Dharamsala

DHARAMSALA

One of the places most visited by travelers and seekers of the spirit is Dharamsala. Dharamsala is a hill station, the residence of Dalai Lama and famous for its large Tibetian community. Tibetan monks, hippies, backpackers and a legion of Westerners eager to pacify their minds cross their narrow streets and meet in the delicious food where the Tibetan chai is interspersed, the tasty momos, the yoga and meditation classes, the intense smell of Tibetan incense and especially the interesting conversations that can be held with a student of the monastery of His Holiness  or with an attractive American journalist in search of an article about the current situation of the Tibetan.

The city has seen two important events that have upset its recent history. An earthquake in 1906 that killed more than 20,000 and the arrival of thousands of Tibetan refugees from 1960 including the 14th Dalai Lama himself. Tibetan government headquarters in exile, mountain town, thousands of tourists come every year to climb some mountains but also to discover the Tibetan culture that tries to survive in the first peaks of the Indian Himalayas so far from Tibet.

Living in Dharamsala has been popular since many decades, it is relatively cheap if you want to stay for a long period of time, the food and the people are friendly and hospitable, there are many activities to do such as walk, read, yoga, meditation, help in local projects, etc.

Arriving in Dharamsala requires a lot of patience and some type of antihistaminic supplement, recommended for the long trip that can be done from Delhi by coach. Especially if we come from Delhi, Varanasi or some point of central India, Dharamsala seems like an oasis of peace and meditation. The Tibetans have known how to build their small and honorable home on Indian soil from nothing. 

In Mcleod Ganj is where you really feel Buddhism and Tibetan culture. The Dalai Lama Temple is a few minutes away from McLeod Ganj and it is sometimes possible to come and listen to him or meet him.

At Mc Leod Ganj, there are many Buddhist temples and many Tibetan handicrafts, it is quite easy to meet Buddhist monks or Tibetans in exile.

And what a pleasure it is to get in touch with the Tibetans! I found the Tibetans very touching, they are very quiet, very nice and very real. I was impressed by the meditation space that seems so natural to them. Most have suffered a lot: prison, torture, long journey in the snow to come to India. And yet, those I met had no anger but a great acceptance of life.


Orientation:

The city is divided into two distinct zones that are separated by ten minutes. Dharamsala, a typical small Indian city that, with the exception of the bus station, is little interest for tourists; and the upper Dharamsala, more commonly known as Mcleod Ganj. It is the upper part of the district that is home to the Tibetian community and the center of tourist activity. 

Other popular centers near McLeod Ganj include Forsyth Ganj, a short walk away on the way to lower Dharamshala, Bhagsu (2 km north), already commercialized, and Dharamkot. For a very quiet and basic experience, try Naddi or Talnu. Lower Dharamshala is made up of the majority of government offices, schools, the zonal hospital, and commercial areas. It also has tea gardens. One in the field of Chilgary and another little beyond Dari. One can enjoy the view while driving to these places.

How many days to dedicate to Dharamsala:

This completely depends on you and for the purpose, you are going to Dharamsala. If you are just going to travel and see the tourist attractions then a couple of days are enough, but if you are planning to visit to learn more about the culture, yoga, meditation, etc then I would advise you to stay for at least 1 week to up to 1 month.

What to see and do in Dharamsala: 


The Dalai Lama Temple: 

The Dalai Lama temple complex is a standout amongst the most excellent and serene spots you must visit. The entire vicinity is designed with beautiful and colourful religious flags and this makes it ideal for long peaceful walks. You will discover a great deal of good statues and the climate is something which baits individuals to return over and over.

Among the various attractions that the town brags of, it is the Dalai Lama Temple which draws the significant attention of the tourists. It is only a walking distance far from McLeodganj bus stand, the Dalai Lama Temple is situated at the main temple road. Directly by the temple is the residence of the Dalai Lama.

Seeing monks meditating calmly and chanting verses is something that everybody must experience at least once. You can be a part of it and you should be a part of it, that is if you want to be a part of it.


