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6 Joyful Weeks in Dharamshala – Here’s What I Did (Updated 2022)

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What does this travel guide to Dharamshala contain?

  1. My Dharamshala trip at a glance
  2. About Dharamshala District, Himachal Pradesh.
  3. My best things to do in Dharamashala.
  4. What is the best time to visit Dharmshala?
  5. How to reach Dharamshala, India?
  6. How to reach Dharmshala from Delhi?
  7. Where to stay in Dharmsala?
  8. How much would a Dharamashala trip cost?
  9. What to bring to Dharamshala?
  10. Is Dharamsala safe for solo travelers?
  11. How to avoid the smoking culture of Dharamshala if you don’t want to be a part of it?
  12. How to go on a long trip to Dharamshala India?
  13. Around Dharmashala and further reading.

Update 2022: As of now (8th April), Himachal Pradesh (HP) doesn’t have any specific travel restrictions. Travelers don’t need to carry a negative RTPCR test but everyone is still supposed to wear a mask in public spaces. Read more regulations here on the HP government’s website.

Things to do and places to visit in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

This is not your typical Dharamshala travel guide.

During my six weeks in Dharamshala, I hardly ever searched for “things to do in Dharmshala” or “best places to visit in Dharmashala.”

What was I doing? I was busy taking my Dharamshala trip slow.

This might sound clichéd, but I was learning the art of doing nothing.

Visiting Places in Dharamshala and Doing Things at My Pace

I started my journey in Dharamshala by attending a Vipassana course in Dharamkot, one of the many green villages of the Dharamshala district. After a much-needed ten-day silence of body and mind, I packed my bags and headed out of the deodar forests of the Dharamkot Vipassana center. My plan was to stay for a week in upper Dharamkot. 

But something made me leave Dharamkot in two days. Was it the smoky air of my Dharamkot hostel or the hippies lining the cafes in Dharamkot market, I am not sure. I went to live on the other side of Dharamkot to Upper BhagsuNaag, another lush village in Dharmshala.

I had gone to Bhagsu for a week, and I didn’t know I would end up spending more than a month there. 

What was I doing in Bhagsu village for so long?

I was just being.

Soaking sunshine, breathing in fresh air wafting from the pea fields, reading, writing, hanging out with travelers from around the world, hiking in Dharamashala, learning the flute, understanding my body, doing Vipassana meditation, and practicing yoga were some of the things I did during my one-month stay in Bhagsu. (You might like my ideas on a happy, healthy, and aware life, too.)

Some days, I walked to Mcleodganj. On other days I hiked to Dharamshala city by finding obscure paths through the jungle. In Dharmsala, I saw my first movie alone in a theatre, devoured bowls of mushroom soups in local Tibetan stalls, gorged on parathas loaded with butter at Himachali food shops, and found green trails to discover a new village or practice flute with birds.

Even though writing, blogging, and learning new things occupied me, life in Dharamshala still felt slow.

If I couldn’t wander in the wild for whatever reason, my feet got itchy.

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Practicing flute in the Himalayas. Kangra Valley, Dharamshala

Exploring tiny trails through garlic fields, watching goats and sheep climb up and down, chatting away with the farmer ladies feeding the cows, watching children walking back home on treacherous paths, listening to loud streams gushing close by, choosing one from the hundred tiny mud paths all curling towards the same place, walking under the umbrella of the fragrant deodar and pine trees, admiring the blood-red rose bushes that jump out of nowhere, I didn’t realize how time went by.

At the end of the day, I often tucked up in bed with a piece of Bhagsu cake in hand and an Antman movie on my computer or a Ruskin Bond book (he inspired me to have fun at work). If it rained, I ordered masala chai to warm my hands and soul.

Don’t judge me for too much chai. I needed those steamy cups on the moody days in Dharamshala in Himachal more than the French need their wine after work.

