According to traditional etymology, Dharamshala translates to 'spiritual dwelling'. The calm expanse of the Dhauladhar Ranges enveloping this city grants it a rich history of spirituality and attracts thousands of travellers from around the globe, looking for that very bliss. Homestead of the Dalai Lama and innumerable other Tibetans, Dharamshala boasts of beautiful monasteries all around, such as those within the Tsuglagkhang Complex, which also houses the Tibetan Leader's official residence. Other attractions include the Kalachakra Temple, which houses some hypnotisingly beautiful murals, the Tibet Museum and the Namgyal Gompa, where monks can be seen engaged in animated debates in the afternoon. Apart from the spirituality, this charming little city also hosts International Film festivals, local fairs, Shoton Spring Festival and the vibrant Tibetan Opera- 'Lhamo. The city is usually dormant with regard to adventurous activities, but for those thrill seekers and nature lovers around, an adrenaline rush always awaits them. Some resorts provide opportunities for paragliding, flying fox, rock climbing, zip lining, rappelling and even night camping. Treks through the magical hills and forests are always invaluable, the most cherished one being, the trek to the snowy peaks of Triund. Dharamshala's vast Tibetan population gives way to charming little kitchen cafes serving the most lip smacking Tibetan dishes, that too at very affordable prices (below Rs 500 for two). Dishes such as thenthuk, thukpa, chocolate and meat medallions are a huge hit with most travellers that have visited and sought refuge in this city's mystical spread.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Dharamshala is from March to June
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257 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,August,September,October,November,December
A quick getaway destination for Delhi-NCR residents, Mussoorie or the 'Queen of Hills' is the most favoured place for anyone battling urban heat. It remains quite crowded from May to July, as popular hotels and hangouts such as Mall Road, Mussoorie Lake, Kempty Falls and Gun Hill remain pervaded with tourists no matter where or what you may set your eyes upon. But if you carry the spirit of an explorer within you, Mussoorie can surprise you in many ways. For instance, if you curious to check out where the man who Mt. Everest is named after, once lived, you can reach the house and laboratory through a picturesque 4 km walk from Library Bazaar or Gandhi Chowk. Ditch the customary visit to Kempty Falls and take an uplifting trek to the quiet, serene and crystal clear Jharipani Falls instead. Mussoorie, when mist free, provides frame-worthy views of the Himalayan ranges, which can be enjoyed at points such as Lal Tibba, Nag Tibba and Camel Back Road, all of which need to be trekked or walked to, with the effort being worthwhile. Devalsari, a village quietly burrowed 55 km away from Mussoorie, is the gateway to the Nag Tibba trek and a location perfect for seeing beautiful butterflies and birds in the heart of nature. For those curious to delve into Himalayan life, history, art, culture and spirituality, Soham Heritage and Art Centre gives exquisite displays of the former, through various artefacts. As for foodies, restaurants such as Neelam, Imperial Square, Meeting Point Cafe and Casa Mia bakery do justice to North Indian, European and Tibetan cuisines and also offer delicious cafe knick knacks and drinks.
81 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - February,March,April,October
The land from where once an ancient trade route to China would be embarked on, Manali is an abode for modern creativity now as much as it for withdrawal and adventure in the majestic mountains. From offering hostels, hotels, co-working spaces to the cave where once Arjun, the Pandava king had supposedly meditated (Arjun Gufa), Manali is no less than a global village. The mighty Himalayas have inspired many foreign settlements here, giving rise to popular European and Israeli cafes, restaurants and hostels, providing one a consortium of around the world cultures. This town is a true haven for adventure junkies who can indulge in river rafting, paragliding, camping, rock climbing, rappelling, zorbing at Solang Valley and Aleo. Manali has an array of breathtaking treks and sights for its nature lovers, for instance the Patalsu Peak, the Deo Tibba basecamp, Jogini Falls and the Rahala Falls. For all the solo riders out there, cruise your way through the snowy alley of Rohtang Pass while those who wish to travel back in time, can indulge in the exquisite display of culture and heritage at the Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art. Restaurants and cafes such as the Khyber Pass, Johnson's Cafe, La Plage, Drifters' Inn, The Hangout attract foodies for their culinary justice to everything from Thai to European cuisines and even some live music. If all this is too over the top for you, then reconnect with simplicity at Naggar Village, which is home to waterfalls, a beautiful castle, an art gallery and locals which have many stories to share and a cultural heritage to take pride in.
266 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - March,April,May,October,November
Dehradun is easily one of the most popular hill stations in India. Though easily accessible by all modes of transportation, taking the road would be the best way to experience this heaven. The drive will take you through dense forests on the hilly road and if you're lucky, you might even see a wild elephant or leopard pass you by. The fresh and dewy hill air will infiltrate your lungs and put you in a great mood right away. In terms of things to see, there is Robber's Cave, a river cave formation and Sahashtradhara, which is also a stunning sight of nature consisting of sulphur springs. But more than its sights, Dehradun is the perfect place for a family getaway. After all it has everything that you could need for a relaxing holiday. The town has many vintage bookshops (Natraj Publishers, The English Book Depot), college campuses with hilly backdrops, architectural marvels (such as the Forest Research Institute), alleys filled with quaint restaurants, adventure sports gear shops and forest resorts and hotels to fit every budget. Vishranti, a resort tucked away discreetly in the Sal forests of the Doon valley, deserves a special mention for its beauty and luxury. The city is a haven for foodies as Dehradun offers a lot of variety and affordability in its cuisine. Restaurants and cafes such as Doon Darbar, renowned for devour-worthy Mughlai dishes and The Buffet for its mouthwatering burgers, cutlets and coffee, are popular options.
