Traveling solo to McLeodganj has been one of my best life decisions till date. This was my first ever solo trip and all thanks to the locale, it turned out great. McLeodganj is a great travel hub and backpackers from various parts of the world visit here. After all, it is an extremely peaceful and beautiful destination.
People usually think that solo trips can be expensive. However, traveling solo to Mcleodganj has changed my stance in this regard. In Mcleodganj, the places of stay are nominal, food is affordable and sightseeing is mostly free. There cannot be a better place to travel solo than Mcleodganj.
In my current blog, I will share my solo backpacking experience of Mcleodganj with you. I will elaborate on my entire travel itinerary, budget details, money-saving tips, safety tips, and places to visit. I hope all my fellow backpackers benefit from my blog.
Traveling Solo to Mcleodganj
Since McLeodganj is a safe and easily accessible place, I chose it as my maiden destination for taking a solo backpacking trip. Freedom and independence is something that I’ve always desired and those two things are exactly what Mcleodganj provided me.
Apart from the lovely Buddhist temples, monasteries, waterfalls, treks and lakes, Mcleodganj has many other things to explore. Adventurous activities and comforting cafes are two such things. The delightful and peaceful ambiance of cafes here can be enjoyed without feeling lonely even when you’re alone.
The best part is that all of these things can be pursued within a minimal budget. Affordability is key to taking a solo backpacking trip. By the way, you can also make a budget trip to Dharamshala. It too is a pretty place and has lots to offer.
Cost Breakdown of My Mcleodganj Solo Backpacking Trip
I spent 4 complete days in and around Mcleodganj. My personal observation is that most other backpackers also spend 2-4 days in this lovely rustic town. I booked everything just 2 days prior to my trip. Yet, I could access the most budget-friendly places.
The currency I used was the Indian Rupee (INR). However, I will also share the budget in US Dollars ($) since a lot of westerners take a trip to this part of the world. At the time of my solo trip, the exchange rate between $ and INR was as follows – 1$=68.98 INR.
Let me now share my detailed budget breakdown with you so that you get a rough idea as to how much money is needed for traveling solo to Mcleodganj.
It will cost you 300 INR ($4.35) to 800 INR ($ 11.60) per day if you choose to stay at a budget hotel or a backpacking hostel.
It cost me 500 INR for bunking at a good hostel. I stayed at a place known as La Vaca in Mcleodganj that I booked through Booking.com
A meal of street food can cost up to 100 INR ($ 1.45) and a meal at an extravagant cafe can cost up to 400 INR ($ 5.82). There is no dearth of good eating places in Mcleodganj.
Explore the eating places around the main area and then make your pick. If you want, you can have a look at this very elaborate Dharamshala and Mcleodganj food guide
Honestly, I didn’t use any internal transportation because I like hiking amidst nature and the mountains. In fact, if you like walking even you can easily walk around all the places in Mcleodganj. The distances are not much and you can easily cover them on foot. Else, take an Auto Rickshaw for around 30 INR ($0.43).
Keep in mind that McLeod Ganj doesn’t have an Ola or Uber service. So you need to pre-plan your day and take the respective transportation accordingly.
Since I was traveling from New Delhi to Dharamshala, I took a bus for my trip. Buses start from New Delhi and drop you at Dharamshala bus stand. From there you have to take local buses to McLeodganj.
Total cost for one side of the journey can range from 900 INR ($ 13.13) to 1100 INR ($ 16.05) depending upon the type of bus you choose. The local bus from Dharamshala bus stand to Mcleodganj will cost only 10 INR ($0.14).
Well, entry at most of the places is free of cost, but in some places, it can range from 20 INR ($ 0.29) to 50 INR ($0.73).
|Trekking till Triund Hill
Trekking till Triund is free of cost unless you hire a guide ( I didn’t hire a guide and trust me you don’t need to hire a guide as well because the path of the trek is very well defined).
