Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days : An Unforgettable Himalayan Adventure

Created by Colleen Sims * 9 December 2023

stunning little Kalachakra Temple in Mcloedganj complete with painted walls and an enormous golden stupa
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Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days: Immerse Yourself In The Himalayas

Mcleodganj sits at the entrance to the Himalayas and has been the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile for decades. This captivating town offers a unique blend of breathtaking landscapes, Tibetan culture, and the ancient lands of the Maharajas. Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or planning a short escape, 3 days in Mcleodganj is the perfect amount of time to discover its magic.

During our time in Mcleodganj we met two kinds of visitors.  Travellers like us, who  like to take their time and stay a while.  Or others who come for a few days as part of a grand tour of India; usually for just 2 or 3 days.  We feel that 3 days is pretty much ideal for travellers.

Follow our Mcleodganj itinerary for 3 unforgettable days and you’ll have an opportunity to :

  • Trek through breathtaking landscapes: Hike to Triund for panoramic views of the Dhauladhar ranges, or explore the Bhagsu Waterfall and its surrounding trails.
  • Immerse yourself in Tibetan culture: Visit the Dalai Lama Temple, explore the Namgyal Monastery, and wander through the bustling Tibetan markets.
  • Indulge in delicious Tibetan food: Sample momos, thukpa, and other local specialties at the many restaurants and cafes.
  • Learn about the ancient lands of the Maharajas: Visit Kangra Fort, an historical landmark with stunning views of the Himalayas.

This itinerary offers a framework based on what we loved to do but feel free to customize it based on your own interests and passions.

a Tibetan monk walking through temple road; you'll walk along this road many times during your Mcleodganj Itinerary for 3 days

Why Visit Mcleodganj?

There were two reasons for us wanting to visit Mcleodganj

  1. It’s the home of the Dalai Lama
  2. There is a famous trek called the Triund trek which I had to hike.

Mcleodganj is a gem of a destination and writing this post now from our beach home in Kerala I would happily swap for a few more days in this glorious little town. 

Drawing from our experiences, we’ve created the perfect Mcleodganj itinerary offering 3 beautiful busy days in India’s Little Lassa.  There are many things to do here, so we’ve also added a selection of other popular alternatives at the end of this post.

we stayed in Ram Yoga House during our days in Mcleodganj.  The balcony was the perfect spot for watching the sunrise over the mountains

Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days : Day 1

We enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at our homestay; I 100% recommend the porridge if you’re staying at Ram Yoga Homestay.  If you’ve not had breakfast then we recommend dropping into one of our Top 5 Cafes in Mcleodganj for a wholesome plate of something amazing; and of course a perfect cup of coffee.

Walk The Kora

This is a glorious little circular walk that can easily be completed within 30 minutes; although it took us much longer as we spent so long looking at the points of interest and taking in the stunning views, taking lots of photos and spinning the many prayer wheels.  You’ll want to do this walk at least once during your stay.

Top Tip : The first time we walked we started in the wrong place and walked in the wrong direction.  At the entrance to the Namgyal Monastery, facing the entrance you will want to take the road to your left.  Follow the path down the hill and you will be starting the Kora, walking in the right direction. 

The walk is just 1.6 kms long but is beautiful and the perfect start to anyone’s day.  The walk cuts through the mountain and forest and circles around the Tsuglagkhang complex and Namgyal Monastery. You can’t get lost and there are many people walking, although it never feels busy.

Warning : There are Macaque Monkeys along the route.  We only saw them at the very start of the walk.  They are looking for food and have been known to grab phones and bags; especially if you are carrying food.  We had no issues but we were warned to ignore them and keep walking.

Visit The Namgyal Monastery

We were told that the Monastery closes for lunch, so do make sure you allow enough time for a visit before midday.  We were also told that we couldn’t take photographs or a camera with us.  I’m not convinced that either statement is totally correct; there were certainly folks entering when we left just before lunchtime and everyone had a camera or smartphone. 

We visited more than once and on the second visit I took my smartphone and was never asked not to take photographs.  However, there are clearly places where it would be inappropriate, and you should use common sense and always be respectful but cameras are allowed.

We followed google-maps to the Namgyal Monastery and the entrance is very clear.  At the entrance we followed others as they walked in. There are signs pointing to the temples and others which show restricted areas. 

I was surprised by how relaxed security measures were given their famous resident.  There was one point near the entrance when bags are scanned but it was very low-key.  I wonder if security increases considerably if the Dalai Lama is making a public appearance?

Allow a good hour to explore the complex; as I said we visited more than once but mainly because we had the time.  There are a few temples to visit and lots of places to sit and contemplate your surroundings.  The entire complex is so very peaceful, it’s easy to lose yourself in your thoughts and marvel at the incredible views.

