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Dharamshala: The little Lhasa in India

Dharamshala: The little Lhasa in India
November 29
14:33 2019

Dharamsala, a hill station in the state Himachal Pradesh, is famous for its steep valleys and cedar trees. It is a popular holiday spot among families, backpackers and foreigners.

Dharamsala is famed as the holy residence of the Dalai Lama and houses the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile. Dharamsala is located in Kangra district at a distance of 18km from Kangra City. The city is distinctively separated as upper and lower divisions with different altitudes. The lower division is the Dharamsala town itself whereas the upper division is popularly known as McLeodganj.

This is situated on the upper hilly stretch of land of Kangra Valley which is placed just against the picturesque scene of Dhauladhar ranges. Being a Tibetan hub, Dharamsala is considered to be one of the best places to learn and explore Buddhism and Tibetan Culture.


Library of Tibetan Works and Archives

With artefacts and manuscripts that date back to the 12th century, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is one of the pioneering institutions in the study and research of Buddhism. It has as many as 80,000 manuscripts, 600 Buddhist artefacts including beautifully crafted silk applique thangkas and a three dimensional, wood carved mandala of the Avalokiteshwara, one of the most revered and compassionate Bodhisattva in Buddhism. With an air of peace and serenity descending upon people who visit the museum, it is indeed a calming experience to visitors of this offbeat museum in India.

Cricket Stadium

Dharamshala Cricket Stadium

Dharamshala Cricket Stadium

Nestled in the lap of the majestic Himalayan mountain range lies the quaint little Dharamshala Cricket Stadium. Located at the height of 1,457 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest sports grounds in the world.

Visiting a cricket stadium while in Dharamshala may sound like a strange thing to add to one’s itinerary, but the magnificent natural backdrop and the cool winds constantly drifting across the ground is what makes a trip to HPCA Stadium (as it is also known) worth it. Indigo skies, an eternal stream of the fresh mountain breeze, and the vast expanse of lush green field offer a sensory experience like no other. With a view comparable to the Adelaide Oval or Newlands, this stadium competes with the best in terms of its magnificence.

Dharamshala International Film Festival

One of the leading independent film festivals of the county is the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) which is held every year in November. The festival is for both filmmakers and volunteers and also travellers from far and wide.

Apart from being a celebration of art and strong independent cinema, the DIFF also makes for the perfect break from Indian summers. Showcasing the best of Indian and international cinema, the DIFF provides a platform for hitherto unknown artists to take centre stage. With strong themes that resonate with the audience, this one’s a not miss for film lovers.

St John in the Wilderness Church

St John in the Wilderness, built-in 1852, is one of the most important churches in Himachal Pradesh. Located near Dharamshala and on the way to McLeodganj, this neo-gothic church was built in dedication to John the Baptist. Set amidst lush deodar forests, this peaceful edifice is known for its Belgian stained-glass windows.  

The eccentric church was built in dense woods which is why it is famous as ‘St John in the Wilderness’. One of the oldest built structures of Dharamsala, this is also the final resting place of Lord Ergin, one of the governors-general and also viceroy of India during the British Raj. This St John in the Wilderness Church should not be confused with the church of the same name located in Nainital, Uttarakhand.

War Memorial

The War Memorial in Dharamshala, seating ideally in the in forests of the hill town, is created to commemorate the memory of those who fought for saving our motherland. During the Indo-China War of 1947-48, 1962, 1965, and 1971, and UN Peace Operations, many brave soldiers of Kangra lost their lives as war heroes, and the War Memorial in Dharamshala, made of three huge panels of black stone (each 24 feet high), preserves their memory in stone.

The War Memorial is surrounded by poetic pine forests of Dharamshala, leading to the lush gardens through a quaint walkway. Look out for the names of the martyred soldiers etched on the stone panels. You can have some refreshments from the nearby cafe serving snacks, and visit the GPC College which is situated close by.

Gyuto Monastery

Gyuto Monastery

Gyuto Monastery

Popularly known for the study of Tantric meditation and philosophy, the Gyuto Monastery is one of the beautiful and popular monasteries located in Dharamshala. It was founded in India in 1959 and was established for preserving and promoting the tradition of Black Magic, popularly known as Tantric Teachings, of the great teacher Tsongkhapa.

The glorious monastery has helped in depicting how, unlike popular belief, black magic can be used for the well-being of the people. The Gyuto Monastery is beautifully constructed on a hilltop with a commanding view of the Dhauladhar ranges and the Beas river from there. A beautiful gold-plated statue of Lord Buddha is situated on the premises of the temple which glistens when the rays of the sun fall on it early morning. Plenty of tourists and Buddhists come to the resplendent Gyuto Monastery to witness the quiet and serene monastery which is one of the delights of Dharamshala.


The best time to visit Dharamshala is between February to June (spring and summer) when the weather is pleasant with a maximum temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. Winters here are frigid with occasional snowfalls; however, it makes the valley look much more beautiful. Monsoons (July-early September) can be avoided as it might hamper your travel plans, but this place does not receive very heavy rainfall unlike other parts of Himachal and Uttarakhand.


By air: The nearest airport is Gaggal Airport in Kangra Valley which is 15 km away from Dharamsala. Taxi/cab services are available from the airport. International travellers have to reach Delhi Airport and then board a domestic flight to reach Dharamshala.

By road: Buses are easily available connecting Dharamshala to the nearby cities. Direct private buses are available from Delhi which is 520 km away.

By train: The nearest railway station is Kangra Mandir at a distance of 22 km from Dharamsala. The major railway junction, though, is Pathankot which is 85 km away.

Local transport: Commuting within Dharamshala is not tough though. Taxis and Buses are available easily. Buses are cheaper option for travelling. There are taxi stands available here. Once you reach MclLeodganj, it can be explored on foot. Walking from McLeodganj to Bhagsu won’t be very difficult either.



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