Kalachakra Temple:

The temple that you see in the center of Macleod Ganj is it! You can not miss it with these flamboyant colors! What makes the beauty of this Tibetan temple and undoubtedly the beautiful exterior facade but also these dozens of prayer wheels. Tibetans and tourists come to recite the famous mantra "  Om Mani Padme Hum  " This sentence is one of the most known for Tibetans, it is seen as the mantra of compassion. A mantra is a formula that is repeated several times to obtain a physical but above all spiritual blessing.

The temple is dedicated to the Kalachakra. The temple highlights fresco ornament/decoration of 722 deities of the mandala, Shakyamuni Buddha, and the central Kalachakra picture. The walls and segments of the temple highlight diverse traditional Tibetan Thangka sketches. The paintings and the architecture of the temple speaks to Tibet's rich spiritual and artistic ethnicity.  It is a standout amongst the most famous consecrated destinations in Dharamshala.


Tibet Museum: 

The Tibet Museum is situated inside the Dalai Lama Temple complex in McleodGanj so make sure to not miss it. It is a must visit the museum. The museum gives thorough insights on the tragedies taking place in Tibet. You will learn the history of Tibet in this magnificent museum. Free entries. Maps, photos of times, analyze everything that is there. Of course, the story is told from the Tibetan point of view by the thousands of exiles who left their country. I highly recommend you to see the few documentary films and in order to not miss the films please make sure about the timings as to when they are played.


Triund Hill Trekking:

The trek begins from McLeodganj close to Dharamshala. The scene offers you appealing perspectives of Dhauladhar Ranges, to be specific Mun, Rifle Horn, Arthur's seat and Slab. You can go to Triund in every one of the seasons, in truth it would appear to be a wonderland when it is covered in a blanket of snow. In summers it is about green meadows. You can come back from the trail that goes along the upper slopes of the Bhagsu waterfalls. Climbing down next to the spouting waters will make your trek increasingly more memorable.

The trek of Triund Hill in Dharamsala is simply a treat for the soul and eyes and a must if you decide to stay a few days in this part of India. This hike that lasts between 3 and 5 hours depending on the people, it is not that difficult. In fact, the climb lasts from beginning to end without interruption. The altitude difference is very progressive until reaching 3200m of altitude. But I can tell you that the site is so beautiful that you will not even feel your calves. As often in the mountains, find out about the weather and watch the weather well. If it changes, put yourself in the shelter. The next day you can walk towards the glaciers. Or 1 and a half hours of walking more and there is a completely different site! You could walk on the ice, touch snow and simply take in the fresh air of the Himalayas.

It is up to you whether you want a guide or not. You have to follow the path indicated or the carriers who go up with mules. You can rent a tent at the top for INR 700 to sleep under a starry sky and admire the inky blue sky which is a rare sight in the cities away from the pollution and stress. Your thighs and legs will be so tired after the trek but after a night of full of rest you will be as fresh as a daisy.


Gyuto Monastery:

A standout amongst the most popular monasteries in Tibet, the Gyuto Monastery is known for its study of Tantric ritual arts, Tantric meditation, and Buddhist philosophy. It was established in Tibet in 1474 by the fundamental pupil of the first Dalai Lama, Jetsun Kunga Dhondup. After the communist Chinese intrusion in 1959, the monastery was then re-established in India. 

The monks at the Gyuto Monastery practice the major Tantric writings including Guhyasamaja, Chakrasamvara and Yamantaka. They have passed these lineages on to the more youthful age of monks over the generations for over 500 years. 

The fundamental assembly of the monastery has a glorious statue of the Buddha and with the scenery of the snow-clad mountains, this is an incredibly tranquil and serene spot to spend an evening.

It is situated in the town of Dharamshala which is definitely not hard to reach through road, rail and what not. Transportation is certainly not an important issue while setting off to the spot.


Dharamshala International Film Festival:

One of the main independent film festivals of the country is the Dharamshala Film Festival which is held each year in November. The film festival is for the two film makers and volunteers and furthermore explorers from distant locations abroad. 

Aside from being a festival of art, creativity, and strong independent cinema, the Dharamsala Film Festival likewise makes for the ideal break from Indian summers. Displaying the best of Indian and global cinema, the Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF)  gives a stage to the unknown artists to take the center stage. With solid topics that reverberate with the audience, this present one's a not miss for film darlings.