The tents uphill will cost money. Cost of a tent for the night is 500 INR ($ 7.30) and another 200 INR ($ 2.92) for a one-time meal and you can book a tent at the top of the hill.
If you have your own tent then you can camp anywhere free of cost. If not, rent a tent for 500 INR ($ 7.30)
As a backpacker, you shouldn’t spend on shopping, if you don’t really need it. As you are on a budget, all you should buy are souvenirs. It will cost you around 50 INR ($ 0.73) to 500 INR ($ 7.3) for a beautiful souvenir from the streets of McLeodganj.
McLeod Ganj is blessed with a plethora of budget-friendly markets. The Temple road and Jogiwara road has numerous shops to purchase souvenirs for your loved ones at a very reasonable price. You can purchase things related to Tibetan culture, like flags, dresses, hats, etc.
Having a fixed budget always helps on a solo trip. That way you get to spend more in times of emergency. As a backpacker traveling solo to Mcleodganj, please make sure that you don’t waste money on frivolous things.
Stay cautious of what you are spending and where you are spending. Writing up each and every expense will help you a lot in deciding your next spending. Try this out and see for yourself.
How can you Save Money while Traveling Solo to Mcleodganj ?
Having a set budget for the trip is necessary. My budget was around 5000 INR ($ 72.55) for 4 complete days. Yours shouldn’t exceed 5000 INR ($ 72.55)to 6000 INR ($87.06), come what may.
I took a lot of steps to maintain my budget and save money. However, when it comes to safety, never spoil your trip over small amounts of money. I am sharing the money-saving tips that I followed while traveling solo to Mcleodganj.
Eat brunch rather than breakfast and lunch separately.
Find a hostel with breakfast included. Mine had breakfast.
Walk where ever you can. It will help you save a lot.
When buying tickets for buses, buy them at RedBus or Paytm and get cashback.
When going on a trek, carry some food with you.
Fill your water bottle at your place of stay and don’t buy a plastic water bottle.
These tips might look small for now but they will help you a lot later. When you decide to travel on a budget, each suggestion counts and every advice matters.
Hence, if you really want to stay on budget, do follow these saving tips. In fact, if you have more of your own, do share them with me in the comments section at the end of the blog.
What Places to Explore while Traveling Solo to Mcleodganj ?
Sightseeing in McLeodganj is not much of a hassle.
There are 5 major places to visit in McLeodganj and all have free entry. Therefore, it won’t affect your wallet at all. I walked to all the places by myself, which I recommend you do as well.
Here are the top 5 places to visit in McLeodganj.
Visit St’ John Church located in the wilderness
As the name suggests, the church is literally in the middle of the forest, on the side of a road which leads to Naddi Village.
The church is quite old, but still is well maintained and you should definitely visit this place to offer a prayer in silence. The architecture is vintage and very aesthetically pleasing and it seemed like the church was haunted. Don’t worry, I am just kidding.
Relax by the side of Dal Lake
Dal Lake is a medium-sized lake and is surrounded by trees on three sides. The water is muddy and you can easily see fishes and other aquatic animals.
You can also enjoy a boat ride if the water level is good in the lake. Chilling under the tree’s foliage and resting can prove to be alleviating. But be careful as there are monkeys roaming around in the woods.
Sunset and Naddi Hill viewpoints in Naddi village
When you move ahead of Dal Lake, there is a small village named Naddi. I will name two viewpoints where you can enjoy the evening.
First is the Naddi Hill viewpoint which is on the right side of the village where you can witness the snowy mountains and the waterfall with the help of a telescope for a small charge.
Second is the Sunset viewpoint which I personally loved, it’s on the left side of the village where you can see the sun setting into the mountains and then vanishing into otherworldly hues in the sky.
Take a natural shower under Bhagsu Falls
Once you’re done exploring the quaint town of Mcleodganj, go for a natural shower under Bhagsu Falls.
To be honest, the area around the fall is commercialized, crowded and a little dirty, so go downstream and find a place where there is no one where the water flow is low and take an extraordinary and mind-opening bath there.