The weather in Dhramsala shifted like the mood of a disappointed life partner. Suddenly clouds would come floating close to my balcony. At other times it hailed as if someone had opened a door. I even ran downstairs to get hit by the icy balls in my head, but the young caretaker at my homestay scolded me and asked me to go back to my room. Then I sat around the restaurant kitchen to drink masala chai or rum and coke. At other times, I wore my pink rain jacket and walked to lower Bhagsu for a tattoo had to be made.

I haven’t told anyone about the tattoo bit yet. Sshh.

I might have lied a little when I said I was doing nothing. At least I felt I wasn’t doing much in Dhramsala.

Sometimes, I sat and admired the caravan of nature. On other days, I became a part of it. And why wouldn’t I? The scenery was breathtaking, the mood was vibrant, and the sun was generous, at least a few days of the week.

Whatever I did, the white-chocolate-sprinkled Dhauladhar range stood tall and peeked at us from everywhere in Dharamshala. Everything was ethereal.

At those heights, you rarely feel stressed. Life seems like a tiny spectacle in front of the gigantic mountains (one of the reasons I travel and live as an itinerant writer).

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People of Dharamshala don’t have an easy life.

I kept asking locals about their routines. If the restaurant people made enough money to support their families. If the guy who sold rudraksha malas in Mcleodganj had enough. If the 20-year-old boy from Kashmir could study along with his day job that feeds his family back home.

Like everywhere else, some people in Dharmsala struggled more than others. Some hoped for a better tomorrow.

But none of them told me they wanted to go somewhere else. They were all content living in the mountains away from the chaos of cities.

When you travel to Himachal Pradesh, talk to some people there (if you don’t already). They have interesting stories to tell (this tale of a Himalayan woman in a small village taught me much about resilience and repetition).

Even though it seems almost clichéd to say you should travel or visit the mountains to be free. To look at the bigger picture. To find yourself.

Looking down on the world while nestling in a sleeping tent on the top of the Himalayan peaks does add a skyline to the mundane.

So what do you say? Let’s visit some mountains this year. Let’s do the clichéd. Let’s get out and climb some hills. Who knows what we might find.

Though I am painting a fairytale picture here, over the past few years Dharamashala has been getting many more tourists than a village hamlet should. Israelis, Europeans, English, and North and South Americans all come here to live in peace, learn yoga in Dharamsala, and progress on the path of spirituality. But the exponential growth in Dharamshala tourism has its disadvantages.

Occasionally, you will find crowds of young Israelis playing loud music at 1 in the night. Your table and chair would disappear from your balcony or would be loaded with dirty plates some drunk people didn’t care to put in the kitchen. You would wake up to almost-naked men sun-basking as if they were in a private garden.

Travelers wouldn’t move for days and would smoke away expecting you to join. Your music teacher might not show up for classes no matter how many times you remind him. Someone would light a joint right after a yoga class at 10 in the morning. Even if you try to work, people would come over and sit at your table expecting you to expect company. They won’t move but you would have to.

So on.

I was able to thrust away some of this social conundrum. Some days it bothered me. Other times I joined. And some afternoons I quietly shifted to another table in the sun hoping to write the persuasion away.

Do what you have to do. Not wanting to smoke doesn’t make you uncool. Whatever you do, remember to not step over others’ space. 

Related Read: 15 things we overthink about

However hard the struggle to keep a peaceful environment might sound, I would have it no other way. This constant switch between comfort and discomfort makes me who I am.

At times I couldn’t stop smiling for serendipity unfolded and left me in the middle of amazing people.

On days, you would find yourself wandering in the woods while at times you would sit in your homestay watching the sky catch fire with a cup of tea and conversation with your host. You can eat paneer butter masala and roti for lunch while dinner could be a burger with salad and potato fries. You can sit with a laptop or you can meditate.

Everything is possible in Dharamashala.

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view from my guesthouse in Bhagsunag, Dharamshala

About Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh

Do you know Dharamshala city is the second capital of Himachal Pradesh after Shimla? The district headquarters of the Kangra district in Himachal, Dharamsala is also the Dalai Lama’s and thousands of Tibetans’ home after Tibet was occupied by China.

