McLeod Ganj is full of shops selling curios, books, or trekking gear -- and you'll see lots of unlikely combinations like "laundry and bakery." You can buy reasonably priced Tibetan rugs and handicrafts from the Tibetan Handicraft Centre (near McLeod Ganj Post Office, Jogibara Rd.; tel. 01892/22-1415), but a far more memorable experience is to hike through the forest to the Tibetan Children's Village Handicraft Centre (tel. 01892/22-1592; www.tvc.org.in); it's a pleasant half-hour walk north of McLeod Ganj, near Dal Lake. Back in town, Stitches of Tibet (Temple Rd.; tel. 01892/22-1198 or -1527) is an enterprise that trains local women in handicraft production. Their shop stocks the completed handicrafts as well as Tibetan clothing. If you want to buy a traditional Tibetan thangka (painted or embroidered banner or wall decoration), the Norbulingka Institute is where this art is preserved and taught; they also take orders. Shop at the institute or at Chonor House, knowing that your purchase will actually contribute to the development of Tibetan craftsmanship. For beautiful women's wear, including gowns and kimonos in fabulous fabrics, stop at Eternal Creation (4 Temple Rd.; www.eternalcreation.com), which stocks only its own brand, produced in Dharamsala under fair trade conditions in a project that aims to give opportunities to local people and refugees. Another interesting boutique is Tamana (Jogiwara Rd.; tel. 98-1614-1192 or 01892/22-21921) with clothing created by a French designer who works locally with predyed South Indian fabrics to create some fascinating women's and children's wear.
For books, visit Namgyal Bookstore in the temple complex; its excellent collection focuses primarily on Tibetan culture and Buddhism, but it has a good number of beautiful publications on Himachal Pradesh and other Himalayan regions as well. Also filled with an interesting assortment of books on the history, culture, and art of the region is Youtse Book Shop (Mount View Complex, Temple Rd.).
If you'd like to pick up handcrafted mementos and support a good cause, stop by the Rogpa Shop & Café (Jogiwara Rd., McLeod Gang; tel. 98-1665-9549; www.rogpa.com), run by a charitable trust that creates opportunities for unemployed Tibetans as well as encouraging entrepreneurs and artists. A number of local Tibetan organizations sell their merchandise here, and you can pick up handmade paper, Tibetan crafts, and designs from the "Made in Exile" label that aims to promote global awareness about the Tibetan cause. You can also donate clothing for resale, or volunteer by working in the shop or helping at Rogpa's Baby Care Centre.
Tip: If you're looking for cash, an SBI (State Bank of India) ATM is located on the main street of McLeod Ganj; be warned, however, that there's inevitably a queue, 20-strong, waiting to use it. At press time there were two other ATMs on the verge of opening, but we'd still strongly advise that you draw cash before landing in McLeod Ganj where so much of the shopping is cash only. Consider stopping at the ICICI or HDFC machines that operate in lower Dharamsala on your way up. For changing or transferring foreign exchange, you can use Thomas Cook (next to SBI) or any of the Western Union outlets.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.