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Dharamsala

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McLeod Ganj and the snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhars

Dharamsala (pronounced Dharamshala) is a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, famed for its large Tibetan community centered around the Dalai Lama.

Understand

The Tibetan Buddhist roots of Dharamsala stretch back into the 8th century, although most of the local population long since reverted to (and remains) Hindu. "Dharamsala" literally means an "inn attached to a temple", and it was so until the district headquarters in Kangra became too crowded and the British moved 2 of their regiments in the late 1840s to what is now Dharamsala. This over the years grew to be district headquarters of Kangra, and the very location is now known as the Police Lines.

Dharamsala was mooted to be the summer capital of India. But this was not to be, as much of the town was destroyed in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of 4th April 1905, which killed over 10,000 people in this sparsely populated area.

After falling into obscurity in the early days of Indian independence, Dharamsala regained some social standing in 1959 with the arrival of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile [1]. Currently, it is a very popular hang-out for foreigners and students of Buddhism. Indeed, it is now perhaps a little too popular - many would say the town (esp. McLeod Ganj) is little more than a backpacker ghetto. Don't come here expecting calm and tranquillity.

Map of McLeod Ganj

Orientation

The town is divided into two distinct areas that are separated by a ten minute (9 km.) bus/jeep ride: Dharamsala itself (or Lower Dharamsala), a typical small Indian town that, other than for the bus station, is of little interest to tourists, and Upper Dharamsala, known more commonly as McLeod Ganj (named after David McLeod, once the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab). It is this upper district that is home to the Tibetan community and the center of tourist activity. Unless specifically stated, all listings in this article refer to McLeod Ganj.

Other villages near McLeod Ganj include Forsyth Ganj, a short hike away on the way up from Lower Dharamsala, Bhagsu (2 km north), already a commercialized warren of concrete, and Dharamkot, the flavour of the month. For a really quiet (and basic) experience, try Naddi (3 km) or Talnu (11 km).

Lower Dharamsala consists of most of the government offices, Schools, Zonal Hospital, and commercial areas. It also has a few tea gardens. One in the area of Chilgari and another just beyond Dari. One can enjoy the view while driving through.

Climate

Lower Dharamsala is at an altitude of 1400m, while McLeod Ganj is at around 1750m, making them considerably cooler than the plains below. Temperatures in January can dip below freezing, while June can go up to 38°C, and the monsoon season from July to September is very wet indeed. Even in March, when the Dalai Lama holds his teachings and the weather down in Delhi is downright balmy you will still need a heavy winter coat, but these can be purchased at reasonable prices in town.

Get in

By plane

Newly upgraded Gaggal Airport (IATA: DHM) in Kangra, 10 km away, has flights from Delhi on Air Deccan (daily via Pathankot) and Jagson Airlines [2] (three times weekly via Kullu). Flights are prone to cancellation due to bad weather or because enough passengers didn't show up, so leave some leeway for onward connections on the way out.

By bus

Most people come to Dharamsala by bus. It has good connections with other parts of North India, although the journeys are often slow due to the narrow winding roads in the hills.

The main bus terminal is in Lower Dharamsala, but some public HRTC buses to Delhi and Pathankot go all the way to the main square of McLeod Ganj, where you can also book advance tickets for the return trip. Unreserved HRTC buses from Pathankot cost Rs.75 and take 3/4 hours to Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj. Many private bus companies are available for travel from Manali, Dehradun and Delhi. Overnight buses from Delhi, many private ones leaving from the Tibetan colony of Majnu ka Tilla, take upwards of 13 hours and cost anywhere from Rs. 450 for a basic bus to Rs. 830 for a plush Volvo.

By train

The nearest broad gauge railhead is at Pathankot and the neighboring small station of Chakki Bank, a comfortable overnight journey from Delhi. Train buffs can continue on the very slow and rickety but pretty Kangra Valley Railway to Kangra, a journey that easily takes up to 6 hours and still leaves you 18 km from McLeod Ganj, but most travellers choose to continue by bus or taxi instead. If you do choose to go to Kangra then from the train station you need to walk and autorickshaw to the bus stop where buses are available to take you to Dharamsala.

By taxi

A taxi from Pathankot to McLeod Ganj takes about 3 hours, and the official fare from Pathankot is Rs.1300 (return).

