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A Hillside City - Dharamshala

By Sarah Dean 


Located about an hour away from Palampur, where we work in India, is the spectacular Dharamshala. A hillside city, home to the Dalai Lama and is a beautiful place to explore on your weekends off as a Challenges Abroad Volunteer! 

Dharamshala is a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Found in the Kangra Valley, at the edge of the Himalayas, the town is divided into two areas, Kotwali Bazaar and markets that make up Lower Dharamshala.



The Kangra Valley endured a serious earthquake in 1905 which destroyed a majority of the military station as well as Kangra’s city and the Bhagsunag temple. The catastrophic disaster claimed the lives of 20,000 people, nearly 2,000 of that where those living amongst Dharamshala. The town was slowly rebuilt, including the reconstruction of the temple, which is highlighted as the first Gurkha Rifles’ heritage. Back then the British has planned to have Dharamshala the summer capital of India, however due to the earthquake shifted to Shimla.  



In 1959, after Chinese occupation, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet where Dharamshala became his new home as well as the base of the Tibet Government-in-Exile. This is where the city gets its other name of ‘Little Tibet’ in an attempt to preserve Tibet’s religion and cultural history. Now, there are thousands of Tibetans in exile that have settled amongst the city where they have built temples and schools. Upper Dharamshala has become an important tourist attraction with several hotels and restaurants surrounding the area which has created growth in commerce and tourism.  


Tsuglagkhang Complex  

You won’t find a better location to expose yourself to Tibetan culture than here. With no entry fee and open every day, 5am to 8pm, you have the chance to wonder the home of the 14th Dalai Lama. This is the largest Tibetan temple outside of Tibet and has an outstanding museum as a major tourist attraction. 



Dal Lake 

Known as one of Dharamshala’s most popular tourist attractions, Dal Lake is famous for its panoramic views and its much-felt serenity. It is roughly a 2km hike to the like and there is a boat ride facility for entertainment at the top. There is a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva that resides on the banks of the lake, where tourists can offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.  




Famous for its unique rock cut temples that has been standing since the 8th century AD, walk through this historic architecture for free. Only 46km away from Dharamshala, you will be able to wonder in appreciation for the amazing skills of those who were here before us. 



Tea Gardens 

Dharamshala is also famous for its beautiful and lush tea gardens where they make its popular Kangra tea. But they produce a variety of teas such as black, white, green, oolong, kashmiri kahwa and masala chai. You can go on guided tours of the gardens and factories that also offer tea tastings. So, if you’re a lover of tea you would definitely be able to get amongst this experience!  



If you are an adventure seeker and are interested in spending your weekend trekking, there are several trails and sights worth seeing. Dharamshala is actually known for its many starting points to a number of different trekking trails. This can lead walker across Dhauladhar into the upper Ravi Valley and Chamba district where you will see the odd lake waterfall and glacier. 

But starting on the high slopes of the Kangra Valley is the Dharamshala Trek. It has beautiful forests of pine and breathtaking terrain, and presents a wonderful trail to trek through. Become infused with the cool mountain breeze and pass nearby snowlines, this trek really does have everything a trekker searches for during their travels. A platform for mountaineers, rock climbing features for those who wish for more action, to easy ascending and descending sections for active walkers.  



While during your week in India you’ll be working hard to support our local communities in Palampur, you’ll have more than enough time to plan an amazing weekend (or two!) in the city of Dharamshala. From beautiful temples to some adventurous trekking, you’ll never forget your time with us in India! Have a look at our programs for 2021 and feel free to get in contact with us with any questions. We have several past volunteers who would be happy to chat with you too!