Dharamshala International Film Festival Program:

The festival makes then intrigue show of inventive work in contemporary art and cinema. There are screenings of special narratives like Bamboo Dogs by Khavn, Bhonsle by Devashish Makhija; documentaries like A Long Way Home by Luc Schaedler, Boom for Real by Sara Driver and youngsters/children films like beauty by Christina Willings and Cross My Heart By Luc Picard. In 2018, Royal Stag Barrel Select Large Short were additionally screened for the gatherings of people. 

A one of a kind component of the occasion is the Volunteer Program. They get together in the counts of hundreds of lively individuals from all foundations and ages who help in making the festival a hit. One can enroll for it and be a piece of the occasion.

Dharamshala Film Festival was started by movie producers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam in 2012. Their essential thought process was to give a stage for exchange film to the locals. Dharamsala Film Festival is exhibited by White Crane Arts and Media Trust. They want to support innovative articulation in the area through different occasions, spaces, and new opportunities


Venue of the festival: Tibetian Children's Village School, Dharamsala is a 10 minutes drive from the forest than from Mcleod Ganj. You can take the shuttle which ferries people every 30 minutes to the venue during the day time or take another transport as per you wish from Mcleod Ganj.


The Dharamsala International Film Festival will be held from November 4th, 2019 - November 6th, 2019.


St. John in the Wilderness Church:

St. John in the Wilderness is an Anglican church devoted to John the Baptist built in 1852, It is the oldest built structure of Dharamsala. This church was built in thick woods that is the reason it is acclaimed as 'St. John in the Wilderness'. It is likewise the last resting spot of Lord Ergin, one of the governor generals and furthermore a viceroy of India amid the British Raj.

A stone-dressed church and on one of the sides there is graveyard which is the resting place of the British who passed away in the Earthquake in 1905 AD. The church was left untouched in the earthquake, however, the bell tower was destroyed. This damage may not even mean anything in front of the 19,800 people who died in the disastrous earthquake. The church has a gothic look to it and the exterior and interior walls of the church are of exposed stone whose hostile appearance is smoothened and reduced by the Belgian stained glass windows which are one of the main and unique features and attraction of the church. The stained-glass windows were donated by Lady Elgin who was the wife of Lord Elgin.

There is so much more to the church and you should give it a visit without a doubt.

The church is located around 8KMS from Dharamsala, easily accessible from Mcleod Ganj, around 20 minutes walk down the hill from the bus station.


Dal Lake:

Picturesque and mollusk, Dal lake is loaded up with greenish water. The lake is protected by the tough mountains and luscious forest of deodar trees. On the bank of the Dal lake, visitors can see the well known Shiva temple.

Dal lake is mostly visited by tourist during the month of September as a fair is organized on the bank of the lake which is attended by the people of the Gaddi tribe in a large number. The fair is celebrated to mark the presence of Lord Shiva. Dal lake is a perfect site to laze around with picnic baskets as one can enjoy boating and many other activities.

Dal lake is generally visited by the tourists amid the period of September as a fair is sorted out on the bank of the lake which is gone to by the general population of the Gaddi clan in a huge number. The fair is commended to stamp the presence of Lord Shiva. Dal lake is an ideal site to laze around and take wonderful photos with the scenery worth capturing.

Flanked by lavish greenery and sprouting trees, the serene Dal Lake is checked among the real vacation spots of McLeod Ganj. Taking a dip in this lake is considered to remove every misery. It is a belief that the dunk in this sacred lake will bring blessings of Lord Shiva. Devotees trust that a shower in the lake fulfills anything asked from Lord Shiva around then. Despite the fact that the lake is little, the environment makes it amazing and dynamic.



Street shopping: 

Visit the little shops on the main street. The options are endless, (remember to haggle just in case you know that the price is too high since sometimes they inflate them when there is high tourist season), you will find from scarves, ornaments, bags, meditation articles, etc.


Schools and Local Art Stores: 

One of the things you notice in India and Nepal and able in other Asian countries, is that it is very common local art schools to support art based on pictures or paintings related to Buddhism, you will see them everywhere and they are dedicated to teaching generations of students how to paint perfect meditation mandalas and paintings that seem impossible to paint, an art worthy of admiration.