I found some local monks bathing and I took a bath with them and the water was so cold that I will remember the numbing chill my whole life.
Pay Homage at the Dalai Lama Temple
The temple is a beautiful, calm and a peaceful place. Inside you can spot many lamas practicing meditation and you can also sit beside them to meditate.
His Holiness – the Dalai Lama visits this temple 2-3 times in a year, so if you are lucky you can listen to his teachings as well. There are many statues and prayer halls which let you go on a divine journey.
In the temple complex, there is also a museum of Tibetan culture which will give you all the information about the Tibetan rebellion.
Hiking and Trekking in and around Mcleodganj for Backpackers
I love hiking and I love walking to places. It not only saves money but also allows me to explore the real nerve of a region. Mcleodganj supported these preferences of mine. You should also go out in the wild and have fun with your own company and experience this lovely feeling.
The fresh air, the sound of chirping of birds and the raw natural beauty adds to the overall quietude that is absent in big cities. During my entire backpacking trip, I hiked to all the sightseeing places myself. All I carried was a small power backup, my camera, phone, and bottled water.
We all want some kind of adventure, don’t we? McLeod Ganj gives you adventure in the form of Triund Trek. The incredible view of the Dhalaudhars from the Triund top is totally worth the 9 km trek. Even if you are a beginner, the trek is easy and the path is well defined and you can complete it in maximum 6 hrs.
The chilling (literally, even in the summers) winds at the top of the hill are so refreshing and invigorating. The panoramic view of the snowy mountains on one side and the view of the valley on the other side is just stellar.
|Cost of a tent for the night is 500 INR ($ 7.30) and another 200 INR ($ 2.92) for a one-time meal and you should book a tent at the top of the hill.|
Google Maps are accurate in Mcleodganj so use them around the region. In fact, I relied on Google Maps completely. I will recommend every traveler to walk around in the region because in hill stations you never know when you will come across a beautiful view that’ll take your breath away.
Trust me, as travel enthusiasts and photographers, you will not find better locales to click than the ones present around Mcleodganj. Instead of being stuck in traffic and roaming in vehicles with shut windows, taking a walk is advisable. It will give you the freedom to explore the place and its unparalleled beauty without any hassle or migraine.
My Solo Travel Itinerary for Mcleodganj
I traveled solo to Mcleodganj during my summer vacations. Hence, I had the luxury to spend four complete days in the region. Looking back, I can confidently say that four days are more than enough to spend in this beautiful rustic hill town.
During my tenure in Mcleodganj, I covered everything and pursued everything that I had thought of before traveling here. The mountains and the weather here work magic on travelers. You just don’t get tired.
Here is how my solo travel itinerary to Mcleodganj looked like –
Day 1 of My Travel Itinerary for Mcleodganj
Places covered: Dharamkot, Dalai Lama Temple, St. John’s Church, Naddi Village and Dal Lake.
|I planned my trip in such a way that I reached Mcleodganj early morning at around 8 am. You should also do that. It helps as save one entire day.
Checking in Dharamkot
After reaching McLeod Ganj, I checked the way to my hostel in Dharamkot and walked up to there and checked into my hostel. Took a brief nap and then I freshened up, all ready for the day’s adventure.
If you are feeling hungry then eat breakfast at a budget eatery. After eating a savory meal head towards the Dalai Lama Temple. It is in the main area of Mcleodganj. I explored the majestic place and the museum inside.
After visiting the temple, I ate some brunch as it filled my tummy and supported me until the rest of the day. It is better to fill yourself up around the main area because you might not find any eateries later on.
I then visited St. John’s Church and spent some time with the almighty there. It was quite peaceful.
My next destination was the Dal Lake. The path is easy and the lake is surrounded by green Pine trees. I spent a lot of lone time here.
I checked the sunset time on my phone and left Dal Lake 1.5 hrs before it. My next stop was Naddi Village where there are two viewpoints.
