Dharamsala Travel Guide
Tibet is the homeland of the Dalai Lama. At least, it used to be before the Chinese seized control approximately 70 years ago. When this happened, the religious leader and thousands of fellow Tibetans fled to India, fearing persecution.
India granted them asylum, and so, this community of Tibetans settled in a place known as Dharamsala. Here, you’ll find attractions related to Tibetan Buddhism, and all the mountain scenery and activities you can handle.
Come check out our Dharamsala travel guide for gonzo travellers as we cover the best things to do in Dharamsala, India.
Dharamsala is home to many attractions, but none hold a candle to the Dalai Lama Temple. Named in honour of His Holiness, he delivers sermons here 2-3 times per year.
If the Dalai Lama isn’t around, there is still plenty to do. Don’t miss the morning ritual, nor the many statues of the Buddha and various Bodhisattvas.
Finally, its location in the hill station of Mcleodganj means spectacular mountain scenery is everywhere. Photographers will have a field day snapping temple shots with snow-capped peaks in the background.
Make the Norbulingka Institute your next stop. Established in 1995, the preservation of Tibetan culture is its mission. It takes its name from Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai Lama in Tibet.
It trains Tibetans in the arts and traditions of their ancestors, creating a bridge to employment for the disadvantaged. Tours are available Monday through Saturday. In them, you’ll see creative works the Chinese attempted to stamp out when they invaded Tibet in the 1950s.
Still in the mood to see more Buddhism-related attractions? Then make room in your itinerary for the Gyuto Monastery. Known as a centre for the practice of Tantrism, it attracts pilgrims from all over India and the world.
You may get a chance to witness monks practising the art of Tantric meditation. If not, the surrounding peaks of the Himalayas and an imposing Shakyamuni Buddha will make this stop worthwhile. If possible, try to time your visit during the Buddha Purnima festival. The temple decorations, cultural shows, and delicious Tibetan food will make your time here magical.
As you may know, Buddhism isn’t the dominant religion in India – Hinduism is. While the former faith has many adherents in Dharamsala, the Masroor Rock Cut Temple uncovers its Hindu past. While parts of this 8th-9th century complex are in ruins, visitors can see the resemblance to other prominent Hindu temples. This group includes Angkor Wat, despite it being more than 4,000 kilometres away.
Despite being ravaged by the elements over more than a millennia, its components are in great shape. Its inner sanctum, water features, and intricate carvings all explain why it is being considered for recognition by UNESCO.
Want to take in the sights of the Himalayas without committing to a full-fledged mountaineering expedition? Go on a day trek to Triund Hill. After taking a taxi to Galu Devi Temple, you’ll find a trail leading to the wilderness.
From here, it will take 3-5 hours to access one of the most mind-blowing views you’ve ever seen. If you have the gear, it is possible to stay overnight – many stay to acclimatize for mountain treks. Avoid it in January-February (cold and snowy) and July-August (monsoon season) – spring is best for views of snow-capped peaks.
Are you looking for a more leisurely trek during a summer visit to Dharamsala? Dedicate a day to Bhagsu Waterfall. This 30-foot cascade is a favourite cool-off spot for tourists and locals during the summer. As a result, it gets busy on weekends and holidays. If crowds bother you, try visiting on a weekday. Otherwise, you take in its majesty from a nearby tea stand.
Watch a game of India’s most loved sport at HPCA Stadium. Backed by a dramatic Himalayan mountain range, it is a spectacular place to take in a cricket match. In the past, the national team has held tests against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Australia here.
If you are not fortunate enough to catch one of these games, local clubs clash here regularly. Soon after arriving in Dharamsala, inquire about tickets so you can attend a match.
Don’t have the stamina for the trek to Triund Hill? No matter – travel to Naddi View Point instead! It is more accessible than Triund, as it is only three kilometres by road from Mcleodganj. After grabbing some chai from a stand in Naddi Village, make your way to the vantage point.
Here, you’ll see snowy peaks, deep valleys, and fragrant pine forest all around you. With trailheads that lead back to Mcleodganj, Triund, and Dharamkot, it is an excellent place for hikers as well.