What to buy while you are in Dharamsala:

During your visit to the famous Kotwali Bazaar, you can pick up handcrafted items such as carpets depicting the culture of Dharamshala through stories or monuments, traditional Tibetan hats, bags, trousers, slippers. You can also buy woolen shawls, prayer wheels and prayer flags. Jewelry is also famous in Dharamshala. You can pick up Tibetan trinkets and other traditional pieces of jewelry. If you are fond of art and painting, you can purchase special mandala paintings and exquisite Thangkas. You can also go in for traditional Tibetan dresses. Carry some of these as souvenirs or gift items for your family and friends and they are sure to be appreciated.

Amid your visit to the popular Kotwali Bazaar, you can get carefully handcrafted things, for example, floor carpets portraying the way of life of Dharamshala through stories or monuments, traditional Tibetan hats, bags, pants, shoes, etc. You can likewise purchase beautiful woolen shawls, prayer wheels, and prayer flags. Jewelry is additionally acclaimed in Dharamshala. You can get Tibetan trinkets and other customary bits of jewelry. In the event that you are enamored with craftsmanship and painting, you can buy exceptional mandala sketches and impeccable thangkas. You can likewise go in for traditional Tibetan dresses. Convey a portion of these as keepsakes or gift items for your family as well as friends and they are certain to be valued.






In short, it's a part of India that I love and will always have a special place in my heart and life, it's the little "Tibet" outside of Tibet, it's totally different from what I had seen in New Delhi, it is a hidden place in the mountains, where it only remains to be present and enjoy the ambient. 


We hope you liked this article and found it helpful for your trip. Enjoy your trip to Dharamsala. Make sure to capture your memories in this beautiful place of holiness and breathe in the fresh air. Enjoy the beauty of the place with your own eyes and once you are done doing that, which is without a doubt a difficult thing to do, you can never get enough of it, but do take time to capture the moments. You can always re-live the moments by looking at the captured photos and you can always go back to Dharamsala, we are sure you will want to once you find out how peaceful and beautiful this little place in India is. Enjoy your trip! 


Costs mentioned in the article above are subject to change. Temperature and weather mentioned in the article above are subject to change. Phone numbers mentioned in the article above are subject to change.


Temperature:

In Dharamsala, the summers are long, hot, wet and mostly clear and the winters are short, cold and partly cloudy. During the year, the temperature generally ranges from 2 ° C to 30 ° C and rarely drops below -1 ° C or rises above 34 ° C .

The hot season lasts 4.0 months, from April 29 to August 27, and the average daily maximum temperature is over 27 ° C . The hottest day of the year is June 8, with an average maximum temperature of 30 ° C and an average temperature of 18 ° C .

The cool season lasts 2.7 months, from 6 December to February 27, and the average daily maximum temperature is less than 16 ° C . 

The wettest season lasts 2.6 months, from June 21 to September 10, with a probability of more than 29% that a certain day will be a wet day. The maximum probability of a wet day is 55% on July 24 .


The weather's dates may change due to many factors one such factor being global warming .

The best time to  visit Dharamsala:

The score tourism favors clear without rain days sensed temperatures between 18 ° C and 27 ° C. Based on this score, the best times of the year to visit Dharamsala for general outdoor tourist activities are from the beginning of May to the end of June and from the end of August to mid-October, with a maximum score in the third week of September .

The best times of the year to visit Dharamsala for heat activities are from the end of May to the middle of July and from the end of August to the beginning of September

The clearest part of the year in Dharamsala begins approximately on August 24; It lasts 3.0 months and ends approximately on November 22. On September 26, the clearest day of the year, the sky is clear, mostly clear or partly cloudy 96% of the time and cloudy or mostly cloudy 4% of the time.

Keep the emergency contact numbers such as: 

Police: 100

Ambulance: 102

Emergency Contact Number [Integrated Police/ Fire Station/ Medical Services]: 108

Tourism Information Office (Dharamshala): 01892-224212

How to go to Dharamsala: (4 ways to travel to Dharamsala):


By plane: Recently upgraded the Gaggal Airport (IATA: DHM) in Kangara to 10 km away, has flights from Delhi with Air Deccan (daily through Pathankot) and Jagson Airlines (three times a week through Kullu) The flights are prone to cancellation due to bad weather or because not enough passengers show up, so as to leave a certain margin of maneuver for their subsequent connection when leaving.