300 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - March,April,September,October,November
This city has been a refuge for spiritual seekers long before The Beatles christened it with their visit in the 60's. Widely known as the pilgrimage town and also the 'yoga capital of the world', Rishikesh is home to myriad temples, yoga and meditation centres and a plethora of adventure activities. With an interesting backdrop of the rapid flowing Ganges river and iron-made suspension bridges (Laxman Jhula and Ram Jhula), the city has also been a popular hub for travellers and backpackers alike. When it comes to food and drinks, Rishikesh remains a strict teetotaller and a vegetarian, even though you might find with great exploratory skills, a few restaurants not adhering to the prohibition. Some great restaurants and cafes include Little Buddha Cafe where you can enjoy your meals in a treehouse-style ambience. Rishikesh provides a spectacular treat to the eyes and music to the ears during sunrise and sunset, as sadhus (priests), pilgrims and tourists all around, prepare for the routine 'Ganga Aarti' with temple bells resonating all around and innumerable diyas or small clay pot lit lamps dancing over the river Ganga to that reverberating music, as religious offerings. Rishikesh warmly welcomes thrill seekers, who can try out a number of activities such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, kayaking, zip lining, mountain biking and rappelling. The city also annually hosts the International Yoga Festival where yoga gurus, aficionados and devotees from around the globe throng the place (popularly the Parmarth Niketan Ashram) and give various lessons and lectures on yoga, meditation and spirituality.
172 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - August,September,October,November
A perfect combination of ancient and urban, this city has been deemed the most futuristic in the country, while also having been occupied by the Harappan civilisation almost 8,000 years ago. In fact, BBC has named Chandigarh as a perfect city with regard to its cultural growth, modernisation and architecture. Nek Chand Rock Garden is a unique and fascinating site, built solely by a man (after whom the garden is named), who used remnants from various demolition sites (particularly the debris while Chandigarh itself was being built) and a whole lot of scrap to build 2000 sculptures, statues, all integrated on walled paths, wherein one can also see man-made interlinked waterfalls. A short walk away from there is the artificial Sukhna lake, a landmark for families to relax and walk around while enjoying street food and keeping kids busy with quaint toys bought from vendors all around. Pertaining to Le Corbusier's (chief architect of the city) vision of Chandigarh being a garden city, Rose Garden is home to over 1,500 varieties of rose and the Garden of Fragrance is perfect for those mind-refreshing walks. Popular places to visit for an insight into Chandigarh and the entire country's history through various artworks are the Government Museum & Art Gallery and the Chandigarh Architecture Museum. Being one of the top four metro cities of the country, Chandigarh has a bustling food scene, home to every cuisine you can think of right from Mediterranean (Kelong, Virgin Courtyard) to Thai (Tao- Bar & Lounge). Some popular places for Punjabi dishes are Punjab Grill and Sher-e- Punjab. Chandigarh is also close to many hill stations such as Solan, Kasauli, Shoghi and Naldehra.
161 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - April,May,June,October
Chail has slowly gained popularity as a weekend getaway in Himachal. Away from the chaos of Shimla, this lovely town is home to the highest cricket ground in the world (a great sight even if you are not a cricket fan). The popular Chail Palace built by the Maharaja of Patiala is the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon. Do carry a picnic basket since food here is slightly expensive. Unlike Shimla, Chail is a quiet town without a mall road or fancy restaurants. What you will certainly get here is a variety of homestays to choose from and delicious dhaba food. For adventure enthusiasts, there are tons of trekking routes; some of the more popular ones are Kandaghat – Chail, Chail – Rajgarh and Chur Chandni and Chail – Shimla via Junga. Do ask the locals before planning your trekking routes since they know the area the best.
147 Kms from Dharamshala
Best time to visit - January,February,March,April,May,June,October,November,December
Once known as Shyamala, synonymous with Goddess Kali, Shimla has been a summer retreat long before India even gained independence. This famous hill station similarly has a lot of places and things to see untouched by time. For instance, take a vintage joy ride from Kalka station to Shimla in a charming toy train that will take you through towering Deodars, hills and villages. Shimla truly comes alive during winters when a blanket of snow covers it all over making every nook and corner gleam and glisten. One such place is the ice skating rink (natural ice) near Lakkar Bazaar that opens from November to December. More winter sports include skiing, which can be enjoyed 21 km from Shimla in Kufri. Adventure activities such as rafting at Tattapani or a trek to Shali Tibba and Pabbar Valley are also worthwhile experiences. If you are fond of haunted stories and interested in having your own spooky adventure, you'll love Shimla. A lot of people including the renowned Rudyard Kippling (in 'My Own True Ghost Story) have written various eerie stories set around Shimla. A place known most for giving many people the jeepers-creepers is the Charleville Mansion. Another time travelling portal is the antique bookstore, Marina Brothers, located on Mall Road, which is truly a reader and collector's paradise. There are many luxury and budget hotels here, meaning you'll never fall short of options. Popular places to eat include Wake & Bake, Ashiana, Cecil and Minchy's that serve commendable Indian and multi-cuisine dishes and delicious gourmet food.