Ever imagined yourself waking up to fascinating views of Himalayas. Ever imagined yourself sipping a hot coffee sitting by the window in windy weather admiring the beauty of nature. With the Dhauladhar ranges and thick deodar forests in the background, Dharamshala is a one of such scenic and panoramic hill station in Himachal Pradesh State of North India, tucked away in the Himalayas. Land with colourful Tibetan flags, rolling prayer wheels, sound of the ringing bells, View of snow cladded mountains and chirping birds, this destination will fill your heart with peace and serenity.
Dharamshala is such a hill station that symbolizes peace and integrity. The serenity of this town reflects the various admixtures of art and culture that are existing and flourishing side by side without any hindrance.
The picturesque grandeur of Dharamshala appeals youths to put their tents and stargaze while couples and group of friends can enjoy the scenic beauty and enjoy the trekking adventure and families and old people can spend peaceful time in temples and monasteries. Paragliding, Trekking and a lot more will keep your holiday in Dharamshala in full swing. Also, there are many exciting things to do nearby as well.
Here we get you compiled list of 12 Incredible Offbeat Places to see around Dharamshala.
== Rock Cut Temple (Masroor Temple) – The perfect place for history lovers ==
Excessively little-known wonder of Himalayas is this amazing temple complex – Masroor Temple. Tucked away amidst rural Himachal, just 38 kilometers away from the bustling town of Kangra, these temples are spectacular examples of Indo-Aryan architecture. The entire complex contains about 15 shikhara temples and a rectangular water tank in front of the temples. Made of a single rock, these Intricate carvings and gorgeously ornamented sculptures reflects the skills and represents an early (possibly – the earliest) example of Nagara style in architecture.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is believed to have set foot on this holy ground. The idols of Ram, Sita and Laxman are also present at this temple complex and, thus, this is what makes this ancient temple so sacred among the Hindu pilgrims.
The splendid structure built with a cruciform design stands striking similarity with the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Kailasa Temple at Ellora.
Thanks to the promising local topography – steep rock ridge – Masroor Temples rise above the surrounding landscape like ordinary structures. From the temple complex opens a fine view on Dhauladhar ranges and the Beas valley.
== Jwalamukhi Temple – A Blissful Temple ==
This pilgrimage place is accessible from Kangra (35 Km) as well as Dharamshala (56 Km). The antique temple, built against a wooded spur, has a dome that was glided by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Pilgrims consider an eternally burning flame emanating from a hollow rock in the sanctum to be a manifestation of goddess Devi.
The legend of the Jwalamukhi Temple relates to Sati. The most unique part about this temple is that there is no deity inside the temple. Instead, the flames that emanate from within the rocks through fissures in the ground are worshipped as they are considered to be the Goddess manifesting herself. Jwalamukhi is also known as the Flaming Goddess or She of the Flaming Mouth.
You will have to hike around 1 km to reach the main gate of the temple and there is long queue to get into the main dome of the temple. So, plan your day accordingly while visiting this temple. The temple comes alive with Navaratri celebrations and colourful fairs during March-April and Sept-Oct every year.
== Kangra Fort – Where the ruins tell all the stories ==
If history fascinates you, you must head to the ruins of Kangra Fort. Around 22 kms from Dharamshala, The Kangra Fort was built by the Royal family of Kangra. It is the largest fort in the Himalayas and one of the oldest dated fort in India. The fort is spread over an area of around 4 km and is guarded by high walls and ramparts.
There are three temples inside the fort called Ambika Devi Temple, the Shitlamata Temple and Lakshmi Narayan Temple. There is a temple dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras where a stone image of Lord Adinath is installed. There’s little bit of hike in the fort which will lead you to the beautiful view of Dhauladhar ranges.
== Kareri Lake: Trek which leads to nature’s beauty ==
Located approximately 40 kilometers North of Dharamshala and in the Dhauladhar Range, Lies this serene Kareri Lake. Its spellbinding beauty and calm setting make it one of the most beautiful places to see in Dharamshala. The stunning lake is surrounded by plush green deodar vegetation and snow-capped mountains. To get here, you need to start trekking from Ghera village.
You get regular buses from Dharamsala to Ghera and from Ghera, the trek to Kareri Lake takes about 8 to 9 hours. The route is narrow and tough at times. This trek is not as popular as Triund or Bhagsu Nag treks thus making it more of an untrodden path.
== St Johns Church – An Architectural Masterpiece ==
Set amidst beautiful deodar forests, there is an ancient and picturesque church built in Neo-Gothic architecture, mere 8kms away from the scenic town of Dharamshala, this splendid chapel is built in the middle of the beautiful valley of McLeod Ganj. The church is in the dense forests between Forsyth Ganj and McLeodGanj. This church is a monument that has been built in memory of Lord Elgin who was one of the viceroys of India.
The churchyard is the final resting place of Lord Elgin, who served as the Governor-General and Viceroy of India in 1861 during the British Raj. The church is also famous for its Belgian stained-glass windows donated by Lady Elgin, wife of Lord Elgin. The church attracts many travelers. The scenic pine and deodar forest, the serene environment and the architecture of the church are bound to leave unforgettable memories in the minds of visitors. This church is one of the must-visit places for tourists.
St John’s church is a unique and a special place which should not be missed by anyone who is planning to visit Dharamshala. A visit to this peaceful abode will sure be a remarkable experience.
