Dharamshala, Religious Tourism In India
Dharamshala is a city in Himachal Pradesh in India that is not only famous for its aesthetics; it is also home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. Thousands of Tibetan exiles call this place their home and numerous monasteries and temples dot the scenic landscape. The city also offers various tourist attractions to religious travelers as well as common tourists. Dharamshala is the winter capital of the state and the local Governments holds the winter session in this city. Many hotels and restaurants have sprung up here in the last decade making it easier for tourists to enjoy the attractions that this beautiful city has to offer.
The city is 120 Kilometers or sixty five Miles from Pathankot which is the largest city near Dharamshala. However the nearest airport is located in Gaggal which is in Kangra approximately fifteen kilometers or eight miles away. The nearest railway station is also in Kangra and another option is the Chakki Bank railway station in Pathankot. It takes around three hours from Pathankot to reach Dharamshala by rail. However this is a better option since Pathankot is well connected to many major cities in Northern India. Air conditioned buses from major cities such as Chandigarh, Delhi, and Shimla are available but not advisable since they can be a little cramped and take longer to reach compared to trains and air planes.
Today, the Dharamshala is home to thousands of Tibetan monks and also has a library which has a collection of over 80,000 religious manuscripts. Thousands of tourists flock the place every year to meet or listen to the speeches and teachings of the Dalai Lama. Most of the exiles live near the upper part of the city which is also called McLeodGanj. This place is sometimes referred to as the little Lhasa which is a derivation from the original Tibetan capital city and holy residence of Dalai Lama the Dhasa.
Monsoon carves the landscape and this place is the wettest city in the state with the monsoon starting in July and ending in September. The place receives about 2000 mm of rain during these months. In summer the temperatures can rise up to 35 C so the best time to visit is in autumn or in spring.
This is one of the best places in the world for trekking and Dauladhar and the Ravi valley are the most famous trekking trails in the area. However arduous treks can also be undertaken which includes treks to places such as Toral Pass and Bhimgasutri; the latter is dangerous and is not recommended for novice trekkers. Rock climbing enthusiasts also frequent the city for climbing the steep ravines of Dauladhar.
Some of the famous attractions include Masrur which is located fifteen Kilometers or seven miles from Kangra. The place is famous for its monolithic rock carvings that date back to the eighth century. The Dal Lake is another attraction that is located a mile away from McLeodGunj and is spread over a kilometer and surrounded by Deodar forests. The lake holds an annual festival in the nearby temple of Goddess Kali. The Bhagsung temple of lord Shiva is located near McLeodGunj and is near a water fall which is very famous among tourists. Kareri Lake and the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives are the two other places that are of interest and frequented by travelers. The former is located near Kangra and is 35 kilometers away from Dharamshala. The place is located at a height of 2900 meters above the sea level and Deodar forests adorn this trekking paradise. The library of Tibetan Works and Archives was opened by the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and is one of the most important places for Tibetan monks.
Other places of attraction
Some other places of attraction include Indrunag (The Best view of Dhauladhar Range), Lam Dal Lake, Aghanjar Mahadev, Bir paragliding spot, Golf Course (Yol Cantt.), Adi Shakti Temple, Brajeshwari Temple, Chinmaya Tapovan, Pong Dam Lake, Kareri Lake, KhanaNirvana Community Café, Namgyal Monastery, and the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
There are a plethora of hotels in Dharamshala ranging from luxurious to the budget variety. Some of the better ones include Judges Court, Dharamshala, White Haven Estate, Dharamshala, and Asia Health Resorts. These are four star hotels and are recommended for foreigners and people who want luxury as one of their important priority. However if you are searching for hotels that are a notch below these then some such economical lodgings are the Spring Valley Resort, Surya McLeod, and Hotel Anand Palace. These are some of the popular hotels and can be found easily by asking your way around the city.
The cuisine is a mix of many cultures and it is not difficult to find a Tibetan recipe as well as continental food. Momos and Thukpas are the two famous delicacies that have permeated from Tibetan culinary culture into the city and can be enjoyed at any restaurant. However it is advisable to stick to the in-house restaurants of five or three star hotels to avoid the local bacteria. This is especially true of foreigners since the wet city is a breeding ground for many types of bacteria.