Dharamshala is the closest one can get to Tibet while still being in India. This quaint hill station is home to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of the Tibetan Buddhists and a destination for those seeking spiritual salvation.
Tibet has lent importance to Mcleod Gunj. Fondly referred as the little Lhasa, McLeod Ganj draws more fame from the residence of His Holiness Dalai Lama more than anything else. The little township with clusters of monasteries and Buddha Statues is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dharamsala. McLeod Gunj is also known for its Tibetan market and has several handicrafts which are made by the Tibetans themselves.
Fifteen minutes' walk from McLeod Gunj, the Anglican church lies in the forest near Forsyth Gunj. This neo-Gothic stone church was built in 1852 and has some fine Belgian stained-glass windows. It miraculously survived the 1905 earthquake - only the spire collapsed. A memorial to Lord Elgin stands in the churchyard. The British Viceroy died in Dharamshala and is buried here.
The Dip Thekchen Choeling Monastery is the best place if one intends to know deeply about the Buddhist faith. The monastery stands tall in the pine forests and is visible from a distance due to its golden roof. The first floor of the monastery is a museum with bronze figures, Buddhist images and a collection of mandalas (works of sacred art in Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism).
This Tibetan Institute is the premier institute in the world which offers courses of study for Tibetan culture and arts. The Norbulingka Institute houses three academies namely 'The Centre for Arts', 'The Academy of Tibetan Culture' and 'The Literary and Cultural Centre'. The institute is famous for producing Tibetan gift items, paintings, woodworks, metalwork, fashion accessories, silk paintings, furniture, Buddhist artifacts and much more.
Chamunda Devi is the famous temple dedicated to the Goddess Chamunda Devi. It is situated in the village of Dadh,15 km from Dharamsala. The pilgrimage site holds immense reverence for devout Hindus and whenever in Dharamsala people of the faith make it a point to visit the shrine here.
From its humble beginning half a century ago, Tibetan Children's Village has today become a thriving, integrated educational community for destitute Tibetan children in exile, as well as for hundreds of those escaping from Tibet. An interesting experience, this brings you close to local life in the region.
TIPA is located a short walk from the center of town. Another impressive complex built around an open courtyard, the Institute trains Tibetans (and occasionally foreigners) in the traditional Tibetan forms of opera, theatre and dance. Performances are held in the courtyard and an opera festival takes place here each spring.
Dharamshala is the home to his holiness the patron of peace and sanctity which makes people from all over flock here to seek his blessings. Time permitting, His Holiness receives visitors in public audiences. Visitors can apply for public audiences at the Branch Security Office in McLeod Gunj, near Hotel Tibet. Applications for private audiences, however, need to be made in writing to His Holiness' Secretary several months in advance.
Dharamshala has become a favourite destination for adventure lovers who visit here to take part in adventure sports such as paragliding, trekking and fishing. The massive Dhauladar mountain range and the Kangra valley below with its panoramic views offer opportunities for high altitude 'up and down' and 'cross-country' flying for more than 200-km.
Dharamshala offers unique opportunities to experience the local lifestyle e.g. teach English to monks, volunteer with women and schoolchildren, take meditation or Tibetan cooking classes etc. Strolling the streets of Dharamshala is an experience in itself - industrious Tibetan vendors set up their stalls along the narrow roads each morning, selling everything from antiques and apples to prayer beads and handmade paper books created by children at the Tibetan Children’s Village.
Shopping at McLeodgunj Bazaar is great fun. It is a good place to bargain for carpets and handicrafted metalware, jewellery, jackets, hand knitted cardigans and gloves. Books on Tibet, its religion and culture are easily available in McLeodgunj.
Shop in Lower Dharamshala, to take some souvenirs back home. From Kotwali Bazaar you may also buy some exclusive woolens and even the famous Kullu and Kinnauri shawl that have been woven by the locals. Other interesting buys include scarves, socks and wooden masks.
Tibetan Cuisine : New Memory Café, Kailash, Tibet Kitchen, Mount View.
Cafes : Mandala Coffee Shop, Moon Peak Café, Ogo’s Café Italiano, First Cup, German Bakery
International, Fusion : Dream Chasers Alley, Khanna Nirvana
Indian : Taste Of India, Taragarh Palace, Malabar