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  • Writer's pictureAjaz Shaikh

Go Beyond Dharamshala

What is one thing that every traveller does while making travelling plans? Is to decide what to see. It might not sound too tough but yes it does take a lot of time to fix which places to go.

So if you are one of those looking for offbeat places to visit around Dharamshala, then this is the blog for YOU! But let me tell you one thing – this is not about the places to visit in Dharamshala. Of course, I have a blog already on the must-see places in Dharamshala & McLeod Ganj. This is for those travellers who want to experience something out of the box.

Where to Stay in Dharamshala?

I suggest taking a stay in McLeod Ganj because accommodation in the main Dharamshala area is the most expensive and that around McLeod Ganj. On top of that views are most spectacular at McLeod Ganj and cost very less. I would recommend staying at Zostel in McLeod Ganj, which offers you all the amenities, a clean hygiene room & dorm and it's pocket friendly. The charges for the stay at Zostel are ₹599 per night for a bed in a dormitory. But I prefer to have my own space, so took a private room which cost me ₹2199 per night.

Here I am sharing my experience and travel logs on offbeat places to visit around Dharamshala with the details breakdown right from Mumbai. So here we start -

Day One: Mumbai to Dharamshala

They are multiple ways to reach Dharamshala. Here is a different route to reach Dharamshala. I did it via Delhi and it had its own benefit.

On Saturday took an afternoon flight to Delhi booked 3 months well in advance which cost me ₹2500. From Delhi took an evening bus from Majnu Ka Tilla to Dharamshala. The bus reaches Dharamshala early in the morning around 6:00 AM. Sadly all the buses leaving from Delhi to Dharmshala are semi-sleeper or normal seats, you won't be able to find sleeper buses.

Delhi to Dharamshala: By Bedi Travel Bus from Majnu Ka Tilla at 07:15 PM in a brand new bus with all the amenities required and most important right on time and no rush driving.

The other options to reach Dharamshala are via Pathankot, Chandigarh and Direct Dharamshala.

Day Two: Reach Dharamshala

Reaching early morning saves you an entire day. Check-in your accommodation place. Freshen up have breakfast and let's start with exploring Dharamshala. Dharamshala is a small town so I would recommend taking a bike on rent or rickshaw. Guys would request you please avoid taking a private car. It is better for both, it saved the beauty of nature and saves a lot of time from the pain of being in traffic. One day rent for Scooty - Activa 5G I paid ₹370 per day.

Breakfast at Seed Restaurant

A place with scenic views surrounded by glass windows, then this is for you and you can sit here for hours, read a book, play a game of chess or simply gaze at the stunning Dhauladhar range outside. In the evening it takes on a different look with live music and open mic nights.

It also happens to be one of the best romantic restaurants in the city. Speaking of food, they serve the best and most delicious Indian food in the town.

Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Shabha

Like J&K, Himachal Pradesh also has two Vidhan Shabha offices. Shimla for Summer Session and Dharamshala for Winter Session. It's an amazing place surrounded by mountains and a green valley.

Sandeepany Himalayas (Chinmaya Tapovan Trust)

Sandeepany Himalayas in a scenic location in Dharamshala has a beautiful Ram Temple, impressive Hanuman / Shiva lingam images, meditation centre/Vedic school and final resting place/samadhi of the founder of the mission Swami Chinmaya Nanda. It's a place for peace, bliss and spiritual rejuvenation.

Vihaan Valley School, Tiara

This is not a tourist place, it is a school but the view of the snow-covered mountain is just amazing and beautiful. It just felt like my dream school location. Just take a halt and enjoy the pristine nature.

Kaathla Mata Temple

A Hindu temple of goddess Kathla Mata, a highly spiritual place built at a good height from where you get a panorama view of snow-covered mountains and salol town.

Kangra Fort and Sunset

This place is a must-see place for offbeat Dharmashala. Build on the top of Dharamshala amidst the two rivers, Patal Ganga and Banganga. The fort offers an insight into the history of the place and you will get to learn a lot there. You will feel like walking in the old world charm while visiting the fort and while listening to the audio guide along the way.

Some of the interesting facts about Kangra Fort are:

  • The Kangra Fort is the largest fort in the Himalayas and is the 8th largest fort in India

  • You can find several wells within the fort - not for water. But are filled with treasure, some found and some yet to be found. Thanks to all that treasure, Kangra Fort was attacked more than 50 times but has been strong and survived all of this, not the 1905 earthquake.

