With the Dhauladhar making a magnificent backdrop Dharamshala is one of the prettiest hill stations in India. It is a great holiday destination, while being very peaceful it is still full of life. The hill station of Dharamshala, is an amalgamation of cultures. The world wide recognition of His Holiness and the growing popularity of Tibetan Buddhism attract a large number of foreign tourists. It is also the current home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama the spiritual and political leader of Tibetans.
The small town of Dharamshala is bustling with people when Tibetan Buddhist teachings are offered by His Holiness.
Apart from the religious significance of the place, Dharamshala attracts people from the neighbouring cities a perfect over night holiday destination not so far away from home, and yet amidst the mightiness of the Dauladhar Range. Mcleodganj, also known as Upper Dharamshala is a haven for shopper and a foodie’s guide to food from all around the world.
Shoppers could spend walking around and discovering the wonders of a small town, shops sell fashionable goods from Bangkok, authentic silver jewellery; Kashmiri’s selling their traditional shawls caps and jackets. If you are in a mood to splurge a little on picking up something great for your home, head to one of the shops that sell the Tibetan painting known as Thangka’s. It could be a little expensive but it would definitely be one of the most prised possessions you could be looking, these paintings of Gods and Goddesses are made of pure silk and could take as long as 4 years to be completed.
The up and coming fashion stores would surprise you with the clothes they have to offer, these clothes are absolutely in fashion and some of the trendiest clothes. Some of them you may not even find in your cities. A visit to Dharamshala would not be complete without a little silver souvenir. Pick something up from the street or one of the numerous shops that deal in just silver jewellery.
Those of you looking to binge on the food, you could find eateries offering authentic cuisines from all around the world. If you wish to have some authentic Korean food, head to Korean Ri Cafe in Bhagsu Road, if Italian is what you desire don’t think twice head straight to Jimmy’s Italian Cafe, Lungta offers the best of Japanese food and while in Dharamshala do not miss the authentic Tibetan cuisine at Hotel Tibet. For those of who still prefer Indian food relish the Indian cuisine at Ashoka restaurant.
Dharamshala is home to Tibetan refugees in India, since it’s also the seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the Karmapa, it has a great deal of religious significance. The Karmapa’s monastery in Sidhbari is a scenic wonder, the cleanliness and the soothing feeling it brings to your soul is very uplifting. Tsuglakhang or the main temple, which is also the place of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence is where the Tibetans and numerous foreigners practising Buddhism pray every morning, and come for their morning Kora’s(circling walk around the temple). The Norbulingka Art Institute in Sidhbari is also a great place to visit, the Tibetan art and architecture is something that can be admired and you could witness art being made right in front of you.
British colonial significance can be still seen in places like Forysthganj especially the church of St. John. Situated in the wilderness of Dharamshala this was the final resting place of Lord Elgin a British viceroy in India in the 19th century. You could pay homage to the heroes of Himachal Pradesh by visiting the War Memorial.
Not far away from Dharamshala is Andretta the famous artist Shoba Singh lived here for several years. Today it is one of the best places in India to learn Blue Pottery.
If you are looking to have a quite time or a small day out, the bhagsu waterfall in Bhagsu just a few minute from Dharamshala is a great place to visit. Monsoons is a great time to visit Bhagsu, the waterfall is thick and the trees are blooming to the fullest.
Indrunag is one of the other places surrounding Dharamshala that is a great drive, hop on your bike or car or rent a bike and drive to Indrunag. The awestrucking mightiness of the Dauladhar would woo you and you would just not feel like leaving the place. There is also a small café where you could park your vehicle and sip on some tea, while you ponder away to glory.
Another interesting place is Dharamkot, which is situated on the crest of hill. The place is just 11 km away from Dharamshala & 2 km from Mcleodganj. The village Dharamkot is a famous picnic spot and you will find that large number of foreign tourists, mainly Israeli. Dharamkot village is a good base for trekkers undertaking short & long treks and affords a panoramic view of the Kangra valley, Pong Dam lake and Dhauladhar ranges.
The Buddhist chants reverberate everywhere in Dharamshala bringing peace within your soul. Once in a while you could also witness peaceful protest held by Tibetans against the decades of unjustice they have faced under the opression of China. These peace marches start from the main square and end in the Tsuglakhang temple where a speaker would speak about episodes of the human rights violation and opressions of the Chinese rule. Grab a candle and show a little solidarity by taking part in the march, you never know you might feel like you helped in someway.
As Dharamshala became the head quarter of the Tibetan government in exile headed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama prominent personal`ities from all around the world started visiting this place.
If you are adventurous and don’t mind a little bit of a climb, there is one place you definitely need to visit. Placed at a height of 2827 mtrs above sea level Triund provides you a mesmerizing view overlooking the Kangra valley. It might take you around 3-4 hours to trek, but it is well worth the effort.
The Tibetan community has added its own touch to this small town making it an amalgamation of Indians and Tibetans and their way of life.
There are numerous Tibetan NGO’s where you could volunteer and earn a little Karma, you could do as little as teaching English.
The Dharamshala rains are infamous so avoid visiting during the rainy season, the best time to visit would be in around October to April. The winters are freezing so make sure you carry a lot of warm clothes if you plan on visiting during the winters.