Taxis from Delhi are often available leaving from Majnu Ki Tila Tibetan Settlement in North Delhi on the Ring Road. Many people take a taxi to Delhi which takes about 10 hours and pay the return fare simply because they don't want to deal with the hassle and pain of taking a bus. These taxis need to return to Dharamshala and many times will sell seats in their car for the same price as a bus ticket. To find these taxis, go to the Majnu Ki Tila Tibetan Settlement Bus Stand and look for taxis which have Himachal Pradesh License plates. You can negotiate with a driver. Often the taxis will leave in the evening and you will arrive in Dharamshala early the next morning.

Get around

McLeod Ganj is small enough to be navigated on foot. Public buses to Dharamsala leave roughly hourly and cost Rs.5, while chartered autorickshaws charge around Rs.100. Trips from McLeod Ganj to nearby points (eg. Bhagsu) shouldn't cost much more than Rs.30.

See

Giant prayer wheel and thangka of Arya Sitatapatra, a form of Tara, at Tsuglagkhang
  • Tsuglagkhang Complex, Temple Rd. This is the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet, and it has a large meditation hall containing some beautiful statues and thangkas, as well as a Kalachakra temple with beautiful murals. It is the monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and is located just in front of his residence. On the basement level of the complex you will also find the Namgyal Cafe, which is run as a work-training center for Tibetan youth.
  • Tibet Museum, opp. Tsuglagkhang, tel. +91-1892-22510, [3]. Small but interesting museum on the history of Tibet and its people. Open Tu-Su 9AM-5 PM, entry Rs.5.
  • Tibetan Library, [4], near the Tibetan Government in Exile, with a small but interesting museum.
  • Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), [5]. Stages performances of traditional Tibetan dance, music, and theatre.

Bhagsunag Fall:

Bhagsunag fall has many waterfalls, an ancient temple, numerous slate quarries and a fresh water spring. This place is at a distance of around 11 km from the Dharamshala, it is easily approachable by road from Mcleodganj.

Kunal Pathari:

Kunal Pathari is the temple for the local Goddess, at a distance of around 3 km from the Dharamshala. This temple is very famous in local public and people come to this temple every day. Everyone come here to visit the temple and to pray to the Goddess.

Dharamkot:

This place is located at a distance of around 14 km form Dharamshala. This is an ideal place for Picnic near to Dharamshala. It is situated in Himalayan mountain range, which gives an amazing view of the surrounding places.

Do

Bhagsu Waterfall
  • Every year in February-March for ten days or so, and occasionally at other times, the Dalai Lama [6] holds public lectures. Registration at Tibetan Branch Security Office (near Hotel Tibet) is necessary, preferably 3-4 days beforehand (although shorter notice may be possible). Bring a cushion to sit on, a FM radio with headphones to listen to the simultaneous translation from Tibetan to English, a cup for tea, and a sunhat/umbrella, but as little else as possible since security is tight. The last day of teaching concludes with public prayers, for which no security pass is needed. Donations are welcome.

According to the official website of the Dalai Lama, due to health issues His Holiness no longer holds public audiences [7]

  • Palampur, 50 km from Dharamsala. Famous for its tea gardens. The best Kangra tea is available at the Agricultural University at Palampur.
  • Visit the 17th Karmapa at his temporary residence at the Gyuto Tantric University in the town of Sidhbari near McLeod Ganj. For detailed information, check the Kagyu school's official web site: [8]
  • Bhagsu Waterfall, 3 km from Dharamsala. An easy walk down Bhagsu Rd through the village of the same name, then 1 km up to the waterfall itself. Despite a sign advising visitors not to venture further, the path to the waterfall is in reasonable shape, except for the final 50 meters which are distinctly dodgy, especially in slippery weather. Be careful if you decide to take a bath in the upper pools of the waterfall, as there may be shards of glass in the water (thrown there by the villagers to prevent "indecent" behavior by westerners at night).
  • If you are in for a brisk walk, climb the hill beyond Dharamkot to Triund with a beautiful view of the first peaks of the "real" Himalayas, and a wide view over the plains at its feet. As the peak is over 3000 meters, make sure to wear good shoes, carry water (some food if you like) and an extra vest or coat. At the top, even in summer, the weather can change from hot and sunny into a small snowstorm very quickly. Every year some tourists get themselves into serious trouble this way, wearing only sandals and a T-shirt.If you want to warm up before the Triund trak, try the trek to Guna temple ( 5 km one way, through jungle and quite a climb, but you will see nature at it's best)
  • Dal Lake, 4 km from Dharamsala (past Naddi). Fairly well signposted, this thoroughly anticlimactic sacred pond is the color and texture of its yellow lentil namesake. Don't bother.

