Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh is the serene and peaceful home to the exiled Tibetan Government and their leader Dalai Lama. A district set in the wonderful backdrop of the beautiful Kangra Valley, Dharamsala is made up of a few small towns and villages such as McLeod Gan and Kotwali Bazaar and is surrounded by mountains and pine forests.
Though rooted in India, the Tibetan history and culture has a strong influence within Dharamsala. It is said that the Tibetan legacy goes as far as 8th century in this region and many activities are based around the Tibetan culture and religion. Here is our pick of the top ten things to do in Dharamsala.
1. Tsuglagkhang Complex
This is the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet, with a colossal meditation hall with murals and thangkas to add to its charm. The Kalachakra temple inside is where Dalai Lama himself meditates and is located just in fronts of his residence. Look out for the Namgyal Cafe to have a quick bite after visiting the temple. This is run by the youth workers of the complex.
2. Thangka Paintings
Many locals make the original Thangka paintings inspired from the stories of Buddha. Visit a local artist and see how these paintings come to life under the skill of adept hands.
3. Tibet Museum
The Tibet museum might be small but contains vast and interesting history about Tibet and the exodus to India. An afternoon here will be wonderful.
One of the most scenic spots off Dharamsala, this is a good place to take your picnic basket and enjoy the view. The Bhagsunag falls also make for a great picnic spot with family. A fresh water spring adds to the interest of the place.
A trek to the over 3000m peak beyond Dharamkot is something most trekkers traverse. You need to have decent stamina. Don’t forget t carry comfortable walking and climbing shoes for Dharamsala. There are plenty of trails for short or difficult hikes and are extremely inviting.
6. Bhagsu Waterfall
A rough gush of water in a remarkably beautiful setting, climb to the falls but be aware that the last part is quite dangerous.
7. Indrahar Pass
The Kangra Valley has some lofty mountains and passes which are a thrill to climb. Indrahar is one such pass.
8. Quaint Cafes and Shopping
With the number of foreign nationals coming to Dharamsala and making it their home, there was a whole hippie movement, which has its reminiscence in old quaint cafes and clothes even now. Mcleod Ganj is perfect for this.
9. Meet Dalai Lama
A difficult task but not unachievable – try and meet the great leader Dalai Lama. A spiritual experience for many, one needs to watch his website closely for his travel dates and lectures in the town. For a private audience, one needs to know someone in his office. Though your meeting may last only 10 seconds, it will be worth remembering.
10. Yoga and Dance
Yoga has caught the attention of the Western World like wildfire, try your hand at some classes held here. Another art form that might interest you is the alternative Butoh dance. Watch regular performances by The Subbody Butoh School.
Dharamsala provides that welcome break and pleasant relief from the city banter for someone on a tourist trip to India. Spend at least 15 days in the area to soak in the culture and easy pace of the destination.