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Dharamsala or Dharamsala, is a hill station in Himachal Pradesh, famed for its large Tibetan community centred around the activities of the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan Buddhist roots of Dharamsala stretch back to the 8th century, although most of the local population long since reverted to (and remains) Hindu. "Dharamsala" literally means an "inn attached to a temple".
Dharamsala is divided into two distinct areas that are separated by a 10 min, 9 km bus or jeep ride.
- Lower Dharamsala, consists of most of the government offices, Schools, the local Hospital, and commercial areas. It also has a few tea gardens. One in the area of Chilgari and another just beyond Dari. It is a typical small Indian town that, other than for the bus station, is of little interest to tourists. One can enjoy the view while driving through.
- Upper Dharamsala, known more commonly as McLeod Ganj is named after David McLeod the once the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab. It is home to the Tibetan community and the centre of tourist activity. Unless specifically stated, all listings in this article refer to McLeod Ganj.
- Bhagsu, is 2 km north and has become a commercialised warren of concrete.
- Dharamkot, is the flavour of the month.
How to reach
Most people come to Dharamsala by bus. It has good connections with other parts of North India, although the journeys are often slow due to the narrow winding roads in the hills.
The main bus terminal is in Lower Dharamsala, but some public HRTC buses to Delhi and Pathankot go all the way to the main square of McLeod Ganj, where you can also book advance tickets for the return trip. Unreserved HRTC buses from Pathankot cost Rs 75 and take 3/4 hours to Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj. Private bus companies are available for travel from Manali, Dehradun and Delhi.
The nearest broad gauge railhead is at Pathankot and the neighboring small station of Chakki Bank, a comfortable overnight journey from Delhi. Train buffs can continue on the very slow and rickety but pretty Kangra Valley Railway to Kangra, a journey that easily takes up to 6 hours and still leaves you 18 km from McLeod Ganj. Many travellers choose to continue by bus or taxi instead. If you do choose to go to Kangra then from the train station then you need to walk and autorickshaw to the bus stop where buses are available to take you to Dharamsala.
Gaggal Airport (IATA: DHM) is at Gaggal near Kangra, a distance of 15 km from McLeodganj by road on MDR44 and NH20.
Lower Dharamsala is at an altitude of 1,400 m, while McLeod Ganj is at around 1,750 m, making them considerably cooler than the plains below. Temperatures in January can dip below freezing, while June can go up to 38°C. The monsoon season from July to September is very wet. Even in March, when the Dalai Lama holds his teachings and the weather down in Delhi is downright balmy, you will still need a heavy winter coat. These can be purchased at reasonable prices in the town