Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Sat August 13 2016

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | August 13, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    Dharamsala: Where India and Tibet Meet

    Dharamsala: Where India and Tibet Meet

    PHOTO: When I arrived in Dharmkot after a sleepless bus ride, I knew I had made the right decision.(All photos by Shannon Wolf)

    After the increasing heat in Rishikesh reached highs of 50 degrees, I hit my peak and headed off on the first overnight half-sleeper bus to the Himalayas in hopes of cooler weather and a change of scenery.

    As promised, the half-sleeper gave me half the sleep. The other half was spent being literally flung around like a kernel in a jiffy-pop bag, leaving me burnt and bruised by the time I arrived at my destination. On the bright side, I was rewarded with clear blue skies surrounded by brilliant lush cedar forests, mountains and clean air. A place worth losing sleep over if you ask me.

    The city of Dharamsala is worth skipping if you don’t want to fall in love with the fusion of Tibetan and Indian culture co-existing in the village of McLeod Ganj, Bhagsu and Dharamkot – all within a 20-minute hike from each other and home of the Dalai Lama.

    When you are dropped off at the taxi stand, hop in a cab or walk for around 20 minutes and head straight to Bhagsu. From the taxi stand of madness, walk up the hill to enjoy the peaceful sounds of a no-car zone and drop your bags off at one of the many guesthouses before wandering around the many shops and cafes, while picking out the handful of enticing classes, ranging from energy healing, jewelry making, yoga and meditation, singing lessons and anything else you can think of.

    READ MORE: Solo Female Travel in India: Realities and Tips

    Best Accommodation: Sunrise Guesthouse (400 rupees/night)

    For the price, it is one of the best guesthouses I have stayed at. The rooms are clean; enjoy ensuite bathrooms with hot water, Wi-Fi and if you’re lucky, you can nab the room with your own hammock to sway the days away when it rains.

    Getting there: In upper Bhagsu, right before the last large convenience store, you will find a sign stating “Little Price Café” and a set of stairs heading through an alleyway. Follow the path to the end and you will be brought to Sunrise Guesthouse.

    Cheapest Accommodation: Upper Dharmkot

    The cheapest accommodation is in upper Dharmkot with prices ranging from 150-200. With this, you’re a bit of a hike from McLeod Ganj, and your room is makeshift/barebones but you can’t beat the price or the view.

    Things to Do: Dharmkot

    Dharmkot is a quiet and lovely village, perfect for those who need a break from all the hustle and bustle in McLeod Ganj. From here, you can do a gorgeous trek to the villages of Naddi and Triundi (3km and 7km away). You can attend the donation based 9:30 a.m. drop-in meditation sessions at Tushita, do yoga classes at Divine Nature, get your vegan on at Space Out Café or hang out at Trek and Dine to watch movies in the mini-theatre room and eat incredible dishes such as their famous Muesli fruit curd honey breakfast, Mali Kofta and Egg Curry.

    PHOTO: On the walk from Bhagsu to McLeod Ganj, you are provided magnificent views of the Himalayan valleys. 

    Things to Do: Bhagsu

    Bhagsu is a good middle ground between silence and intensity. It’s perfectly set in-between Dharmkot and McLeod Ganj and the best place to unpack your bags. There are great shops selling everything from jewelry to clothing; workshops to learn reiki, crystal healing, massages and cooking classes. You can get your chakras and energy read, attend donation meditation classes, yoga and have the best vegetable momo soup at Buddha Delight.

    Things to Do: McLeod Ganj

    McLeod Ganj is where you will spend most of your time eating and drinking. The food here is far cheaper, the coffee is incredible and there are many shops to buy handmade items from Tibet and Nepal. Be sure to grab a cappuccino and great Wi-Fi at Moonpeak Espresso for 70 rupees and the street momos for 20 rupees!

    PHOTO: The delicious egg curry from Trek and Dine. Right: The best cappuccino and cream cheese carrot cake from Moonpeak Espresso.

    Top Recommendations:

    Attend a donation-based 10-day silent “Intro to Buddhism and Meditation” course at Tushita or an intensive 10-day silent Vipasaana meditation course in Dharamkot. Be sure to book well in advance as it is booked up quickly.  Every Monday to Saturday at GU-CHU-SUM from 4:30-6:00pm you can converse in English with ex-political prisoners and their family members. (Jogibara road). Treat yourself to Ayurvedic treatment at the famous Ayurveda House and every night at Once In The Nature in Upper Bhagsu, you can chill out on cushions listening to live music with a stunning view overlooking the towns below.

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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