Tibet's other cousin

15th Feb 2014
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 1/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
The arrival
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 2/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Bridge to Nisargadhama
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 3/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Sunshine is the best filter
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 4/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Gurgling stream
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 5/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Soaking in the peace
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 6/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Walk of the monks
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 7/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Chilly pork
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 8/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
The way of life in Bylakuppe
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 9/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 10/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
The beauty
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 11/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Early mornings
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 12/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
The ornate arches
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 13/14 by Debarati Dasgupta
Counting my prayers
Photo of Tibet's other cousin 14/14 by Debarati Dasgupta

Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh is known to all as Tibet’s cousin and has been the travel destination for those looking for peace in the monasteries. But the country of the Dalai Lama also has a lesser known cousin in Bylakuppe.

Bylakuppe was among the first refugee camps set up in South India to shelter the thousands of exiled Tibetans. Today, more than 20,000 Tibetans live here, making it South India's largest Tibetan settlement. Bylakuppe is situated on the SH 88 and is well-connected to most of the major cities in south India, the closest being Mysore. It houses two Tibetan refugee settlements that have now grown into this beautiful town. It is easily accessible by bus and can be covered entirely on foot.

The walk to the settlement camps is picturesque and evokes an indescribable feeling of lightness. The long rows of fluttering Tibetan prayer flags on the meandering roads, and the monks and nuns walking past give you the feeling of having been transported to another country. The purity of the air is to be devoured. It’s almost like a hill station, minus the crowd and the hills. The houses are distinct and spread out. Some of the families have small restaurants in their backyard that serve the most authentic Tibetan food.

 Bylakuppe welcomes you with its ornate arches at the entrances and lush fields of maize. The area within the settlement has numerous monasteries. Few autos ply the roads to carry the weary traveller. This town is perfect to lay back and blend in with their pace of life. 

If you're travelling on a budget, the Sera Jey Guest House is the place to be. It is probably the quietest place to stay in and is safe even for solo female travellers. The guest house has both single and double accommodations at a nominal charge. The profits from the guesthouses in the settlements help fund the hospital and school here.
Nisargadhama is a breathtakingly beautiful island formed by the river Kaveri in Kushalnagara and is about half an hour away from Bylakuppe in an auto. It is accessible through a hanging rope bridge and has abundant foliage of thick bamboo groves, sandalwood and teak trees. You can take a tour through the forest or just lay back on the rocks dotting the river. It also has a children's playground, an orchidarium, and a forest department-run guest house.
This is the most famous monastery in the region and is situated in Camp 4 of the settlement. It houses the spectacular Golden Temple with its majestic gold plated statue of Buddha.You can sit and meditate or just marvel at the intricate wall paintings and architecture of the temples. The best time to visit this temple is during the early morning prayers when the sunshine filters in, giving this place an ethereal charm, and the chants of the monks transports you to another world.