Dharamshala means “religious sanctuary” or “rest house” in Hindi. This place is indeed a refuge for several religious pilgrims as evidenced by the numerous buddhist monks living here, it being home to the youngest Dalai Lama as well as several refugee Tibetans. It is located in the Himachal Pradesh area towards the mountain region and is crowded with oak and conifer trees thus being a very cool and serene place.
My highlights of Dharamshala
1.Visit McLeod Ganj
It is famous for being home to the Dalai Lama and several Tibetan exiles and monks. As you walk around the place, you will easily meet with several Tibetans and Buddhist monks and if you are lucky, you may get a chance to actually see and hear the Dalai Lama address the people.
2) Learn about Tibet and its people
The Dharamshala area is a haven for many exiled Tibetans and is refered to as the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in exile. Take time to walk around and interact with the people, their information and stories will be quite informative and mind boggling.
3) Appreciate the Prayer Flags:
As you walk around the area, you will find bright, coloured, rectangular pieces of cloth hanging on strings all over. These are popularly referred to as prayer flags by the Tibetans and it is believed that when the wind blows, it carries the prayers from the flags to heaven.
4: Enjoy the Scenery:
The scenery in this area is very beautiful as most of the area is covered in green cover, trees and other vegetation. Waterfalls, the sunrise and the sunset are a sight to behold and looking at the Himalaya ranges in the yonder awakened an enticement to hike Mt. Everest in the future.
5) Go shopping:
The markets have lots of traditional clothing and artifacts that will entice you to purchase several pieces, I did. Being mountainous, one feels like they are always either ascending or descending. It is generally a safe area and the presence of many money changers/forex bureaus even on the streets reveal this.
One can get a bus from Hoshaipur where we were stationed, to Dharamshala. The drive up is very beautiful and scenic but you will definitely have your scary moments as the driver navigates the numerous sharp corners while going uphill. However, I would advise if returning back to Hoshiapur on the same day, DO NOT take the last bus from Dharamshala, you may as well sleep over. We took the last bus and this is a decision I highly regret. The bus was overcrowded, polluted and the high speeds that the bus driver navigated the descent are enough to make a block buster horror movie. Terror has never been so real.
I truly enjoyed my visit and definitely wish to re-visit. I need more time to interact with the people, to learn the culture, to hear about the Tibetans and maybe even get to see and here the Dalai Lama speak. Kindly make sure you have your passport when you travel here as this is the reason we didn’t get to spend a night, as the hotels are quite strict.
For more on my exploration of India check out:
India 101: http://wangechigitahi.co.ke/india-101/