It would be too easy to rush this visit but do linger; I kept reminding myself that I was here, sat in the foothills of the Himalyan mountains in the place where the Dalai Lama lived.  It was all very surreal and beautiful.

Colleen exploring the Namgyal Monastery Complex; home of the Dalai Lama.  A must visit during your Mcleodganj Itinerary for 3 days

Visit The Tibetan Museum

Next to the Namgyal Monastry is the Tibetan Museum.  It’s not obvious to find the entrance, it’s a small building just before the main temple entry point.  If you are lost then ask at the temple entrance and they will direct you.

Inside charts the history of the annexing of Tibet by the Chinese. This is a small museum but worth a visit.  It offers a glimpse into a very difficult and often violent history but it is worthy of your time and will give you an interesting insight to the struggles of the people living here in exile.

Art depicting the Tibetan Peoples struggles with China, at the entrance of the Namgyal and Museum Complex in Mcleodganj

Lunch At Snow Lion Cafe

From Namgyal head back to the heart of Mcleodganj for a wonderful lunch stop at Snow Lion Café.  This is the perfect place to eat and drink and chat with other travellers and it’s also opposite our first stop of the afternoon.

Visit The Kalachakra Temple

Directly opposite the Snow Lion café is the Kalachakra Temple.  A small working temple that sits between the two main roads in Mcleodganj.  You can’t fail to spot this temple as every wall is lined with Prayer Wheels and the building is so ornate and brightly decorated that it stands out amongst the other shops and houses that line the streets.

The entrance is in the street opposite Snow Lion but simply walk around, in a clockwise direction, following the Prayer Wheels and you’ll find it.

Inside is a huge golden stupa and you can climb the stairs all the way to the top and visit the roof temple and admire the views of the street below.

This only needs a short visit, but it is worth stopping and exploring. 

prayer wheels surrounding the Kalachakra Temple in the centre of Mcleodganj; opposite the Snow Lion Cafe

Top Tip : I found information about this temple confusing.  I understand now that there are two temples in Mcleodganj with the same name (I wonder if Kalachakra maybe a philosophy as well as the name of the temple)?  Within the Namgyal Complex there is a Kalachakra Tibetan Temple (where the Dalai Lama sometimes teaches) as well as this smaller temple with the same name in the town centre.  Some blogs I’ve read don’t make the distinction which caused us much confusion; my guess is those writers never actually visited Mcleodganj?

Shopping In The Tibetan Market And Temple Road

We’re heading down to the Skyway Depot in Temple Road but Temple Road is lined with stalls selling all manner of curiosities and souvenirs.  We’re not big on souvenirs but the stalls are interesting, so spend some time ‘window shopping’ as you walk.  If you keep walking, beyond the Skyway, you can also visit the Tibetan Refugee Market, just outside the Namgyal Complex.

Tibetan Refugee Market outside the Dalai Lama Temple in Mcleodganj

Tata Skyway To Dharamshala

You can ride a tuk-tuk to Dharamshala but we saw the Skyway Cable Car when walking the Kora and decided to take this option; it was a good choice. 

It’s not the cheapest ride; we bought return tickets for 675 RPS.  It’s cheaper if you don’t wish to get out and explore Dharamshala but we wanted to stop.

The entrance is along Temple Road and it’s very easy to spot.  You can purchase your tickets online but we just turned up and were the only folks in the queue.  It can be busy but during our stay in Mcleod we never saw crowds here. You can pay with a credit card but Gerry’s Mastercard was declined and mine (Visa) was accepted.

It’s a beautiful ride and you get to enjoy amazing views of the surrounding hills and mountains.  Even if you didn’t wish to explore Dharamshala we’d recommend taking this little trip.  The return ride lasts around 30 minutes.

Colleen on the Skyway cable car between Mcleodganj and Dharamshala.  This option saves time during your Mcleodganj Itinerary for 3 days

Top Tip : I don’t have a great head for heights but this car never really felt that far from the ground and I never once felt nervous. 

Visit The Norbulingka Institute

From the Skyway Station take a tuk-tuk to the Norbulingka Institute; make sure you agree your fee in advance but expect to pay around 200rps.

Our reason for visiting Dharamshala was for this amazing centre; an Institute for the preservation of Tibetan Arts and culture

Allow a couple hours for your visit and be aware that it closes at 5:30pm.  You can explore the temple complex, incredible art installations, a museum and visit their beautiful shop.  There is even a café on site for refreshments. 

The complex can be very busy on Saturdays (it is closed on Sundays), so if you can plan your days around this it would be better; but regardless you should make space in your itinerary to visit.

