What comes to your mind when someone says Dharamshala?
Well, if not for the gorgeous cricket stadium that is the apple of all Himachali’s eyes, Dharamshala-Mcleodganj is also home to H.H the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Yes you heard that right! In fact, this city is lovingly called ‘Dhasa’ – an acronym for Dharamshala and Lhasa since it houses the Central Tibetan Administration or the Tibetan Government in exile. Did we get your interest just about now?
Located well within 500 kms from NCR and about 200 kms from Amritsar, this is one of the favourite destinations for a weekend visit to the Himalayan foothills. Not just so, Mcleodganj brings a unique flavour of Tibetan culture in a modern Euro-American setup, right in the heart of an Indian shepherd’s village. The Tibetan settlement in this twin city has all the appeal of a meditation retreat to attract peace seeking travellers, who visit and most often end up staying for months.
We spent 4 days exploring the streets of Mcleodganj and learning about Tibetan arts in Dharamshala with our friend Nidhi from http://www.untravel.in Before we jump into the details, here is a quick list of things to do/places to visit from Dharamshala:
- HH Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Mcleodganj
- Namgyal Monastery
- Triund Trek
- St. John’s Church
- Kareri Lake Trek
- Dharamshala Cricket Stadium
- Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Arts
- Pong Dam (Maharana Pratap Sagar)
- Masroor Rock Cut Temple
- Naddi Sunset Point
- Indrahar Pass Trek (opens seasonally)
- Kangra Valley paragliding
Now that looks like a long list so let us take you on a visual journey of our experience where we covered 50% of the items mentioned above.
Staying inside Dharamshala city was not going to be our choice since we prefer quaint, offbeat places. Blossoms Village Resort in Sidhpur, just on the edge of the main city was our home for this trip. We stayed in one of their luxury cottages and were blown by the hospitality and innovation that these guys bring to the table. Our room was elaborate and vintage, with ornate furniture and big wide windows. The old world charm reflects perfectly in the decor and the modern world peeks at you from a chic bathroom. Our little porch was beautifully adorned with pots and plants, bringing the garden outside right to our cottage.
As we explored the property, the staff informed us of evening showers which are quite regular in Dharamshala. After a quick lunch at the in-house rooftop restaurant, The Cliff, we headed straight to the Norbulingka Institute.
When you step into the Institute, be ready to be transported to a world of ancient art and culture. The big Buddha in the prayer hall called for some quite moments of contemplation before we walked around the institute, talking to various heads of departments for metal art, Thangka painting, Tibetan language studies and more. They also keep a spectacular collection of ancient Buddhist scriptures in a beautiful wooden room. The afternoon sun gladly guided us through this treasure trove of Tibetan culture.
Our hosts at Blossoms Village arranged for an epic barbecue night to follow at The Cliff restaurant afterwards. We drank the best cocktails and made merry with the other guests at the restaurant, one of them who runs the Cold Mountain Pottery Studio took us for a quick show around of the space. You can spot the items made at the studio if you drop by to the famous Illiteratti Cafe in McLeodganj.
Dharamshala has a timeless charm to its life. Days are bright and sunny most of the time while evening calls in clouds from the mountain ranges just behind, making for the best ever sunset hues in the sky. We idled on our second day and spent some quality time in our beautiful cottage. While breakfast was served in our suite, we took the morning to pay a visit to Illiteratti Cafe, followed by the HH Dalai Lama Temple complex in Mcleodganj. Sitting by the Dal lake on an overcast afternoon was followed by a bakery hunt in the streets of Mcleodganj. The locals are superb bakers and are so innovative in everything starting from their recipes, cafe decor and even packaging. At Woeser Bakery, a cute small hidden cafe under the stairs on a building, you’ll get your purchases in recycled packaging made from used milk cartons and such. We were late but made it just in time to grab the last piece of carrot cake that they are so famous for! We also went to Norling Cafe, a tiny home stye Tibetan Cafe and had the best mutton momos of our life! When it comes to food, Mcleodganj will never disappoint you with so much to offer.
Our second evening was lit up with a music band performing at The Cliff back at Blossoms Village. What we loved most about this was they bring in local talent to entertain their guests and it sure adds a lot more value to your experience of traveling to Himachal.
Blossoms Village Resort offers superior, premium rooms, cottages and luxury suites (where we stayed in). You can make your booking here
We went in February so trekking was out of question (roads were blocked with snow). Our time in Dharamshala was spent with good people, great food and amazing hospitality. If you don’t mind spending a couple of days in peace, this might be just the perfect place for you!
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