Travel to the Himalayas is an important attraction during travel to India. Not just because of the adventure but also because the culture and nature are still untouched being away from civilization. Family travel to Dharamshala, Kasol, Chopta can be extremely interesting if you select the right places and plan the correct travel itinerary. So here is a list of interesting things we did during our family trip to Dharamshala and Dalhousie.
Along with a visit to the monastery which is a kind of the highlight of Dharamshala, doing the Triund trek was on our itinerary. In fact, Triund was the reason why we planned the Dharamshala trip in the first place.
Planning the trip to Dharamshala and Dalhousie
The kids had summer holidays and as it is the best season to travel up north, we immediately mapped out this trip in Himachal Pradesh. Travel planning was super fun. As we were taking our daughters and their cousin on this trip, our itinerary and accommodations had to be kids friendly.
We planned for appropriate clothing for chilly mountain weather. As we had Triund trek on our itinerary, we also packed the right attire for the long hike to the top.
For more information on Travel planning: do read our blog: Essential guide for travel planning
We were going to have long car drives, so I planned some activities for kids so that they won’t get bored. These activities were not just fun but also gave them more information about the places we’re visiting.
You can find more travel activities on Think Metime mobile app: Download now from Playstore!
History of Dharamshala
We had been to Shimla, Kulu, Manali in Himachal Pradesh, but this was the first time we were traveling to Dharamshala and Dalhousie in the Kangra district. There is a greater impact of Tibetan culture in these two cities. It’s actually a nice mix of Pahadi (hilly) and Tibetan culture!
The mountains in this area are Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges. Being part of the mighty Himalayas, they have a history of millions of years. There has been a trace of civilization in the area starting from the Aryan period. Later it was ruled by Mauryan, Gupta, and Mughal empires. The area was also under Sikh rule during the British Raj in the 18th and 19th centuries. But Himachal was mainly a conglomerate of small princely states.
In 1960, Dharamshala became the temporary headquarter of Dalai Lama. The famous monastery in Mc Leod Ganj Namgyal Gompa and Norbulingka Institute in Dharamshala are the pillars of Tibetan culture in the area.
The warmth of the culture makes you go back again and again to visit these mountains!
In places near Pune, you will also like : Lohgad Fort trek
Where to stay in Dharamshala and Dalhousie?
We had a Club Mahindra resort booked in Dharamshala. And a homestay booked from Trip advisor in Dalhousie. We loved both the places. Finding a place and booking through Trip advisor was also extremely easy! You should definitely try it through their website Tripadvisor.in!
There is a range of hostels, homestays, and resorts available for a comfortable and warm stay during the travel. You can find the reviews and recommendations on Trip advisor and Make my trip website.
I already have plans to do solo travel to try out the hostels in Dharamshala and Manali! But that is a story for another day!
How to reach Dharamshala?
Dharamshala has an airport close by called the Kangra Airport at Gaggal. We took a flight from Delhi to arrive at this airport which cost somewhere around INR 4500/- to INR 5000/-. From there, the drive to the hotel was very short and comfortable considering we were with kids.
However, you can also choose to travel by bus or train. It is very well connected by buses and trains from Delhi, Chandigarh, and other parts of North India. Many choose to self-drive from Delhi or Chandigarh to this place. You can make your own travel plan via this link on Make my trip – Travel to Dharamshala.
With flight tickets booked, hotels booked, insurance purchased and packing done, all that remained was to have a great family trip to Dharamshala and Dalhousie!
Places to visit in Dharamshala and Dalhousie
We started by visiting the Norbulingka Institute in Dharamshala. The Institute has been built to preserve and promote Tibetan art and train the artisans. The Japanese themed gardens had a peaceful vibe with water flowing everywhere, and the green trees surrounding the area. You can buy souvenirs from the shop selling Tibetan artifacts.
The kids tried meditating inside the temple on the campus, which was pretty successful considering the raucous bunch! We also tasted delicious Thukpa in Norbulingka cafe.
The next day we drove to Dharamshala stadium. As my husband is a cricket lover, he was too excited to see the place. With 360 degrees view of Dhauladhar ranges, this place is truly spectacular. Ryegrass is used in the outfield to prevent the grass from dying in the harsh winters of the area. We had fun clicking interesting photos with the stadium in the background.
We decided to take a short stop near the tea gardens en route to McLeod Ganj. We just took a short walk into the tea gardens. But in case you are interested there is a Kangra tea factory in the area. You can visit the factory, watch the tea making process and buy some tea to carry back home.
