Set against the backdrop of the dramatic Dhauladhar mountains, Dharamsala is perched on the high slopes in the upper reaches of Kangra Valley. The town is divided into two distinct and widely separated sections, Upper and Lower Dharamsala, which differ almost a thousand metres in height.
Today, Dharamsala has become the synonymous to the Tibetan government in exile and the home of Tibetan leader Dalai Lama. Even if the Tibetan community dominates the town, still it has retained the colonial lifestyle and British fervour.
Dharamsala over looks the plains and is surrounded by dense pine trees and Deodar forests. A nearby snowline with numerous streams and cool healthy atmosphere makes the surroundings very attractive.
Dharamsala is a busy bazaar town and has established itself as the travellers base camp, who come to explore the nearby mountains. The Kotwali Bazaar provides the entire colour and characteristic of a small town, which is mixed with the simple life style.
The colourful temple and Gompas, which reflect the culture of Tibet, adds attraction for the visitor. The Kangra museum gives an overview of the rich past of the region and on the other hand there are institutes that have been established to preserve the Tibetan art, cultures and traditions.
Prime Attractions of Dharamsala
St. John'S Church In Wilderness
7-km upward from Dharamsala, between Forsyth Ganj and Mcleod Ganj lies the charming St. John's Church. It was built in 1852 and is dressed in grey stone with some fine Belgian stained glass windows donated by Lady Elgin. The church is popularly known as the church of St. John in Wilderness.
Chamunda Devi Temple
Not far from Dharamsala is the famous temple of Chamunda Devi. It is an enchanting spot with glorious views of the mountains, the Baner Khud, Pathiar and Lahla forests. 15-km from Dharamshala a tiny village of Dadh on Palampur road is the famous temple dedicated to Goddess Chamunda Devi.
Maharana Pratap Sagar
Named in honour of the great patriot 'Maharana Pratap' (1572 - 97 AD), the Maharana Pratap Sagar was once known as the 'Pong Dam Reservoir'. India knows the 'Maharana' as a man who struggled valiantly for his kingdom of 'Mewar'-as for the principle of independence. In the words of the Chroniclers James Tod and William Crooke, "He spurned every overture that had submission for its basis". Over the river Beas, the "Pong Dam" was completed in 1976. Its reservoir has an area of about 45,0000 hectares at maximum possible flooding - the level varies with every season and averages around 30,000 hectares. Over 2,000 villages with a population of over 85, people are lying along the wetland. THE WILDLIFE SANCTUARY In 1983, the Sagar was declared a wildlife sanctuary and over 2,20 species of bird belonging to 54 families have been sighted over the waters and the fringing mud-banks-these include black - headed gulls, plovers, terns, ducks, water-fowl and egrets. The first sighting in the region of the red-necked grebe, was made at the Sagar. The wetland's location at the head of the Indian plains has made it a suitable habitat and stopover for migratory birds that enter India from Central Asia. The land portion of the sanctuary has barking deer, sambar, wild borars, nilgai, leopards and claw-less others. Twenty-seven species and sub-species of fish belonging to six families have been recorded in the Sagar's waters. Some of the important commercial varieties are - Labeo dero (Gid), Labeo rohita, Labeo Calbasu, Tor putitora (Mahsir), and Mystus seenghala (Singhara). Since 1976, fishing has been a major economic activity in the areas and today, this provides employment to some 1,500 fishermen and the annual catch is valued at over a corore rupees.
Just 4-kms from Dharamsala is Norbulinka. This place has heavy Japanese influence. The Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Culture was founded by the Department of Religion and Culture to preserve and promote Tibetan art and culture in exile
Orginally known as Dhameri, 66-km from Dharamsala and 24-km from Pathankot, Nurpur Fort was renamed by the Emperor Jehangir, son of the Great Moghul Jalal-Ud-Din Mohammad Akbar. The fort is now in its ruins, but still has some finely carved reliefs.
Tsug-Lag-Khang (Central Cathedral)
Though a plain and utilitarian substitute for its far more splendid namesake in Lhasa, also known as the Jokhang, the Tsug-Lag-Khang is nevertheless fascinating and peaceful. Situated opposite the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsug-Lag-Khang is known to the local Indians as the Main Temple.
Situated just 13-kms away from Palampur, lies this dwelling place of artist S.Sobha Singh. It houses a gallery of some of his major works and a pottery center.
Surrounded by high and green Deodar trees is the lake, which fills a mountain bowl. Situated 11-kms away from the town, this lake is easily approachable by road and makes an enchanting and serene picnic spot.