Surrounded by the snowy Dhauladhar ranges, Dhramshala is a peaceful place to visit.

My Best Things to do in Dharamshala

The location of Dharamashala makes the district an amazing place to hike, relax, eat, learn, read, and live. Some refer to Dhramshala as Dharamshala hill station, a place tucked away in the mountains.

This list will take you to the nooks and corners of Dharmshala and to some well-known places to visit in Dharamsala while making you feel you haven’t been doing much.

Remember there are a plethora of activities in Dharamshala to choose from. See what you like.

Let’s start.

1. Take a meditation course and change your life

My favorite meditation center, or to say realistically, the only one I tried was the Vipassana meditation center in Dharamkot.

Vipassana is an ancient meditation technique passed on by our beloved Buddha himself. I have yet to write an article on Vipassana, but for now, I would say meditation isn’t as fancy as it seems. You are basically trying to control your thoughts, body, and brain while focusing on your breath (and your body parts). You try to become mindful.

The ten-day-long Vipassana course at the Dhamma centers is good for beginner meditators or those who want to know more about meditation. Though Vipassana is a hard course and you have to sit on the floor to meditate for about fifteen hours a day, suffering is an intended part of the course. The pain arising from long sittings has to be observed until it passes. Whether it rains or hails, you meditate.

Vipassana doesn’t only help focus the mind and manage the pains, it also helps in rewiring our behavior. I still need to meditate more regularly. But since I have gone to the course, I don’t take many medicines for period pain. I know the pain is temporary and it will pass. Try the course if you want to use meditation techniques to live a more present life.

When to go: The Dharamkot Vipassana center is closed in the winter so the best time to go is March/April to September/October.

How to go: Apply on the Dhamma website. When you receive a confirmation, follow the steps in this article to travel to Dharamshala. Dharamkot is a small taxi or bus ride away from the Dhramsala bus stand.

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2. Hike in Dharamashala – Best way to Visit Places in Dharamshala

My best way to travel in Dharamshala was to walk. And to your surprise, most places in Dharamshala (and Himachal) can be hiked up to by many different paths.

I am listing down all the places to see in Dharamshala and around I hiked to or lost my way. Feel free to go on some of these hikes or find your own.

You can read my guide to trekking in Dharamsala for complete information on all these treks.

  • Kareri lake — Kareri Lake lies a trek away from the village of Kareri. Located at a high altitude of 2934 meters, Kareri lake is a freshwater lake that is said to have the most gorgeous landscape. I almost went for this trek but my plan got canceled and I ended up in Amritsar instead. 
  • Naddi — A village walkable from Mcleodganj. Go here for beautiful sunsets.
  • Dharamkot or Bhagsu to Dharamashala city —  A long but beautiful walk. Take the road that forks from the Bhagsu-Mcleodganj road and goes down, and keep walking. Ask the locals for the way. You can also walk along the stream that goes down from Bhagsu waterfall and continues. Or you can choose to walk up the hills as I did. More details in the Dharamshala hiking guide.
  • To an unnamed waterfall in Dharamkot — One of my best places in Dharamshala to visit

A gorgeous waterfall (in which you can swim) lies a two-three-four hours hike (depending on your speed) from Dharamkot and Bhagsu. Walk up to the Gallu Devi temple (one of the many revered temples in Dharamshala) above Dharamkot and ask for the way. 

  • To BhagsuNag waterfall by two different paths— Walk to the Bhagsu waterfall from either upper or lower Bhagsu. The upper part of the Bhagsunag waterfall is quieter than the lower.
  • To the Triund campsite and the snow-capped mountains of Dhauladhar — A six km uphill walk under the red rhododendrons from Upper Dharamkot would bring you to the Triund hill. Do it yourself or take a guide, the walk is pretty either way. More details on this are in the hiking guide.

One other things to do on your Dharamshala trip is to hike through the Indrahar pass. This trek takes about four days and three nights to complete.

