The ABC's of How to Reach Dharamshala and Must-Dos.
India is a vast country. The advantages of living in a country this broad are the sprawls of unexplored land that urge you to get up and keep moving in any direction from your current position. With language barriers, only a state of mind, preconceived notions, lack of connecting a thing of the past, a clear sense of direction, and a clear plan, hand-in-hand, satisfy the natural need of wanderlust we are born with. If it were not for this very feeling, this wanderlust, people would not have mingled, shared recipes, traded amazing artwork and fanciful textiles, or even understood each other's emotions.
Today, divides are mere gorges, and these chasms present themselves in the simple form of geographical distances between you and the place that calls out to you, beckoning you to come to visit once. And all you need to do is pack. Today, a long drive playing classical Hindi songs, a serene bike ride soaking in the winding asphalt and the myriad of villages you pass by, a nostalgic journey by train through fields and valleys, or even a swift flight over the clouds and you can reach the farthest corner of the subcontinent.
And for a good reason. Every state that defines itself by its demarcated lines has its twist-in-the-tale for every tourist or traveler that chooses to enter its depths. Every state has its unique way of pleasing its guests. Some are sophisticated, some rustic, some refined, some whacky, some colorful and vibrant, some monochromatic yet serene. Every state in the country has a unique approach, a unique culture, and its show-and-tell that caters to the enthusiasm of every traveler who is weary of his/her routine life and, for the first time, has stepped outside the bubble.
Yet, some appear in our dreams. Hazy, but a sign for sure. If you have been dreaming about snowy mountains, a clear blue sky, green fir trees, sloping terrains, picturesque landscapes, and hot momos, your dream is located in Himachal Pradesh. Dharamshala is as serene and quaint as its name. You might know Dharamshala from the cricket matches its beautiful stadium hosts. The moment you get past cricket is the exact point where Dharamshala starts to emerge from under its shy veil.
History buffs call it the mini Tibet. Here is why.During the prelude to the Indo-Sino war of 1962, Tibet was under tremendous pressure to accede to China, citing cultural similarities. Dalai Lama, who, at that point, resided in Tibet, refused to comply. When things soured, Dalai Lama rode a horse straight into India, where he was welcomed warmly and given refuge in this very piece of heaven, after which India has to intervene. What happened in Tibet next was unfortunate, and even more so for India. But to this day, Dalai Lama finds his abode in McLeod Ganj, a scenic neighborhood north of Dharamshala.
Modern Dharamshala has managed to escape the rapid growth of concrete jungles that has claimed its victims in financial and economic hotspots around the company. Residents, who are a majority of exiled Tibetans, work hard to keep this Hallmark-card of a place untouched and unpolluted. One common misconception is that Dalai Lama resides in Dharamshala. The Dalai Lama lives in McLeod Ganj, which is a 30-minute bus ride outside of Dharamshala. Nonetheless, a brilliant place to visit. Throughout this piece, we shall talk about places to visit and places to eat, combining the best of both places.
There are multiple ways you can reach Dharamshala by. Listed below are the most common ways of getting to Dharamshala.
By Air - Dharamshala is well connected to major cities like Chandigarh, Delhi, and Mumbai. The nearest airport is Gaggala, which is around 135 kilometers away from Dharamshala. Gaggala has connecting flights to Dharamshala. Or, on can fly to Chandigarh, which is around 275 km away from Dharamshala, and board a taxi to Dharamshala.
By land - The best course of action is to board a bus from Delhi. 520 km away, one can avail of overnight bus service from Delhi. If you are traveling by car or a bike, the same route applies as it is frequented by people traveling to and fro. It also allows for a majestic experience.
There is no best time to visit Dharamshala. However, spring or summers, if you had to absolutely pick one.
Now, picture yourself in a fabulous room. Waking up, the blinds open to a stunning view of the majestic Dauladhar ranges rippling across the panorama as far as the eye can see. And no one does this better than Club Mahindra. Club Mahindra, being one of the big players in terms of pure holidaying bliss, have outdone themselves yet again with this strategically located Club Mahindra resort in Dharamshala. And this bliss, this tantalizing feeling of euphoria, is what you get when you combine a breathtaking destination and an equally astounding resort. Some may even consider it a little piece of heaven. Power packed with grandiose living spaces, the amazing Dauladhar restaurant serving local cuisine, and a lounge bar, an exciting yet tiring day is best left in the more than capable hands of Club Mahindra. If you are up for it, just go for a leisurely stroll out in the wild, or pack your hiking gear for a small trek. Be it a relaxing walk through the village, or letting your inner table tennis champion emerge in a friendly game, Club Mahindra will take care of it. And if you are in luck and your timing game is on point, you can be a part of the once-in-a-lifetime celebration of local festivals like Lohri, Losar festival, or the Buddha Purnima, right here at the Club Mahindra Dharamsala resort. Situated 5 kilometers outside the city center, this resort is sure to leave you wanting for more.
