I love the mountains. I mean I really love the mountains. There are few things I like more than hiking, enjoying the fresh air, and taking in magical views. This is why when I was teaching English in Bangalore I took the first possible opportunity to visit the Himalayas. During the school holidays, we took our chance and caught a plane up North and planned to see as much as possible in the short time we had.
Of all the places we saw there definitely was one place that stayed in my heart: Dharamshala. Beautiful… beautiful Dharamshala: a magical little Indian town situated in the Himalayan foothills. The home of the Dalai Lama, beautiful hikes, and more yoga schools than you could even imagine. A dream, within the dream.
I ended up staying for far longer than I ever intended. Who wouldn’t want to experience as much as possible? I could go on for hours about all the glorious things to do in Dharamshala. But, that would be exhausting. So just I picked the top 5 best things to do in Dharamshala.
Dharamshala is surrounded by many many wonderful hikes. There are one-day hikes, 2-day hikes, 3-day hikes… you get the picture. You can go with a guide or without. You can take food or get food provided for you. There are also many options for all abilities, and we all like options. Whilst we were there we did one of the most popular hikes to Triund. This can be done in one day, or you can camp on the summit and extend your stay as long as you want! We didn’t have that much time so we went up and down in one day.
We started hiking early morning, post-coffee, enjoying the cooler weather and clear skies. On the route you are greeted by mesmerising views, mountain goats, and a healthy sweat. Pick a hilarious group of people, and you also get great conversations, laughter, and maybe even songs. On the top we enjoyed our picnic in the clouds. It really felt like we had found a secluded spot in heaven. You can also order food from the one restaurant at the top. Oh, the luxury!
The peak is also the base camp for acclimatisation for trekkers going higher. It is a magical place to camp and is known for its outstanding evening sky. If we had had longer we would have stayed longer. Temporarily living there surrounded by nature at its finest truly would be a blessing. Anyway, this was not the case. After we made the most of the views, sitting in peaceful awe, we jubilantly hiked down to the bottom. If you want things to do in Dharamshala, hiking is a must.
It was a wonderful day.
Another fantastic thing to do in Dharamshala is to visit the local waterfalls. There are two waterfalls (that I know of) within walking distance of Dharamshala. And I can tell you: they are glorious. I can also tell you when we left, it started raining. It was only us walking up to the pools. I can even tell you that we found secluded little pools at the top. And that there are few greater feelings than sitting on a rock, next to the waterfalls, naked, in the rain… in the Himalayas.
Want to try this? You will have to go and see. You could even swim naked in the pools. I mean, you could even go and keep your clothes on. But where’s the fun in this? No fun.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any potential arrests.
3. Incredible food
Food is extremely exciting, I think you’ll agree. And eating is definitely one of the best things to do in Dharamshala. Honestly, it has some of the best food I have ever had in the whole of India. Sick of channa masala, dal, and aloo gobi? I’m joking, this isn’t actually possible.
BUT maybe sometimes you fancy another option? Like… TOFU? SMOOTHIES? VEGAN SHAKSHUKA? AVOCADO? I have been living in India for 8 months and I eat Indian food 95% of the time (because it is a glorious taste explosion), but sometimes I want something different. You know, I have gone from eating an avocado a day to eating an avocado absolutely never. This is a huge sacrifice for my life here, I hope you will agree. In Dharamshala, there is no more sacrifice. There are all of the options and you can eat all of the things. Win-win win. You ARE welcome.
PS – the Indian and Nepalese food is also incredibly tasty. Because what is a day without aloo gobi? The answer would be nothing, absolutely nothing.
4. Yoga everywhere
I have never seen more yoga schools in one place, than in Dharamshala. And there is yoga for all types of people. Again, many OPTIONS, and we all like options. Because we all know that we are all different, and that’s more than okay. Maybe you are into ashtanga, Sivananda, vinyasa flow, Hatha, or yin? Well, Dharamshala has it all! All of the things.
Now, picture this: You wake up in the Himalayas. A bird is singing a magical melody outside your window. You open your curtains and see the rolling, serene, calming mountains. You walk into a sweet little Nepalese cafe and enjoy a hot cup of coffee because coffee is life. Unless you don’t drink coffee, and then I salute you… you are my hero. But…. I mean, how do you do it? Are you really happy?
Anyway, you walk a couple of meters to your choice of yoga class. You start your day stretching, breathing, sweating, and meditating amongst a group of fresh-faced beautiful fellow human beings. All enjoy the uncountable benefits of yoga together.
Try to have a bad day after this start. You can’t. This is the peak.
You cannot talk about things to do in Dharamshala without mentioning tushita. Tushita is a beautiful meditation centre sitting in the forested hills above the town. It is a Buddhist meditation centre offering short meditation courses, retreats, an extensive library, and daily drop-in classes. During my stay in Dharamshala, tushita formed an essential part of most days. There is something truly special about meditating in a room of like-minded people from all over the globe. The high vibrations of the people and the enchanting surroundings lift you into such a deep, pure, healing meditation it cannot be described with words.
These drop-in classes, are really for everyone, whether you have never meditated or you have been practicing for many years. They explore many topics, nurturing you, whilst pushing you out of your comfort zone to allow yourself to feel or explore things you may have been blocking. It is an experience you don’t want to miss.