We took the Skyway back to Mcleodganj; you can take a tuk tuk but the traffic in Dharamshala is awful and having experienced it once, the Skyway is definitely the way to go for a quick return.

Visiting the Norbulingka dharashala should be on everyones list of things to do.  This is the centre of Tibetan art and culture in Dharamshala.  This building is brightly painted and sitting within a pond

Dinner At Crepes Pancake Hut

After such a busy day you deserve to spend some time relaxing at Crepes Pancake Hut.  The perfect place to unwind after a busy busy day!

traffic jam in Mcleodganj; cows wander freely around the narrow streets

★★★★★

  • Done for you day tour
  • Fully guided professional English guide
  • Excellent value for money tour

Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days : Day 2

Today is all about Hiking.  As you know, we’re keen walkers and the Triund Trek was at the top of our things to do.  If you’re not strong hikers then you may wish to choose from the list of alternative activities for today or take one of the alternative walks in the area but if like us you love a great hike then Triund is a must.

Hiking The Triund Trek

There are a few options for this hike.

  • You can walk from Mcloedganj there and back in one day.
  • You can walk from Mcloedganj and take a more circular route; this is longer and a little more difficult.
  • You can walk from Mcleodganj and spend the night camping in the mountains.
  • You can shorten your walk and take a taxi to either Dhamarkot or Gallu Devi Temple.

We chose to walk there and back on the same day and having already hiked to Dhamarkot previously, we took a taxi to the Gallu Devi Temple; which saves several kilometres walking. 

We were very temped to camp overnight; it sounds like an amazing short adventure but during our stay in November we noticed that cloud came in each afternoon obscuring the views.  We decided that there would be very little star-gazing to be had and instead opted to return on the same day.  If we return to Mcleodganj and the evenings are clear I would 100% camp.

you can choose to camp overnight following the Triund Trek; picture of the plateau with the tents pitched

★★★★★

  • Trek over 2 days with English speaking guide
  • Tent and sleeping bag provided; albeit basic
  • Camp dinner and breakfast provided

I did a lot of research before starting this hike.  I’d read so much about it being super-tough and one company wouldn’t take us as we are over 60. It’s not an easy hike; certainly not a walk in the park in terms of elevation but equally you’re not climbing a mountain. 

It is a hard but very do-able trek and it’s well marked.  From the Gallu Devi Temple you can easily reach the ridge within 4 hours of gentle hiking.  You do not need to rush.  Allow all day and just take your time and enjoy the amazing views.

If you wish to stay for sunset then you will be walking back in the dark and I never recommend hiking in the dark.  If you really wish to watch the sunset then perhaps the overnight camping would be a better option for you; and you get to see sunrise as well as sunset.

For me this hike was on a par with walking from St Jean Pied de Port to Orisson although the terrain was a trail and not a road.  It’s very do-able but you need to be fit and you need to have proper walking shoes.

Views from the Triund Trek of the surrounding mountains

Do You Need A Guide For The Triund Trek?

You do not need a guide to do this hike but if you feel happier going with a guide then you can book a tour (with a group or privately).  Either the day tour or the overnight camping is very inexpensive.

This is a popular hike and there will be plenty of people on the trail.  There are also regular places to stop and take a break.  It’s difficult to get lost as you head up to the plateau and the views from the top are well worth your efforts.

The Triund Hike offers spectacular vistas but only if the afternoon cloud doesn’t block your view.  Start early in the day to avoid both the heat and the cloud cover; you’ll not want to tear yourself away from this glorious mountain scenery.

hikers on the triund trek, through misty forests, in mcleodganj

★★★★★

  • Excellent reviews; you know what you’re buying!
  • Hotel pickup and lunch included
  • English speaking local guides