Sightseeing in Dharamshala by hiking is much more interesting than taking a bus or a taxi. Walk it away. Remember, the altitude of Dharamshala is about 1450 meters, so if you start panting, don’t be hard on yourself. 

triund one of the best places to visit in dharamshala himachal pradesh india
Hiking – Your first answer to the question of what to do in Dharamshala.

3. Sign up for a yoga course in Dhramshala

Due to the scenic Dhauladhar Himalayas enveloping Dharamshala from all sides, the Dalai Lama, and the mediation centers around Dharamashala, yoga has become a popular activity to do in Dharamshala.

Yoga is such a trend in Dhramsala that everyone who goes there has yoga added to their itinerary. Due to the demand for yoga classes in the area, many yoga centers have opened up and they run on run on donation-based hourly yoga classes.

Though new yoga teachers have opened up yoga centers for different kinds of yoga, many old yoga centers still thrive in the area. 

My guide to Dharamshala yoga (which also includes an introduction to yoga in India) will help me fully understand the yoga scene in Dhramshala. It also lists many yoga centers and how to find a yoga center if you are looking for one.

4. Live in a village in Dharmashala

What is better than waking up to a silent village, a few birds chirping to wake up the world, and a misty view from your balcony?

I lived in Bhagsu village for more than a month (linked is the narrative) doing the many things I mentioned above. If you love a location-free lifestyle, just hop onto one of the many villages in Dharamshala and see how life goes on in Himachal.

But having said all the nice things about a village stay, let me tell you the unlimited self-growth classes – music, yoga, meditation, and healing have sort of compromised on the local feel of the Himachali villages. Sometimes you would feel as if you are in Europe or some other cosmopolitan place outside India.

Amongst the tonnes of self-improvement classes, travelers forget to go out in nature and see how healing nature can be. By stepping aside from the main paths, find the magic of the Himalayas on your own.

homestay bhagsu dharamsala himachal pradesh india

5. Practice a musical instrument, and, again, change your life 

Many classical musicians and singers from around India flock to Dharamshala not only for some respite from city life but also to teach aspiring singers and musicians.

Go try the Jolly music shop at the center of Dharamkot. It is easy to find. You get to choose an hourly class of an instrument of your choice. The price per class is around 400-500 rupees.

Sit out in the many classical music festivals held at restaurants and cafes at night and get inspired to learn.

Update 2022: I’m sad to inform you that Jolly baba is no more, as all of us lovingly called him. Hope he took the music with him.

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6. Enjoy Tibetan and Nepali food while not forgetting we have also got parathas and rajma chawal in Dhramsala 

Food is westernized and expensive in Dharamshala villages. As few Indians stay put in a destination for long, restaurants make food for an international palette. The almost bland food processed by these restaurants is sometimes thought of as real Indian food by foreign tourists.

Request the restaurant to balance spices in your curries while you order. Mcleodganj has more local, simple, and cheaper food options than the villages.

My favorite places to eat in Dharamashala,

  1. Roja Cafe, Upper Bhagsu — Home-grown wheat chapati and aloo gobhi. Poori sabzi (dry veggies with pooris). And more.
  2. Jungle Calling, Upper Bhagsu — Chocolate balls. Hundred rupees for one piece (woah).
  3. Tibet Kitchen, Mcleodganj, Dharamshala — All Tibetan thukpas, momos, and finger-licking.
  4. Bishnu Trekkers tea house — Small Himachali stall near Mcleodganj Square. Thali or the Himachali Dham for rupees 61. Unlimited food but please pay more for you can only get so much in 61.
  5. White Rabbit, Upper Bhagsu — For authentic Indian thali and crispy dosas.
  6. Evergreen Cafe — Upper Bhagsu. Spinach burger with fries. All things Indian are good here. Their sister also runs a place called Evergreen on the way from Dharamkot to Bhagsu. All good food and ginger lemon honey. 
  7. Bodhi Greens, Dharamkot — Good sandwiches and cakes.
  8. The Yak Cheese Sandwich shop — Dharamkot. For fresh yak cheese sandwiches and all things sweet.
  9. Heena Cafe— Upper Dharamkot near Bunker hostel. For good Indian and Tibetan food.
  10. Brahma Cafe — Upper Bhagsu. For Indian thali and garlicky palak paneer.
  11. Namgyal cafe — For those days when you need good crunchy pizza.
  12. Samosa and tiki shops in Mcleodganj on the Dalai Lama temple road.
  13. Small stalls in Mcleodganj – For kadhi chawal, rajma chawal, and aloo paranthas. If you want simple and cheap food, Mcleodganj is your best bet.
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It was better than it looks. Roja cafe, Upper Bhagsu.
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White Rabbit, Upper Bhagsu
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A Chaat stall and local shop in Mcleodganj.

