Dharamshala

Why To Go

For centuries, Dharamshala lived up to its name, providing a resting place for Hindu and Buddhist spiritual seekers before the snow-clad Dhauladhar Range. Located in the heart of Himachal Pradesh in the Kangra district, Dharamsala has become a major tourist attraction in the last few years. Flanked by Dhauladhar Mountains, Dharamshala is an exemplary hill station which has retained its scenic beauty, despite the increasing amount of interest it has been drawing to itself. The small town has become famous for being the base of Tibetan settlement in India. After the Dalai Lama sought political exile in India, he and his followers settled down in Dharamshala, and over the course of time, Tibetan culture has become a distinguishing feature of this hill-station. Filled with beautiful monasteries and temples and gifted with striking natural beauty, Dharamshala caters to those who love natural exploration as well as those who take avid interest in cultures and religion.

Located in Upper Dharamshala, McLeodganj might have been named after the British David McLeod, but today, it is famous for being the Dalai Lama’s abode. Tibetan culture and communities blossomed at McLeodganj after the Dalai Lama and his followers settled there, and it is a small cultural experience unto itself. If you want to explore Tibetan and Buddhist culture, McLeodganj cannot be given a miss. Over the years, it has thrived culturally, and various aspects of the Tibetan culture as well as Buddhism have been preserved in the form of museums, monasteries, performing arts and artifacts. A visit to the Tibetan Institute of performing Arts is a must. Every year, during April, they hold a ten day folk opera festival, which is a very enriching experience. You must also visit the main shrine, Tsuglagkhang. The Namgyal Monastery is also an important attraction in McLeodganj, as is the Sunday market, where an assorted collection of Tibetan and Buddhist artifacts can be picked up for your loved ones.

 The ambience of Dharamshala, including McLeodganj resonates with peace and culture, and the town is a treasure trove for nature lovers, anthropologists, and just about anyone who loves experiencing beauty and vibrancy. The Chamunda Temple as well as the Bhagsunag Temple, are important sites to visit.

Travel Tips

Spring, summer and to some extent autumn is the best time to visit Dharamshala. Mid February to mid June and late September to late October are therefore perfect months to make a trip to this hill station. Monsoon makes the roads tricky, and a few want to brave the chill of the winters at Dharamshala, as winters are quite cold. The Journey to Dharamshala by road can be tricky. It goes through winding roads, and for those who suffer from vertigo, carrying some medication is advisable. Also, do negotiate with taxi rates as the rates can soar high for tourists. Make sure you carry some warm clothes, even during spring. The evenings can get slightly chilly. Also, strong and sturdy walking shoes should be carried for the hilly roads.

Things To Do

For those who love hill-stations, a slight nip in the air and natural beauty, Dharamshala is a place to make a visit. The natural flora and fauna and the beautiful weather makes for a relaxing, invigorating trip. If an idyllic, tranquil trip is what you’re looking for, then Dharamshala is the place for you. Sipping hot cups of tea and taking long walks in and around the small town is an unforgettable experience in itself. For those who love adventure as well as nature, Dharamshala has proven to be the ideal destination, for some very good trekking journeys. There are various trekking routes around Dharamshala which leads the trekkers through beautiful forests, past waterfalls, and often, to the Dhauladhar mountains. A short trek to the Bhagsu Waterfall makes for a very pleasant experience. Walking through the Bhagsu village, and to the waterfall itself makes for a refreshing walk, a chance to leisurely observe the town, and the natural beauty it is soaked in, and the waterfall itself, is a beautiful sight, which is well worth the effort. Short treks can also be taken to the famed Dal Lake, to Triund which offers a gorgeous view of some of the Himalayan peaks as well as the plains of the Kangra district. Naddi, is another spot which offers a gorgeous view of the Kangra Valley. While the trek to Bhagsu is a short 2 kilometers, a trek to Dharamkot would be about 5 Km from Dharamshala, and the trek to Triund will be of about 8 Kilometres. There are various trekking routes which are longer, and which leads to Chamba from Dharamshala Apart from its natural beauty, Dharamshala is also seeped in cultural charm. Kotwali Bazaar, situated in Upper Dharamshala, is filled with art and craft which is distinctive of Kangra culture. The bustle at the bazaar is not very taxing to the nerves, and one can spend hours shopping for clothes and artifact over there. The Kangra Art museum too, is a place you must visit while at Dharamshala. Filled with historical artifacts of the Kangra culture, the roof of this museum houses ancient remnants of the amalgamation of cultures which happened at Dharamshala. Tibetan and Buddhist artifacts too, form a very important part of this museum. From artefacts which date back to the 5th century, to more recent works of various artists and sculptors, the museum is an important destination for tourists. As the Tibetan culture is all around, you will get variety of Tibetan foods, especially momos and thukpas. Try out honey ginger lemon tea that is quite refreshing and you can get English breakfast, also.

Getting Around

Commuting within the region is easy a buses and taxis are available aplenty. In Mcleodganj explore the area by walking as the weather is calm and cool.

How To Reach

FLIGHT

Planes to Dharamshala ply from Delhi, and they take you to Gaggal Airport in Kangra valley, after which, you shall have to take either the NH20 or MDR44 highway routes to get to Dharamshala. The distance between the airport and the hill station is around 15 km. However, flights too, are susceptible to being cancelled, due to fog or mist near mountains. Most people coming from different parts of the world/country often take flights to Delhi and then carry on by road to the town, because of the reason stated earlier.

TRAIN

There are trains which ply from both Pathankot, 85 km from the hill station; and Delhi. However, the journey is a slow one, but the problem with the rail route is that because of the geography of the hill-station, the rail tracks end before it even reaches the town. Kangra Mandir Railway station also lies close to Dharamshala. Therefore, many opt to make the journey by road, instead of facing the hassle of changing the means of transport during the journey.

ROAD

If a slow, leisurely trip to Dharamshala is what you prefer, then getting there by road is the best option. Several towns and cities from North India have buses and taxis which can take you to Dharamshala. From Delhi, there are a number of buses which ply at all hours of the day. There are HRTC public buses which ply from Delhi and from Pathankot. Taxis can also be hired for a more comfortable journey. Some of these buses and taxis will drop you off at the main square at McLeodganj itself.

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Surrounding Attractions

Palampur is a small town, not far from Dharamshala. A bus ride away, it is a sleepy, idyllic town. The Town is just the thing for people seeking peace and tranquility. The Masroor rock temples are monolithic carvings, which are a treat to the eyes. It’s a short journey from Dharamshala. The nearby place of Sidhbari is also a small village, rich in Kangra culture. Khajjiar the nearest major town is just a 2 hour long journey from Dharamshala. At a 5 hour journey from Dharamshala you will find the hill station of Dalhousie famed for its scenic beauty. For a short hiking experience, move up from Lower Dharamshala to a small village, Forsyth Ganj near Mcleodganj.
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