From Amritsar, we reached Dharamshala by 3: 15 pm and our driver enquired whether we wanted to first go to our hotel or McLeod Ganj. We didn’t want to waste time checking-in and lounging at the hotel and so we chose to head straight to McLeod Ganj. Dharamshala is a cantonment area. It is located in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh at an altitude of over 4000 ft and surrounded by the Dhauladhar mountains.
Day 1 : Itinerary
3:15 pm – Arrival at Dharamshala and Visit to St John’s Church in the Wilderness
- A place for eternal rest with the perfect views
- The story of the grounded bell
4:15 pm – McLeod Ganj
6: 00 pm – A bite to eat at Nick’s Italian Kitchen (Veg)
6:45 pm – Dal Lake
7:30 pm – Check-in at hotel
Visit to St John’s Church in the Wilderness
St John’s Church in the Wilderness is located on the way to McLeod Ganj. Surrounded by deodars, it was built-in 1852 to serve the British troops and their families stationed at Dharamshala.
In 1863, the second Viceroy of India, James Bruce, the Eighth Earl of Elgin was buried in the church grounds. His wife, Lady Elgin has mentioned the reason for choosing the particular spot as his final resting place – the spot offers a glorious view of the snow covered ranges.
We wondered about the views that Lady Elgin was talking about and found a graveyard a little away from the church with good views of the deodar slopes. The people resting here definitely have the best views.
Lady Elgin, donated in her husband’s memory, two Belgian stained glass windows depicting Jesus and John the Baptist, to whom the church is dedicated.
In the church grounds, next to the entrance is a bell encased in a protective casing. Church bells are usually seen up in the bell tower. But this one has an interesting history.
The church suffered extensive damage in the 1905 Kangra earthquake; its roof and bell tower were destroyed. In 1915, a new bell was built and shipped from England, however its considerable weight prevented it from being raised to the bell tower. The bell is presently encased in the safety structure on the church grounds. Thieves tried to steal the bell once, but they failed due to the weight of the bell.
McLeod Ganj was named after Sir Donald Friell McLeod, a Lieutenant Governor of British Punjab. First impression – the place is full of activity, noisy, crowded with small shops, cafes, teeming with tourists, locals and you have to watch out for the taxis that are constantly ferrying tourists. Our driver left us at the main square to explore.
We were faced with a choice of five narrow roads, one way for vehicular traffic, from the main square. We walked from McLeod’s main square, up the steep hill towards Dharamkot. An hour later, we were getting hungry and with the help of directions from a foreigner, ended up circling the picturesque mound and returned via another of the narrow roads back to the main square.
Nick’s Italian Kitchen (Veg)
It is situated along one of the narrow roads from the main square. We noticed the veg part, only after we began studying the menu. By now the drizzle had progressed to a full downpour; the outside seating area was dripping wet. The place was almost packed, buzzing with chatter; filled mainly with foreigners. There were all sorts of languages being spoken and not a word was clear. The waiter brought us a note of paper and pencil along with the menu, for us to write the orders down – to avoid all communication gaps:-D
We ordered the Special Chowmein with mushroom, tofu & egg (veg?), Quiche (cheese & mixed vegetables) with green salad. The food came beautifully presented but bland for our palette. A dribble of ketchup solved the problem. We also ordered the Apple pie & Vanilla ice cream, divine is the only word to describe it !!
After the delightful refreshment, we were back in our taxi and bound for the hotel. Enroute to our hotel was the Dal Lake. The named sounded familiar – the famous Dal Lake of Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir. This small lake, considered sacred was named after the latter. The water was muddy and the water level was low. But the deodars framing the Dal lake was a glorious view. We took a stroll around the lake, a good walkway.
Check-in at Hotel Indraprastha
The hotel was a disappointment. We were on the ground floor, so the views were not worth raving. It looked new, but didn’t have anything to write about. Few pictures for the curious.