Places to visit in Himachal Pradesh
Things to do
Best time to visit
Nestled amidst the picturesque hills of Kangra Valley is the beautiful town of Dharamshala. Often referred to as the ‘Little Lhasa of India’, Dharamshala is surrounded by the dense coniferous forests of stately Deodar cedar trees, and the mighty Dhauladhar Range in the Pir Panjal region of the outer Himalayas and offers surreal views of the Dhauladhar Ranges above, and the Kangra Valley below.
Until the coming of the British to India, Dharamshala was ruled by the Katoch Dynasty of Kangra for nearly two millennia. It is believed the Katoch Dynasty is the oldest surviving royal dynasty in the world. The quaint town of Dharamshala is home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans in exile since 1960 after the then Prime Minister of India granted this land to the exiled Tibetans. It is also the resting place of several British rulers and houses many historic museums and beautiful resorts. The milky white snow-capped mountains of the Kangra Valley make this hill station one of the most popular travel destinations of India and attracts tourists across the globe.
Also known as the winter capital city of the Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala is divided into two halves. Lower Dharamshala is a busy commercial center, and upper Dharamshala is rich in British colonial influence, which could be easily spotted in many buildings constructed in British colonial style. The beautiful hill station became the center of Tibetan culture and Buddhism after the Dalai Lama escaped Tibet in 1959 and was allowed shelter in Dharamshala.
WHAT TO SEE
Dharamshala Cricket Stadium: The stunning HPCA cricket stadium, set against the backdrop of the snow-clad mountain ranges of the Dhauladhar and its thick deodar forests, is a major tourist attraction in Dharamshala. Sitting at a height of 1457 meters above sea level, the HPCA cricket stadium is said to be the most picturesque cricket stadium in the world. One thing to be noted is, one section of the stadium is kept open for the tourists even if no game is scheduled.
Our Tip: If you specifically want to watch a game of cricket, it is advisable to book tickets way in advance from the official website of HPCA. You can reach the venue by hiring a private taxi.
Kangra Valley: Located at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, Kangra Valley is known for its exquisite beauty and has an abundance of Deodar forests. The valley is perfect for sightseeing and offers a majestic view of the snow-clad mountains of the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas. It also houses several religious sites like the Masrur Rock Cut Temples. The temple is an early eighth-century complex of rock-cut Hindu temples. The ancient architecture outlines many events mentioned in Hindu Mythology on its walls.
Our Tip: Preferably hire a private taxi to reach the destination and spend a day or two here to experience the beauty and culture of Kangra Valley.
Dharamshala War Memorial: The War Memorial, decorated with beautiful lawns is one of the major tourist attractions of Dharamshala. The memorial is a tribute to the war heroes who fought bravely and sacrificed their lives for the country. Nestled amidst dense forests full of pine trees, you will find the names of martyrs, gun and airplane replicas within the war memorial, which tells the story of unconditional love and sacrifice.
Our Tip: Dharamshala War Memorial is open from 9 am till 7 pm, it is advisable to book tickets online in advance as the place is always thronged by tourists.
McLeod Ganj: Popularly known as the residence of the His Holiness Dalai Lama and government of Tibet in exile, McLeod Ganj is an enchanting hill station overlooking the mountains of mystic Dhauladhar Ranges. McLeod Ganj is known for its Tibetan cultural influence, museums, temples, lakes, waterfalls, and monasteries. The place is also quite ideal for trekking and camping, thus, attracts visitors around the world every year. Many people visit McLeod Ganj to learn more about Buddhism and experience a peaceful environment. Its renowned monasteries include Namgyal Monastery and Tsuglag Khang. Namgyal Monastery is the biggest Tibetan temple outside Tibet and also the home of the great Dalai Lama.
Our Tip: Preferably book a hotel in advance while visiting Mcleodganj during peak seasons and pack comfortable shoes as you will have to do a lot of walking.
Located at a height of 1775 meters, the Dal Lake stands serenely amidst a dense green deodar forest. The lake serves as the base camp for many trekking expeditions and is a prime tourist attraction. Just a 2 kilometer walk from the Mcleodganj Market, the Dal lake has the most peaceful surroundings.
