Best Things To Do In Dharamsala, India - Updated 2021

things to do in dharamsala india

Dharamshala, (also spelled Dharamsala), is the second winter capital of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and a municipality in the Kangra district. Dharamsala is famous for being the holy residence of the Dalai Lama and houses the Tibetan monk, in exile. The city is distinctively separated into upper and lower divisions, with different altitudes. The lower division is Dharamsala town itself, whereas the upper division is known as McLeod Ganj. Dharamsala is one of the best places to learn and explore Buddhism and Tibetan culture.

1. 1. Naddi View Point

Take a walk around the small trail where each turn unfolds into a magnificent view. You can take a car, if you wish and drive to the view point, park and grab a cup of hot steaming tea, delicious soup, momos, or instant noodles from the roadside stalls, whilst enjoying the grand landscape of the Dhauladhar Range. One word of advice – keep your camera batteries fully charged to avoid missing out on capturing the wonderful moments and grand vistas. This is the one place you can’t miss if you plan on coming to McLeod Ganj.

Naddi View Point

Address: McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, HP 176219.

Access: The village is accessible by road from Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj.

2. 2. Kangra Valley

An aerial view of Bir, Kangra valley sights nature culture Himachal Pradesh India 2015
Source: Photo by user Fredi Bach used under CC BY 2.0

The Kangra Valley is one of the most famous valleys of the lower Himalayas, situated at the southern end of the Dhauladhar Range. The terraced fields and lush green landscape make this spot a favourite destination among travellers.

The Kangra Valley also offers travellers the experience of shopping in McLeod Ganj and the Kotwali Bazaar, for miniature paintings, Tibetan handicrafts, woollen carpets and hand knitted cardigans, which the valley is renowned for. The adventure junkie in you can be satiated with various adventure sports, like trekking, rock climbing, paragliding, mountaineering and fishing.

Learn about the rich culture, heritage and history of the area, through the numerous forts and palaces, like the Kangra Fort, Haripur Fort, Kotla Fort, Nurpur Fort, Pragpur Palace and Taragarh Palace and through temples like Ambika Devi, Brijeshwari and Kaleshwar Mahadev that are all worth your time.

Kangra Fort

Address: Old Kangra, Kangra - 176001, HP Timings: 9:30AM to 6:00PM

Kangra Valley

Address: Kangra - 176002, HP Access: Accessible by road and railway

3. 3. Tsuglagkhang Monastery

The Tsuglagkhang Monastery is home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his follower monks. The complex is one of the most renowned monasteries of the Buddhism religion and the biggest, outside of Tibet, with the biggest meditation and mantra chanting temple for Buddhist people, in India.

Open to tourists during the daytime, from 10:00AM to 6:00PM, tourists must undergo a security check to enter the premises of this holy monastery. A point to note is that the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the quarters of the other monks are inaccessible to the public.

The temple is widely famous for its Kora ritual which is a type of pilgrimage and meditative experience in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A Kora is performed by the devotee whilst walking around the sacred site in a clockwise fashion, spinning the numerous prayer spindles which characteristically, is an integral part of the pilgrimage or ritual.

Tsuglagkhang Monastery

Address: Dharamshala, Kangra - 176215, HP

Timings: 10:00AM to 6:00PM

4. 4. Gyuto Monastery

The Gyuto Monastery was one of the most famous monasteries in Tibet and specialized in the study of tantric meditation, ritual arts, and Buddhist philosophy. However, due to the invasion of Tibet by communist China, in the 1950s, the Gyuto Monastery was forced to re-establish itself, in Dharamsala, and now stands to accommodate the monastery and its expansion and to commemorate the Tibetan soldiers who lost their lives during the Tibetan freedom struggle. The Gyuto Monastery is currently home to His Holiness the 17th Karmapa of Kagyupa Buddhism.

The main temple, although recently constructed, is a gorgeous example of Tibetan architecture, where you can witness the monks chordal chanting and outdoor training, with some young monks running about, creating a pleasant and beautiful atmosphere. The temple is open, allowing for a perfect quiet meditation. Because of its location, it seems to be visited less frequently, but it’s worth the trip!

Gyuto Monastery

Address: Sidhbari, Kangra - 176057, HP

Website: Gyuto

5. 5. Kalachakra Temple

Kalachakra Temple
Source: Photo by user Hemant banswal used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Pilgrims and tourists alike, visit the Kalachakra Temple before visiting the Tsuglagkhang Monastery, which is comprised of fascinating murals of the Kalachakra (The Wheel of Time) mandala, Shakyamuni Buddha and 722 other deities who are linked to the Avalokiteśvara (Bodhisattva of Compassion), of whom the Dalai Lama is an incarnation.

The Kalachakra Temple is used by the Dalai Lama for public teachings and is used as a venue for religious activities and performance of rituals. The temple is open to the public, as a site of pilgrimage and its architecture and murals serve as a depiction of Tibet’s rich spiritual and artistic traditions.

Kalachakra Temple

Address: H H Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Temple Rd, McLeodganj - 176219, HP

6. 6. St. John in the Wilderness Church

Source: Photo by user Lewesian1982 used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

St. John in the Wilderness is a neo-Gothic Anglican church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The church was built in 1852, near Dharamshala, amidst tall cedars and is located 1.5 km (.9 miles) west of McLeod Ganj, en route to Forsyth Ganj.