Places I didn’t like:

Little Buddha, on the way from Upper to Lower Bhagsu – Food was very average here though the place was always crowded.

Trimurti gardens in Dharamkot — I liked this place but I didn’t understand the hype.

Trek and Dine – A very popular place in Dharamkot but I found the food to be average. Also, the place was full of people (ahem Israelis) who rudely always shifted places as they liked and didn’t respect anyone else.

To name a few.

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Shiva cafe, Upper Bhagsu, a great place to visit in Dharamshala.

7. Try your hands at photography under Dharamshala’s deodars and pines

Chase those birds but from a distance. Capture that golden sunset. Set up the tripod and trace those stars in the sky. This is the time.

8. Get acquainted with Buddhism and the simple way of living

The Dalai Lama stays in Dhramshala in the Dalai Lama main temple (one of the best places to visit in Dharamshala and Mcleodganj). Along with him came many of his followers from Tibet, and Tibetans now have their own government in exile in Dharmshala.

Dharamsala has been a spiritual center for decades now. Tushita meditation center in Dharamkot is next to the Vipassana meditation center.

You can sign up for a ten-days introductory course to Buddhism three or attend some open and free meditation classes in the morning.

Walking around Dharamshala is also a great way to interact with the monks and understand their life. You can strike up a conversation in the Dalai lama temple (a good place to visit in Mcleodganj) or in the streets of the district.

Staying close to people living such humble lives is eye-opening.

Also, the simple lives of the people of Himachal are no less than guidance in our 21st century. Most of the people of Himachal are quite well-doing and have multiple homes and farmlands. But you would never see them sitting idle, hiring many machines to do their work, engrossed with the phone, or showing their money in jewelry or expensive things – women were especially hard workers as far as I noticed.

Their simple lives would help you focus on what’s important.

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Dal lake in May. Dal Lake is one of the many popular places to visit in Dharmshala and Mcleodganj but choose your season. Beautiful walks start from Dal lake. Ask around.

9. See some crazy art performances from around the world — One of the many intriguing activities in Dharamshala.

Dharamashala is a spiritual place that attracts all kinds of travelers and non-travelers from around the world.

You can be part of a lot of spiritual and art activities in Dharamasala. Regular messages are posted on the Dharamkot information board. Or join the Bhagsu, Dhramkot, or Dharamsala Facebook group and stay updated.

Slow travel is the best travel in Dharamshala.

And if you are in a rush, pick a few things from this list and do as much as you can. Or practice the art of doing nothing. You can also opt for this GetYourGuide full-day Dharamshala tour with a local guide who will help you navigate the city and show some of its must-sees in a day while providing local insights.

What is the best time to visit Dharamsala, India?

The weather in Dharamshala shifts quicker than you can imagine.

The best time to visit Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh is summer which lasts from mid-April to June/July when the monsoon begins. Though the summer months are supposed to be dry, Dharamshala receives heavy rainfall and hailstorms even in summers. So be prepared. 

In the summers in Dharamshala, you can manage during the day with a shawl or a light jacket. But the evenings can get chilly so carry a thick jacket. Don’t worry about things to bring to Dharamshala for I have covered them later.

