Location: Upper region of Kangra Valley, Himachal Pradesh
Climate: Generally pleasant though quite cold in winters.
Places to See: Kotwaali Bazaar, Tea Garden Cheelgari, Cricket Museum & more.
Best Time to Visit: All round the year (except monsoons from July to September)
Dharamsala is a well-known scenic hill town, located in the upper region of Kangra Valley, and just below the marvelous Dhauladhar ranges, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. It is admired for its picturesque valleys and renders amazing views of the mighty Himalayas. Thanks to its natural landscapes, Dharamsala has emerged as a popular travel destination in north India. And recently, it has acquired the status of being the second winter capital of Himachal Pradesh. Dharamshala is divided into two areas – upper Dharamshala which is popularly known as McLeod Ganj, and lower Dharamshala which has all the commercial centers, educational institutions and hospitals.
Dharamshala, in Hindi, means a resthouse; it served as a resthouse for the troops after the Second Anglo-Sikh War and hence, got its name. During the British rule, Dharamsala used to be their summer retreat and became the administrative capital of Kangra district in 1852. By 1855, it had two major places of civilian settlement, McLeod Ganj and Forsyth Ganj. Lord Elgin, the British Viceroy of India (1862–63), was so much impressed by the beauty of this place that he wanted it to be the summer capital of India. The original Tea House built by Lord Elgin is still prosperous and serves as a hangout for visitors to Dharamsala.
Talking about the climatic conditions, Dharamsala observes monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate. Summer, here, starts from early April and prevails till June, and the maximum temperature reaches upto 36 °C. Monsoon is witnessed from July to mid-September wherein up to 3000 mm of rainfall is generally recorded. Autumn is modest and lasts from October till November, and the average temperature remains 16-17 °C. Winter is observed from December till February. The month of March is marked by spring, offering a good time to visit the place.
St. John in the Wilderness is famous Anglican church located in the forest near Forsyth Ganj. Constructed in 1852, this neo-Gothic stone building is also noted for its Belgian stained-glass windows. Dharamshala has lately been in news for the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF), which is one of the sought-after events in India. Kotwaali Bazaar is the prime attraction of Dharamsala, apart from the famous Dharamshala International Cricket Stadium which offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
This municipal corporation of Kangra district serves as a trekking base for many treks in the upper Ravi valley and Chamba district. From here, you can also visit the religious shrines dedicated to Chamunda Devi, Chintpurni Devi, and Aghanjar Mahadev. An excursion to Khaniyara or Sidhbari is definitely worth it.
Accommodation – Hotels/Resorts in Dharamshala
Since it is a popular tourist destination, there is no dearth of hotels and resorts in Dharamsala. From the modest inns, lodges, budget hotels to luxurious resorts, the town has them all. Seeing the influx of malls, Dharamsala now also has a number of good eateries and restaurants serving a variety of delicacies.
How to Reach Dharamsala
Gaggal Airport, situated at a distance of 15 kms, caters to passengers travelling to Dharamsala. One can easily take flights from Delhi and Chandigarh to reach here. From the airport, you can hire taxis or cabs to reach Dharamsala.
Pathankot is the nearest railway station, which is approx. 88 kms from Dharamshala. It is well connected to all parts of the country. You can hire cabs or taxis from here to reach any part of Dharamsala. In fact, buses also ply on this route at regular intervals.
Dharamshala is well connected via a network of roads to all the parts of the country. Pathankot serves as the nearest bus terminal, from where; you can easily get buses to Dharamsala at regular intervals. Once can easily get buses from Delhi (490 km), Shimla (240 km), Chandigarh (250 km), Jalandhar (190 km) and Amritsar (200 km). Else, for a more comfortable journey, taxis can be hired from anywhere to reach Dharamsala.