Dharamshala, locally spelled as Dharamsala, is a winter wonderland and home to the 14th Dalai Lama of the Tibetan Buddhism. Recently, on 19th January 2017, the city was named the second state capital of Himachal Pradesh. The Tibetan settlement in Dharamshala started in 1959, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled Tibet; the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, gave him and his followers permission to settle in the upper part of Dharamshala, known as McLeod Ganj, which was a former colonial summer vacation spot. The refugees readily established their “Government in Exile” in 1960. The famous Namgyal Monastery was also constructed later during the year. This hill station is the epitome of peace, religious secularism and natural beauty.
How to reach Dharamshala
• Dharamshala By Air
– One can get to Dharamshala either by flying to Chandigarh and then taking the road, or flying directly to the Kangra Airport, which is in Gaggal. Gaggal is 8 km from Kangra and 12 km from Dharamshala. The Kangra Airport is one of India’s highest constructed airports. The take-offs and landings here are as good as curated flying experiences, with high rolling hills and snow covered peaks around. Certain domestic carriers operate direct flights to Dharamshala, although from Dharamshala, they fly only to Delhi.
• Dharamshala By Rail
– The nearest major railway station to Dharamshala is at Pathankot, 85 kilometres away from the city, where numerous trains towards Jammu and Kashmir halt. Once at Pathankot, one can find regular buses and taxies towards Dharamshala. Kangra Mandir Railway Station is the closest to Dharamshala, about 22 kilometres from the town, although none of the important trains halt here.
• Dharamshala By Road
– Dharamshala is well linked to adjacent states through a network of national highways and expressways. One can easily drive or take a bus from Delhi via Chandigarh, Kiratpur and Bilaspur, which should take around 12–13 hours. Delhi and Shimla offer luxury bus services that ply regularly to Dharamshala. This is also a great option for solo travellers.
What to do in Dharamshala
In Dharamshala, walk among thick Deodar Cedar forests, with the beautiful Dhauladhar Ranges in the backdrop. Do the Triund trek or go parasailing at Bir Billing. Given the Tibetan settlement in these parts of the state, the food and culture have a lot of Tibetan influence, which is a stark contrast to any other hill station in India. The city receives both domestic and foreign tourists. Dharamshala also has a Vipassana Centre, often visited by those who seek inner peace and enlightenment. The Buddhist Losar Festival takes place in February or March, which is one of the more festive and lively periods to visit Dharamshala. From March to mid-July, the summers are in full swing at Dharamshala. And as hard as it may seem to believe, the temperatures at the hill station go up to anywhere between 22°C and 35°C. But the summers are also the perfect time to trek up to Triund, or hike up the surrounding scenic trails. However, as it is a tourist season, the place will be crowded. During the monsoons, from mid-July to mid-September, one can enjoy the lush greenery of the hills, with the rainfall making everything all the more beautiful. This is also, however, a peak time for landslides; hence, one can expect regular roadblocks. From September onwards, the weather becomes clear and pleasant; however, the evenings become chilly. But this is also off-season, and a great time to explore the place without the thronging crowds. Winters make Dharamshala look white-washed. From December until February, one can enjoy freezing temperatures and the sights of snow-white mountains. The temperatures then tend to go below -1 °C; it is advisable to carry lots of woollens and enough protection against chilly winds. Dharamshala, known for its characteristic mix of the Kangra and Tibetan culture, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in India. The place is also nicknamed “Little Lhasa” because of the huge number of Tibetan settlement in the area. The following places are a must-see in this area.
• Tsuglagkhang Complex
• Namgyal Monastery
• Masrur Temples
• McLeod Ganj
• Kareri Lake
• Gyuto Monastery
• Dal Lake, Kangra
• Other attractions include Bhagsunag Temple, Jwalamukhi Devi Temple, Norbulingka Institute, and Tea gardens.
Major Airports in and near Dharamshala
The main airport in Dharamshala is the Kangra Airport, where all flights to Dharamshala and from Dharamshala operate; it is located in Gaggal, which is near the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. MakeMyTrip offers a wide range of flights to Dharamshala. One can easily use the website to book a flight to Dharamshala or from Dharamshala, with the major airport being a hub to domestic and international airlines. MakeMyTrip flights to Dharamshala can be availed at highly discounted rates during festivals and off seasons.