Picking a “what to do “list for Dharamshala is a daunting task. Dharamshala is one of those few places you cannot find faults or drawbacks with. Here are our unbiased picks.
Scattered prayer flags, a pristine blue sky, and singing birds make for companions in this beautiful experience. An easy trek leading to an eventual escape into the majestic Himalayas, the Triund trek is an absolute must-do. Sitting at an altitude of 2828m above sea level, the Triund trek can be undertaken from either Dharamshala or McLeod Ganj. The Triund trek has sporadic cafes selling hot chai on the way, weaving through scenic trails offering a sneak view of the gorgeous Kangra Valley and the Dharamshala cricket stadium. If you chose to extend your trek, Triud trek organizers offer night camping in warm tents around campfires under the starlit sky as well.
How to get there: A plethora of options in the forms of shops scattered around town offering guided tours. The timelines range from a one-day Triund trek to a week in the mountains, depending on your resources both in terms of budget and time. This flexibility is what put Triund in things to do in Dharamshala list ever.
A Dharamshala tourism mandate, no trip to Dharamshala, can be complete without a visit to the quaint Dharamshala Cricket Stadium. Nestled cozily in the lap of the majestic Himalayan range, this stadium is considered to be one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world. With a constant coy mountain breeze brushing against your face, a breathtaking backdrop of snow-covered mountains, and a lush green stretch of land, the Dharamshala cricket stadium is one to mesmerize you.
When to visit: Although the stadium is open to tourists all year long, it is best to schedule your visit during a cricket season. Nevertheless, planning always helps.
Famously known for the study of tantric meditation and philosophy, The Gyuto monastery is a hidden gem amongst numerous monasteries in and around Dharamshala. One of the rare Black magic monasteries in the world, Gyuto monastery, preaches the use of black magic for the good of people. Constructed over a hilltop overlooking the Beas river, the place is a fit tribute to the resplendent gold-plated Lord Buddha statue that blesses the lands.
One of the most renowned lakes in the country, Dal lake, is the epitome of natural beauty. Clean waters, a stunning backdrop of deodar trees lining the base of the majestic mountains, a leisure walk around the Dal lake on a pleasant afternoon, watching frantic fishes swim about in the lake takes your mind off everything else. Establishments around Dal offer trekking excursions as well. What’s more, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva sits on the banks of this lake, giving it an even more serene touch.
Affectionately called St. John in the Wilderness Church (Not to be confused with the one in Nainital, Uttarakhand), the eccentric neo-gothic church gets its name from its location, which happens to be "in the wilderness." Constructed in the loving memory of John the Baptist, the church coincidentally also acts as the last resting place of a viceroy of India under the British Raj, Lord Elgin. The church is famous for its Belgian stained-glass windows, making this church one of the best off-beat places to visit in Dharamshala.
Just like the Dharamshala cricket ground, a visit to Dharamshala without visiting his holiness, the Dalai Lama's residence is a must-visit. Although situated in McLeod Ganj, the distance is negligible. The complex is composed of the Dalai Lama’s residence, the Namgyal monastery, tsulangkhang temple, and the Tibet Museum. Tourists are not permitted to visit the Dalai Lama. However, one can hope to get a sneak peek!
One of the 52 shakti peethas in India, Jwala Devi temple, emanates an unexplainable aura full of positive energy. What is even more mysterious is that the temple has no idol, and instead, worships an eternal flame that burns day and night without an energy source. This temple is situated in Kangra and is about 35 kilometers away from the city center.
Another breathtaking complex, the Kalachakra temple, is relatively new. Situated in McLeod Ganj, the shrine is known its stunning murals and the world-famous statue of Shakyamuni Buddha surrounded by fresco decorations of a whopping seven hundred and seventy-two deities of the mandala, with a Kalachakra (wheel of time) bang in the middle. Housing a relaxing book shop and a quaint cafe for a cuppa, the Kalachakra temple boasts of its prowess in Tibetan culture and architecture. Used personally by the Dalai Lama as a public teaching center, it enjoys its well-deserved attention.
Often referred to like the Dalai Lama's temple, the Namgyar is, in fact, the Dalai Lama's monastery. Not only this, but the complex is also home to 200 monks who study Buddhism in the Tantric college of Namgyar. The serenity and calm ambiance of this ambiance pulls you towards it, believer or not.
The War Memorial sits comfortably in the forests of the beautiful hill town. This war memorial was constructed to pay homage to the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in wars, most notably the Indo-Sino war of 1962. The war memorial is a poet’s dream, surrounded by pine forests, and a short walk passing through the quaint garden leads you to GPC college that was established during the British Raj. There is no shortage of places to visit in Dharamshala. Any direction you look in from the point you stand is beautiful.