Things To Remember Before Starting The Triund Trek

  • The weather can change quickly so take appropriate clothing and shoes.  Take a coat and something warm and wear layers so that you can cool down if needed.
  • Take bug spray if you wish to avoid biting insects; they always seem to be attracted to me!
  • Take sunscreen.  Even if it doesn’t feel hot I would recommend you using sunscreen.
  • Carry water and some snacks.  There are food and water stalls along the trail but you should always carry some.
  • The last toilet is at the magic view café.  This is a simple stop so don’t expect luxury.  Also carry toilet paper and wipes.
  • Take cash; cards will not be accepted anywhere along the trail.
  • Charge your phone. I take so many photos that I drain my battery.  Also if you use a GPS tracker this also drains battery life. I take a charging brick to make sure I’ve got plenty left for my return trip.
  • Take the number of a taxi or tuk-tuk driver if you wish to have a ride back to Mcleodganj from the Gallu Devi Temple.
  • Tell someone that you’re doing the trek and remember to tell them when you return safety.
  • Allow lots of time and enjoy the views.  Don’t be tempted to rush as you have a lot of elevation to hike.  Take regular breaks, meander and make sure you drink plenty of water.
  • Start early and be prepared for the possibility of obstructed views if the clouds come in.  But if you arrive by midday you’ll have a better chance of spectacular mountain views. 
  • Take care on the walk down.  My legs always feel tired after a lot of uphill and I’m tempted to relax more on the way down.  Stay alert and if you have hiking poles, extend them.  I find the down is harder on my knees; so allow plenty of time for your return journey and don’t rush it.  Remember to stop for water, the sun is higher on the way down.  And remember that the views always look different on the way back.
  • Leave no trace.  Whatever you take with you, take it back.
horse along the trail on the Triund Trek near Mcleodganj

Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days : Day 3

After your efforts from yesterday’s hike you can take it easy today and let the car take the strain. 

Full Day Exploring Kangra Province

We like to watch Travel Shows and Rick Stein visited a family in Kangra during his travels through India.  The family are said to be the oldest in India and are able to trace their history back to Alexander the Great.  They lived near Kangra Fort and we decided that if we were ever in the area then we’d have to investigate. 

We booked our driver via our homestay and it cost us 3000 RPS which was great value but our driver spoke no English and there were times when it would have been good to know what we were seeing and we missed having a guide. However, we loved this day, we packed a lot in and it was an excellent way of exploring Himachal Pradesh.

Dharamshala Tea Gardens

Who knew that they grew tea in Dharamshala? Our first stop was the Tea Gardens.  You don’t need to allow long here.  We are planning to visit Munnar and Sri Lanka which are both famous for their tea plantations so we didn’t need too long.  We did though, wander the hills and stop for tea at the tiny café. 

There were very few others around when we visited.  It was early when we visited and it gets busy later with tour groups and can be very busy as weekends so bear this in mind.

Tea garden in Dharamshala with a giant sign saying I (heart) Himalaya

Kunal Pathri Temple

This was the one place where we really missed having a guide; we had no idea what we were seeing or what we were meant to do.

This is a fascinating little temple and surprisingly busy with visitors.   We were ushered inside by locals who seemed surprised by our visit.  They directed us into the temple to receive a blessing.  Following their guidance, we left a small offering and accepted sweets in return.  One of the visitors also shared pancakes with us and we had a little group around asking where we were from and why we were visiting; followed by a group selfie.

The temple is dedicated to goddess Durga and is surrounded by forests and tea plantations with wonderful distant views of the Dhauladhar mountains. According to local legend (and google)  there is a stone in the temple which remains wet. It is said that if the stone dries it will start raining.

colleen and Gerry after visiting the hindu temple during our driving tour near Mcleodganj

Masroor Rock Cut Temple Complex

Onwards along some very rustic roads; expect a bumpy ride but also expect spectacular views of the surrounding forests and foothills and the ever present snowy peaks.  It is a beautiful region.

The Masroor Rock Cut Temple looks remarkably like the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, although much smaller. 

This 8th Century Hindu temple wasn’t built but rather carved out of the rock.  Sadly it was partly destroyed by an earthquake in 1905 but much remains standing and we spent an happy hour exploring the grounds, around the lake and walking up to the lookout above the temple.

Top Tip : We had problems buying our entry tickets.  Guards direct you to a QR code and you are meant to buy online.  However, the QR Code took us to a spammy website that asks for monthly subscription and bank details so DO NOT proceed.  Thankfully the guard took pity on us and accepted cash.  We had the same problem at our next temple and here the guard bought our ticket with his phone.  If you find yourself in the same situation, ask your driver or guide/guard for help.

view of the masroor rock cut temple near Dharamshala

Kangra Fort

Our final visit of the day was Kangra Fort.  This impressive Fort was built by the royal Rajput family of Kangra State, Maharajas who can trace their origins back to the ancient Trigarta Kingdom.

It is the largest fort in the Himalayas and is possibly one of the oldest forts in India.

There is a small museum at the entrance which you should explore first before heading off to the fort itself.  There is also a small garden at the entrance with impressive views of the hillside fort. 

The fort itself is huge.  We never explored it all but we wandered for well over an hour along and across the paths and beside the impressive defensive walls.  The 360o views from the top are simply breath-taking. 

sunset at Kangra Fort in Himachal Pradesh.

