As the tourist destination is located in the Himalayan foothills, the climate is cool and comfortable. For those who are tired of the scorching heat in the Indian subcontinent, the destination will provide a refreshing change. The lower and upper divisions of the tourist destination — the upper being Mcleodganj and the lower Dharmshala town itself — have many alluring sights to offer to the visitors. Hence the land enjoys a prominent position in the tourism map of India.
Dharamshala was not very famous as a tourist destination until the British annexed the place as their province in 1848. In 1959, when the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and his followers sought refuge in India, the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, allowed them to settle in Dharamshala. Thus the Namgyal Monastery was established here. Now five decades after their settlement, Dharamshala has become a mixture of Indian and Tibetan cultures. Dalai Lama has established Buddhist monasteries and a Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in the place.
Thus the land has many cultural and historical monuments that make it an alluring destination for history lovers. Ancient temples dating back to the 8th century and the historical church of John of the Wilderness are some of the monuments worth a visit. Located at an average elevation of 1457 meters above sea level, the land has rich natural beauty. The snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, deodar forest, and so on accentuates it. Here are some of the best places to visit in Dharamshala.
Top attractions in Dharamshala
Dharamshala Cricket Stadium
Cricket is unquestionably the most popular sport in India. The international stadium at Dharamshala has witnessed many historic moments in Indian Cricket. Otherwise known as Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), the stadium is 1457 m above sea level and is watched over by snowcapped Himalayan ranges on all sides. The stadium is famous since its establishment in 2003 and is a tourist destination in Dharamshala because of its history and picturesque sights. As the Kangra airport is merely 8 kilometers away, the place is easily accessible to tourists.
St. John in the Wilderness Church
A famous tourist attraction in Dharamshala is the historical church of St. John in the Wilderness. Constructed in 1852, the church is one of the oldest in the region. It is located amidst the breathtakingly beautiful deodar forest, which makes it more popular among travelers. The enthralling Neo-Gothic style architecture and Belgian-stained glass windows, donated by Lady Elgin, adds to the attractiveness of the shrine. The churchyard is also the final resting place of Lord Elgin, who served as Governor-General and Viceroy of India from 1861 until his demise in 1863.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives
Considered the most authentic source of Tibetan works in the world, the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives is a must-visit tourist destination in Dharamshala. It has an exhaustive collection of manuscripts that were moved from Tibet during the 1959 escape. Nearly 80,000 manuscripts on a range of topics from Tibetan Buddhism to its history, politics, and culture are preserved here. The art collection of the museum is as enchanting as the manuscript collections are enthralling. It contains over 600 paintings and 10,000 rare photographs and many other precious artifacts, some of which date back to the twelfth century.
Founded in 1959, the Gyuto monastery preserves the Tantric tradition of Buddhism in India. Many aspiring students visit the place in the hope of learning the so-called black magic developed under the lineage of the great teacher Tsongkhapa. Tourists find the destination one of the best places to visit in Dharamshala not only for the panoramic beauty of the surroundings but for its quiet and meditative atmosphere. Constructed on a hilltop, the monastery has the best view of the Dhauladhar Ranges and the Beas river. If not for these exquisite sights, tourists are attracted by the gold plated statue of Lord Buddha. Thus the place is worth a visit for art lovers too.
Situated amidst the pine forests of Dharamshala, the War Memorial stands tall commemorating the fallen heroes of the war. It is dedicated to the martyrs of the Indo-China war of 1947-48, 1962, 1965, and 1971. Names of these brave men are etched on two black stones, each 24 feet high. At the unique destination of Dharamshala, one can feel equal parts gloom and revere — gloomy at the lives lost in war; reverence at the self-sacrifice of the valiant men. Hence the place is top among the tourist attractions in the land.
Home to the Dalai Lama since his exile from Tibet in 1959, Tsuglagkhang is a serene place to visit in Dharamshala. No one can ignore the meditative atmosphere of the monastic village, however non-spiritual he is. The complex has two colorful temple rooms, a Kalachakra (Wheel of life) temple, and some beautiful mandalas and statues. Many monks actively participate in the heated discussions in the debating area. Another tourist attraction is the temple room with Dalai Lama’s throne in it. These rarities make Tsuglagkhang a favorite destination for tourists in Dharamshala.