Picking a top-ten for a comprehensive travel guide from any place is an unfair deal. And it is even more daunting to “pick” from a place like Dharamshala. To do it, justice, here are some honorable mentions.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives: If there is one place that can teach you the ABC's of Tibetan culture and history, it is the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. Spanning close to a whopping 80,000 manuscripts and close to 600 Buddhist artifacts, this place emanates wisdom.
Dharamshala Tea Garden: It is the smallest tea region in India, but the product is fresh and vibrant and is available for sale across the hill town.
Bhagsu Falls: Majestic and surrounded by greenery, this is the closest you can get to nature.
Bhagsunath Temple: One of the oldest temples in the region, the temple is flanked by other tourist attractions like the Dal Lake and Bhagsu Falls. Devotees visit the temple to seek a blessing on route to the falls.
Masroor Temple: Believed to have been built in as early as 8th century AD, the temple currently is an archeological site in ruins, with every temple in the intricate cut out of a megalith.
And of course, what is the point of having a Dharamshala travel guide without a list of best resorts? Here are our picks on some of the best resorts in Dharamshala, arranged from low to high pricing.
Holiday Inn: A known name across India, the Holiday inn offers spacious living quarters, free Wi-Fi, and parking. Average pricing: 1800 and upwards.
Pink House: A bubbly, vibrant place, the Pink House offers free Wi-Fi and has an in-house restaurant. Average pricing: 1800 and upwards.
Dragon I Resort: Situated a bit away from the city center, the resort offers unparalleled ambiance if you are looking for some peace. The Dragon I offers free Wi-Fi and has an in-house restaurant. Average pricing: 1900 and upwards.
Sterling Dharamshala: One of the most economical places to stay in Dharamshala, the sterling Dharamshala, does not compromise on quality. It offers a complimentary breakfast in bed, free parking, and has its in-house restaurant. Average pricing: 2000 and upwards.
Gagan Resorts: Offering a heavenly view, Gagan resorts is an affordable bet and offers room service, including a breakfast-in-bed and has an in-house restaurant. Average pricing: 2300 and upwards.
Camp Lungta: Situated on a cozy hilltop, Camp Lungta is the start of our premium segments of resorts in Dharamshala. Camp Lungta offers free Wi-Fi and has its own lounge/bar. Average pricing: 5000 and upwards.
Prakriti Aalay: One of the most sought after resorts in Dharamshala, this resorts resides beside the Manoori rivulet amidst green vistas. Average pricing: 6000 and upwards.
Indraprastha Spa Resort: Keeping true of its name, it is unbeatable in terms of chic and comfort and is one of the best resorts in Dharamshala. Average pricing: 6000 and above
You can, of course, find plenty of economical lodging options if you do not wish to go for resort-type accommodations. Dharamshala also offers extremely economical stays for backpackers.
Dharamshala surprises you with the quality food it has to offer. Indulging every cuisine owing to the number of foreign tourists they get every year, Dharamshala knows how to appease hunger. Here are our picks for the best restaurants in Dharamshala
Peace Café: Momos
Green Hotel: Canadian breakfast, chaay masala, farmer’s breakfast.
Norling restaurant: Mutton Momos.
Lung Ta: Udon, Croquettes.
Morgan’s Place: White sauce pasta, Margherita pizza, Nutella pancake.
Crepe Pancake hut: Burrito Bowl and buckwheat pizza.
Common ground café: Momos, jasmine tea, noodles.
Snow Lion Restaurant: Apple pie, Latte.
Tibet Kitchen: Chicken Thupka, Thai curry.
Illiterati: Falafel platter, greek salad, vegan pizza.
Again, this list of best restaurants in Dharamshala is curated, keeping in mind all types of cuisines and pricing and, in effect, is subjective. There is no shortage of eateries in Dharamshala, and you are sure to find whatever it is that connects with your soul. All said and done; it is worth remembering that Dharamshala is a cold place. Remember to pack your winter wardrobe. Although, all you have to do is wrap up the how-to reach Dharamshala part, and the hospitality of the residents of this beautiful hill town do the rest for you. Happy traveling!
About Mahindra Holidays
Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Limited (MHRIL), India’s leading player in the leisure hospitality industry, offers quality family holidays as also stated by Club Mahindra Resort Reviews, primarily through vacation ownership memberships. While Club Mahindra is the flagship brand offering Club Mahindra Membership the other brands offered by the company are – Club Mahindra Resorts Fundays and Svaastha Spa. As on Mar 31, 2019, MHRIL has 61+ resorts across India and abroad and its subsidiary, Holiday Club Resorts Oy, Finland, a leading vacation ownership company in Europe has 33 resorts across Finland, Sweden and Spain. Visit us at www.clubmahindra.com