Trekking: Trekking for Indrahar pass starts from the Dharamshala, which is well known as the house of the Dalai Lama. This trekking trek passes through the snowbound Dhauladhar Range in the Kangra valley. This Trek ends at Lamu. [9]

Learn

Courses

The half-Tibetan, half-Indian bazaar bustle of McLeod Ganj

Courses range from yoga, meditation, reiki, Tibetan and Indian cooking classes, Tibetan language classes and Thai massage. All courses include vegetarian meals, and are offered at the following meditation centers:

  • Tushita Meditation Center, [10]. 10-day Introduction to Buddhism/meditation courses, 5-day meditation courses, and more (mostly residential). Silence is held most of the day but there are also discussion groups after philosophy lessons. Situated near Dharamkot, Tushita practices the Tibetan mahayana tradition and is a great introduction to Buddhism. Register online or at Tushita, 10 day course starts at 4800Rs inclusive of all lodging, lessons and 3 meals a day (very tasty veg.)
  • Vipassana - Situated near Dharamkot, offers a 10 days meditation course. You need to register in advance at their web-site [11]. The course will teach you the vipassana technique as taught by Goenka. You have to be in complete silence, and you are provided 2 meals and very light dinner. The course is free, but you can leave a donation if you please.

Please note that the Vipassana course is a fairly intense form of meditation retreat (14hr days) in the Theravada tradition. Vipassana is great but unless you are serious about meditation and (preferably) have some meditation experience it is recommended to go to Tushita which is more of a mix of meditation, philosophy and discussions. Even though there is a set cost at Tushita it works out quite cheap per day (around 500Rs incl. food & lodging) and can provide a more gradual introduction to those new to Buddhism.


  • Yogi Cottage. Reiki lessons, private or in groups.
  • Kailash School of Yoga & Holistic Healing, (100 meters from the main square, walk down the stairs from the Green Shop), [12]. Ashtanga Vinyasa and Tribal Hatha Yoga classes are available daily to everyone on a drop-In basis. Treatments and sessions in Reiki, Ayurvedic Massage, Meditation and Sound Healing are also available but have to be arranged at least 1 day in advance. Additionally, the school offers a range of short and long-term courses in any of the above mentioned areas to suit the diverse needs of people who would like to gain a deeper understanding of a holistic approach to life.
  • Buddha Hall - reiki with Usha - Usha is a grandmaster reiki teacher who runs courses in reiki (I,II,III and Master) as well as tarot and crystal healing from Buddha hall in Bagsu, (Opposite the German Bakery). She is a very flexible and compassionate teacher.
  • Z-Meditation, [13] - Fifteen-day silent meditation retreat in McLeod Ganj (go down the stairs at Yongling School. It's the big green building). The course is much more varied than vipassana - it includes a rational meditation technique of deep deconditioning inquiry, creative meditation, assignments for disentangling your own life, and also 2 hours of daily yoga, 3 vegetarian meals and a refreshment break. The entire retreat is undertaken in silence. Courses range from $500-$900 depending on accommodation arrangements (as of March 2009).
  • Guerrilla Yoga, - five day yoga courses of several varieties in McLeod Ganj (go down the stairs at Yongling School. It's the big green building). Private instruction is also available. New studio, opened in March of 2008, great staff, very friendly. Also has local art for sale, commission free.
  • Asho Institute in Bhagsu Village also provide courses in ayurvedic nutrition and tai-Chi.
  • Llhamo's kitchen learn how to cook traditional tibetan food, including momos from a delightful tibetan man called Llhamo. It all takes place in Llhamo's single room house right in the center of town.
  • Mr Sangye's Kitchen learn how to cook traditional tibetan food, different courses every day, ranging from soups, momos and tibetan bread. We did the soup course and found the cooking lesson to be good, and the food and the chance to talk to a tibetan about the free tibet movement etc. Sangye is based on the Joqibara rd, further down from the post office and the pool hall. Mobile phone number: 9816164540 or 9418066184, email: sangyla_tashi@yahoo.co.in


