Want to get lost in the splendors of Nature? Travel to Dharamshala, a scenic town set amongst sky-kissing conifers in upper Kangra Valley, in the Kangra District, of the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
Tibetan culture is prevalent in Dharamshala, as it hosts McLeod Ganj, home to His Holiness Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile. Still, glimpses of colonial past are seen everywhere, in form of churches, like St. John’s Church-in-Wilderness.
Set amidst majestic Deodars at Forsyth Ganj, the church is not only pious and serene, but also is important, because its premise houses the grave of Lord Elgin, who proposed to develop Dharamshala as a summer retreat. Its Belgian stained glass windows are contributed by Lady Elgin.
Formerly a hub for trade and commerce of Kangra District in the British Raj, McLeod Ganj suffered a severe earthquake in 1905 and then became a health resort till 1947. It was year 1959 since when Dharamshala became home to Dalai Lama and developed as a refuge to Tibetan citizens, who built several monasteries and other structures, depicting their culture and heritage.
Bhagsunag Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the lovely Bhagsu Waterfall behind the temple are must-see in Dharamshala. Other prominent and beautiful temples are Kunal Pathri Temple and Chamunda Temple. Masrur or Masroor hosts fifteen splendidly carved monolithic temples of the 8th century. The carvings strikingly resemble those of Kailash Temple of Ellora.
Dharamshala travel becomes unforgettable especially because its of scenic picnic spots, like Naddi, Narghota, Dharamkot, Dal Lake, Kareri Lake, Triund and so on.
Get utter serenity and mental peace at Chinmaya Tapovan, a spiritual Ashram, set ashore Bindu Saras, a rivulet.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archieves (LTWA) and Naam Art Gallery – a permanent display of Elsbeth Buschmann’s watercolor paintings, and Alfred W. Hallett’s acrylic and oil paintings, are also must-visit.
Kangra Museum, depicting Tibetan and Buddhist art forms is also a must-see.
If your luck prevails, you can also meet, or at least see, Dalai Lama, which is a wonderful spiritual encounter.
In Dharamshala, Tibetan handicrafts, jewelry, woolen clothes, prayer flags and wheels, thangkas (Tibetan silk-embroidered wall-hangings) and carpets are must-buys. Tibetan Singing Bowl is a specialty which is very easy to play and is used for music therapy. Kotwali Bazaar is a popular shopping area.
Internationally famed Dharamshala Cricket Stadium is one of the most popular stadia amongst cricketers, because of the scenic backdrops and outstanding natural beauty.
While in Dharamshala, you must undertake trekking, as the place is a starting point to countless scenic trails. While trekking towards the upper Ravi Valley’s Dhauladhar and Chamba District, you come across forests full of Pine, Deodar, Rhododendrons and Oak, and a number of rivers and streams. Bhagsu, Dharamkot and Triund too are extremely breathtaking.
Rock climbing is another popular adventure sport in Dharamashala.
River Beas offers some excellent fishing of Mahaseer between Nadaun and Pong Dam.
Dharamashala has a number of restaurants and street-side eateries, where you can enjoy chai (tea) and local delicacies like momo. There are two specialties of Dharamshala hotels, one is most of them offer terraces on scenic backdrops and other is they offer free Wi-Fi connections.
Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) has debuted in Dharamshala, from 1st November 2012, to showcase the best Indian cinemas.
Other major festivals are International Himalayan Festival (December), Dal Fair (August or September), Losar (Tibetan New Year) (February), and many more.