A friend and I were desperate for time away from the noise and bustle of Delhi, so we chose Dharamshala in Himachal as our weekend escape and trust me, I just didn't want to come back. It's hard to do justice to the beauty and how special those two days were in just a few words. The picturesque beauty of the pine forests, the colorful Tibetan flags that flutter everywhere you look, the fresh and clean air, the chirping birds, the magnificent vista of the Dhauladhar Mountains and not to forget the delicious Himachali, Tibetan and Bhutanese dishes - Himachal is a paradise not just for nature lovers, but for foodies too!
We decided to splash out and book ourselves onto a direct flight from Delhi to Kangra Airport to really make the most of our precious time. A mere 1 hour in the air, and a 30 minute taxi ride and we were there! So much more convenient than taking the Volvo Buses! We reached our cozy and spacious room and sipped on piping hot adrak chai (Ginger Tea), another luxury, much needed in the relative chill of the mountains!
We had heard so much about McLeod Ganj so we decided to start by exploring the town which is the adopted home of the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan followers. It just takes 15-20 minutes to reach McLeod Ganj from Dharamshala, so we booked a cab and reached the town center. We realized on arrival just how famished we were and McLeod Ganj didn't disappoint. There is a vast array of cuisine options available at the local cafes-yummy paranthas, moist pancakes, stuffed omelettes, authentic thukpas, and fresh, steaming momos - every cafÃ© has an assortment of dishes to offer and we were truly spoiled for choices.
Once done with our brunch, we decided to take a stroll along Temple Road to Bhagsunath, which is famous for the ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Bhagsu Nag, the snake god and Lord Shiva. A beautiful waterfall, absolutely worth visiting, is located about a 20-minute walk from the temple, and best visited after the monsoon rains has replenished the streams that are the source of the falls. We strolled back into the centre of McLeod and visited the famous Tsuglagkhang Temple, which is known as the Dalai Lama Temple, and the highly informative and sometimes harrowing and the Tibet Museum.
With every step into the museum you can observe unique and mesmerizing tales of the glorious Tibetan history, the devastating Chinese occupation and the subsequent Tibetan resistance and exodus. The museum is wonderfully curated with eyewitness accounts, moving imagery and photography, and is absolutely not to be missed.
Being women we couldn't resist shopping, so next we went to the Tibetan Handicraft Centre where they sell all sorts of wonderfully hand made goods, the profits of which go back to a local Tibetan NGO funding education and health care of orphaned and destitute Tibetan children. By then the sun had set and we were exhausted. We went into a nearby cafÃ©, had the best pasta I have had in a long time. Then we took a cab and headed back to our hotel and crashed.
Next morning we woke to the chirping of the birds outside our guesthouse window. Today we were setting off on the Triund Trek. Our cab took us to the start of the trek, which itself provided a panoramic view of the Kangra Valley and serene pine forest trails. Before we started on the hike, we stopped off at the small tea shop at the start of the trek for a delicious breakfast of chai, omelette and sandwich, just what we needed to give us a good start to our hike. The hike is not technically difficult, but it is an uphill hike for around 3 hours - we had several stops, including a break at the Magical View CafÃ©, which is run by an ever so charming and cheerful local, who served us hot chai and biscuits.
Finally, at the top all our hard work was rewarded. Spectacular views of the Dhauladhars - white capped, just breathlessly beautiful. We stayed and enjoyed the views and again, the chai from the small stalls situated at the top, for a couple of hours. We read, snoozed, took photos a plenty before our descent. Our cab was waiting for us at our agreed time, and whisked our aching but contented bodies back to our guest house. Our last night we wandered around Dharamshala's busy market place, picking up hand knitted yak-wool socks and mittens, beautifully handweaved Himachali shawls and some handmade soaps and perfumes. Our last dinner was a delicious Tibetan feast before our tired limbs protested loudly enough that it was time to sleep.
Our flight back to Delhi was again so easy, and we were thankful we didn't have to sit for 11 hours on a bus with our post-Triund stiff muscles! These two days were so satisfying, and gave us both a much needed break from our mundane routines and crazy schedules. I wish I could have stayed a few more days, but work life beckoned, but for sure I will head back again at the soonest possible moment. I would recommend everyone visit this little heaven and haven asap! Dharamshala has something to offer everyone, be it the aesthetically pleasing surroundings, the culture, the historical and architectural heritage, the cuisine, so many adventure activities or for just slowing down the pace of life a bit - taking time to sip a cup of tea whilst gorging on hot momos, watching the world go by and really appreciating time with your nearest and dearest.