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Dharamshala Overview

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Summarise the city :
A Tibet in India

Best time to visit (High & peak months) :
All the year round except for the monsoons

Experiences :
Tibetan culture

City calling code :
01892

Recommended no. of days for a tourist :
2 days

Best buys :
Tibetan carpets and handicrafts, statuettes, sleeping bags, fruit preserves, bottled produce

Essentials to be carried along :
Light woolens for summers and heavy for winters (November-March). Extra pairs of shoes if you are planning to go for hikes or adventure sports. The organizers provide most other gear.

All about the city :
Popularly known as the Scotland of India, Dharamshala is one of the 80 hill stations that were established during the colonial era. The town is divided into two areas - the lower Dharamshala that houses the government buildings and the upper Dharamshala or the Mc Leodganj (only place in India after Leh where the foreign tourists outnumber their Indian counterparts). The Tibetan culture that pervades the entire place is the strongest factor in pulling the visitors. The residence of Dalai Lama, the Buddhist head, has made it a magnet for Buddhist devotees who call it 'The Little Lhasa of India'.

The town is hemmed with snow-capped mountains that appear to be standing at a knocking distance- a feature that sets it apart from others. The destination offers a pack of adventure activities ranging from rock climbing to rappelling and trekking in the Dhauladhar ranges. The paragliding heaven of Bir and Billing are also not far away from here.
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dharamshala Tourist attractions

Name (suggested time required to see the place)DescriptionEntrance charges (if any) for Foreigner
St. John Church (15 min)At a distance of 8 Km from Dharamshala, on the way to Mc Leodganj, is situated St. John Church, a remnant of the British era in India. Its major attraction is its stained glass windows.

Lord Elgin's (Indian Viceroy) body was buried in its graveyard.

No entrance charge

No close days

10 am-5 pm

Kangra art museum (40 minutes)If you are interested in art and culture and want to know the past and present of the Kangra region but do not have much time to spare then just flock to this museum - as most of the culture savants do. Special feature here are the Kangra miniature paintings.

INR 50

Monday

10 am - 5 pm

Mcleod Ganj, named after one time Lt. Governor of Punjab (one can spend a whole day here) Checkered with a number of Tibetan rehabilitation and educational centers, this is a major Buddhist center in Himachal. This place became all the more auspicious with the arrival of Buddhist religious head the Dalai Lama who was followed by thousands of refugees. The Namgyal Monastery, opposite Dalai Lama's residence, with the Centre of Tibetan Studies (known as little Lhasa) is a major attraction in Mc Leodganj. For serious knowledge seekers Nechung monastery is the ideal place that has a good library with photo copying facility and an interesting museum. Here you can attend lecture on Tibetan culture and Buddhism. If you want to stay in a Gompa to experience the Buddhist lifestyle head to Dip Tsechokling Gompa. Here rooms are available on rent. Tsuglagkhang is a double story temple with bigger than life size statues of Buddha, Padamsambhav and Avlokiteshwar. The specialty of this temple is that it has been constructed without damaging the trees in that area. In fact adjustable iron rings safeguard them.

No entrance charge

No close days

The timings for monasteries are: 4:30 am-8:30 pm

Bhagsunag (15 min) At an interesting 2 km stroll from Mc Leodganj and 11 km from Dharamshala is Bhagsunag known for its waterfalls, a fresh water spring.

No entrance charge

No close days

7 am-8 pm

Hikes Another beautiful walk of 11 km from Dharamshala will reward you with the panoramic views at Dharamkot. The sturdy ones can walk further to the snowline.

A 17 km trek to Triund, is also popular. The snowline starts from Ilaqua, a further 5 km from Triund. This is a popular picnic spot and base for several trek routes.

Past the Dal lake, the sightseeing points at Naddi (1.5 km uphill) present some spectacular views.
 