Top Tip : Time your visit at Kangra Fort so that you catch the sun setting.

entrance to Kangra Fort, looking through ancient arched doorways

★★★★★

  • Fully guided professional English guide
  • No need to worry about QR Codes for entrance tickets
  • We loved this day; it packs a lot of sightseeing

We really loved this day. You cover a lot of ground and the views are wonderful.  It’s great to see more of this beautiful region but we really regretted not having a guide, or at least a driver who spoke some English. 

We do like to travel independently and we’re not always fans of large group tours but if you’re going to plan this day, then do consider the language barrier.  We did rely on google a great deal to answer our questions but it would have been great to have our own expert to hand.  A fabulous day out though and it left us wanting to explore this region more.

amazing views of snow-capped Himalayan mountains from Kangra fort

Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days : Alternative Things To Do

Our 3 day Mcleodganj itinerary offers you a fabulously broad introduction to this incredibly rich and diverse region. However, if you’re not into hiking or you don’t fancy a day in the car then there plenty of other activities to fill your time.

Holistic Massage

Mcleodganj attracts many visitors seeking a more spiritual and relaxing experience.  One of the ladies in our hotel recommended an Ayurvedic massage for my aching shoulder; she said it was the best massage that she’d ever had. 

The Holistic Massage Centre is run by Shammi Kumar and you can choose from Ayurvedic, Swedish, Tibetan and all elements of reflexology and acupressure.

Yoga Retreats

We stayed at Ram Yoga House.  We’re not practicing Yoga, we booked because of their excellent reviews and we have a really comfortable stay. 

What we learned though was that they are an established and much loved Yoga Studio offering daily Yoga Classes and Weekly Retreats.

The also offer a range of other services which you can tailor to meet your needs. 

bright orange sunset from the roof at Ram Yoga Homestay

Meditation And Wellness Retreat

When we walked to Dharamkot in search of an elusive Gluten-Free and Vegan restaurant we met a couple who were staying in the village for a Wellness Retreat

This is not something I have ever considered but after talking to them it is perhaps something I would investigate if we return to the mountains. You can visit for the day, a few days or a few weeks. 

If ever there was a place to get away from it all; Dharamkot would be the place.

Hike To Bagsu Waterfall

We didn’t do the Bhagsu Waterfall hike but it felt like everyone at our hotel did.  We just ran out of days but everyone gave it good reviews. 

Reading between the lines I think it’s a nice trip rather than an outstanding trip; but it would seem everyone else did the hike and recommended it. It’s not a difficult hike, although there is a bit of elevation to reach the falls. 

You can visit BhagsuNag Temple first; there is a swimming pool here although no-one we met swam.  From the temple it’s just a 30 minute hike up to the falls.  If you keep going even further you’re rewarded with Shiva Café which everyone rated highly; especially after the hike up.

Buddhist teaching in Dalai Lama temple in Mcleodganj

Sunset At Naddi View Lookout

If you’d like to catch a sunset over the mountains but you aren’t keen on the long hike there is a look-out which offers great views. We didn’t take this trip but it’s a perfect option for those less able to cope with the long Triund Hike and it has good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Ask your hotel to arrange a driver; it’s around 6km to Naddi.  You need to walk the last 10 minutes but it’s not a hike.

Sunset point is popular so allow plenty of time for the traffic (it’s a single track road), maybe take some water and snacks and a coat and your camera; the views are pretty spectacular.

Gentle Local Hikes With Guide

If you would like to do some walking when you’re in the area but you don’t want a strenuous full day of trekking then contact Himachal Bylocals.  They are a company staffed by local guides who are fully experienced in the mountains and trails around Mcleodganj

They can tailor a trip to suit your needs, timescales and abilities.

Gerry hiking out of Mcleodganj enroute to Dharamkot village

Pottery Class

Another place we always research when looking for something different is Airbnb Experiences.  Having looked through all they had to offer, the only experience that jumped out at me as being different was a pottery class

I wish we’d had time as it looks great fun; sadly though we’re travelling with a 7kg rucksack so a hand-made pot would have broken my weight budget. But if you have some spare time and you’d like something totally different then give this a go.

Mcleodganj Itinerary For 3 Days : The Last Word

We fell in love with Mcleodganj and it is high on our list of places to return.  I would happily revisit do very little except walk, explore and relax in this very special Himalayan treasure.

If you only have a few days for your visit then our Mcleodganj Itinerary for 3 days provides a taste of all that the town has to offer and will probably leave you wanting more; maybe like us you’ll start planning your return trip.

Tibetan Monk at Namgyal Monastery in Mcleodganj
prayer wheels at the Dalai Lama temple in Mcleodganj

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.

I’ve had the mis-fortune to end up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal and Ireland; every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy now for an extended global trip and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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