  • Soundmassage, Soundhealing, Soundtreatment Explore the secret sound of the himalayan singing bowls and make a journey to your inner self. Make harmony possible only by sound and vibration. Teaching possible. Contact: Antje, Mobile phone number: 9816644273, email: antjensan@web.de, www.soundhealing.de
  • Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, regular classes. contact: Jiwan Kaur, Thardoeling, Near HH Dalai Lama temple, Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, email: jiwankaur13@hotmail.co.uk, phone: 9816851691
  • classes of study in Tibetan buddhism and language. lesson: 1. tibetan buddhism, 2. tibetan language, 3. hindi language. timing: 9AM to 12PM and 2PM to 5PM. (Monday to Saturday). contact: phn. 9805391799

email tibhintutor@yahoo.in

Work

Volunteer

There are some opportunities to volunteer while you are here. For long term options (1month or more) ask at the LHA office in the middle of the town. Staff are very friendly and always welcoming of people to teach, tutor or get involved in conversation class.

If you are an environmental expert, then contact Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement, a non-profit Tibetan environmental group (www.ecotibet.org/ ecotibet@yahoo.com). Although all their publications are in Tibetan, they can still use your help.

Rogpa Cafe on Jogibara Rd is always looking for volunteers for the Day Care centre looking after kids (2wk commitment) or for the cafe. All proceeds go to the Rogpa Day Care centre that is set up free of charge for local children.

Volunteer Tibet [14]. Teaching English and computers are most common options and this organisation may likely pass you through to LHA or other organisations. There are also a few institutions for benefit of exile Tibetans and local Indians. There are ads on billboards and also in the free local magazine "Contact".

You may also talk approach Tibetans in social circles to help them improve their English, while getting to know each other's culture and personal story. Be mindful of accepting requests to privately tutor monks that address you on the streets; some of them may ask you to be their sponsor after a few days but stories of this are rare. However, it is best to go through a setup organisation if you want to help.

In general though, most monks and lay people are incredibly grateful to have you help them with their English and it is a great way to get to know Tibetan people on a more personal level. Easiest way to help out is to drop into LHA on Temple Rd or LIT on Jogibara Rd and sign up for tutoring. Please note that a commitment of 1month is preferred.

Buy

  • Tibetan Singing Bowl. Buy the hand-made Singing Bowl, its very easy to play and is used for Sound healing, Music therapy or just to relax.

Many Tibetan things can be bought in Dharamsala - woolen shawls, prayer flags, prayer wheels, thangka and mandala paintings, Tibetan jewelry & trinkets etc.

Eat

McLeod Ganj is a great place for eating, and the town has an abundance of restaurants, especially in the mid to upper range that cater to foreign tourists.

Some Tibetan favorites

Dharamsala is a good place to try Tibetan food and beverages.

  • Momos - dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, steamed or fried
  • Thukpa - a hearty noodle soup with veggies or meat
  • Thenthuk - thukpa with handmade noodles
  • Pocha - salty tea churned with butter, a Tibetan staple


