Hidden in the Himachal Pradesh district of the Himalayas is the hippie village of Dharamkot, approximately 2km outside of McLeodGanj. Whilst the Dalai Lama’s hometown has its wealth of shops and attractions (blog post to follow), it can get quite hectic with the constant car horns and tourist parties. In complete contrast, Dharamkot is a traffic free zone, renowned for its laid-back, carefree vibe.
After a busy week of teaching assessments we decided to take advantage of the tranquil town, hiking up through McLeod Ganj and into the peace and quiet of the mountain landscape. As the hustle and bustle of the McLeod Ganj drifted out of sight and mind, the environment gifted us with more breathing space and fresher, cooler air, which felt fantastic after the sticky heat of the town centre! After about 30 minutes of walking I started to think that we must have taken a wrong path, because there was barely any signs of life. Luckily we persisted because as if out of nowhere little coffee shops and mini boutiques started to appear along little lanes that veered off the main path, sheltered by the dense shrubbery.
The little lanes leading through Dharamkot:
This secluded spot is the perfect place to relax and read a good book as you are spoilt for choice with cute cafes that offer a wealth of healthy foods, coffees and herbal teas. We ended up getting brunch at ‘Cool Talk Café’, which was exactly what I needed after 2 weeks of plain and simple Indian vegetarian food. I started off with scrambled eggs with fried mushrooms and spinach, followed by a granola pot (which could have easily fed a family of four!), a carrot and apple juice and an iced coffee. It was a well-deserved day of indulgence and a much needed break away from the rigid rules of a yogic lifestyle (e.g. no caffeine!)
Star and Emily enjoying a cheeky coffee (or three!) with brunch:
The enormous home-made granola bowl:
This iced coffee put Starbucks' frappuccino to shame!
The small hill station also has some wonderful little boutiques offering a range of hand-made clothing and jewellery. I must admit, I am very proud of my poncho purchase (which cost me 300 rupees- so roughly £3). Whilst you can haggle prices down slightly, the locals offer exceptionally fair prices, so it is usually unnecessary. Dharamkot also attracts many yogis, as there are numerous drop-in yoga classes and two very good meditation centres (plus plenty of temples!)
Dharamkot is a yoga-lovers heaven!
After another coffee stop we decided to take the short walk through the village and onto Bhagsu. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by cars, crowds and street vendors, a world away from the calm of Dharamkot! Bhagsu is famed for its waterfalls (also called Bhagsunag Falls), a popular tourist attraction and also an important place for Hindu pilgrims. It’s also within walking distance of McLeodGanj (roughly 2km) although you can drive right up to the cascading waterfalls, which are approximately 20 metres in height. It’s a lively area but it can get a bit overwhelming due to the abundance of street sellers and photo requests (as the only white people we became an attraction ourselves!) However, this time of year is particularly busy because it is India’s summer holiday (mid-May-July for Northern India) and due to the cooler climate, the Himalayas are a holiday hotspot! For me, the candy floss and ice-cream sellers made the natural landscape feel more like a theme park or a seaside resort, but fortunately we managed to find ourselves a quiet café that looked right over the falls. I broke another ‘yogic rule’ and enjoyed a cold beer while soaking in the spectacular surroundings, which are particularly impressive on a clear day during monsoon season. Pure bliss!
Bhagsu Falls and a mountain goat (the photos really don't do the waterfalls justice!)
On my way through Bhagsu town I managed to pick up several bargains, including some multi-coloured harem pants for 300 rupees (approximately £3), although I’m not sure if they’ll be socially acceptable in London! It’s a great area for gifts and leather goods (another yogi bought a beautiful leather bag for 1200 rupees, so roughly £12!) and you can find any type of food you fancy (there’s even a German Bakery!)
-Cool Talk Café, Dharamkot, Dharamasala- https://www.facebook.com/Cool-Talk-Caf%C3%A9-1539648193001065/
-Dharamkot: A hippie village in the Himalayas: https://www.tripoto.com/trip/dharamkot-village-kangra-himachal-pradesh
-Yoga classes in Dharamkot: http://www.yoga.in/yoga-dharamkot.html
-Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Dharamkot: http://www.hiyogacentre.com/en/
-Bhagsu Falls: https://www.makemytrip.com/travel-guide/dharamshala/bhagsunag-falls-lakes-and-waterfalls.html
-German Bakery, Bhagsu: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Restaurant_Review-g319724-d4880977-Reviews-German_Bakery-Dharamsala_Himachal_Pradesh.html