Just 11-km away from Dharamsala, located on the crest of a hill lie this attractive picnic spot, which presents a panoramic view of the Kangra valley and Dauladhar ranges
37 kms from Mangalore on the road to Dharmasthala is the holy place of Karanje, well known for its medieval Shiva temple. Situated on a hill 1,500 ft high, it commands a panoramic view of the surrounding area.
These are the rock temples from which the place derives its name. Kunal pathri is a 3 kms flat walk from Kotwali Bazaar. Lord Elgin's Memorial
After the honors of 1857, India's First War of independence, Queen Victoria assumed the title of Empress of India. Her Prime Minister, Lord Canning made the proclamation and the Governor General's title was raised to that of Viceroy of India.
Moodabidri, 23 kms from Venur described as Jaina Kashi, is known for the 18 bastis, the most famous of them being 'Savira Kambada Basti' (Basti with thousand pillars). Built in 1430 AD, this basti has beautiful monolith columns and priceless collection of jewel-studded metal images of Jain Tirthankaras.
In 1575 Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama, officially founded a monastery, which later came to be known as Namgyal Dratsang (Victorious Monastery). Since its inception, the monastery has assisted the Dalai Lamas in their public religious activities for the welfare of Tibet.
Pong Lake Sanctuary
Pong Dam reservoir is 65-km from Panthankot and 115-km from Dharamsala on the Beas River. The Pong Dam Lake is significant for a wildlife sanctuary with wild life species like Nilgai, Sambar, Barking Deer, Wild Buar, Clawless Otter, and Leapord. The reservoir is developed on a large scale for promoting water sports for tourists.
Venur 30kms from Dharmasthala, is famous for the Gomateshwara statue built in 1605 AD by an Ajila Prince.
Excursions Holiday Package from Dharamshala
Located in district Kangra, 11-km from Dharamsala and surrounded by Deodar trees, Dal Lake is on the motor road to Talnu. Chinmaya Tapovan (10Km.) Just 10-km from the town is the tranquil ashram complex set up by the great exponent of the Gita--Swami Chinmayananda. Situated on the banks of Bindu Saras, the ashram includes a 9m high image of Hanuman, a Ram temple, a meditation hall, a school and a health & recreation center.
Dharamkot is the starting point for the short walks to the high plateau at Triund (2,975m), or further over the high passes to the Chamba valley.
Set amidst a sylvan surrounding is a rest house, located in the cool depths of the pine grove. Surrounded by green open meadows and forests of tall oak & pine at a height of 3250m is situated the picturesque Kareri Lake, which is just 13-km from the rest house and 22- kms from Dharamsala.
Tatwani & Machhrial
There are hot springs situated at Tatwani, 25-km from Dharamsala but on the way, at Machhrial, is a waterfall twice as big as the one near the Bhagsunath temple.
The Shrine of Bhagsunath
Just 11-km from the town center of Dharamsala is the ancient temple of Bhagsunath. There are many fresh water springs close to the temple, which are considered sacred by the Hindus.
On the way from Pathankot, 41-km from Dharamsala are the unique cave temples with a stalactite and stalagmites dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Triund is a popular picnic spot at an height of 2827 m. The area is on the foothills of Dhauladhar range and is 17-kms from Dharamsala. The snow line starts at Ilaqua, which is five kms from Triund. The breathtaking views of the mountains and the valleys makes Triund an ideal picnic spot and trekking spot.
How To Get There - Dharmshala
Dharamsala can be approached by air from Delhi and the nearest Airport is at Gaggla, just 13-km away from the town.
Pathankot is 85-km and is the nearest railhead for Dharamsala. Trains from all over the country make a stop over at Pathankot and from here it is a three-hour journey to Dharamsala.
From Manali too bus services are available to this place. One can drive from Delhi via Chandigarh, Kiratpur, Bilaspur and it's an 8-hours journey. From Delhi and Shimla, luxury buses ply to Dharamsala.
Places To Holiday Stay in Dharmshala
Dharamsala's accommodation options include HPTDC's hotels, private hotels, guest houses, PWD and Forest rest houses, which are located in and around the place and are available at resonable prices. C
Climate - Dharmshala
As Dharamsala is located in the Himalayas, the climate is very pleasant during the summers but in winters the cold is very bad. Temperature can drop below the freezing point during the winters and heavy woollen clothes are required. During the summers the weather is mild and light woolens and cottons are recommended. The best time to visit the place is during the summers when the cold has shed its biting teeth and there is plenty of Sunshine. But avoid coming here during the monsoon months, as there is a danger of landslides.
General Information - Dharmshala
Mid-May To Mid-October.