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The magic of the city of Dharamsala

The first big surprise for me in northern India, was not that much the wonderful golden temple but the quiet town of Dharamsala. While it is not as bright, nor as majestic, and does not welcomes as many people to pray as the famous Temple of Amritsar does, the charm of Dharamsala is based precisely on that for a few days it seems you’re not in India.


    The little Lhasa

Dharamsala is divided into two parts, the more urbanized it is known as Lower Dharamsala and is already at 1,200 meters above sea level, and the other one that is at 1,700m and is known as McLeod Ganj. The second is the magic one and is commonly called often the little Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, because much of the population are refugees who have been fleeing his native Tibet over the past decades since the Chinese occupation.

On the left, the typical Tibetan prayer wheels. On the right, the temple of the Dalai Lama.

Being so, walking around McLeod Ganj you will find their own schools, libraries, monasteries, temples and shops that have been built over time, seeing that the solution to the conflict between Tibet and China does not seem to be forthcoming.
But of course, if a small town is compared with a capital of a country, it should have perhaps something more characteristic of it like a representation of the government itself and a leader, right? Well, that is precisely what it has since the little Lhasa also has the …


    Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile

In 1959, a few years after the occupation of Tibet by Chinese troops, the fourteenth Dalai Lama and his entourage were forced into exile, and the then Prime Minister of India, not only allowed them to settle indefinitely in their country but also to structure a Tibetan government in exile.

Thus began the first construction of schools and houses, and most important to them: The Dalai Lama’s temple, where today he still resides when he doesn’t have international commitments. You may request a visit by sending an e-mail to his office and explaining why you want to see him, although between the commitments he has and the many tourists who try to see him, is really hard to be accepted.


One of the many portraits of the Dalai Lama that you will find in Dharamsala.


Do not miss the Museum of Tibet (you can find a recommendation here) that will bring light to the consequences of the Chinese occupation of Tibet to their traditions and the inhabitants still living there.


    The charm of Tibetans

As much as you can like India as a country and really enjoy the journey through the subcontinent, sooner or later you always get tired of noise in general, of the aggressive driving through the streets, because it seems that they compete to see who honks louder or harass you in every shop trying that you buy something from them. Well, the special charm of Dharamsala arises precisely from this and is that during the time you are there you will think that you’ve gone to another country.


Two children walking in the vicinity of a temple.


Tibetans are peaceful, quiet and smiling, and these are the qualities that are reflected in the city. Walking through the small streets of McLeod Ganj you get to breathe peace. Not sure why it’s like that, but it is. When you see an old lady in the street cooking real good momos, when you hear no horn for a whole day, when you bump into a couple of monks who walk and talk quietly… These are little things that make you feel comfortable and that makes you smile slightly.


    The nature that surrounds the city

And finally, the nature that surrounds it it’s amazing, although knowing that is at the foot of the Himalayas it was something that could be expected. It didn’t disappoint.

There are small excursions to do, like going to Baghsu waterfall, to Dal Lake or to the Cathedral of Saint John in the Wilderness, that while it’s true that they are not the best I’ve ever done, are nice enough to have a good day walking from one part to the other.


Panoramic view in the Triund trekking, halfway done.


The highlight comes with the trek to Triund peak. It is easy to complete, as there are only 9 kilometers starting from the center of McLeod Ganj, and even if some parts may cost a little more than others, it is really worth to reach the top and find such a nice landscape at your feet.