Longing to breathe the fresh mountain air of the Himalayas? This article talks about the best things to do in Dharamshala for a tranquil vacation that will soothe your soul, avoiding the crowded, hyped-up touristy places.
With breath-taking views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, lush green valleys, and dense forests, a quick getaway in Dharamshala is the break you need from the searing heat and the hustle of routine life. Located in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh on the foothills of the Dhauladhar mountain range, Dharamshala is known for its stunning natural beauty, serene environment, and spiritual significance.
Our goal at Wander Smartly is to make your travels smarter and help you have the best experience on your trips. From my own experience of visiting Dharamshala, I share everything you need to know to plan the perfect getaway to the hills.
Best Time to Travel
A respite in the summer season is the best time to enjoy Dharamshala, between the months of March to June when the weather is at its best, skies are blue and flowers are merrily blooming. However, you can consider visiting during the monsoon or the winter season too, with tapered expectations of what the weather permits you to do outside.
How to Reach
Going to Himachal Pradesh seems like an uphill task (quite literally) as most places need hours of nauseating road travel to reach. Dharamshala is perhaps one of the most convenient hill stations in terms of accessibility. It has an airport (Kangra Airport) which is connected to New Delhi. So, you could fly via New Delhi or fly to Chandigarh and reach here within 6 hours by taking a taxi or driving down the fine roads. I travelled using the second option and it turned out to be a smooth journey, neither nauseating nor painful.
Where to Stay
With most popular towns in Himachal Pradesh reaching a point of commercial saturation, the best way to enjoy your stay in Dharamshala is to avoid the crowds and stay in a serene location.
Eagle’s Nest in McLeodganj, Dharamshala fits the bill perfectly, and offers one of the best views of the snow-capped Dhauladhar Mountain Range in perhaps all of Dharamshala. The resort is located on a hill in the forest, away from any commercial noise and nests you right in the lap of nature. It is rebuilt from an old stone house into a quiet and comfortable place to stay that opened its doors to visitors only in March 2023. Our stay here made all the difference in our trip to Dharamshala. Highly, highly recommended.
One of the best things about this place is its gentry. With only a few rooms on offer in its interesting location, this place automatically limits the number of people it hosts. The few guests around were posh and well-spoken and we had a lovely time getting to know each other in the common dining area. The rooms are huge and luxurious, with jaw-dropping views of the mountains. I loved the touch of placing books in each room to read, like a mini library at your disposal.
Although there is no room service, the quality of food at this resort is top-notch. It has a set menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day of the week and every item is cooked to perfection. Imagine digging into perfectly seasoned aloo paranthas in the morning with this view to gaze at. Their apple pie, among other delicacies, was particularly delicious.
The multiple view points within the resort will serenade your senses. There are various hikes and trails starting from the resort that allow you to experience the wilderness of the Himalayas without having to navigate through crowds.
Reaching this place will need a bit of assistance. Since this is located in a slightly secluded location, it is advisable to have your vehicle parked in the main city. Here, the resort will send you their own vehicle which will then take you on a 30-minute ride uphill. This is the last motorable point from which you will need to walk a 700m stretch to reach the resort. This walk isn’t uphill or tedious and is quite picturesque. This is an additional touch to keep the crowds at bay. Your luggage will be carried by the hotel staff, who promise great hospitality.
Things to Do in Dharamshala
One of the best sights worth seeing near Dharamshala is the Kangra Fort. This is a magnificent historical fort with a rich history that spans over thousands of years. The fort is situated atop a strategic hill at the confluence of the Banganga and Manjhi rivers, offering panoramic views of the surrounding valley.
It is an architectural marvel, featuring strong stone walls, bastions, gateways, and intricate carvings. The entrance to the fort is through a massive gate known as the Ranjit Singh Gate, which leads to a courtyard. Inside the fort complex, there are several temples, palaces, and residential buildings.
Visit this fort on your way to Dharamshala from Chandigarh/Kangra Airport. Take time to explore the fort (an hour or so should be enough) and click snaps with an amazing backdrop of snow-capped mountains. This is quite a unique destination and a must-visit on your trip to Dharamshala.
While you’re at Eagle’s Nest, you honestly do not need to step out much. Relish the amazing food served to you, gaze at the beautiful views from the points in the resort and go on treks and hikes from the resort itself. Your stay here will be an ethereal experience as you immerse yourself in the views of the gorgeous mountains. Having explored luxury resorts in other Himachal towns like Manali and Mussoorie, the views of the mountains up close offered here are unmatched to any I’ve seen.