Just make sure to reach Fort Terrace passing through Mahlon Ka Darwaza around sunset to capture an amazing view of the sunset from the highest point of the Kangra Fort on one side and on the other side blush pink Himalayan mountain. This hour is also known as golden hours where the golden rays caused the snow-covered mountain to blush pink.

Entry Fees: Indian, SAARC and BIMSTAC ₹25per person and for Foreigner ₹3000 per person

Timing: 09:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Dinner at Sky Pie Restaurant, McLeod Ganj

Good food but you have to make sure that you have plenty of time to chill out and relax! Their Italian Chicken Corn Pizza is superb!

To start your next day early you should be ready to sleep in bed latest by 10:00 PM.

Day Three: Out of the Box

Pong Lake Sanctuary

Pong Lake Sanctuary is built on Pong Dam and is known to be the highest earth-fill dam in India. A visit to Pong Lake makes for an excellent offbeat trip from Dharamshala.

This place is also a heaven for bird watchers and bird photographers because Pong Lake has a variety of birdlife and an important among them is the bar-headed geese.

Some other main attractions are:

An island in the middle of the water known as Rainsar with a Forest Rest House on it. It literally appears to be floating and can be accessed by a boat ride.

Bathu Ki Ladi - A cluster of ancient temples that are submerged in water on all sides due to the high water level in the dam. As per locals, these cluster of temples were built by the Pandavas during their time of exile and it is only accessible during summer when the water level in the dam goes down.

Make sure you visit here early in the morning, it's an amazing place, you can just sit here and enjoy nature. You just simply walk around or hire a cycle on rent to see around.

Entry Fees: For Indian ₹10 per person and for Foreigner ₹50 per person

Timing: Summer Season 07:00 AM to 6:00 PM and Winter Season 09:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Masrur Rock Cut Temple

A famous archaeological site that offers ravishing rock-cut temples that will steal your attention. Build-in Indo-Aryan style of architecture. Just observe art and beautiful sights to behold the intricate details of the structure of the temples and capture memories.

The temples were carved out of monolithic rock with a shikhara and provided with a sacred pool of water as recommended by Hindu texts on temple architecture. It got damaged in the 1905 earthquake but is still in decent condition. The Masrur temple and the Prasat Ak Yum temple found in Siam Reap, Cambodia have parallels, in that both are temple mountains with asymmetric design

According to locals, the Pandavas of Mahabharata fame resided here during their exile from their kingdom and built this temple. The identity and location of Pandavas were exposed, so they shifted from there. This is said to be why the temple complex was left unfinished.

Entry Fees: For Indian ₹25 per person and for Foreigner ₹300 per person

Timing: 06:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Shopping & Street Food

If you are still energetic after driving so much, then you should go shopping and try some street food. The best one is just right outside the Dalai Lama Temple and if you are a Dimsum / Momos lover then Dharamshala is heaven for you. To be honest, I am not a big fan of Momos, so can't comment on it. Dharamshala is an amazing place for just walking around the street, so just enjoy it.

From woollens cloth to jewellery, shopping can be the favourite thing to do in Dharamshala for some. Walking around the market of Dharamshala, you'll come across accessories made of different stones, colourful prayer flags and handicrafts. Let me also let you one thing bargaining things does not work here but you can check for the same things at a different shop there are chances you can get them at a cheaper price.

For Mumbaikar! returning via Delhi is the best and most economical option. You can take an evening bus to Delhi around 07:00 pm which will reach the next day early morning. From Delhi, you can take a train to Mumbai. Here are some of my suggestions.

  • 19024/Firozpur Cantt - Mumbai Central Janta Express (Departs @ 01:30 pm)

  • 12952/New Delhi - Mumbai Central Rajdhani Express (Departs @ 04:25 pm)

Listen To Me:

  • Mobile phones and cameras are allowed inside the temple, So make sure that you do not disturb the rituals and other pilgrims.

  • Footwear is not allowed inside the temple.

  • Please be polite and gentle with the native people, because you are their guest.

  • It's best to dress modestly and act conservatively.

If this weekend getaway has inspired the traveller in you, you may also like to explore...

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