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Overview

Once a tiny forest village, Dharamsala was transformed into a sprawling town by the arrival of thousands of Tibetan refugees fleeing oppression in Tibet. The trigger for this mass exodus came in 1959, when the Dalai Lama secretly fled across the Himalaya, claiming asylum from the Indian government and creating a temporary capital for the Tibetan government in exile near the former British hill station at McLeod Ganj. Today, the two settlements attract hordes of Western travelers who flock here in the hope of seeing the Dalai Lama. Private audiences are generally reserved for newly-arrived refugees, but the Dalai Lama gives public lectures in ...

Once a tiny forest village, Dharamsala was transformed into a sprawling town by the arrival of thousands of Tibetan refugees fleeing oppression in Tibet. The trigger for this mass exodus came in 1959, when the Dalai Lama secretly fled across the Himalaya, claiming asylum from the Indian government and creating a temporary capital for the Tibetan government in exile near the former British hill station at McLeod Ganj. Today, the two settlements attract hordes of Western travelers who flock here in the hope of seeing the Dalai Lama. Private audiences are generally reserved for newly-arrived refugees, but the Dalai Lama gives public lectures in July/August and February/March, and the government’s library, museum, archives and center for traditional Tibetan medicine are open year round. Although a hippy vibe prevails, many visitors are serious Buddhist scholars studying at religious retreats in the hills. Other attractions include day trips to ancient temple towns and stunning Himalayan views, best observed from the trek over the Indrahar Pass.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Dharamsala is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. The town is divided into three parts—Upper Dharamsala called McLeod Ganj, the middle Kotwali Bazar and the lower Kaccheri area.
  • Language: Hindi, English, Tibetan and Pahari
  • Currency: Indian Rupee
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    October to April, though freezing temperatures are common in January and February.