By Bus: Most people go to Dharamsala by bus. It has good connections with other parts of Northern India, although the routes are often slow due to the narrow winding roads of the hills.

The main bus terminal in is lower Dharamsala, but some HRTC public buses from Delhi and Pathankot go all the way to Mclead Ganj's main square, where you can also pre-book the seats for the return trip.

Many private bus companies are available to travel to or from Manali, Delhi as well as Dehradun. The private night buses of New Delhi depart from the Tibetian Colony Majnu ka Tilla, takes more than 13 hours and the cost is anywhere from INRF 450 for a basic bus to INR 830 for a luxury Volvo bus.


By train: The nearest train station is in Pathankot and the small Chakki Bank station, from, small trains can then take you to Kangra, a comfortable overnight trip from Delhi and still leaves you around 18km, from Mcleod Ganj, most of the travelers choose to continue by either a bus or a taxi to the place.


By taxi: You can book a taxi for your trip to Dharamsala if you enjoy road trips. I personally prefer taking the taxi as I love exploring new restaurants and places on the way.


How to get around in Dharamsala (4 ways to travel within Dharamsala): 


Taxi: Taxis are easily available everywhere in Dharamsala and are pretty convenient. The taxis have a fixed tariff chart for known/popular locations and so the chance of bargaining is not high, but because the tariff is fixed, the chances to cheat are very low. The taxi stand is located in Kotawali Bazaar, near The Dhauladhar Hotel.


Auto Rikshaw: Auto rickshaws are cheaper than taxis. They are black and yellow in colour and look like tuk-tuks. 3 people can easily sit in an auto. The auto charges anywhere from INR 120-200 from Dharamsala to Mcleod Ganj. Auto rikshaws operators also have their tariff fixed by their union just like the taxi. You could take an auto for INR 400-500 to see a few sight-seeing points such as Dal Lake, Bhagsunath Temple, The Dalai Lama Temple, and Saint John Church. Do ask the operator.


Maxicabs: Now, if we talk about maxicabs, then I personally found it to be a bumpy ride. It can be scary, but 11 people can easily sit in a maxicab.


Bus (Private and Public): Private and public bus services are affordable and good. A ride from Dharamsala to Mcleod Ganj is for just INR 10 per person. Public buses issue a ticket in exchange for the fare, on the other hand, private buses do not give you a ticket in return for the fare. Buses are probably the cheapest option to travel in and around, but you might have to wait for up to half an hour.

Where to stay in Dharamsala/Mcleod Ganj:


The Guest House Pema Thang: The first is in the center of Mac Leod Ganj. There are several small decent hotels. You can search on the spot. Otherwise, we recommend this one: 

The Guest House Pema Thang (it is better to book in advance). Best value we have seen!


Hotel Akash Deep: There is also the village of Baghsu which is 5 minutes higher up in the mountains. Many young people, hippies, and yoga enthusiasts and there are plenty of cafes for Westerners and yet it's quieter than McLeod. Not too many cars. To see the beautiful waterfalls. 

The hotel I recommend is the first to enter the village: Hotel Akash Deep is the best (not very expensive: Rs 600 per day) 


Yonten Guest House: This guesthouse is located n the middle of Mcleod Ganj street and is budget friendly.



However, Dharamsala has many accommodations/places to stay within your budget. Do your research before booking a room. 

Please do not leave your valuables in hotel rooms.

What to pack:

What you pack completely depends as to when you are planning your trip and how the weather will be as well as for how many days, however, let's give it a go and see what all you would need when you are in Dharamsala.


Keep your health in check and carry your medications:

Who doesn't like to eat? Food is the best thing you can try while venturing out to a new place. Be that as it may, disallow eating anything from the roadside or before you do make sure the place is taking care of hygiene. Lean towards filtered water for drinking purposes such as bottled water. Water and food served in open may not be perfect and may cause stomach contaminations. Carry medications which would help you if you end up getting an upset stomach and avoid over-eating as it can cause nausea and throw up especially in high altitude places/cities.