Our next stop was at Bhagsu waterfall near Dharamshala. You have to go through McLeod Ganj to reach Bhagsu waterfalls. McLeod Ganj as well as Bhagsu waterfall were pretty crowded by the time we reached it. It may be due to the summer holidays. the better time to visit these waterfalls would be in October and November.
There is a Bhagsunag temple close to these waterfalls. You might find the short trek enjoyable in case you can visit it when crowds are a bit less. There’s a famous café called Shiva’s café, though we ate at a place called ‘Sandy’s Kitchen’. Yummy Maggi and parathas made a sumptuous lunch for all of us.
We ended the day by visiting Namgyal Gompa, the home of the Dalai Lama. This monastery is an exact replica of the one in Tibet. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, Dalai Lama and other Tibetans fled to India. They were granted asylum in Dharamshala where they established this monastery.
Although it’s crowded, the area within the shrine is peaceful. People come here mainly for the Buddhist shrine and the prayer wheels. You can visit the place around 4 pm to attend the prayer ceremony.
You can plan many treks from Dharamshala like Kareri Lake trek, Bhagsu Nag trek, and Indrahar pass trek. However, we chose Triund trek as I had read a lot about it and really wanted to visit. It’s a moderately easy but very long trek. We were able to complete the trek in around 5-6 hours with kids.
We hired two trek guides to help us with the trek, especially since we had kids. Our tent and food arranged by the operators were carried to the top by the horses. You cross many such horses as you start climbing up towards the top. There are stops at regular intervals if you want to take a break, have some snacks, and just rest. The climbing difficulty level is easy to moderate. The trek is steep through the dense pine and oak trees and halfway through it becomes even steeper. However, you are treated to the experience of flora and fauna typical to the Himalayas and the cool waterfalls formed due to melting glaciers.
Do not miss the breathtaking sunset at the top!
You can easily do the trek on your own. You can carry your own tent to the top, as there is only a single guest house. There are many travel operators in Mc Leod Ganj who would help you to plan your trek. The best time to visit is from March to May. Precisely why we planned it during our visit in May! We stayed overnight and climbed down the next day.
You can plan for a day trek if you are being extremely ambitious or stay the night to sleep under the stars.
The next day, we left the hotel and drove to Dalhousie to stay in a homestay. We booked a cute homestay called Tilsharit Garden. we felt totally at home. The rooms were spacious and clean. There was a living room where we could play with kids. And the food was especially delicious! Early morning breakfast of Chhole puri and evening comfort food of Dal Khichadi was the highlight. We settled in to enjoy our stay in Dalhousie.
The next day we decided to visit this ‘Mini Switzerland’ of India called Khajjiar. Though it is overexploited and commercialized as a tourist location, it still retains its beauty. The Khajjiar lake is surrounded by tall cedar trees. You can walk around the vicinity of the lake, click photos in Himachali dress. Or you can enjoy various activities like Zorbing, etc. The chai and Maggi in the nearby canteen is kind of mandatory in this weather.
We skipped the Maggi to have some yummy parathas in the nearby place called ‘Lakkarmandi’. This place is also known for its Dhogri family population who makes charcoal for a living.
Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary
Then we visited the Kalatop Wildlife sanctuary. We chose to walk from the main road in Lakkarmandi to the top. We walked this 4 km in the hopes of catching some birds sighting around, but we were out of luck. Still, we enjoyed the walk immensely through the Deodar, Pine, and Fir trees. It was probably one of the most beautiful walks I experienced.
The place is less explored but is surely recommended. There are many hotels/resorts to stay at the top in case you are interested in.
We treated ourselves to a plate of hot pakoras on finishing the walk.
Food you should not miss in Dharamshala and Dalhousie
Pakoras and hot tea
‘Chai ke saath pakore‘ is the best snack combination you can have in the cool weather of Dharamshala. Onion pakoras, paneer pakoras and chili pakoras are some of the varieties you should not miss!
You get many varieties of Maggi on every corner and every tourist location. Somehow it tastes so much better in the mountain air.
Here in Uttarakhand, parathas are huge in size. With the yummy stuffing, it is extremely sumptuous served with curd, dal, pickles, and onion pieces.
Thukpa and Momos
Tibetian soup is called Thukpa and stuffed dumpling is called momos. Both come in veg and nonveg varieties and is famous street food.
So this was our brief itinerary of Dharamshala and Dalhousie. We thoroughly enjoyed our time as we had also planned certain kids activities around our travel itinerary. The kids especially enjoyed the scavenger hunt.
You can find more travel activities on Think Metime mobile app: Download now from Playstore !
Also top most recommended place in our itinerary is Triund trek when you are in Dharamshala. Hope this guide helps you plan a perfect family holiday! Do share your experiences and suggestions in the comments below.