I Spent 48 Hours in Dharamshala and Fell In Love with It. Here's My Story.

Tripoto

Located in Kangra Valley, Dharamshala is a town that is the seat of rich Buddhist and Tibetan culture. A town unlike any other in the plains, Dharamshala provides impressive, imposing views of the mighty snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges and is a must-visit. Here’s how I spent 48 hours in the magical town and came back more rejuvenated than ever before.

Day 1

0900hrs

Image credit: Saumiabee

Photo of Norbulingka institute, Sidhpur, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

Image credit: Saumiabee

Photo of Norbulingka institute, Sidhpur, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

I started off my day with a trip to Norbulingka Institute, which is a centre created for the preservation of Tibetan art and culture. Norbulingka is a 20 minute drive away from Dharamshala and is a haven enveloped in the middle of the city. Norbulingka seems like another world all together. From its decorated gates to a beautifully manicured landscape, the institute is rife with Tibetan art, colourful prayer flags and chortens. Going on an empty stomach here was a brilliant decision, because Norling Cafe, the institute’s outdoor cafe, serves delicious continental food. As I walked along, immersing myself in its beauty, I joined a free guided tour that took me to a wood-carving workshop, weaving workshop and the Thangka painting workshop. The temple within the institute was especially peaceful and instantly transported me into a meditative mode. Visitors can stay at their Norling Guest House at the cost of ₹3000 and dine at their restaurant or opt for their buffet lunch.

1230hrs

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Gyuto Monastery, Gopalpur, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

I then headed to Gyuto Monastery which was a 10 minute drive from Norbulingka Institute. This is a massive monastery to which the Dhauladhar ranges form an enchanting backdrop. The monks here are said to practice tantric Buddhism. The temple within the monastery’s complex is renowned for its massive Buddha statue which is visited by believers from around the world.

1300hrs

I headed to my hotel for a short nap, lunch, and prepared myself for round 2 of sightseeing!

1530hrs

Image credit: Saumiabee

Photo of Kangra Fort, Old Kangra, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

After covering a distance of 24km, I reached my next destination, the majestic Kangra Fort that has an equally impressive history. This is the oldest fort in India, and was once, also the largest before its eight-storied structure was destroyed by a massive earthquake. I took an audio-guide at the entrance and walked around the fort, listening to stories of various battles and conquests that were fought here. The fort was besieged 54 times, starting from Md. Gaznavi, then Alexander the Great, Jahangir and finally the British. The fort is also known for Maa Ambika Temple which is believed to be the oldest temple in India.

1830hrs

Image credit: Saumiabee

Photo of Australian valley, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

I spotted an unbelievably beautiful valley called Australian Valley from the top of Kangra Valley and decided to explore it. It was a delightful drive, with the river on one side, and lush green grasslands on the other.

2100hrs

After an entire day of delving into Tibetan culture and Kangra’s history, I decided it was time to unwind. So I headed to Blossoms Village Resort that has the only 24x7 rooftop bar and restaurant in all of Dharamshala. Luckily, there was a charity concert, an Indian classical instrumental evening was happening at the resort. It was a delight to sway to the soul-stirring sitar with the Dhauladhar sparkling in the full-moon light. A delicious dinner which was washed down with unique cocktails made for the perfect end to the day.

Day 2

1000hrs

Next morning, I headed to McLeod Ganj, a tourist town that is renowned for being the seat of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I had heard a lot about the Dalai Lama temple, and so headed straight there. Inside the temple, I experienced an inexplicable peace which I later realised was because His Holiness himself was inside, preceding over a meeting with Russian scientists. As he came down, I had the opportunity to see him in person, and I experienced a grace I had never known of before. Saying that it was a magical start to the day is a serious understatement.

1200hrs

I then went shopping for mementos, Tibetan cutlery, Korean noodles and semi-precious jewellery at the temple road market. I visited another temple located right in the middle of the market and then headed for lunch.

I visited Tibet Kitchen, a restaurant located at the main square that serves delicious Tibetan and Indian food. Here I gorged on several plates of momos and thukpa, and felt like my trip to Himachal was finally successful.

1330hrs

From here, I headed to the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts where I interacted with Tibetan refugees who narrated to me heartbreaking tales of the destruction that their cultural heritage has suffered at the hands of the Chinese. Listening to stories of how they fled their motherland, and how generations after them continue doing so was an eye opener for me and everyone else visiting the centre. I also went to the museum that chronicled Tibetan life before the Chinese invasion. This is a must visit for everyone who wants to know more about Tibetan history.

1600hrs

After a quick bite at Woeser Bakery, a tiny cafe in the main market, I headed back to Dharamshala to witness sunset from the valley.

1830hrs

Photo of Khanyara, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

I then drove to Khanyara with a friend I made in McLeod, and watched the golden sun create colourful hues in the sky, dipping everything that it touched with an attractive warmth. It was a sunset that I will never forget.

2030hrs

I headed back to my resort and had dinner in my cute balcony overlooking the ranges. This was my last evening in the town that taught me of histories, cultures and philosophies. Before I returned home, I knew this was not my final goodbye to Dharamshala.

Best time to travel:

Apart from monsoon, any other time of the year is excellent to visit Dharamshala. During April, there’s a nip in the air and the entire mountain blooms red with rhodendron. Summer is sunny with light showers most evenings. During winter, clear blue skies bless the town and reveal a blanket of stars in the night.

Where to stay:

Image credit: Booking.com

Photo of Prakriti Aalay, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India by Saumiabee

Waking up to sounds of a gushing river and snow-clad ranges was the best experience of staying at this resort. The rooms had a rustic setting and I loved my meals with a view. Equipped with all amenities, this was a great place to stay at.

Getting there and around:

Air: The closest airport to Dharamshala is Kangra Airport in Gaggal located 15km away from Dharamshala. This airport is a very small one, with Spice Jet and Air India servicing between Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi and Kangra Airport everyday.

Road: The journey from New Delhi to Dharamshala takes about 10 hours. Take the route: Delhi– Murthal– Sonipat–Panipat– Karnal– Ambala–Anandpur Sahib–Nangal–Una– Kangra– Dharamshala.

Train: Closest station to Dharamshala is Pathankot. Located 82km away, it takes 2.5 hours to journey between the two.

You can head to my Instagram handle to read more stories from my experience in Dharamshala.

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