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Getting there

AirRailRoad
Nearest airport is Gaggal located 15 km from Dharamshala. Other airports having regular service are: Jammu 200 km, Amritsar 210 km and Chandigarh 260 kmNearest broad gauge railhead is Pathankot 95 km. A narrow gauge railway line between Pathankot and Jogindernagar passes through Kangra, 17 km. from Dharamshala. Important road distances are Chandigarh 239 km, Delhi 514 km, Nangal 145 km, Jalandhar 166 km, Mandi 147 km, Jwalamukhi 55 km, Kullu 214 km, Manali 252 km, Chamba 192 km, and Shimla 322 km, Pathankot is only 95 km.
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Dharamshala Festivals

Name of festivalDates / MonthsFestival details with link for more information
Opera festival in Mc Leodganjbegins 2nd Saturday of April (10 days festivals)

Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) was established  by Tibetans in exile to preserve their traditions of music, dance and drama. Every year  it holds a 10 day opera in April. During this period Tibetan Institute of performing arts organizes folk dances and performances of traditional folk opera. On important national holidays throughout the year other performances are held. An annual competition among students is held in May or June.

TIPA is just a kilometers walk from Mc Leodganj.

International Himalayan festival (at Mc Leodganj)10-12 DecemberThe 3 days festival is organized as a commemoration of the event when the Nobel Peace prize was awarded to His Holiness The Dalai Lama in 1985. The highlights are cultural shows and performances, mainly by the artistes of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, local artists, cultural troupes and school children.
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Dharamshala Excursions

Excursion (distance in kms)Description
Sagar dam (55 km / 2 hrs)Formerly known as Pong Dam this place is a visual delight for the bird lovers. Good 1,16,000 birds, which include Egyptian eagles, black kite, bar headed geese along with several other migratory birds have been recorded at this site.
Trilokpur (41 km on the highway to Pathankot/1.5 hrs) It is famous for natural cave temple, with stalactite and stalagmite formation, dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Bajreshwari temple (20 km/ 45 minutes)One of the 51 Shaktipeeths (seat of Goddess of power, Shakti), it was where the breast of Goddess Sati are said to have fallen. During its long theatrical history the temple was destroyed and rebuilt many times. On occasion of festival of Lohri (13 Jan) every year an important fair is held here. Devouts make offerings of butter, which is later distributed to all.
Chamunda Devi (18 km on Mandi-Pathankot highway/ 30 minutes)This is another Shaktipeeth of the Kangra valley (lies almost mid way between Palampur and Dharamshala) also famous as Chamunda or Nandikeshwar dham. It is dedicated to Goddess Durga. She vanquished two demons named Chand and Munda at this place, hence the name Chamunda Devi. The monkeys playing in the gurgling stream adjacent to the temple give the whole setting a heavenly touch.
Baijnath (56 km/ 2 hrs) This temple enshrines one of the 12 Jyotirlingas (rare shivlingas symbolizing Lord Shiva) in India. By the great Indian epic Ramayana, it is the same place where the demon King Ravana offered his 9 heads to Lord Shiva so as to please him for blessing him with the boon of immortality. Just before Ravana was about to offer his tenth head, Shiva gave him a rare shivlinga. But Ravana could not take it to his kingdom Lanka because the moment he placed it on the earth it grew so heavy that it could not be lifted. Here Lord Shiva is worshipped as Vaidyanath i.e. Lord of Physicians.
Jwalamukhi (56 km/2 hrs)It is also one of the 51 Shaktipeeths, a place where the tongue of Goddess fell. Here devout descend into a tiny square chamber where the priest ignites natural inflammable gas which is believed to be the lapping tongue of Sati. Devotees throng the temple in large numbers during the festival of Navratri (in March-April and September-October).
Masrur Rock temple (40 km/1.25 hrs)Being the only temple in North India to be carved out of the rocks, it is known as the Ellora of the North. Although it is not as intricately carved as the Mahabalipuram temples but it definitely out sizes them. This is not an active religious site now.
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Suggested Holidays with Dharamshala / Mc Leodganj

Holiday NameNo. Of days Destinations Covered & Highlights
Hallowed Himachal
06 days - 05 nightsDalhousie - Mc Leodganj - Palampur - Manali - Kullu
Himachal Highlights
12 days - 11 nightsDelhi - Shimla - Manali - Palampur - Mc Leodganj - Dalhousie
Culture and Heritage Trail 08 days - 07 nightsShimla - Pragpur - Mc Leodganj - Dalhousie
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