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Nature’s Intersection With Humanity :: Skylines on Mountainsides

Can Nature and Mankind Coexist?

Growing up in New York City, I always have been fascinated by the interaction between nature and humanity. Even in Central Park – our biggest green area – you’re never more than a turn of the head from the towering skyline or a man-made object.

In McLeod Ganj, India, the opposite is true.

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Buildings, Nature and Indian Mountainsides
McLeod Ganj :: Bhagsu :: Daramkot :: Naddi

In McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala, India, nature’s interaction with humanity is infinitely more tranquil and integrated. Lush green hills hug rows of colorful buildings while single farmhouses dot the nearby forest. Houses are horizontally and vertically staggered so that everyone has a view of the mountainside and Himalayas.

Homes and guesthouses are nestled between the forest and below the Himalayas in McLeod Ganj, India
Homes and guesthouses are nestled between the forest and below the Himalayas in McLeod Ganj, India
Observing this fusion of rural and city life is as easy as heading to one of the countless lookout points around town. From the bustling city that the Dalai Lama calls home to the small towns of Bhagsu, Naddi, Dharamkot and beyond, a view is never far away.
Houses in the hillside of McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala   A Housing and camping complex next to Baghsu -- The red 'field' on the top left was a cement court that they were painting the day I took this
The Himalayas tower high above Naddi, in McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala
The Himalayas tower high above Naddi, in McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala

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Religion Hides in Nature above McLeod Ganj

A stupa in the forest between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu
A stupa in the forest between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu

Temples in India come in all shapes and sizes. Stupas, chortas, dagobas and other religious structures don’t have to be national icons to be equally as important to the devotee. In the towns surrounding McLeod Ganj and Dharamasala, these temples are often found nestled under a tree or cocooned in a bush. Walking across a field becomes a scavenger hunt of religion and a moment of zen or prayer is never far away.

My favorite walk in the area was from our guesthouse in Bhagsu to the Himalaya Yoga Center in Dharamkot. Every morning for a week, Carrie, Lauren and I walked past these hidden gems, stopping to admire the beauty of each one while gazing out on the early-morning sun.

Chorta in the Trees - Bhagsu, India
Chorta in the Trees – Bhagsu, India
Carrie, Lauren and I walked past this little shrine every morning on our journey to the Himalaya Yoga Institute. It was located between Bhagsu and Dharamkot, in upper McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India
Carrie, Lauren and I walked past this little shrine every morning on our journey to the Himalaya Yoga Institute. It was located between Bhagsu and Dharamkot, in upper McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India
A shrine hidden in the mountainside outside the Shiva Cafe, on top of the Bhagsu Waterfall in McLeod Ganj, India
A shrine hidden in the mountainside outside the Shiva Cafe, on top of the Bhagsu Waterfall in McLeod Ganj, India
To reach this stupa, I had to climb down the mountainside next to the road between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu
To reach this stupa, I had to climb down the mountainside next to the road between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu

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The McLeod Ganj Skyline

Of all the viewpoints in Dharamasala, my personal favorite was on the road between McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu. In particular, I fell in love with this one spot where a rainbow of Tibetan prayer flags formed an arch around the equally-colorful skyline.

My favorite view of the McLeod Ganj skyline, taken on the road to Bhagsu with Tibetan prayer flags flanking the city
My favorite view of the McLeod Ganj skyline, taken on the road to Bhagsu with Tibetan prayer flags flanking the city

For nearly a month, I photographed the McLeod Ganj skyline from that walk. On a few rare occasions, the skies were bright blue. Most days, they were some combination of cloudy, stormy, hazy or foggy. The above is my favorite.

Below is a pair of my other favorite skyline shots: taken all over town.

A stormy late-afternoon McLeod Ganj skyline from the road to Bhagsu
A stormy late-afternoon McLeod Ganj skyline from the road to Bhagsu
The sick view of McLeod Ganj and the Himalayas from the top floor of the Dalai Lama Complex
The sick view of McLeod Ganj and the Himalayas from the top floor of the Dalai Lama Complex

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Finally, the below shot is of Naddi: a teeny town beneath the Himalayas, located an hour ride up from McLeod Ganj. I think there may be more buildings under construction than there are inhabited.

The 'skyline' of Naddi, a small town high above McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala
The ‘skyline’ of Naddi, a small town high above McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala

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What cities have you visited that have a similar skyline, shrouded in trees?

Do you live in one? I’d love to see photos!

…or…

view more photography from India

Share the Journey

  • Anton

    Hi,
    Stumbled upon your website when I was looking for information on the Golden Temple Amritsar. Great pics and writing. Thank you.

    To answer your question on similar skyline, may be your should go to gangotri and then trek in the Gangotri National Park. Sharing some of the pics I took there. Thought you might like

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/8938804@N02/sets/72157630124855820/

    Anton

    • http://www.AdventuresofaGoodMan.com Greg Goodman

      Thanks so much for your comment and kind words. I would LOVE to go to Gangotri National Park. The last time I was in Rishikesh, it was still winter and the park hadn’t opened yet for the season. Guess I’ll just have to go back :) Love your photos on flickr too, thanks for sharing.