  • Common Ground Cafe situated on Tushita Rd up the hill about 100m from the bus stop. Great Taiwanese food and a great place to sit and relax with your shoes off on the raised seating area. Cafe setup as a meeting place between Chinese and Tibetans and holds many discussions, shows etc. in promoting harmony and understanding between the two cultures.
  • Namgyal Cafe Situated in HH Dalai Lama's Main Temple & Monastery Namgyal is around to the right of the main entrance. Pizza is regarded as the best in town, salads are also tasty and the atmosphere is cozy. All food is prepared by monks from the monastery who are in training for cooking.
  • Shangri La Restaurant on Jogibara Rd near the bus stop is a great little cafe run by monks and with all proceeds going to Gyudmed Monastery. Try the Shangri La Sandwich for breakfast! Meals for dinner also good quality and well priced.
  • JJI's Retaurant on Bhagsu Rd is great for breakfast. Recommended is the famer's breakfast (which is like a potato, veg & egg omelette) and their freshly pressed apple juice. Dinner is also good quality with Momos in Veg Soup being recommended.
  • Carpe Diem, Jogibara Road. Featuring occasional live music. Western-style food (e.g. pizzas) and excellent home made muesli. Serve beer.
  • Green Hotel, Bhagsu Road. Really popular, with decent, hearty food and good pies. Meals Rs 30-50. Best breakfast in Town!
  • Himalaya Restaurant, Bhagsu Rd. Barebones eatery full of plastic chairs and hungry Tibetan monks. There's extra space on the roof if needed. The menu is all Tibetan and all cheap at Rs.25-50 for mains.
  • Jimmy's Italian Restaurant, near the main square, nice decor (old movie posters) and friendly staff. Better than the other Italian places in town. A real treat with great salads, pasta, and pizza.
  • JJI's Cafe. Delicious Special Muesli. Sometimes they play Bob Dylan.
  • Le Vrai Café, Jogibara Rd. Just above the Chocolate Log, and down the hill from the post office, this is the place to get European continental food and atmosphere. Run by a Franco-Tibetan couple, expect top quality coffee, plenty of chess and a real locals' atmosphere. Epitomizes the trans-nationality of McLeod, to be celebrated and savoured.
  • Lhamo's Croissant, Bhagsu Rd, [15]. One of those "only in Dharamsala" places, offering French pastries (Rs.40-50), Tibetan herbal teas (Rs.25 a pot) and some pretty good Western food (Rs.100 or so). Excellent Choclate Banana Cake and Marble Cake, Do try a Slice each.
  • Lung-Ta, Jogibara Rd (all the way near the southern end of town), M-Sa noon-11PM, closed Sundays. Excellent Japanese food - pay attention to the daily specials. Non-profit, proceeds go towards helping to free political prisoners.
  • Malabar Restaurant, Jogibara Rd (near the bus stand), 11AM-11PM everyday. Serves Indian standards along with a few selections of Chinese and some continental dishes.This is one of the oldest restaurants in town.
  • Maza Falafel, Near Bhagsu Temple. This one offers Good Falafel in Rs. 70. Located on the way towards the Bhagsu Temple. Opposite German Bakery
  • Momo Cafe. Best momos in town. The chai is also particularly good.
  • Nick's Italian Kitchen, Bhagsu Rd., 6 AM-9 PM every day. Great Italian food at low prices. Great view from terrace. Very popular. An American writer with residence in Rome taught the recipes in 1996 to Kunga, the owner. A Dutch linguist gave advice on interior decoration in 1996. Rooms are over-priced.
  • Om Hotel. Right near the main bus square in Mcleod Ganj, this family run restaurant/hotel has great Tibetan food, and is very cheap. Great view from terrace.
  • Pema Thang's Guest House, Bhagsu Rd (opposite Bhagsu Hotel) 11AM-10PM everyday. They offer amazing continental and local fare, all of it vegetarian. Lip smackingly yummy, try the fried banana with nuts and the pepperoni pizza, which will leave you astounded. They also serve great thenthuk.
  • Pizzicato Cafe, Palampur (Palampur shopping centre, next to the auto-rickshaw stand). Famous for its dark chocolate pastry made from fate free yogurt. It has a good selection of yummy pizzas and toasted sandwiches.
  • Snow Lion Restaurant, 11AM-9:30PM everyday. This is a popular place for both Tibetans and Tourists alike. If you want to taste what the locals eat. go there. Prices are very reasonable for the quality.
  • Sunset Cafe. Past The Bookworm book shop and up the hill on the right. Located on the rooftop of the Annex Hotel. Fresh food and unreal views of the valley and mountains.
  • Rewa Cafe, Jogiwara Road (down the hill, five minutes past the post office). Best Tibetan food in town.
  • Taste of India, Jogibara Rd, 10AM-11PM everyday. Some say it's the best Indian food in town, others find it mediocre, but it's certainly popular; this depends on whether you are lucky with your order: the best is absolutely fantastic, but sometimes the dishes are bland. The owner runs 3 day cooking courses from the restaurant. She also owns a South Indian restaurant on Bhagsu Rd (one of the last shops in Mcleod on the way to Bagsu) which serves simple but very tasty southern dishes.
  • Dolma & Dorjee, Bagsu Road (in the last bend of the road to bhagsu, just before you leave McLeod Ganj.). Small,inexpensive restaurant at the quieter end of Bagsu road. Run by a delightful, friendly family who give the place its charater. Very reasonable prices, excellent banana bread and the best tasting chai in town.
  • TCV tibetan crafts, temple road (On the way to main temple). 2 shops of/for/by tibetan children village. fare prices and an opportunity to support the cause.

