Do you feel like you could do with a bit of magic in your life right now? Have you had enough of recent struggles and just want to escape it all to far off lands on a spiritual retreat? Well read on dear friends because I might have just the place for you…McLeod Ganj, India!
Tucked away in between Himalayan peaks and troughs is this bustling town with a difference. Taking a stroll down the local bazaar you will be greeted by the maroon clad monks and nuns of the ever growing Tibetan community that is so widespread this town has become known as ‘Little Lhasa’.
Apart from being home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, this special place offers a variety of different things to do to help you while away your time. It is not unknown for a traveller to have spent a busy month in this great place and still not be quite sure what they actually did all that time. And I have to be honest and say I am one such traveller. Upon arrival in McLeod Ganj I found my head turning in surprise in the back of the taxi as I spotted a Tibetan monk strolling down the road with headphones on listening to his personal stereo. And that set the scene completely. So much that was totally new to me that I quickly started to explore and see what else I could find.
A medley of different pursuits are on offer from yoga to learning how to cook Tibetan momo’s, from teaching English to refugees to learning how to work with healing crystals. Should you fancy it you can go down to the local Library of Tibetan Works and attend Buddhist philosophy classes pretty much every day. One of the most fascinating aspects for me around the Tibetan culture is fact that the government have a ‘state oracle’ whom they consult when making decisions. How great would it be if all governments did that? And that particular lama also resides down near the library if you are feeling brave!
I came here specifically to visit the Dalai Lama in India which was an incredible heart warming experience. As a result I was keen to learn ways that I could somehow bring the magic of this place back to my friends and families back home I did a course in Tibetan massage. This is a wonderful technique that was developed by the nomads of the Tibetan plains. It has the physical aspect of helping the body unwind and regenerate, yet also focuses on the energy body including chakra alignment and clearing. Learning something like that from someone who had it passed to them from one Tibetan nomadic generation to the next was a real privilege and true to form of this enriching town.
However if all you want to do while you are here is kick back and have a decent cup of chai McLeod Ganj has numerous coffee shops and restaurants scattered about the place. One of my favourites has to be Shangri-La Restaurant. This unique spot is run by Tibetan lamas from Gyumed Monastery and regardless of whether you are travelling alone or with a friend you are guaranteed to make friends. But I must be honest and say most of McLeod Ganj is like that as looking back I can see the best souvenir I left with was friendships that continue to cross language barriers, oceans and time.
Fancy some of that for yourself? Check out our next spiritual tour in India.
Lisa & Lama Buga
- Learn travel writing in the Himalayas (moonpeak.org)