This gloomy Gothic church is one of the few fragments of McLeod’s days as a British hill station and is well known for its Belgian stained-glass windows, donated by Lady Elgin (Mary Louisa Lambton), wife of Lord Elgin. The cemetery contains the graves of many victims of the 1905 earthquake, as well as the rocket-like tomb of the Earl of Elgin, the second Viceroy of India.

The church is still in operation and services in English and Hindi are held at 10:30AM, on Sundays.

St. John in the Wilderness Church

Address: McLeodganj Road, McLeodganj - 176215, HP

Website: St. John in the Wilderness Church

7. 7. Tibetan Museum

Scene from Tibet Royal courts, Losel Doll Museum, Norbulingka Institute, Dharamsala
Source: Photo by user https://www.flick... used under CC BY 2.0

The Tibetan Museum is in a small building, in the Tsuglagkhang Monastery Complex. The pristine white interiors are sparingly filled with photographs and Tibetan artifacts. More than a museum, the Tibetan Museum is a library of facts, documents, videos, installations and objects related to the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

As you go inside the museum, you’ll be ushered through the ghastly methods the Chinese have used to terrify the Tibetan people. A video captures the agony the Tibetan freedom fighters undergo, to this very day. On the second floor, optimistic images appear that put your mind at ease, when the first batch of Tibetans arrive in India, from Lhasa. Also on display is the declaration of the Chinese people to the Tibetans and the promises they made.

The Tibetan Museum escorts you through the history of their people who are resolved to preserve their identity and it will profoundly impact the way you perceive these resilient people.

Tibetan Museum

Address: H H Dalai Lama Temple Complex, Temple Rd, McLeodganj - 176219, HP

Website: Tibetan Museum

8. 8. Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa

Located on a steep hillside, in the Dhauladhar Range of McLeod Ganj, Tse-Chok Ling Gompa is amongst the popular monasteries of the region. This peaceful gompa (remote place) is a substitute for the original Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa, in Tibet, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. It was here, in Dharamsala, where the Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa was reinstated and constructed in 1986, with a prayer hall, that enshrines a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, in a spectacularly bejewelled crown. The monastery is highly regarded for its cultural significance in the valley.

Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa is a residential monastery, where you can arrange to stay in one of their 17 guest rooms and is highly recommend for those interested in Buddhism or are looking for a nice quiet environment to escape from all the madness. You can book the rooms by email.

Dip Tse-Chok Ling Gompa

Price: from 3 USD

Contact Person: Thubten Pema Lama, Director.

Phone: +91 1892 221726, +91 1892 220760.

Email: [email protected]

9. 9. Kareri Lake

Kareri Lake , Dharamshala (H.P.)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Pulkitgautam1 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Kareri Lake is a high altitude, shallow, freshwater lake, south of the Dhauladhar Range. The glacial waters from the Dhauladhar range serve as the source of the lake and outflowing Nyund stream. Since the source is fresh melting snow and the lake is shallow, the water is very clear. The lake remains frozen from early December to April.

Kareri Lake is not connected by a road and the nearest road is at Kareri, a village near Dharamsala. Kareri can also be reached by walking from McLeod Ganj. However, the return journey is not advisable, on foot, due to nightfall and hence most people stay overnight, in preparation for the hike to Kareri Lake.

Hikers may carry their own tents, or stay in the temple complex, on the hill, overlooking the lake. It is recommended to discuss your plans with the forest ranger, in Dharamsala, for accommodation arrangements at the Forest Guest House, in Kareri Village.

Kareri Lake

Address: Located south of the Dhauladhar range, 9 km North-West of Dharamsala, Kangra - 176216, HP

10. 10. Triund Hill

Triund hill campsite
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alok Kumar used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Escape the world and trek across the beautiful hills of Triund. Triund Hill is an extremely popular trekking location and fascinates tourists from all over the world. Triund is situated in the laps of the Dauladhar Mountains and offers an amazing panoramic view of the Dauladhar Range and the Kangra Valley along every bend of its path.

A Triund trek can be described as tranquil and easily accomplished by almost all age groups. Triund has a specific trail that goes through a beautiful mixed forest of oak, deodar, and rhododendron. The further you go along the mountainous forest path, the deeper you dive into the beauty of nature.

Once you reach the top of the hill, you are greeted by an exhilarating view of the mist-strewn mountains in the background and the clouds that accompany you, while you set up your tent and relax, in nature. It’s highly recommended to stay overnight, to view the gorgeous and magical star-studded sky.

Triund Trek

Address: McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala 176219

Website: Triund Trek

Nestled amidst lush natural beauty

This charming hill station is surrounded by dense pine trees, vast deodar forests, numerous streams and an invigorating atmosphere. Beautifully appointed against the backdrop of the grandiose Dhauladhar Range and on the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley, Dharamshala entices tourists from all over the world.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Darryl Gonsalves is a serial entrepreneur and owns a business intelligence consultancy company and a web content solutions providing company both based in Mumbai, India....Read more

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