In winters, Dharamshala gets covered under heavy layers of snow, and many businesses shift to Goa to cater to the customers there. If you plan to visit Dharamshala in December or any other winter months, inquire first about the availability of places and guesthouses.

Most dangerous are the months of July, August, and September when Dharamshala receives heavy rainfall making landslides a common scene. Please take extra care during these months, stay alert with news, and ask locals for advice.

learning+yoga+in+dharamsala+india+himachal+pradesh dharamshala trip blog

How to reach Dharmsala, India?

The nearest airport to Dharamshala is the Dharamshala airport. Fly to Dharamshala from Delhi or take any other domestic flight. 

Traveling to Dharamsala is also convenient from Pathankot and Amritsar, cities in Punjab. So fly to these cities or reach them via a bus or train. Then you can either fly from Pathankot and Amritsar or take another bus to Dharmshala. Pathankot to Dharamshala distance is approximately 85 km but do keep a buffer for local buses have their own moods and stops.

You can also travel to Dharamashala by bus from many other places such as Bhuntar, Manali, Shimla, and other cities in Himachal.

Book your HRTC or private buses on Redbus. If you don’t see many buses, check on Cleartrip, Yatra, and other websites. When I was traveling in Himachal, I realized all the Himachal and Punjab buses weren’t listed on Redbus.

Please note – Dharamsala doesn’t have a railway station, and the nearest railway station to Dharamshala is Pathankot in Punjab. 

Taking a taxi up to Dharamshala is also a good way to travel if you are short on time or don’t want to enjoy the experience of traveling in an ancient bus on curvy paths on the Himalayas.

Mcleodganj and Dharmshala are connected by buses and shared taxis which don’t run at night. Get a private taxi at night from the Dharamshala bus stand. Taxi prices are fixed, and Dharmshala to Mcledoganj is about 350/400 rupees during the day/night.

Don’t forget to download an offline Google map of Dharamshala.

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How to reach Dharamshala Hill Station from Delhi?

Delhi to Dharamshala by Bus — This is the most common option for traveling to Dharamshala from Delhi. Get an overnight bus from either old or New Delhi to Dharamshala city. The Delhi to Dharamshala journey would take about 14 hours.

Delhi to Dharamshala by Train — You can only travel until Pathankot. Then either take a taxi, bus, or flight to Dharamshala. 

Delhi to Dharamshala by taxi or self-driving — A good option always. Be prepared to drive on mountainous roads. 

Delhi to Dharamshala by Air — Fly to Dharamshala airport.

If you are planning a trip to Mcleodganj from Delhi, get a direct bus from Delhi that goes until Mcleodganj.

Where to stay in Dharamshala?

Even though Dhramshala is a great place to stay, not all homestays in Dharamshala are really homestays. Locals have commercialized their places and the homestays have become more like hotels where you come, go, and live independently and don’t spend much time with a Himachali family.

I was not particularly excited by this commercialization of Dharamsala homestays as I like to know the locals and spend time with them. But I had to instead focus more on interacting with locals outside my home for homeowners seem to have had enough of tourist interaction. Of course, this isn’t true for all the homestays, and especially new guesthouses are more inclusive.

Having said that, you can find places to stay in Dharamsala just by walking around. But do book a place to stay for your first night if you are arriving late. If you are heading straight away to villages, book a place in either Bhagsu or Dharamkot. The taxis can come up to a certain point and then you’ll have to walk.

Book a place in Dharamashala here on Booking. Remember most of the places the website shows come up in Bhagsu, Mcleodganj, or Dharamkot. If you are arriving late at night, ask your guesthouse about how to reach the place at night.

After spending a day, feel free to walk around, lose your way in the hidden trails of the valley, and ask for availability and prices. Many guesthouses aren’t registered on any tourism website so your best bet to find an affordable place is by walking and asking around.

My guides on finding home accommodations in India and affordable Indian guest houses might help too.

I liked Bhagsu and Dharamkot better than Mcleodganj for living. Mcleodganj was louder and had a fast-moving influx and outflow of tourists.

