Dharamshala is one of the prime tourist spots of the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is set amidst the lofty snow-capped peaks of Dauladhar range, deodar and pine forests, tea gardens, beautiful hills, ancient temples and pagoda-shaped monasteries. Today it is best known as the residence of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
Location of Dharamshala
Known as the "Queen of the Hills", Dharamshala is a picturesque hill station lying on the spur of the Dauladhar range, 18kms north-east of the Kangra town. Dharamshala is the district headquarters of Kangra and is divided into lower and upper towns with a difference of 1,500ft between them. The Lower Dharamshala lies at a height of 1380 m while the Upper Dharamshala with the suburbs of McLeodganj and Forsythganj is at a height of 1830 m.
Places to see in Dharamshala
Mcleod Ganj: Mcleod Ganj became famous after Dalai Lama settled here along with hundreds of Tibetans. A number of schools, monasteries and Tibetan establishments are present here. An impressive Buddha temple is situated just opposite the abode of His Holiness. The Tibetan culture of music and dance is preserved by The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, one km from Mcleod Ganj. There is also a Tibetan handicraft center which has a number of curios, handicrafts and garments.
War Memorial: The Memorial is an entry point to Dharamshala and built in the memory of those who died for their motherland.
St John's Church: St John's Church is 8km from Dharmshala and lies between Mcleod Ganj and Forsyth Ganj. A monument was built in memory of Lord Elgin, one of the viceroys of India who was buried here in 1863.
Dal Lake: It is 11 kms from Lower Dharanmshala and lies amidst the beautiful hills and fir trees. It is situated next to the Tibetan Children's village.
Dharamkot: Dharamkot is 14kms from Dharamshala town and situated on the top of a hill. It is a popular picnic spot and offers a wonderful view of the Kangra valley and the Dauladhar ranges.
Triund: Situated at the foot of the Dauladhar ranges, Triund is at a height of 2827m and is a popular picnic spot and a trek route for both tourists and locals. The snowline that starts just 5kms from Triund offers a spectacular view of the snow above and the valley below.
Kotwali Bazaar: The Kangra Art Museum in Kotwali Bazaar displays arts, crafts, pottery and anthropological items, Kangra miniature paintings and costumes. Another section houses contemporary art.
Chinamaya Tapovan: An ashram complex established by the late Swami Chinmayananda, a noted exponent of the Gita lies 10kms from Dharamshala on the banks of Bindu Saras. It includes a 9m high image of Lord Hanuman, a Raghunath temple, a school and a meditation center.
Bhagsunag Fall: 11km from Dharamshala, Bhadsunag is a favorite picnic spot. This place is famous for its ancient temple, fresh water spring and slate quarries.
What to do in Dharamshala
Among the many things that you can do in Dharamshala, the most important activity is that of trekking. Between May and October, the Dauladhar ranges offer a number of trekking and rock climbing options. Fishing enthusiasts can go to the river Beas between Nadaun and the Pong Dam to explore fishing options.
Excursions from Dharamshala
Kangra Devi Temple: Kangra Devi Temple located 22km south of Dharammshala is considered to be a very holy site. It is believed that the left breast of Sati has fallen here while some believe that her ears fell here. Also known as the temple of Brajeshwari Devi, a visit to the devi temples is not complete without visiting this temple. The temple was devastated by the earthquake in 1905 but came up the very year.
Kangra Fort: This fort is famous for its exquisite architecture. The fort also known as Nagar Kot was invaded by Mahmud of Ghazni but was ultimately annexed by the British. A small museum has been set up here where stone carvings and miniature paintings are displayed.
Jawalamukhi Temple: Located 54km south of Dharamshala, Jawalamukhi temple is the place where Sati's tongue is said to have fallen. It is one of the popular temples of North India. Though there is no idol in this temple, a flame keeps burning which is considered as a manifestation of the goddess. Navratra in early April and mid-October are held with zest and devotion. Akbar donated a canopy over the flame as a sign of reverence.
Trilokpur: Trilokpur is 41kms from Dharamshala and is easily approached by road. The temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva is famous for its natural cave which contains stalactites and stalagmites.
Accomodations Hotels in Dharamshala
A variety of accomodation options are available at Dharamshala ranging from HPTDC hotels and guest houses to deluxe hotels. Some deluxe hotels in Dharamshala include Asia Health Resorts, Grace Cottage, and Snow Hermitage Resorts.
Best time to visit Dharamshala
Winter months are extremely cold in Dharamshala, so the best time to visit is during March - October.
How to reach Dharamshala
By Air: The nearest airport is Gaggal. Dharamshala is 13kms from Gaggal.
By Rail: The nearest rail head is Pathankot. There is a narrow gauge train from Pathankot which will take you to Kangra. Dharamshala is 17kms by road.