Tourists love to visit the lush tea gardens of Dharamshala that produces the famous Kangra tea. Dharamshala tea company is the best place to see the tea plantations. The hills in the region are covered with a thick green blanket of tea plants. Travelers take a guided tour and walk through the mist-filled garden enjoying the cool breeze. After the trek, tea tasting is customary, where tourists can taste different flavors of tea. Though traditionally Kangra is known for green tea, many varieties like black, oolong, white, Masala, and Kashmiri Kahwa teas are available here.
Located in the Kangra District, 11 kilometers from Dharamsala, is the famous Dal lake. This mid-latitude water body is arguably the most beautiful lake in Himachal Pradesh, if not India. With the clear water mirroring the deodar trees that border it, and the blue sky above, the place is enchanting. The small Shiva temple nearby adds a meditative undertone to the place. The poetic beauty of the lake and the surrounding mountain ranges is enough to make nature lovers at once mesmerized and meditative. Hence Dal is one of the most visited tourist places in Dharamshala.
Best Time To Visit Dharamshala
The peaceful tourist destination follows the climatic conditions of any foothill town in the Himalayas. The peak time of tourists is from March to June, which marks the summer season in the region. It is deemed the best time to visit Dharamshala. But there are some seasonal attractions for those interested in it.
March to June – Summer Season
The summer season, which falls between March and June, has a pleasant climate, with the temperature ranging from 20 degrees to 35 degrees Celcius. All adventure activities like trekking, camping, cable car riding, and every tourist spot are open during this time of the year. Make sure your pack sunscreen as the sun can be a bit harsh on your skin due to the elevation of the tourist destination.
July to September (Monsoon Season)
Monsoon is the most romantic season in Dharamshala. The mornings are usually humid, but the evenings are cool and comfortable. The atmospheric temperature ranges between 18 degrees Celcius to 22 degrees Celcius. The rains can be quite unforgiving during the time. Sometimes it can cause landslides and road blockages. If you prefer this time of the year, you can get a tour package at a very low rate. Be sure to pack an umbrella if you visit the place in Monsoon.
December to February (Winter Season)
Winters can get very cold in Dharamshala. Though the average temperature ranges between 4 and 7 degrees Celcius, strong gusts of winds can quickly bring it down to the minus range. If you love snow and want to enjoy adventure activities like skiing, this is the best time to visit Dharamshala. But make sure that you are properly dressed to resist the biting cold. Pack your sweaters, thick overcoats, mufflers, and so on. Do not forget to wear snow boots and woolen socks. Moisturizers and lip balms are also indispensable if you prefer to visit Dharamshala during winter.
How To Reach Dharamshala
Tourists expect that Dharamshala, being a mountainous town, is difficult to reach. But the fact is that the tourist destination has great air connectivity with frequent flights from all the major cities in India. The railway station is farther away, so it is better to choose air travel.
By Air: Gaggal airport is the closest to Dharamshala. Tourists can get direct flights to the airport from New Delhi. Most people from different parts of India like Chennai, Kochi, Jaipur, and Hyderabad take one-stop flights to make it to the destination. From the airport, frequent taxi services are available to Dharamshala and will reach within half an hour.
By Rail: For those who prefer a cheaper means of getting to the place, catching a train is a good option. However, Dharamshala has no railway station of its own. The nearest one is in Pathankot, almost 86 kilometers away. Most of the major cities in India are connected to this terminal. Tourists hire a taxi from the Pathankot, which will take them to the tourism destination in about three to four hours.
By Road: Dharamshala has excellent road connectivity. National Highways NH154 and NH503 are direct routes from Delhi to the hill station. Many prefer to drive to the destination as the roads are in good condition. Public transports are available from NewDelhi like Buses, which will cost between 1200 and 1800 Rupees. It is better to take an overnight bus as it will take around 11 hours to reach Dharamshala from New Delhi.