3. Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh
Dharamsala is a quaint hill-station situated in the picturesque Kangra valley in Himachal, set against an enticing background of Dhauladhar range. Most famous as the house of the exiled Dalai Lama, Dharamsala has deep Tibetan roots that stretch right back to the 8th century. Dharamsala is divided into two distinct parts – Lower Dharamsala, which consists mainly of local government buildings, a hospital, commercial ventures and sleepy town houses. Upper Dharamsala, or Mcleod Ganj is where the action really is. Separated from Lower Dharamsala by a coniferous forest of stately Deodhars, McLeod Ganj is the abode of His Holiness – The Lama as well as the exiled Tibetan Government.
Dharamsala has rapidly become a hot-spot for two kinds of travelers – those seeking spiritual solace in the presence of the Honorable Lama and others that have arrived to re-kindle a long extinguished hippie spark. McLeod Ganj is thronged with tourists, many of them hippies that will tell you they have come here in search of peace & serenity. If I were you, I’d steer clear of this lot for most times, though some of them might just have an interesting tale or two to share.
Climate: Temperatures hover between 20-30°C between April – June; definitely pleasant by Indian standards.
Points of Interest in Dharamsala: this largely depends upon whether you’re here for the view, for the people, for the fabled spirituality or purely for smoking pot, but here’s a small list of things that make Dharamsala an enticing prospect for many:
- Culture & History: Dharamsala has a wealth of historic & cultural riches. The Tibetan culture is one of the most exotic cultures around the world – one based upon simplicity and freedom more than anything else. If art, culture and history entices you, visit the Tibet Museum, Tibetan Library and especially the Tibetian Institute for Performing Arts. Also visit the Monastery and the Children’s Village for some really humbling experiences. Here’s a link to some really amazing pictures from the monastery & the Children’s Village shot by Ankur Aras – Dharamsala | McLeod Ganj | Dolanji.
- The Great Outdoors: Dharamsala offers some really easy to moderate trails for the amateur hiker. Venture out for Bhagsu Waterfall – 4 km from Dharamsala and an easy walk past Bhagsu Village for a nice dip in icy cold water. Then there’s the Indrahar pass trail for the more adventurous trekkers – this one’s a rather challenging trek which can consume up to 16 hours – the Indrahar pass can also be extended for longer challenging treks to Kuarsi-Lamu-Donali or Kareri.
Another major outdoor attraction at Dharamsala is Paragliding. The Dharamsala Flying Club offers plenty of packages for camping, hiking, treks, fishing alongside paragliding, handgliding tours as well as courses to master the sport on your own.
Spirituality: You may or may not be spiritual in nature, but if you ever get the chance, do try your best to converse with a handful of Tibetan monks. There’s so much to learn and so many thoughts to exchange with people who’s actions are driven by the simplest of motivations. If you bag the privilege of an audience with His Holiness himself, consider yourself one of the luckiest people in the world for the self-proclaimed last Lama is rather picky with granting audiences lately.
To wind this up, Dharamsala is a tiny world on it’s own within the vast diversity of India. It’s populace is made up of several nationalities, several cultures – there’s the Tibetians, the heavy presence of Israeli jews, constant influx of hippies from all parts of the world seeking god-alone-knows-what; all of which makes this place a really interesting place to visit in a hot, painful summer yeah?