Famous for the Bahagsunag temple, the falls are a treat for the soul. It is also known as Bhagsu Falls and is an important Hindu pilgrimage destination. The falls cascade from the height of 20 meters and end in a small pool below. The place is a great picnic spot and there are some shops here that serve you the best tea and maggi. You can also drive to the Bhagsu village from here and indulge in the rural life of Dharamshala.
Jwala Devi Temple
Located in the Dhauladhar range is this revered Hindu shrine, also known for its mesmerizing view. It is around 20 kilometers from Dharamshala and is one of the 52 shakti peethas in India. The temple is said to have the flaming tongue of Goddess shakti, which fell off her burning body. The temple draws thousands of pilgrims every year. While it does not have any idol installed here, a blue flame burns through its rocks. The source of the flame is still unknown. The priest offers prayers to the goddess five times a day and once a day a big havan is organized to please the goddess.
St. John's Church
The oldest Anglican Church in the region, the St. John's Church was built in 1852and is dedicated to St. John. Surrounded by Deodar forests, the church has been built in the neo-gothic architectural style. The Belgian stained-glass windows are the key attraction of the church. The windows are said to be donated by Lady Elgin, the wife of great Lord Elgin, the British Viceroy.
WHAT TO DO
Sitting in the lap of the peaceful Himalayas, Dharamshala has emerged as one of the top weekend getaways and is known for its cultural heritage. If you are intrigued by spirituality, then Dharamshala is the place to be at. It is one of India’s most popular yoga destinations and houses various yoga centers, a perfect place to rejuvenate yourself by taking part in peaceful meditation and yoga. Dharamshala has a lot to offer to adventure enthusiasts as well, you will find several beautiful trekking trails like the Triund trek that can be covered in a day. Since Dharamshala is the hub of Tibetan culture, gorging on Tibetan cuisine is a must-do.
What to eat: Start your day with the special masala chai of Himachal Pradesh from Shiva Café, it is located on top of a waterfall and is ideal for romantic dates. Dharamshala is known for its Tibetan cuisine. You will find multiple street vendors selling momos, which are safe to eat. If you want authentic Tibetan and Chinese food, head to Tibet Kitchen. Their momos, chilli fried chicken, thukpa soup, and thenthuk handmade noodles are a must-have. Apart from Tibetan cuisine, many international cuisines such as Mexican, Lebanese, and continental food are easily available.
What to buy: Handicrafts items sold in Dharamshala are created by local artisans. You can consider buying silk scarfs, shawls, Tibetan carpets and bags, and jewellery. Don’t forget to buy thangka paintings and embroidered kurtas. You could also add Kangra Valley green tea to the list.
Getting Around: You could hire a taxi as the local transport is not that good and can leave you with a bad experience. Local buses take very long to cover distances and auto rickshaws are available at selected places only.
Where to stay: Mcleodganj and Naddi are the two best places to stay in Dharamsala. While Naddi is suitable for a quiet nature lover, Mcleodganj is for someone who wants to stay close to all the action.
The best time to visit: The best time to visit Dharamshala is between the spring and summer months. These are between mid-February to mid-July. The winters are spectacularly beautiful, but they can be cold.
How to get there: Dharamshala is connected to the rest of India by road. The nearest railway station to Dharamshala is Pathankot located at a distance of 85 kilometers. The train station is well connected to the rest of the country. From here onwards one can hire a taxi to take a bus to Dharamshala. Gaggal is the nearest airport to Dharamshala is located at a distance of 13 kilometers. It has flights from New Delhi but the regularity is not confirmed because of the shifting weather conditions.
Things to do in Dharamshala
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How to Reach Dharamshala
Dharamshala is a municipal corporation city in the upper areas of the Kangra Valley and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of stately Deodar cedar trees. The areas include McLeod Ganj, Bhagsunath, Dharamkot, Naddi, ForsythGanj,etc. You can reach Dharamshala through , following ways –