Ashooka is also vying for the best place in town for Indian and is situated on Jogibara Rd about 200m dow. Great curries and raita.

  • Hotel Mc Lo, situated near bus stand is one of the most crowded hotels in the city. Hotel offers good combination of chinese, punjabi, south indian and north indian food. It also runs a decent pub/bar. Hotel has got a rooftop cafe which provides a scenic view of dhauladhar range of hills on one side and dharamshal city on the other side. Nice place to hang out.

Drink

  • First Cup has great coffee and a nice area out front to sit and watch the world go by.
  • Moon Peak Coffee, Temple Rd (halfway down the hill). The best coffee in town. The owners also run a photo lab next door by the same name. Sit and have a coffee while waiting for your photos to print.
  • Cafe Boom Boom the Fifth, Jogibara (Halfway to te Tibetan Library), +91 98 1603 2208. 8AM-10PM. mid range.
  • Refill your waterbottle with filtered-water

There are many water-filtering stations in town to refill your bottle: Some are LHA at Temple Rd, Environmental Education Centre at Bhasgu Rd and Dogga-Centre at Jogibara Rd.

  • Xcite, main square, mcleod ganj. the only nightclub in the region! Beware to get touched up///


Bar Xcite - the most popular hangout with both westerners (especially Platform 2!), locals and holidaying punjabis, this is the only true bar/club in the area, with a dancefloor. Both Indian and western tunes are played until 1am.

Sleep

McLeod Ganj has a wide selection of accommodation, most of which is located close to the main bus stop. Just walk around. It is easy to find somewhere suitable. There are also 2 smaller towns within walking distance, Bhagsu and Dharmakot. They are quieter than McLeod, whose main streets (esp. Bhagsu Rd) suffer from the usual Indian curse of lots of beeping cars/bikes/rickshaws pushing through the streets, and have a wide array of cool places to stay and courses to do.

For long-term stays, head down the Yongling stairs on Jogiwara Road; there are about a dozen cheap good places down there, with great views.

Budget

  • Shree Guest House 300m up Tushita Rd, 3yo guest house run by a family in a quieter part of town, rooms range 150Rs-200Rs for a double room for 2 person. Phone No.0091-9418788777
  • Seven Hill's Guest house200m up TIPA Road,Very Nice and Peace, room range 100Rs-300Rs for double room for 2 person.Phone No 0091-9418079845.
  • Akash Guest House (Jogiwara Rd, Tel: 01892-221990) - lots of noise,but okay.

url="http://www.greenhotel.biz" checkin="" checkout="" price="Rs 300-900" lat="" long="" email="green@greenhotel.biz" fax="">A traveler favorite, simple, clean rooms and very good restaurant. You can refill your water bottle cheaply here to save on plastic, and there's fast internet cafe in the restaurant. Best cakes in town, specially carrot cake!</sleep>

  • Kareri Lodge - neat & clean rooms with amazing views from the balconies.
  • Pink House, Jogibara Road, (opp Yongling School), +91-94181-43227/01892-221145, [16], [17]. Newish place with nicer rooms than many of the other budget accommodations. Location off of the main roads makes for a quieter stay. Rs 100 for single room with common bath, Double rooms Rs 250 -600 with private bathroom, hot water, balcony & tv.long way to walk up and down.
  • Rainbow House - Very clean and affordable, with hot water.
  • River View Apartmants, Jogiwara, Heru Village, tel. 9816206406, 9816292228. All rooms with balcony and kitchen.
  • Snow Lion Guest House. Great budget place right in the center of town. Rs 175 for tiny double room with communal bathroom.
  • Tashi Khansang - clean budget rooms with both shared and attached baths, run by a friendly Tibetan family which lives downstairs - great security is provided by the house dog!
  • Tibetan Ashoka Guesthouse - very clean and comfortable rooms at reasonable prices.
  • Z Meditation Center [18] (near Yongling school, Jogibara Road) offers spiritual library, yoga and peaceful place for contemplation. Double rooms Rs 300 - 400 with private bath and kitchen. +91-9418036956 or zmeditation@gmail.com.