Hike up to the Nag Temple from the walkway to the resort for some splendid panoramic views of the mountains. This is just a 5-minute hike and the views are purely majestic.
At the last motorable point where you get off to walk to the resort, there is Galu Temple and a tea shop. Walk ahead on the lane by the temple to get a gorgeous sunset view in the mountains. Enjoy ginger lemon tea at the tea shop.
Perhaps half a day in this trip can be used to visit the Dalai Lama Temple and St. John in the Wilderness Church. Also known as Tsuglagkhang Complex, the Dalai Lama Temple is a significant religious and cultural center located in McLeodganj. It serves as the residence and spiritual headquarters of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Experience the serene and peaceful ambiance of the temple and feel its spiritual aura.
St. John in the Wilderness Church is a historic Anglican church also located in McLeodganj. Situated amidst the serene and picturesque surroundings of the Dhauladhar mountain range, the church is known for its tranquil atmosphere and historical significance.
The church was constructed in 1852 and built in memory of John the Baptist. The architecture of the Church showcases neo-Gothic style, characterized by pointed arches, intricate stone carvings, and tall spires. One of the main attractions of the church is the stained-glass windows that depict various biblical scenes and figures.
Upon your return to Chandigarh/Kangra Airport, visit Naddi View Point. This place offers spectacular views of the Dhauladhar Range and is definitely worth a visit. From here, you can also take a taxi down to the river (20-minute ride) and enjoy a picnic by the clear waters. Dip your feet in the water, take a seat on a rock and slurp in the quintessential Maggi Noodles while on a hill station in India. Don’t drive down here on your own as the roads aren’t even.
Places to Avoid
There’s been so much talk about certain places in Dharamshala I feel like I owe a responsibility to my readers to share my experience from visiting three such places and being heavily disappointed.
1. Bhagsu Waterfall – this popular tourist spot is near Mcleodganj. The waterfall is formed by the cascading waters of the Bhagsu stream as it descends from the Dhauladhar mountain range. To reach the Bhagsu Waterfall, you have to embark on a short trek from the Bhagsu Nag Temple. The effort is not worth it, as the views of the valley and the river didn’t in particular mesmerise me, when I compare it to Eagle’s Nest or Naddi View Point.
2. Shiva Café – I fell prey to the talk of this much-hyped café that requires you to take an additional steep hike from the waterfall. The hike was excruciatingly painful (even to me who takes fitness seriously) and so not worth the effort at all. The view from the cafe is touted to be charming but I wouldn’t agree.
3. Dal Lake – please do not make anything of the name; it isn’t even close to the Dal Lake in Kashmir. This does not even qualify as a lake. It is a pond at best. A swimming pool at any 5 star hotel would be holding more water than the Dal Lake in Dharamshala.
Dharamshala is a charming destination that blends natural beauty, spirituality, and cultural diversity, making it a haven for travelers seeking tranquility. I’d recommend anywhere between 3 to 5 days as the perfect duration for this trip. With its convenient location and beautiful surroundings, it is the perfect escape to the scorching summer heat in India.
Drop a comment below to let us know your thoughts! Visit our destinations page for more such detailed travel guides on places worth visiting.
Is 2 days enough for Dharamshala?
You need a minimum of 3 days to enjoy a getaway in the mountains of Dharamshala. Anywhere between 3 to 5 days would be perfect.
Which is the best month to visit Dharamshala?
A respite in the summer season is the best way to enjoy Dharamshala, between the months of March to June when the weather is at its best, skies are blue and flowers are merrily blooming. However, you can visit during the monsoon or the winter season too, with tapered expectations of what the weather permits you to do outside.
Is Dharamshala worth visiting?
With breath-taking views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, lush green valleys, and dense forests, a quick getaway in Dharamshala is the break you need from the searing heat and the hustle of routine life. Dharamshala is known for its stunning natural beauty, serene environment, and spiritual significance.
Which places are worth visiting in Dharamshala?
Kangra Fort, Naddi View point, Galu Temple, Dalai Lama Temple and St. John’s Church in the Wilderness are worth a visit in Dharamshala. Bhagsu Waterfall, Shiva Cafe and Dal Lake are not worth a visit.
Which is the best place to stay in Dharamshala?
Eagle’s Nest in McLeodganj, Dharamshala is the perfect place that offers one of the best views of the snow-capped Dhauladhar Mountain Range in perhaps all of Dharamshala. The resort is located on a hill in the forest, away from any commercial noise and nests you right in the lap of nature.