Since the weather can change at any time and cannot be predicted, carry medications for cold, cough, fever, headache as well as sour candies and such in case you feel a little sick. Please carry the prescribed medications from your doctor.


Important Documents you might need: 

Keep your ID proofs as well as important documents in order to travel without hassle and limitations.


Clothes:

Beanie/Hat: A warm beanie or a hat for those chilly evenings in Dharamsala while you sit in a small cafe and sip on Tibetian tea is perfect to keep your head warm and soul fresh.

Scarf: Scarves are great in winters as well as summers. It gets chilly in evenings even in summers in Dharamsala and so carrying a scarf will be helpful.

T-shirts and Sweatshirts: Carry full sleeves t-shirts and sweatshirts as well as a couple of half sleeves t-shirt in case the sun is shining brightly in the day so you can enjoy being sun-kissed in the perfect Dharamsala weather. T-shirts go well with everything whether you are wearing jeans, shorts or skirts.

Sweater and Jacket: Carry your thick, warm and woolen sweaters and jackets to stay warm if you decide to go in winters.

Jeans/Pants: Carry a couple of jeans/pants because when don't they come in handy? Easy to wear, classy, trendy and goes well with everything. 

Shorts or Capris: Keep your shorts and/or capris for those days of walking up and down the hills in the sunny and warm weather.

Night-suit: Keep a set of night suit for a good night sleep.

Undergarments: I don't even have to write anything about undergarments. You already know what to carry and how many.

Handkerchief: Throw in a couple of handkerchiefs.

Socks: Two pairs of socks should be good enough. Don't forget the trick of rolling up and socks and stuffing them in your shoes to save space in your luggage/bag.

Towels: Keep a couple of towels. Drying yourself is important and I personally don't use the hotel's towels, but that is just me. 


Feet friendly: 

Lots of Walking! The roads of Mcleodganj are pretty steep. You will invest loads of energy walking. You have to ensure you have the correct pair of shoes. Search for a decent pair that will give you enough help when visiting the nearby art shops and holy places. Something else to remember is the fact that this is one of the rainiest zones in Northern India. Bring a raincoat as well as an umbrella even when you're just intending to be outside for a brief span period. Rain is especially heavy during summer months however it can rain whenever.

Throw in a good pair of comfortable walking shoes.

Throw in a pair of flip-flops for the place you decided to stay at whether it is a hotel or a hostel.


Toiletries: 

Shampoo and conditioner (small bottles) for easy carrying.

A small soap could be helpful if you plan on going by car.

Deodorant, because nobody wants to stink and sweating does that to you. 

Moisturizer is a must to keep your skin hydrated, besides water. Make sure to carry a travel-friendly bottle.

Sunscreen to save yourself from sunburns, harsh sun rays, and tan.

Facewash! It is better to sleep with a clean face than an oily one.

Wet wipes to keep yourself fresh through long day outs.

A comb or a hairbrush because who wants tangles in their hair.

Toothbrush and toothpaste for your dental hygiene.

Hair ties, hairpins, and headbands.

Razor and shaving cream or shaving gel.

Make-up! That is your take. Whatever you use. Such as kajal,eye-liner, foundation, lipstick, and eyeshadow.

Tampons/pads for periods you know what I'm talking about ladies.

Mosquito/insect repellent.


Always carry travel-friendly size bottles.


Gadgets: 

Your laptop and charger with some sort of 3G or 4G connection if you choose to do some research while traveling, if you don't already have internet data on your phone. It may be helpful.

Camera along with a memory card, because you need to capture those moments.

Mobile phone along with the charger.

A power bank for battery back-up.

Multiple point plug, just in case.

Earphones/Headphones.


Extras:

Small mirror. 

Sunglasses. To protect your eyes first.

Binoculars for much more zoomed in and clear scenery

Notepad with pens if needed.

Novels/books for reading if you are a reader.

Your eyeglasses/eye lenses and an extra case for both.

A water bottle which you can carry in your bag or hand bag.


I would advise you to not pack much and rather purchase stuff while traveling and when it is required.  Always just carry the essentials which you think you won't be able to purchase while traveling. 


While traveling, it is always advisable to pack light. 


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