02 April 2020

A Visit to Dharamshala- The land of Dalai Lama

Entangled in a vicious cycle of work and never-ending traffic jams? You might want to break off from your busy schedule and escape to the hills. There’s nothing more rejuvenating than being surrounded by serene mountains and breathing fresh air for a change. If this appeals to you, the serene settings of Kangra hills and valleys in and around Dharamshala could well be your next destination. The word ‘Dharamshala’ literally means retreat for pilgrims and travellers. In the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala attracts visitors who are in search of peace, good food and soulful silence amidst the hills.

Dharamshala is double the goodness, with the more bohemian McLeod Ganj, also known as Little Lhasa, just a short drive of 6 km uphill. Here’s where the Dalai Lama has been residing in exile over the last many decades with a large Tibetan population.

Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh

Dharamshala is a very popular destination for travellers of all ilk, for more reasons than one. Surrounded by thick woods of Deodar and pine trees and the captivating Dhauladhar mountain range, this city cradles Tibetan- Buddhist culture whose influence is ubiquitous in the region. While Buddhism was propagated in India by the Mauryan Empire led by Ashoka as far back as 250 BC, the Dalai Lama and his followers established a culture of Tibetan Buddhism in Dharamshala when they took refuge here from the Chinese regime in 1959. The Government of Tibet in Exile was set up in Dharamshala by the Dalai Lama and the 80,000 Tibetan refugees that followed him into exile. A Tibetan educational system was put into practice and thus Tibetan Buddhist culture had a direct impact on language, history, architecture, religion and culture in Himachal Pradesh. Around 200 monasteries were founded all across India to provide a sanctuary for the Tibetan way of life and disseminate its message of peace all over the world.

Dalai Lama’s personal monastery, the Namgyal monastery accommodates around 200 monks and is very close to the main market place in McLeod Ganj. Located close by, the Norbulingka Institute which is famous for preserving Tibetan culture and handicrafts is a must-visit.

Maggi experiences for family at Rakkh Resort Palampur

The Tsuglagkhang Monastery (Dalai Lama’s residence), Tibet Museum, Dal Lake, Kalachakra temple are amongst the popular attractions in this region. The streets are lined with small shops that offer silver jewellery, handicrafts and other unique wares. Kotwali Bazaar is a famous market lined with shops that sell gorgeous shawls, cardigans and Tibetan trinkets. You’ll also find Tibetan rugs and carpets here, featuring popular Himachali designs. Bright colours and faces greet visitors from these shops. On Temple Road, several handmade sculptures of Lord Buddha made of brass, wood, stone beads and crystal greet the eye. People from across the globe come to study and meditate in this peaceful town. Many travellers share stories of transformation after having visited this spiritual city.

McLeod Ganj, being a melting point of Tibetan Buddhism, adventure and spirituality, is a fulfilling and vibrant getaway for all. Colourful bazaars, trails, cosy cafes and trekking adventures make Dharamshala an attractive tourist destination.

Bird Wathing in Rakkh Resort Palampur

While Dharamshala and McLeodGanj are the two most visited towns in Himachal Pradesh, the Kangra Valley boasts of other jewels as well. Their cultural richness notwithstanding the popularity and the crowds that come along has been a repellant to discerning travellers who head to the mountains for a peaceful recluse. For those travellers, Kangra offers many offbeat destinations within driving distance of Dharamshala. Bhagsung, Dharamkot (a pretty hill station), Ramnagar and Palampur are suburbs of Dharamshala that are as charming with none of the chaos.

Palampur, in particular, is a scenic hill station that looks distinctive because the town has numerous streams flowing through it, from the mountains and down to the plains, thus christening Palampur. Palampur means ‘much water’ or ‘ land of water’. The lush greenery of pine forests combined with the clean waters that can be found here, make Palampur a great venue for a hill vacation.

Parasailing at Bir Billing, Himachal Pradesh

Cut off from the commercial activities in McLeod Ganj, the Rakkh resort in Palampur serves as a perfect sanctuary. On the outskirts of a village called Ghamrota and surrounded by the Dhauladhar range, Rakkh resort in Palampur is perched on a hilltop promising a perfect view of the hills from the cottages. There are 17 spacious cottages in total and each cottage is equipped with great facilities and creature comforts. You can either head off to the spa to pamper yourself or the activity centre that offers hiking, biking and trekking adventures. There are numerous treks and trails to tiny villages that surround Palampur or to monasteries and Buddhist centres like the Dorzong Monastery. If you love trekking and wish to enjoy a breathtaking view of the mountains, the Triund trek is unmissable.

One of the great things about the resort is that it encourages a ‘device-free’ vacation for guests so that they can make the most of their stay and immerse themselves in recreational, adventure, cultural, social and spiritual activities alone or with family and friends. Ideal for solo travellers, Rakkh is safe for women group or single woman traveller too. There are various services available to guests including 24/7 Maggi stations, do-it-yourself juice stations, arts and crafts activities that are super fun and engaging. To spend quality time with loved ones or yourself, Rakkh is undoubtedly one of the most serene and scenic resorts in the Kangra Valley.

To fully experience the joys of local life in Dharamshala, one must sample the local cuisine in the region. Tudkiya Bhat (a pulao preparation), Thukpa (noodle soup), Shapta (a chicken gravy dish) and of course, dishes that need no introduction, maggi and momos are few delectable food choices you can look forward to while vacationing here.

There are several tea gardens that one can visit while in Dharamshala. While few prominent gardens are at Sheela Chowk and Khaniyara, there are tea gardens at Kunal Pathri and Palampur as well. The tea obtained from these gardens is called Dharamshala or Kangra tea. Over the years, apart from the traditional Kangra green tea, Dharamshala now produces a variety of teas such as black tea, oolong tea, white tea, Kashmiri Kahwa and masala chai.

Dharamshala and its suburbs are steeped in peace and serenity. If waking up to the view of mountains and reconnecting with yourself sounds like something you’d love to do, look no further. The mountains are calling!

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Ghamrota Village Post Office Ballah ,Tehsil Palampur, District Kangra, Jiun, Himachal Pradesh 176061