Your quick guide to Dharamsala
Everything you need to know to make the most of your time in Dharamsala. A wonderful blog shared by our friend, Yoga Instructor and more, Chris. You can find more of his musings here.
Dharamsala is a word that you’ll hear many travellers you come across speak about with fondness. When you arrive in this mountain city of the Himalayas, it’s easy to see why. Green surrounds you from the grass and the myriad of trees descending down valleys and up mountain peaks. This is a sharp contrast to the dusty terrain that covers much of India, and this creates its own special vibe.
You can always visit Dharamsala
Be warned that the weather can change very quickly. The sun may be smiling one hour and the heavens pouring down furiously the next. But those storms can make for some epic lightning shows and the rain supports all the green around you.
Dharamsala is split up into three main areas for tourists, each with a slightly different vibe.
This is the central hub of Dharamsala with many shops and restaurants and views of the distant snow covered mountain peaks.
Lung Ta Japanese Restaurant: This is one of my favourite restaurants in all of India. The menu is all vegetarian and there are daily specials for each day of the week, from sushi to tofu steak with a variety of delicious accompaniments. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time before they close as there will likely be a wait for a table to open up. Definitely a must try while in Dharamsala.
Cinema: There is a small cinema showing both Tibetan movies and new releases. They show a few movies each day and post a weekly schedule on the notice boards.
Third Eye Tattoo: If you’re looking to get a tattoo done there are many artists in Dharamsala. I got one done by my friend KD at Third Eye Tattoo and can’t recommend him highly enough. KD is very helpful and friendly, the studio is very hygienic, and most importantly the resulting artwork is amazing.
The areas of Bhagsu and Dharamkot are around a 20 minute walk from McLeodganj. Bhagsu typically has a wide range of tourists filling its restaurants. If you want more solitude I suggest finding a guesthouse in Upper Bhagsu. The higher up the mountain you go, the less noise there is.
Keep in mind this will add a small hike to anywhere you are going, but the views and sense of peace is well worth it. There’s a public pool a few minutes’ walk from the main area of town so you can cool off during hot days.
While in Bhagsu you will see bright gold little boxes everywhere. They are the wrapping for the infamous Bhagsu cake, invented at the Singh Corner restaurant. This delicious blend of chocolate, caramel, and cookie crust is highly addictive and only 30 rupees for normal version (white chocolate and peanut butter additions are a bit more).
This little hangout is truly unique in that all of the food is by donation. A set menu involving a tasty soup, salad, and sandwich is offered as well as some vegan options. Eat as much as you like and pay what you think appropriate, all proceeds go to benefiting a great cause to help children in need.
Located just across the valley from Bhagsu is Dharamkot. Dharamkot is very similar to Bhagsu. Head up the mountain to Upper Dharamkot if you’re looking for privacy. This area is a haven for Israelis as conversations in Hebrew pour out of many great restaurants.
Be prepared to witness breathtaking sights like these around you!
The Trimurti Garden is a great place to grab a healthy bite to eat. They have really good kombucha and vegan cakes available and a nice communal area to enjoy the garden.
The Bone and Body Clinic
Many people come to Dharmsala for chiropractic work from Ringo and his staff. People suffering from back pain and spinal issues speak very highly of the clinic and often stay months to work on alleviating chronic issues.
Tashita offers 10 day introduction to Buddhism courses as well as different Buddhist and mindfulness related retreats. You can join daily meditation by donation Monday-Saturday at 09:30 hrs.
Buddhist Monastery (Photo Credit – Ashish Gupta)
Things to do
Trek to Triund
Triund is the most famous destination in the area and rightly so. A slightly long hike up the mountains is rewarded with splendid views. Snow-capped mountains, rolling hills, and tiny houses spread out before you for kilometres at an end. There is a truly special energy to this area.
You can hike an additional 45 minutes to the snowline and have yourself a snowball fight. Camp out overnight underneath the stars (or rent a tent or a guesthouse). You can hike up the mountain and be back by mid-afternoon, and fuel yourself with some hot chai on the way!
Camping in Dharamshala
There are two waterfalls nearby, one close to Bagsu and another on the opposite side of the mountain from Triund. The first will take around 15 minutes to reach from Bagsu and is quite small but has a pool at the base you can submerge yourself in.
The latter is about 1-1.5 hours from Dharamkot. While it doesn’t have a large sheer drop, you can follow the river up for a long time towards the mountains. You will find large rocks and many pools of shockingly cold water along the way. A very nice way to spend the day in nature.
Courses and Yoga
Just check the posters around town to see what workshops are being offered. There are many music schools if you’d like to learn bansuri (Indian flute), sitar, drums, or how to sing.
Thai chi, yoga, crystal healing, and everything in between are going on weekly so keep your eyes open for anything that draws your interest. There are also a few schools offering yoga teacher trainings (such as Trimurti Yoga and Sarvaguna Yoga, which also offers meditation trainings).
Sand Mandala by Monks (Photo Credit – Jasleen Kaur)
Dharamsala is an easy place to connect with nature and meet many interesting people. There’s always new classes and workshops going on every week and amazing views every day, although it can rain heavily for days at a time. You can meet the Dalai Lama, who calls Dharamsala his home in exile from Tibet.
If you are a hardcore nature buff, make sure to explore other parts of Himachal Pradesh as well such as the Parvati Valley and Manali.
Dharamsala allows you to choose whether to hang out all day in a cafe surrounded by interesting peopleor to find peace and quite in the mountainside. It also provides you with a variety of interesting activities. If you’re looking for guidance for Dharamsala, get in touch with us!
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