There are many incentives to make the 12-hour bus journey from Delhi to Dharamshala. A spiritual audience with the Dalai Lama; the snow-capped Dhauladhar range; crisp mountain air; magnificent pine forests”¦we could go on. For those looking for spiritual sightseeing in Dharamshala, there’s an abundance of places to visit in this stunning hill station town.
The headquarters of the Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala has been the seat of the Dalai Lama since his exile from Tibet in 1960. With the Dhauladhar range forming a magnificent backdrop at around 5,200 meters (17,000 feet), the area is home to some impressive natural sights, while travellers looking to uncover the region’s colonial past should visit suburbs like Little Lhasa, mushroomed in Upper Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj and Forsythe Ganj.
McLeod Ganj has evolved into a renowned centre for Tibetan culture and Buddhism across the globe. Begin your spiritual sightseeing in Dharamshala at the Tsuglagkhang complex, the official residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Comprising the main temple, the Namgyal Gompa and the Tibet museum, here pilgrims turn the prayer wheels and offer everything from coins to digestive biscuits as the serene maroon-robed monks go about their daily rituals.
People from all over the world (including Hollywood stars like Richard Gere and Uma Thurman) immerse themselves in Buddhism here, volunteer with the Tibetan community or just enjoy the relaxed vibe of Dharamshala. It’s also an excellent base for trekking.
When you’re not sipping chai at the cafes or sampling the delicious local street food, visit the Gothic church of St John in the Wilderness, located between McLeod Gunj and Forsythe Gunj. The cemetery contains the tomb of a Viceroy of India, Lord Elgin.
Lower Dharamshala is the busy commercial area. If you find yourself visiting during peak tourist season, escape to the pilgrimage site of Bhagsunag, two kilometres from McLeod Gunj. Home to the spectacular Bhagsu falls and an ancient temple built in honour of Lord Shiva, this is a great place for some spiritual sightseeing in Dharamshala.
Another pilgrimage point for Hindus, visit the sacred Dal Lake (regarded as the lake of Lord Shiva) and the village of Naddi, set in an elevated spot famous for its spectacular views of the Dhauladhar Mountains. Another fine sight is the Kangra Fort, the oldest fort in India and thought to date back to 1009 AD.
Given its spiritual leanings, it’s no surprise that Dharamshala is home to the famous ashram complex, Chinmaya Tapovan. Located just outside of Dharamshala on the banks of the Bindusaras, this complex was established by the late Swami Chinmayananda. Apart from the Rama Temple and meditation hall, a nine-metre high image of Lord Hanuman dominates here.
And while Dharamshala caters to several spiritual interests, there’s a pilgrimage stop for cricket fans here as well – The HPCA stadium, with its capacity for 20,000 spectators, has hosted IPL and international matches and is arguably one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world.
You may or may not find the answers you are seeking in Dharamshala, but you’ll certainly learn a lot along the way.
Book your trip to Delhi with Virgin Atlantic and discover the spiritual surrounds of Dharamshala.
Have you been sightseeing in Dharamshala? Where are your favourite spiritual spots in the area? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Namrata Bhawnani