairs.
I found Woeser Bakery when looking for gluten free cake. The owner explained that a lot of coeliacs visit because of her cake; she perfected Gluten Free cake for her grandfather. She offers two gluten free options, I had the Vegan Delight and it was indeed delightful. They also have a gluten-free chocolate cake. Gerry opted for the Lemon Tart and he says the pastry was perfection! If you’re a bakery lover then this is the cafe for you.
The coffee is very good but our favourite cuppa ended up being Rhododendron and Basil Tea. We loved it so much that we bought a few packets for our onward travels.
There are a few seats and it’s fine to bring a book and linger; there was one chap working on his laptop and they were totally fine with this.
Woeser is a bakery as well as a cafe, so if you are celebrating a special occasion they will make bespoke cakes too. And as a bakery you can buy to take away; we went back and bought cakes for our onward journey to Shimla.
Top 5 Cafes in Mcleodganj : Which Would You Pick?
There are so many cafes in Mcleodganj that it’s difficult to know which one to choose and everyone will have their favourites. We like small and cosy and I’ll always opt for a café that offers gluten free cake and alternative milk.
We don’t like loud music (why do cafe’s and restaurants do this?) but we are happy with lots of chatter. What we love won’t suit everyone but we’re confident that if you like coffee you’ll enjoy visiting at least one of our favourite cafes.
We had tried others cafes in town and we felt that some fell short of their reviews. Four Seasons is one of the highest rated cafes in Mcloedganj and yet we were a little underwhelmed. We went for breakfast but there were no options for me. The coffee was ok but with no alternative milk, it was a little bitter. Gerry enjoyed his lassi and the café gets great reviews so perhaps it was just me?
Another café that is highly rated is Common Grounds. It’s a little out of town but we did wander over, only to find it was closed; a good lesson in checking opening hours!
We do search Google and TripAdvisor for good cafes and restaurants, I read blogs and other reviews and we asked folks that we meet for their suggestions. One thing is for sure, you are spoilt for choice with the cafes in Mcleodganj.
I still feel that the special nature of this town, and the fact that folks linger longer here and make more friends, makes the café scene a little more authentic and welcoming. You’ll just have to visit our choices and test them out for yourself… and maybe drop us a line if you agree with us!
One final word of warning. On review sites you will see listed cafes as being in Mcleodganj when infact the are in Dharamkot which is a fair hike from the main town. We know this because we walked it.
Walking to Dharamkot is all uphill for a few kilometres and will take you a good hour to reach. We spent a several hours searching for a highly rated gluten free vegan restaurant; and actually once we’d finally found it we were disappointed.
Unless you’re looking for a nice long hike then stick to the cafes in McLeodganj centre. Rest assured that the cafes we’ve listed are all just a hop and a skip from the main centre of town.
One Last Special Mention | Ram Yoga House
I know this is a round up of our favourite coffee spots but I couldn’t close without a mention of Ram Yoga House. We stayed in this Hotel during our time in McleodGanj and their coffee was rather special; as was their homemade porridge made with coconut milk and a host of other seeds, pomegranate and goodness.
It’s a little bit on the edge of town but it overlooked the Namgyal Monastery, had amazing views of the mountains from our terrace and offered incredible sunsets from the roof… and the coffee was great (complete with coconut milk).
If you’re a coffee fan then we can recommend a stay here; and you’re just a few minutes away from all the other amazing cafes in Mcleadganj too!
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Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Whenever you travel overseas it’s imperative to travel with a good travel and medical insurance policy. None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.
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