First one is the Hill Viewpoint and then the second one is the sunset point. I first arrived at the Hill Viewpoint and saw the sun go down at the lovely Sunset Point.
This is an amazing locale for clicking pictures and capturing the various tones of the sky.
Soon after the sunset was over, I walked down till Dal Lake and finally back to the main area of Mcleodganj. If you want, you can hire an Auto Rickshaw here.
In the main area, I had a simple but delicious meal. Got back to my hotel and slept.
Day 2 of My Travel Itinerary for Mcleodganj
Places covered: Local cafes and markets of Mcleodganj.
|Honestly, I didn’t do any major sightseeing on Day 2 since I had covered a lot of day 1. Also, I had to go on trekking on day 3. Thus needed to conserve my energy.
I spent the day sleeping, chilling in the hostel, eating at local cafes and doing some souvenir shopping.
If you want to make the day count you can go to Dharamshala or maybe go shopping on the streets of McLeod Ganj or do some exploring and find more about the Tibetan culture.
Day 3 of My Travel Itinerary for Mcleodganj
Places covered: Triund Peak
|I woke up early at around 6 am, freshened up and had some light breakfast. I kept my bigger backpack in the hostel itself and took a smaller one with me. After all, I was about to go trekking till Triund Peak. Please do not carry any extra items. Just keep a warm item with you as it gets chilly at night and some bottled water.
Time to trek
I headed to Triund with a backpack on my shoulder. Neither did I book it online nor did I have any guide. I just knew that I had to reach the starting point, that is Gallu Devi Temple and from there the trek will start. I hiked my way up to Gallu Devi Temple, headed to a police checkpoint for ID verification and finally was on the path that led directly towards Triund.
I kept moving and realized that while trekking one should just slow down every now and then but never stop. On the trek, I found numerous water filling stations and snack points.
However, the prices were quite high given that it takes time and resources to carry thing up the mountain slopes. You can save this money by carrying a bigger backpack but I highly insist that you ignore the budget just for a day and stay comfortable with a smaller backpack. The snack points might be expensive but are worth every penny.
Took 4 hours to reach Triund
I kept moving. It was already 4 hours up and onward. I found some snow along the way and it made me happy. I finally reached Triund at around 2 pm.
After reaching Triund, I just got down on the grass and rested for a while, enjoying the view. There are two sides of the cliff and hence I saw the view from both sides. Also, felt the chilly winds.
I then went to one of the tent providers, asked for a tent and also a meal at night. It cost me 700 INR ($10.16) for both the tent (for the night) and a lavish meal.
It was finally time to gaze at the stars from under my tent and go to sleep. Triund was such a special place.
Day 4 of My Travel Itinerary for Mcleodganj
Places covered: Bhagsunath Falls
|I woke up early to the most gorgeous view ever after a good night’s sleep and saw the sunrise from behind the Dhauladhar range. I skipped breakfast at the peak and focused on moving down.
Now I had two options – Either I could take the same path I took to trek up or I could take the path via Bhagsunag Falls. The adventurer in me told me to take the Bhagsunag way.
However, I highly insist that you take the first path if you are a beginner in trekking. The second path is harder and there is nobody to ask for any help there. I get a little mad when it comes to adventure but I please suggest you take path number one if you are a beginner. Safety should always come first.
Showering under Bhagsunath Falls
After about four hours, I reached the entry point of Mcleodganj i.e. the Bhagsunag Falls. This was the main reason that I took the second way as it ended up at the waterfall. If you took the first then go to Bhagsunaag Waterfall by an Auto Rickshaw and have a refreshing bath there. Don’t go upwards as it is crowded and commercialized there, find a sweet spot downstream and have a bath.
I too took a natural shower under the Falls and headed back to my hostel to get my bigger backpack. It was time to say goodbye to Mcleodganj. But not before, I had a meal a nice cafe. Finally, got to the bus station and boarded a bus till New Delhi.