Dharamkot is a nice area to stay in if you like to stay close to the action. Upper Dharamkot is more peaceful than lower.

Upper Bhagsu is less crowded and more peaceful than lower Bhagsu, which is visited by a lot of tourists coming in to pray at the Bhagsunag temple.

Guesthouses in Dharamshala are of many kinds. Homestays are easy to find by asking around and so are hostels and hotels. I chose to stay in a homestay for a month at the price of almost 15k per month (discounted from 700 rs to 550 and am sure I could have gotten it for 500). The room has an attached balcony and a toilet with 24-hours hot water. I used to get a bird’s eye view of Dharamshala from my balcony so it was worth it.

For me, the best place to stay in Dharamshala would be Upper Dharamkot or Upper Bhagsu.

On that note, here are some hotels, home stays, and guesthouses I like in Dharamshala,

Bhagsu homestay in Upper Bhagsu

Minhas Homestay in Dari village of Dharamshala

Prakriti Aalay in Dharamshala city

Buddha House Himalayan Brothers, again in Dharamshala town

Samdupling Himalayan Brothers in Dharamshala

Farm’s Nature Nest in Dharamshala city

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Crowded streets of Mcleodganj, Dharamsala

How much would a Dharamshala trip cost?

I spent about five hundred rupees on my stay, and about five hindred more on food, coffee, and daily necessities. 

Additional costs:

A hatha yoga class for one and half hours — two hundred rupees minimum donation.

A flute lesson — four hundred rupees per class for a one-hour class.

Fruits – Few apples, bananas, and mangoes cost about two hundred rupees, maximum of three dollars, in lower Bhagsu.

Taxis and autos run on fixed prices. Though you wouldn’t be able to take them much as the roads aren’t always motorable. Also, walking around Dharamsala was so much fun and a natural exercise I almost always walked on my Dhramshala solo trip.

If you are visiting many places near Dharamshala, hop onto buses, a fun way to explore Himachal.

What to bring to Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh?

  • Bring along a rain jacket
  • Reliable walking shoes and flip-flops
  • Comfortable track pants (both thin and thick) for walking.
  • A few t-shirts, thick ones if you come in the winter and thin ones for the summer. 
  • Some warm clothes as the weather gets colder in the evening. You would also need those warm clothes or at least a woolen shawl or a jacket. (I brought a sweater, too, but I sent it back because I didn’t need one in the summer.) You can buy a shawl from Dharamshala, too.
  • Your toiletries and sunscreen and a hat for the sun. 
  • headlamp or torch for night walks through the mountains. 
  • Bring a mosquito repellent
  • Long socks, a full-sleeved shirt, and full-length trousers for treks.
  • Bring binoculars. A good camera. Ask that friend for his heavy lens, you might need it to click a whistling thrush.
  • Basic medicines.
  • Yoga matt or buy one from Dharmshala.
  • A refillable water bottle. You have to pay 10 rupees for a bottle of filtered water at most of the guesthouses. But my LifeStraw bottle filters water on the go and has saved me much money. I fill it up from any community tap around the village as the water comes directly from the Himalayas. Even if it was not coming from the mountains, Lifestraw has a strong filter. No more buying plastic water bottles. 
  • Some lovely books to read.

Is Dharamshala Safe for solo travelers?

I was never scared to walk alone in Dharmsala. Himachal Pradesh — in general — is a pretty safe place even for a solo woman. 

Having said that, please do take the basic precautions every traveler needs to take. Don’t venture out late at night alone. Bring a torch. Ask the locals for help. Let someone know if you are heading out to one of the places to visit near Dharamshala. See the weather and then plan the hike of the day.

I have written more safety tips on traveling alone and in a group in my Dharamshala trekking guide.

How to avoid the smoking culture of Dharamshala if you don’t want to be a part of it?

Smoking h*** is a culture in Dharamshala.

