The Dalai Lama, little Tibet with nuns and monasteries, a spectacular international cricket ground where the bowler seems to 'run in from the Himalayas', this and so much more to un[travel] in Dharamshala. Literally bursting at the seams with everything Tibetan, from momos to monks, there are Tibetan souvenir shops around every corner and nirvana-searching souls of every known nationality. Pack your bags to un[travel] essential Mcleodganj and share a piece of its culture with a topping of adventure.
Pick up from Chandigarh - Drive to Mcleodganj
Leave Chandigarh after breakfast on your quest for everything from momos to monasteries, on winding roads past pines and deodars. From the Dalai Lama and little Tibet to its international cricket ground, there?s loads to Un[travel] in Dharamshala. Literally bursting at the seams with everything Tibetan, there are Tibetan souvenir shops around every corner and nirvana-searching souls of every known nationality. This former colonial hill station, in the higher reaches of Kangra Valley, is now the centre for the exiled Tibetan government. Surrounded by beautiful dense forests, Dharamshala is divided into the Upper section (which is essentially Mcleodganj about 4 kilometres north) and Lower section of town. Usually the base camp for fantastic trekking opportunities in the area, caf? culture is huge here with the gentle rustling of red robes at the table next to yours as monks and nuns visit for their daily cuppa as well. Restaurants boast of regular Hollywood patrons, from Goldie Hawn to Richard Gere, and often have their pictures up along with an amazing international cuisine from Italian to Punjabi.
For the best of Mcleodganj in a day, get started after breakfast with a visit to Bhagsu Nag Temple and the waterfalls beyond. A mere 2-kilometre drive from Mcleodganj is Dharamshala?s hotel hotbed, Bhagsu. Walk past the natural swimming pool, fed by the waters of Bhagsu falls, although taking a dip here might not be an option with the general crowd around. A gradual climb, of about 20 minutes, on cemented pathway would then take you up to the famous Bhagsu Nag temple and waterfalls ahead. Stop for a minute by the clear turquoise pool at the base where tourists sit and enjoy spray from the falls. Move on to the Church of St. John in the Wilderness. Built in 1852, this church survived the fatal Kangra earthquake (where nearly 20,000 lives were lost) and is a charming stone structure nestled amidst coniferous trees. With beautiful Belgian stained-glass windows and a unique bell (brought all the way from England). Drive down to Dal Lake (not related to its Srinagar namesake) where, if you?re lucky to be visiting at the right time of the year, the annual festival to celebrate the sacred night of Shiva is held. A couple of kilometres from the Dal Lake would then lead up to the quaint village of Naddi. Perched high up in the mountains in the shadow of the imposing Dhauladhars, once a pristine gaddi (shepherds) village, Naddi now has a couple of hotels up on the top of the hill. With panoramic views all around, a walk down pebbled trails would lead you to the Naddi of old. Scenic stone-roof houses, mud-washed floors and smiling local children welcome you to this little hamlet.
Drive downhill from here to the serene Norbulingka Institute. Originally set up in 1988 to keep Tibetan culture and heritage alive, the Norbulingka Institute also offers courses in traditional Tibetan studies, English, Chinese, and world history. Spend some time at the art studio for real-time demonstrations of Tibetan statue making, thangka (scroll) painting, screen-printing, appliqu? and tailoring, woodcarving, wood painting, papermaking, and wood and metal craft. A gentle walk in Japanese-styled gardens leaves you with a clear impression of why this institute is named after the Dalai Lama?s summer residence. The Seat of Happiness Temple is known for its 1,173 murals of Buddha, frescoes of all the Dalai Lamas and drawings chronicling the life of the 14th Dalai Lama. The main hall has the 4-metre high gilded copper Buddha Sakyamuni statue, made by the institute's master statue-maker, the late Chenmo Pemba Dorje. Head back to your hotel after this long tour.
Trek to Triund or Snowline
Spend your day with a trek up to Triund and, if you want to, beyond. Set off from Dharamkot early, walking literally on stairs through coniferous trees. Slate grey stone steps lie in stark contrast with the green of trees here. Intermittent prayer flags and chirping birds keep you company on the hour-long steady climb to the revered Galu Devi temple. With spectacular views of the valley below, winding through forests, the path to the Galu Devi Temple might seem like an ancient river bed. A few steps below the Temple, is the stand-alone cafe that serves you steamy noodles, chai and other snacks with a view of the valley below. Rest for a while before moving on to the meadow of Triund. Pass a couple of teashops on the way here, you couldstop for a cuppa with some spectacular views valley of Dharamshala and its cricket ground below. A nearly 3-4 hour hike later, the meadow of Triund is visible. Dotted with tents and a few shacks that sell tea and food to the campers and the trekkers, there has recently been a sudden influx with tourism getting the better of these pristine lands. Hike uphill instead for another 1.5 kilometres to the last cafe on this route, the Snowline Cafe. The mighty Dhauladhars stand majestic here, and as you contemplate how tiny humans seem in comparison, stop for a sumptuous lunch of daal (lentils), rice and eggs. Stroll around the area and walk down a little to find the shepherd?s huts in the spot called the Illaqa Got. Begin the gradual descent down to Dharamkot, a tad tired, but with memories and photographs for a lifetime.Drive over to Naddi if you?re still up for it. Once a pristine gaddi (shepherds) village, Naddi now has a couple of hotels up on the top of the hill. With panoramic views all around, a walk down pebbled trails would lead you to the Naddi of old. Scenic stone-roof houses, mud-washed floors and smiling local children welcome you to this little hamlet. A 2-hour walk through these surroundings would then lead you out to Bal village. This charming village, lying en route to the higher reaches of the Dhauladhar range, is bursting at the seams with tradition and folklore. Visit a locals? house for some much-needed home-cooked lunch. Interact with the family and get to know a little more about know about life in the mountains. Hike back to Naddi and drive to Macleod Ganj for your last night here.
Drop to Chandigarh
Return to Chandigarh for your trip back home. Heavier baggage perhaps, but memories of the monks and the mountains for a lifetime.