Mid range

  • 8 Auspicious Him View Hotel,Jogiwara Road, Mcleod Ganj.[19] A perfect destination for nature lovers. Beautiful view of the snow capped Dhauladhar range from your own private balcony.The rooms are immaculately clean with attached bathrooms. located within walking distance of the main temple of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and also the bustling shopping area of Mcleod Ganj. Each room is named after one of the eight auspicious signs of Buddhism and decorated accordingly.
  • Jagatram Niwas, [20]. Tel: +91-98161-43957. Located above McLeodganj in the quiet rural village of Heini, this small, family-run guest house offers peace and quiet, clean, stylishly furnished rooms and traditional Himachali home-cooked food. Is an ideal base for trekking in the Dhauladhar range and day excursions to local sights and attractions. Rooms cost Rs 800 per night, including breakfast, with discounts for longer stays.
  • Annex Hotel, Surya Road, tel. +91-1892-221002, [21]. The Annex Hotel has a great view over the Kangra Valley. It is on a quiet side street just minutes away from the main square. The hotel has 10 rooms, all of which have balconies, cable TV and an attached bathroom with their own hot water geyser. There is also the Sunset Cafe on the rooftop where you can watch the sunset plus internet facilities, a common lounge room, library and room service. Room prices range from Rs 850-1800. You can also book airline, bus and train tickets plus tours and trek reservations from the hotel's travel desk (Himalaya Fun and Tours) [22].
  • Bhagsu Hotel, [23]. State-run Himachal Tourism hotel, which despite the name is in McLeod Ganj. At the upper end of the price range with carpeted rooms and en-suite bathrooms. Has a pleasant pseudo-English garden with lawn and flowers. Rs.800-1600.
  • Hotel Tibet, TIPA Road. First better hotel of McLeod. Nice, warm bedcovers (down). Clean. Good service. Reasonable meals. Good deals off-season.


  • Pema Thang's Guest House, opp Bhagsu Hotel, tel. +91-1892-221871, [24]. Tibetan-run older guesthouse, tucked on a quiet side street with great views over the Kangra Valley. Rooms are starting to show their age, but they're scrupulously clean and comfy and feature a TV and 24h hot water. Double rooms Rs.770-1100, industrial-strength gas heater (necessary in winter) Rs.200/day extra, kitchenette facilities available for longer stays.
  • Snow Crest Inn Dharamsala, [25] TEL: +91-94-1808-6608, Located in Naddi, Upper Dharamsala, 3km from Mcleod Ganj, and a short walk from the Tibetan Childen's Village: Enjoy panoramic views of the breathtaking Dhauladhar Mountain Range from our roof top restaurant or your private balcony. Amenities include internet access, TV, and solar heated water for your shower. Rs600-700 off season, 1200-1400 high season.

Splurge

  • Chonor House, off Temple Road, [26]. Easily the best (and most expensive) place to stay, home to stars like Richard Gere. It's not five-star luxury, but it has great views, good food and it run by the Norbulingka Institute, whose proceeds go to helping refugees. Rs 1,900 and up.
  • Asia Health Resorts, +91 1892-220877, [27]. Located outside of the main centers of McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala, this modern hotel is somewhat sterile, but takes a stab at upmarket, and is the only place in the area where you'll find a (small) swimming pool, and a gym with steam and sauna. Also offers Ayurvedic massage, a rooftop bar and some rooms & suites with a/c.
  • Surya McLeod, [28]. Another somewhat upmarket choice, rooms in this large hotel have tv and look reasonably comfortable, and some boast views over the valley. There's a restaurant, bar and ping pong table (!) on site. Rs 1800-3400.
  • Glenmoor Cottages, Mall Road, McLeodganj,Upper Dharamshala (Approx 01 km from McLeodganj on the road leading to the Dal Lake /TCV), +91 1892-221010, [29]. Located 1 km from the town of McLeodganj,Glenmoor Cottages is in the midst of a mixed forest of Cedar, Oak and Rhododendron, overlooking the Kangra valley. Ideal for a quite and peaceful holiday. Known to be frequented by a number of celebrities and dignitaries.

Get out

  • Palampur beautiful valley famous for its tea gardens, agricultural university, temples
  • The holy Sikh city of Amritsar and its Golden Temple is a 6-hour bus ride away.
  • Manali is the next hub for journeys deeper into the mountains.
  • Dalhousie a small hill station close to Pathankot.


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