Remember if you don’t like to smoke, you can always say no. You don’t become less cool if you don’t smoke. Do what you have to do. You would have to find your space and also be ready to feel out of the group (not always and you might want to stay away from groups who don’t respect your choices).

If you want to smoke, do it responsibly and while being respectful to the locals. 

How to go on a long trip to Dharamshala?

My digital nomad lifestyle allows me to travel.

But if you have a job, how can you visit any place for longer?

Combine holidays. Think about long weekends and join them together with your other holidays. Take sabbaticals. Get a break in between jobs. Give yourself a chance to see the world after graduation. Ask your partner to plan a trip with you. Pamper your child with a getaway to the grandest mountains of the world.

Well, you get the idea.

Places to visit near Dharamshala and further readings.

You have access to many places around Dharamshala for you are in the mighty Himalayas.

Here are some of the places near Dharamshala I visited on my Himachal trip:

Spiti Valley

Traveling Alone in Spiti – My Travel Guide to Spiti Valley

Surreal Spiti in Photos – Everyday Pictures of Spiti – Photos of Spiti that show regular Spitian life

Parvati Valley

Kalga Village, Parvati, Himachal – My favorite village in Parvati

Kalga to Bunbuni Pass and then to Kheerganga – Hiking on offbeat paths in Parvati

Manikaran Sahib, Parvati valley – A timeless village in Parvati

Running away from Shilha village – Escaping the loudspeakers in Parvati

Travel guide to Kasol village in Parvati – Only the gateway to Parvati valley

An honest travel Guide to Parvati Valley – No sugarcoating but only the real scene of Parvati and peaceful places to go.

My offbeat travel guide to the best places to visit in Manali

Travelogue of Naggar, a small village near Manali

Some other places to visit and things to do in Himachal Pradesh,

  1. Hiking down to the leopards in a Shimla village
  2. Living in Shakrala village of Shimla (in the lockdown)
  3. Making a picnic at Kanag Devi temple, on top of one of the hills in Shimla
  4. Why not to visit Fagu village in Shimla
  5. Admiring the blood moon From Mashobra, Shimla
  6. An Itinerant Writer’s life in Mashobra, Himachal
  7. No one knows about these Shivpur temples in Mashobra
  8. Why I loved Pangna village in Mandi
  9. Daring to hike Shikari Devi temple on our own, in Mandi
  10. Plucking apples with Himachal Pradesh families
  11. How a dam destroyed Tattapani hot water springs
  12. Roaming around Karsog to buy shoes, Mandi district
hiking+from+bhagsu+dharamshala+to+mcleodganj+around+dharamshala+himachal+india
Dharamshala city as seen from a walk from Bhagsu to Mcleodganj.

Did you like my Dharamshala blog? Let me know in the comments.

Like my guide! Please pin it.

dharamshala travel guide pinterest image
travel guide dharamshala

*****

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24 thoughts on “6 Joyful Weeks in Dharamshala – Here’s What I Did (Updated 2022)”

  1. Hi,am planing a solo trip to himachal.planning to visit most attractive places like manali,kullu,spiti,etc.wanted to know how the means of transportation is,like if we want to see most of the places in dharmashala.travelling by taking cabs individually will be expensive I hope.do we have any other means.please advise.

    Reply
  2. Hi Priyanka, it’s written and explained beautifully. I am in Rakkar (a small village near Dharamshala)for a month with my family. Your blog is really helpful to explore the more unexplored places.
    Keep on writing
    Love
    Renu Datta

    Reply
  3. Hi Priyanka,

    This was not only comprehensive but as I read I felt like I was a part of the journey too and that is something eh? Kudos!

    Reply
  4. Loved your article. I live in USA and work in IT so I can understand the urge to change.
    Didn’t know anything about Dharamshala before and now will surely plan a trip there.
    Sooo happy for you that you are living your dreams. Way to go girl.
    Will join onmycanvas to read your traveling adventures

    Reply
  5. Wow, thank you so much for this guide. I cannot wait to go see some of these places and eat the foods and find my self 🙂 great article Priya

    Reply

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