Traveling solo to Mcleodganj was pursued by me in the month of May. End of May, to be precise. I was expecting the weather to be cooler but it was decently warm (side effects of global warming). I feel travelers should head to Mcleodganj at the beginning of May rather than the end of the month.
I also feel that the month of July can be quite good for traveling solo to Mcleodganj or backpacking. During that time of the year, the monsoons arrive in Mcleodganj and hence the weather is lovely.
A lot of people travel to Dharamshala and Mcleodganj in winters as well but personally, I avoid the winter season. Winters make me less efficient to travel. Also, the days are shorter which implies less of day time exploration.
Where should Solo Travelers, Backpackers and Budget Travelers Stay in Mcleodganj ?
McLeod Ganj gives travelers many budget lodgings options. They are comfortable, well maintained, and totally worth it for a solo backpacker.
So, there are three options of places in which you can stay – McLeod Ganj itself, Dharamkot & Bhagsunag. I stayed in a hostel in Bhagsunag, and the rent was 500 INR ($7.27) per night and it included breakfast, so it was a very good deal.
Hotels and hostels in main McLeod Ganj are expensive but in Dharamkot and Bhagsunaag, they are less expensive and I will recommend staying in any of these places as they are inexpensive, peaceful and have breath-taking views from the balcony.
Some of the most trusted and credible places to stay are – La Vaca India (I stayed here), Zostel, the Hosteller. I booked my hostel from Booking.com as I have used it before and also, I trust the services and support offered by it.
In my 4 days of the solo trip and I booked only for 2 days and 2 nights, as 1 day and 1 night was the trek and on the 4th day, I had to return.
|It will cost you 500 INR ($7.27) to 1000 INR ($ 14.54) per day if you choose to stay at a budget hotel or a backpacker hostel. It cost me 500 INR at a good hostel.|
Where should Solo Travelers, Backpackers and Budget Travelers Eat in Mcleodganj ?
The local cafes in the town of McLeod Ganj have an amazing vibe and delicious Tibetan, Chinese and Asian cuisines which are mouth-watering and tempting at the same time.
Some must-haves are Thupka, fried momos at The Tibet Kitchen, Bhagsu Cake at Moonlight Café, pizzas at Carpe Diem Café and pastries and cakes at Nick’s Italian Kitchen. All these dishes are worth every penny so try them without fail and delight the foodie in you.
McLeod Ganj has a lot of good bakeries where cakes and pastries are delicious. Do try them and if you think it is possible then take some for your home.
Some cafes like Carpe Diem Café have rooftop sitting which have an amazing view and others like Nick’s Italian Kitchen have big balconies where you can sit and eat.
|A meal of street food can cost up to 100 INR ($ 1.45) and a meal at a lavish café can cost up to 400 INR ($ 5.82).|
What Safety Precautions should you take as a First Time Traveler in Mcleodganj ?
McLeod Ganj is a popular place among travelers of all kinds. It is visited by families, solo travelers, backpackers and all kinds of people.
This was my first solo trip ever and so I was scared at first. After all, the region was new to me. I believed in my instinct and let go of all the fear. I suggest you do the same.
There are a few safety tips that I followed throughout my trip. I would like to share them with all of you –
I kept a pepper spray with myself every time.
Sent my live location to parents after every 8 hrs on WhatsApp.
Provided my parents all the numbers they could have contacted in an emergency.
I kept my parents’ numbers on the lock screen of my phone.
Didn’t interact much with unknown people.
People in McLeod Ganj are nice and polite. In fact, they will help you at a time of crisis. But even then, staying alert at all times is extremely important. A little caution can save you from a lot of problems later.
Mcleodganj has given me a hundred memories for life and has ensured that I keep re-visiting it again and again. Traveling solo to Mcleodganj has surely made me more confident and independent as a backpacker.
I took the plunge and it totally worked for me. You too try the same. Mcleodganj is magical.
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