One of the first things that any traveller does while making travel plans to any place is to decide the places that they want to see. And it might not sound so tough – but it certainly does take a lot of time to come to the conclusion of which places to go to. Especially so when your trip is short-lived.
So if you are one of those travellers looking for places to visit in Dharamshala, then this is the blog for YOU! But we gotta be honest here – this is not some run of mill blog about the places to visit in Dharamshala. This is only for those travellers who are sick and tired of the norms and want to experience something out of the box.
So read on to find out the top 10 quirky and offbeat things to do in Dharamshala:
Watch alternative cinema at DIFF –
The Dharamshala International Film Festival or DIFF is the brainchild of cinema enthusiasts Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam. One fine day in 2011, they decided to bring alternative cinema to the sleepy hill station that was McleodGanj. And the rest is history. Opening every year since then, this film festival can give you a taste of the best independent art-house cinema.
The festival also comes with various Q and A sessions with filmmakers, workshops, masterclasses and panel discussion, making it one of the best places to visit in Dharamshala. The fee for entry is also very nominal. If you love cinema and love the mountains – then DIFF is going to be something that changes your life forever!
The best thing about it: Grabbing a plate of momo between watching back to back foreign films.
Trek to the top of Triund
This one is for the more thrill-seeking kind. Bored of lazing around in hotel rooms and markets? Then the Triund Top trek is what should be on your bucket list for McleodGanj. A beautiful trail that traverses through lush oak and rhododendron forests all while offering scenic views of the valley.
The trek is also sprinkled with several cafes (Magic View Cafe, Shiva Cafe, Snowline Cafe etc.) where you can indulge in some local eats. The trail starts in Dharamkot, inclines from Galu Devi temple and escalates to the top of Triund. Here is a fantastic readymade 2N/3D itinerary to take all those planning pains away.
The best thing about it: The sunsets from the top. Can’t be written about. Only experienced.
Vipassana Meditation Retreat
Now this one is not for everybody. Let us just get that clear right off the bat. The Dhamma Sikhara Vipassana Retreat is only for those who are committed to finding out what is beyond our obvious reality. Situated amongst 3 acres of stunning cedar deodar forest – this place is a meditation centre that preaches equality, stability, meditative quality, simple living and discovery of one’s higher self.
They offer several courses but beginners can only apply for the 10-day course at first. If you are someone in search of spiritual travel, then the Dhamma Sikhara Vipassana Retreat in Dharamkot is an ideal choice of places to visit in Dharamshala.
The best thing about it: It is absolutely free of cost!
Now you must immediately be like ‘what is so special about a movie theatre? Literally every city has one’. While that is 100% true, this is something special and sweet. Tucked away near the Post Office on Jogiwada Road, Cinemaa 1 is a small hall that can accommodate no more than 30 people.
Operating from quite a long time, this theatre showcases the quirky and underrated movies from afternoon to late evening. The fun part is that the schedule changes every day and the announcement is not digital nor is it an SMS or a poster. They are little paper fliers stuck on point of interest areas throughout the town. Perfect outing for a lazy afternoon.
The best thing about it: It is cosy and homely and induces strong pangs of nostalgia.
Paragliding in Bir
Only 2 hours away from McleodGanj, the adorable village of Bir is the home to Asia’s highest paragliding site. When in McleodGanj, why not take this opportunity to experience this as well. Reaching Bir is easy as there are several cabs and buses plying back and forth.
Imagine soaring in the sky while the people under your feet look like ants and you start to sway and undulate between the giant mountains and the deep valley. Paragliding in Bir is something that no one should skip on when looking for places to visit in Dharamshala. Click here to find the perfect 3N/4D itinerary to meet all your Mcleodganj and Bir needs.
The best thing about it: The paragliding charges in Bir are very competitive.
Gather around all my foodie friends. This one is for you. Raved about by hundreds and hundreds of travellers – the Family Pizzaria is undoubtedly one of the best (if not THE ONE) places serving pizza in McleodGanj. Owned by Hansraj and Phillipe – they produce some of the softest and most delicious pizza pies.
Foodies are in love with the way they hand knead their pizza dough, prepare an in house marinara sauce and the slight smokiness from baking in original wood-fired ovens. Safe to say that this place is a MUST visit because even the Outlook Traveller gave them props for their yummy pizzas and mangofees.
The best thing about it: The 3 cheese pizza and the Napo pizza.
Bodhi Greens Eatery
You know, we play fair. Not gonna be the one to discriminate. So if you are a conscious eater and tired of eating the same old veg food in all the places to visit in Dharamshala, then Bodhi Greens is the place to rush too! Situated on the Main Street in Dharamkot – Bodhi Greens is an all natural, all organic and all-vegan cafe.
And I know many of you out there might think that that just means a bunch of rocket leaf on a plate. But NO! That is far from the truth. They have an enormous range of scrumptious, delicious and lip-smacking food – all while being sustainable and vegan. Truly the best of both worlds.
The best thing about it: Soymilk peanut butter shake and Buddha bowls.
Kareri Lake Trek
Absolutely perfect for the enthusiastic adventurers who are looking for a thrilling trek without spending a week in the jungles. Kareri Lake is a shallow, freshwater lake in the Dhauladhar ranges that is quickly approachable and that has massive payback with views views views!
Scenic sub-tropical forests and rocky grasslands pave the way to reach this high altitude lake that has high visibility in the water. Some might even call it a crystal lake.
This 3N/4D trek is easy on the pocket but high in the adventure. Out of all the places to visit in Dharamshala, this one quite the adventure. The Kangra valley in which it is located is also locally quite famous for its delicious tea brews.
The best thing about it: Taking a dip in the freezing lake waters – utterly refreshing!
McleodGanj Tea Gardens
Speaking of tea brews, it would totally be a missed opportunity if you did not visit the Narghota tea gardens while in McleodGanj. Though in comparison to estates in Assam and Darjeeling, these grounds are quite smaller – but very much soothing to walk around in nonetheless.
The expanse of green tea shrubs on all sides makes for an amazing walk. If you are lucky to be there immediately after a fresh burst of rain – then your olfactory senses will be drenched in the rich aroma of the famous Kangra tea. A small picnic amidst the tea plants is certainly recommended.
The best thing about it: You can buy some delicious Kangra tea brews and tisanes for your loved ones.
Volunteer at LHA
The LHA Charitable Trust is an award-winning, grassroots organization that helps provide rehabilitation, education and work opportunities to displaced Tibetian refugees. They are sustained mainly by sponsors, donors and volunteers. No matter your interest – be it management, community service, photography or cooking; LHA would be more than happy to accommodate you. Generally, people are required to volunteer for a minimum time period of a month.
Volunteers from around the world come here to volunteer with and help this organization grow so it definitely is an amazing place to meet kind, generous like-minded people. This is not necessarily under the category of places to visit in Dharamshala but is worth knowing about nonetheless.
The best thing about it: Seeing the smiles on the faces of the little refugee children.
I hope this list has satisfied your hunger to look for things lesser done by travellers. McleodGanj certainly has charm, culture and beauty of its own and if you have never been, you surely must visit it. Especially now that you have this huge list of offbeat places to visit in Dharamshala.
Heck, even if you have been there – it is worth going back to again and again. And just in case you are looking for a place to stay without breaking the bank – just choose from one of the many hostels in McleodGanj!