Wooded with Oak, Deodhar & Coniferous trees and snow-capped on three sides, Dharamshala is a picturesque hill station in the Himalayas. Dharamshala is most famous for Mcleod Ganj which is the seat of the exiled Tibetan government. Dharamshala is also the capital of the erstwhile Katoch Dynasty which is arguably the oldest serving royal family in the world. The Indian Premier League (IPL) has brought Dharamshala into the Cricketing spotlight as it boasts of one of the most beautiful cricket stadiums in the world. Dharamshala is a also a trekker’s paradise as the Snow Line can be visited in just a day trip.
Dharmashala has an Airport and hence can be directly accessed from Delhi. The nearest railway station is 85 Kms away at Pathankot. There are numerous trains from Jammu to Delhi which pass Pathankot and Chakki Bank station.
There are several options for staying in Dharamshala which range from Hotels, Resorts and Home Stays. I found the state government (HPDTC) run Hotel Kashmir House quite comfortable. You can make a booking over their website (hpdtc.com).
Mcleod Ganj or Little Lhasa is the most popular destination in Dharamshala. The Tibet Museum situated in the Tsuglagkhang Complex is a good place to visit to get a historical account of the Tibetan Struggle. The photographs give a vivid recollection of the Tibetan struggle and the escape of The Dalai Lama and his followers into India in 1960. It is open 9am to 6pm on all days except Mondays.
The Library of Tibetan Works & Arts is a treasure trove of ancient Tibetan cultural objects and manuscripts. Some of the 80000 plus manuscripts date as far back as the 10th century. It has served as a great center for Tibetan Studies with alumni of more than five thousand students. This is the place to go if you ever wanted to learn the Tibetan Language, Buddhist philosophy or Thangka painting which is a TibetanSilk painting with embroidery.
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts is another magnificent institution devoted at preserving the cultural tradition of Tibet. I found some of the workshops run here to be very interesting. You can learn how to make traditional Tibetan style costumes, masks and musical instruments. April is the best time to visit as you can catch the annual Folk Opera festival.
The Losel Dolls Museum at Norbulingka Institute is a must see in Dharamshala. There are more than 150 colourful dolls depcited in costumes of Tibet. The Museum was set up to preserve the heritage of Tibet's costumes. Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastry have hand crafted each of these dolls.
If you are lucky you can try to meet The Dalai Lama at his residence which is opposite the Tsuglag Khang, the central Cathedral.
Bhagsunag Fall is a popular attraction 11 kms from Dharamshala town. It is famous for slate quarries and taking chilly dips in the icy waters. You can also hit the trekking trails near the fall, which will lead you to Triund in 3 days.
The War Memorial is a good spot to be included in your itinerary. It salutes the brave soldiers who laid down their lives. The memorial is very picturesquely set amidst a pine tree forest.
Kunal Pathari is a 3km walk from Kotwali bazaar. It houses an old rock temple of a local deity. Kunal Pathari offers splendid views of the Dauladhar range courtesy its altitude.
St John’s Church will be enjoyed by patrons of Stain Glass work. The church lies in a forest between Mcleod Ganj and Forsyth Ganj. There is a monument dedicated to Lord Elgin, an erstwhile Viceroy who was buried here in 1863. Lady Elgin had donated the Belgian Stain Glass to the Church.
Tibetan Medical traditions date back to more than 2500 years and are based on a holistic concept of mind and body. This school of thought believes that a disease is due to disequilibrium of psychological and physical energies. The method of diagnosis is visual, interrogation and pulse-reading. Medicines are usually bitter pills or powder containing herbs, animal products, precious stones and metals. Stones and metals ate detoxified through an intricate process of alchemy.
For a travelogue on Ladakh the surreal Himalayan holiday destination, visit Ladakh Tour.