We’d heard a lot about Dharamshala over the years; about its views, its food and its Tibetan-Buddhist-influenced atmosphere. Here’s the story, in pictures, of when we finally managed to visit.
The road to Dharamshala
After some research on how to get to Dharamshala, we decided to fly down to
Chandigarh and drive down from there. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the quickest or easiest route. But now we know.
Some of Punjab’s famous wheat fields, with the Shivalik hills behind.
When we stopped for tea at a roadside eatery, I noticed this pot steaming away. No idea what was in it. Day 1: We explore Palampur and Andreta
We’d heard a bit about the views from Palampur, and about the pottery scene in Andreta. Away we went. Turns out, Andreta is great if you want to learn pottery, but not so great if you’re just looking for things to see.
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We got to Dharamshala at night, so this was our first glimpse of the impressive Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas
We came across this meadow on the way to Palampur, and just had to stop
The Dhauladhars up close
Someone obviously likes pine resin. Who knew the sticky and fragrant stuff could be collected like rubber.
One of the many cute doggies taking it easy in the meadow
The view of the Dhauladhars from the footbridge over the neugal khad stream in Palampur
We watched these women herding their goats up the mountain while we sat at a bus stop and drank tea
The village of Andreta is known for its pottery studios, as this wall shows
The warm and homely Mirage Homestay in Andreta, where we could’ve had lunch if we had given them more notice. Day 2: We see what Dharamshala town has to offer
On our second day, we decided to keep things local. We spent a few hours taking in the
Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Art, and then headed over to the HPCA cricket stadium (supposedly the highest cricket stadium in the world) for a look.
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Two Tibetan youngsters relax outside the Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan art. They paid us no notice.
Of all the deities painted on this piled up rock chorten, I found this one the most fascinating.
The Institute, painted in the traditional bright colours, makes a very pretty picture against the mountains behind.
I found this gargoyle somewhat disturbing, but it seemed to enjoy spewing water into its pond.
An artisan and his tools. The Institute trains students in traditional Tibetan art forms, woodcarving included.
Some very fine paintwork being done on these dragon-motif boxes.
These heavy prayer wheels supposedly multiply the effect of the mantra engraved on them when they you turn them in the direction of the arrow.
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium has to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Wonder how the players stay focused. Day 3: We settle in at Naddi, high above Dharamshala
After two days in the foothills, we moved up into
Naddi, a little village high above Dharamshala and even higher than McLeodganj. We spent the day admiring the amazing views of the Dhauladhar mountains from our cottage at the charming Udechee Huts, and from the mountain path below.
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The view from our cosy little cottage in Naddi village, high above Dharamshala.
The incredible view of the Dhauladhars from the dining verandah made us forget all about our chai and pakodas!
An evening stroll took us past one of the many rhododendron trees in the area. The locals make a tangy, spicy chutney from the flowers.
This goat watched us suspiciously while we strolled past on our evening walk. Actually, who knows what goes on behind those strange eyes! Day 4: McLeodganj, and a spectacular sunset
This time, we decided to see what the little town of
McLeodganj was like. We had heard a lot about its eating places, and about the Tsuglagkhang temple complex, the spiritual centre for Tibetan Buddhists living in exile. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama there, but no cigar. Back in Naddi, we caught a brilliant sunset over the Kangra valley.
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We woke up to this glorious sight. ‘Picture perfect’ was invented for moments like this.
The unassuming entrance to the Tsuglagkhang complex, the centre of Tibet in India. This is where the Dalai Lama lives, the Tibetan monks congregate, and the Tibetan government-in-exile meets.
Butter lamps burn merrily in their glasshouse. They are said to be an aid to meditation, and symbolize the process of gaining enlightenment.
The Illiterati Café came highlight recommended, so that’s where we had lunch. Here, some excellent fresh pesto spaghetti, with mint lemonade to match.
We believe you.
The over 100 year-old Church of St. John in the Wilderness. We stopped on the way out of McLeodganj to enjoy some peace and quiet among the trees and the mysterious graveyard.
These intricate stained-glass windows are one of the things the church is known for. I only wish there had been more of them.
One of the staff at our cottages got us into this private estate for a look at the setting sun. Sadly, this gazebo was off limits.
After some scrambling through the trees, we managed to find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sunset. And it was worth it.
Mountain paths led us back to our cosy cottages. An evening well spent! Day 5: A short trek from Naddi down to the stream
On our last day, we decided a short trek was in order. Our destination was the little mountain stream that we could see from Naddi, far below in the valley. It took us about three hours, and the thin air had us huffing and puffing a bit. But it was great fun.
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A trek through the pine forests down from our cottages was just what the doctor ordered. But it wasn’t as easy as we thought, with the thin air.
Local women take a break from carrying firewood. Wonder how they manage in winter.
This woman happily accompanied us for a while, after she had sharpened her sickle on that rock. FYI, that’s the mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’ painted on the rock.
The track we walked on was in the process of being carved out of the mountain. And these mules were being used to transport the gravel down to the stream.
The stream lies on the route to a small local temple. Hence the little tea stalls.
The stream merrily splashes along among granite boulders. The snowmelt-fed water was so cold, I couldn’t put my hand in it for more than a few seconds at a time.
Dharamshala was different from what we expected, but that was a good thing in many ways. Now we know what to do when we go back. Maybe in winter, this time.
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I took these photographs with my trusty
Canon EOS 200D DSLR camera, using my new Tamron 18-400mm zoom lens (read my review of this lens). Click the links to check out the latest offers on Amazon.
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