== Naddi Village – Sight awesome views of Himalayas ==
Naddi is a serene and charming village, located up the hill, far away from the chatter of the main town. One of most picturesque places to visit near Dharamshala. Naddi View point is the main point in the village which offers an enthralling view of the lofty, snow peaked mountains, deep plush Kangra valley, and flourishing deodar forests.
Opposite to the view point, there’s a sunset point where you can observe one of the beautiful sunsets of a lifetime. We enjoyed chasing sunset here in our camera with lovely music in the background and windy weather. A perfect place to spend a romantic evening.
==Dal Lake – Shot your photos with picturesque backdrop ==
Dal Lake Known for its altitude and surrounded by canopies of deodar trees that add to the charm of this small lake. One of the best places to get yourself clicked with nature’s wonderful backdrop. Close to the lake, there’s sacred Shiva temple which is quite popular among the locals for its mythological importance.
This is also a starting point for trekking and excursion, which is covered around the lake to make the walk memorable. The lake has a boat ride facility as biggest source of entertainment. The tourists can indeed delve in that pleasurable activity.
== Tsuglagkhang Complex – Place of Dalai Lama’s first visit to India ==
Located just about 1 kilometer out of the center of McLeod Ganj, down the Temple Road, The Tsuglag Khang complex is one of the first structures to be built when His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived in India in 1959. It houses the famous Namgyal monastery, a museum, a café, a book shop, a library and the private residence of the Dalai Lama.
The Tsuglagkhang Complex is the official residence of the 14th Dalai Lama who is an emanation of the Buddha of Compassion. The Tsuglagkhang Complex is a place that has the power to transform a person into someone whose heart beats with love and compassion, and, also into a person whose mind longs and indulges in establishing peace and serenity.
== Khajjiar Lake: Lake In the shadow of the snow-covered Himalayas ==
Known as “Mini Switzerland of India”, Surrounded by bright green hills and cotton clouds, Khajjiar lake is a tranquil picture of natural beauty. Around 4 hours’ drive from Dharamshala and Located at a height of around 1,920 meters, Khajjiar Lake is amongst the most popular tourist sites in the state. Hailed as ‘Mini Swiss’, Khajjiar is famous for its paragliding and horse riding activities. You can also visit the Khajinag temple which features intricate wood carvings and a gilded dome
It is perched on a massive height of 1920 meters and presents a picture-perfect view of the surrounding valley. The display of Khajjiar Lake is further embroidered with the sight of cedar forests and smaller water streams that open in its gaps.
You can enjoy Khajjiar lake’s beauty in many interesting ways, take a walk through the landscape as the sun goes down, or get your photoshoot done in the traditional Himalayan costumes.The dazzling waters of Khajjiar Lake is a serene beauty that vivacities against the blue of the sky and you can realize that there is no place like it in the whole world. If the sky is clear, you can also catch a glimpse of Mount Kailash from the lake. The incredible sight of the splendid landscapes united with the gleaming lake, makes Khajjiar lake a must visit sight.
== Bir Billing: Visit the Paragliding capital of the world ==
Why restrict yourself to the lush green grounds when sky is the limit? Bir Billing is famous as the Paragliding capital of the world. Bir is also famed for its soulful Tibetan monasteries set amidst scenic and peaceful settings. Since the time this adventure sports have come into existence especially in India, Bir Billing has fast become the prime attraction for adventure – seekers from all throughout the world for the same.
Not only for paragliding, you must visit the Sherabling Monastery in Bir which is 6km from landing site at Bir. Billing is renowned the world over for having the distinction for the first Paragliding competition and every year, The Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Government of Himachal Pradesh organizes the ‘Paragliding Pre world Cup’ at Billing- Bir in the month of October.
== Aghanjar Mahadev – Temple inside the cave ==
Get ready to be charmed once you visit this quaint lord Shiva temple nestled inside a cave ,near a river stream. Surrounded by mountains and forests, the place attracts a lot of tourists too apart from the pilgrims. At a distance of 9 km from Dharamshala and 16 km from McLeod Ganj, Aghanjar Mahadev Temple is situated in the Khanyara village at the foothills of Dhauladhar. This temple is believed to be five hundred years old.
The Aghanjar Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that once upon a time when Arjuna, one of the Pandavas from the Mahabharata, was on his way to the Kailash Mountains, Lord Shiva appeared at this spot and blessed him with the boon of victory over the Kauravas. The cool breeze, peace, and serenity around the temple give a heavenly ambience to the devotees here.
- Pong Dam – Perfect Place for bird watching.
78 kms from Dharamshala, Visit the Pong dam, an earth filled embankment dam on the Beas river just upstream of Talwara in himachal Pradesh. Pong Dam is considered good for Migratory Bird watching, fishing and watersports.
The specialty of this lake is that it is a sanctuary for birds of numerous species including Bar Headed Geese and Red-necked Grebe. The entire lake stretches out to a surface area of 240 square kilometers and a depth of 321 feet during flood season.
Tranquility surrounds Dharamshala from all sides, and it also offers some of the most picturesque views of the adjoining Kangra valley and the snow-clad Himalayas beyond. This is as close as you can get to melodious bliss in the hills. As hill stations become popular, their beauty tends to get cliched by excessive commercialization and often irresponsible tourism, but Dharamshala has managed to keep off this trend; it is still as pristine as a hidden hilltop homestead should be.
Have you visited Dharamshala yet? which is your favorite place to visit around Dharamsala? Do share with us in comments.