Dharamshala is a hill station located about 17 km north-east of Kangra town in Himachal Pradesh. Dharamshala, the gateway to the Kangra valley, is also the headquarters of the Kangra district. Dharamshala is located at a distance of 239 km from Chandigarh, 252 km from Manali, 322 km from Shimla and 514 km from New Delhi.
Located in the backdrop of the snow clad Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas, Dharamshala is the principal township of Kangra District. The city succumbed to a massive earthquake in the year 1905 and was reconstructed to become a health resort and a popular tourist destination.
Dharamshala consists of two distinct parts – Lower Dharamsala and Upper Dharamshala. Lower Dharamsala is a bustling civil and commercial centre whereas Upper Dharamshala retains a colonial lifestyle with its British – modeled suburbs of McLeodganj and Forsythganj.
The hill station of Dharamshala is covered by thick woods of oak and coniferous trees and it is enfolded on its three sides by the Dhauladhar ranges. The peculiar geographical location of Dharamshala offers views of the snow capped Dhauladhar range above and the Kangra valley below.
The rich cultural, artistic and historical past of Kangra valley is evident from the galleries of Kangra Art Museum where various artifacts are displayed, which can be dated back to the 5th century. Miniature paintings, sculptures, pottery, coins, jewelry, royal attire, manuscripts, etc. are on display here.
In the year 1960, Dharamshala became a temporary headquarters to the Noble Laureate His Holiness the 'Dalai Lama'. Now, Dharamshala is internationally acclaimed as ‘The Little Lhasa in India’. With a number of Tibetan settlements and the residence of the 'Dalai Lama', Dharamshala has truly become ‘the land of the lamas’.
McLeodganj of Dharamshala has become the educational and religious centre of Tibetan Buddhism. McLeodganj consists of scores of Buddhist Gompas (monasteries, nunneries and learning centres) and ancient Hindu and Jain temples. Famous for the Tibetan culture and crafts, McLeodganj has become the hub of traditional Tibetan handicrafts, thangkas, carpets, garments, etc.
Things to do in Dharamshala
Dharamshala has a lot to offer ranging from ancient temples, churches and monasteries to museums and ancient towns. The ancient temples of Jawalamukhi, Brijeshwari and Chamunda, the Church of St. John in the Wilderness, War Memorial, Kangra Art Museum and the shopping centre of Kotwali Bazar are some of the prime tourist attractions. A trek through the landscaped township of Dharamshala with views of snowy peaks, deodar and pine forests, tea gardens and beautiful hills has become a popular activity.
The best time to visit Dharamshala is from September to October and again from March to June. The summer months are best suited for activities like sightseeing and trekking. Those who love snow can visit the region in December/January when there is heavy snowfall and the Himalayas are covered in snow. However, temperatures go well below 0⁰ Celsius, so adequate protection should be taken. Another good time to visit is during the festival of Drukpa Teshi, which is held in August/September.
Travelling to Dharamshala
Dharamshala is connected by air, road and railways. The nearest airport is at Kangra valley, at a distance of 15 km and has connections to Delhi Airport which is well connected domestically and internationally. Taxis are available from the Kangra valley airport to reach Dharamshala. By bus, it is reachable from Delhi and other nearby cities. The nearest railhead is 22 km away at Kangra Mandir. However, the nearest major railhead with connections across the country is Pathankot, 85 km away.
Accommodation options in Dharamshala
Accommodation options in Dharamsala can be classified into budget, mid-range and luxury hotels. Tourits can avail hotels suiting their budget.