Dharamsala is a small mountain town located in the northern state of Himachal Pradhesh, India, situated along the foothills of the picturesque Dhauladhar range of the western Himalayas. Dhauladhar means “white ridge” and this breathtaking, snow-capped range rises out of the Kangra Valley below to a height of 17,000 feet (5,200 meters).

In the 19th century during the British Raj in India, Dharamsala became a hill station and favorite summer destination for British families seeking a cool mountain refuge from the scorching heat of the plains.

The beauty of Dharamsala touched the heart of a British official who wrote:Dharamashala trekking

No scenery, in my opinion, presents such sublime and delightful contrasts. Below lies the plains, a picture of rural loveliness and repose… Turning from this scene of peaceful beauty, the stern and majestic hills confront us… above all are wastes of snow to rest on.

Himalayan_Scenery,_Dharamsala - CopyThe name Dharamsala is actually a compound of two words, “dharma”, one of those fabulously rich and complex Sanskrit words with a range of meanings from “righteousness, duty, universal law, spiritual teachings, or the path”; and “shala” which means “home, sanctuary, or refuge.” Together the name Dharamsala could be taken as “Home of the Dharma,” or a “Spiritual Sanctuary.”
And this name is certainly befitting, as for the past fifty years the city of Dharamsala has functioned as the spiritual center of the Tibetan Buddhist world, as it has served as the home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan community and government in exile.

Today, Dharamsala has become a modern-mecca on the “dharma trail” for spiritual seekers, yogis, and pilgrims from around the world. Streams of Tibetans from all over the world flock to McLeod Ganj, the small town in Upper Dharamsala where “His Holiness” lives (and where we will be staying), to receive his blessings and teachings. Western and Indian tourists and scholars come here to see the rebirth of an ancient and fascinating civilization in exile.

The high altitude and cool weather contribute physically to this recreation of the original Tibetan environment. Dharamsala, often dubbed “Little Tibet,” pulsates with the sights and sounds of old Tibet. Shops strung out along the narrow streets of McLeod Ganj sell traditional Tibetan arts and handicrafts and the aroma of Tibetan dishes lingers in the air. Yet there is certainly a more modern cosmopolitan feel to the city as well, as such a vast co-mingling of international worlds collide!

Quick Facts

Languages Spoken: Pahari (local Himachali), Gaddi, Tibetan, Nepali, Punjabi, and English.
Location: Kangra (Himachal Pradesh, in north India
Elevation: 4,780ft (1,457 mtrs) – 8,530ft (2,600 mtrs) (around Dharamshala) and Dhauladhars are up to 18,000ft (5,600 mtrs)
Rain: It rains well in the monsoon season that lasts through july and August. Rainfall varies between 114in (290cm) to 149in (380cm). Second highest rainfall in the country!
Temperature: It is a moderate weather in the hills though valley can get hotter to about 95 F (35 C) in May-June Summers; the minimum does dip down to 30 F (- 1 C) in Winters.

Weather

During the month of June, when the retreat is being held, Dharamsala is typically warm, around 75-90
F, with cooling afternoon rain showers. Light-weight and quick dry clothes are best. But pack light, most of the clothes you’ll need you can find in town, and shopping in India is twice the fun. You can also pick up an umbrella in town.

Note: We’ll provide a detailed packing list in your pre-departure guide.

People and culture

There is a bit of cultural mix in the region though still intact in their distinct areas!

Pahari population dominates the valley connecting Punjab, a little above the Dharamsala Cantonment area there is Nepali community in Totarani village, McLeodganj has the Tibetean population, and majority of upper reaches villages has Gaddi population. There are also number of western expats now coming and living for longer ddurations in Dharamkot area for their tranquality of the hills and appeal of the teachings of Tibetan Budhism.