Discover Dharamsala: Your Gateway to Tibetan Culture and Scenic Beauty

Dharamsala, a picturesque town in the Kangra Valley, is not only known for its stunning natural beauty but also as the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile since 1960. This vibrant town, nestled against the dramatic Dhauladhar Mountains, has become a bustling center of Tibetan activity, housing numerous organizations, monasteries, nunneries, schools, and over 8,000 resident Tibetans. Dharamsala is divided into two distinct sections, Upper and Lower Dharamsala, each offering its own unique charm and experiences.

Dharamsala's Unique Appeal:

Hub of Tibetan Life:

While central government offices are located closer to Dharamsala, it's McLeod Ganj, set slightly higher in elevation amidst the Himalayan foothills, that truly embodies Tibetan culture and life. This vibrant enclave is the heart of the Tibetan community and a must-visit for anyone seeking an authentic Tibetan experience.

Scenic Beauty:

Dharamsala is a visual delight, set against a backdrop of lush pine trees and Deodar forests. Nearby snowlines, glistening streams, and a refreshing climate make it an enchanting destination.

Cultural Delights:

Immerse yourself in Tibetan culture through colorful temples and gompas, reflective of Tibet's rich heritage. The Kangra museum provides insight into the region's history, while institutes like Norbu Lingka preserve Tibetan art, culture, and traditions.

General Information:

Tibet Homestay offers hosts throughout Dharamsala, with Tibetan communities spread across various parts of the town, excluding the city center of Lower Dharamsala.

Getting to McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala:

  • Travel by Bus: Overnight buses from Delhi, particularly those departing from the Tibetan Colony, can take you directly to McLeod Ganj. Alternatively, government-owned buses often stop in Dharamsala, and you can take a short local bus ride to McLeod Ganj.
  • Travel by Plane: Dharamsala has an airport located about 18 kilometers from Lower Dharamsala, offering connections to Delhi, Kullu, and Shimla via Indian Airlines.
  • Travel by Train: From Delhi, a 12-hour train journey to Pathankot is an option. From there, you can take a 4-hour bus or a 2-hour taxi to Dharamsala, followed by a local bus to McLeod Ganj.

What to Bring:

Dharamsala’s altitude of 1,700 meters (5,780 feet) means you should prepare for varying weather conditions. Winters (November to February) can be cold, while summers are pleasant. The monsoon season (July to September) can bring heavy rains, so pack accordingly. Don’t forget a good pair of hiking boots or walking shoes to explore the stunning Himalayan foothills.

Money and Currency:

  • ATM and Bank Cards: While there are a few ATMs in McLeod Ganj, some international cards may not work. Consider bringing alternative payment methods such as credit cards and traveler’s checks.
  • Credit Cards: The Bank of Baroda in Dharamsala offers cash advances with a nominal 2% service charge, but advance authorization is required. Local cash advance places in McLeod Ganj may charge a 5% service fee.
  • Traveler’s Cheques and Cash: These can be exchanged for Indian rupees at multiple locations in McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala.


Prepare for diverse weather conditions due to Dharamsala’s altitude. Bring wet-weather gear during the monsoon season (July to September) and warm clothing or thermals for winter (November to February). Ensure you have the right footwear to explore the Himalayan foothills’ natural beauty.

A Brief Overview:

Tibetan Settlement in Dharamsala:

In 1967, the Tibetan Welfare Office was established in Dharamsala to oversee the socio-economic welfare of Tibetan refugees who had settled in the region. The office serves as a liaison between the Tibetan community in Dharamsala and the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), overseeing five divisions of Tibetan refugees scattered across the area.

Settlement Location:

The Tibetan Welfare Office is situated in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh, approximately 8 kilometers from Dharamsala's main town. McLeod Ganj sits at an altitude of around 1,750 meters (5,742 feet) and experiences temperatures ranging from 0°C to 38°C (32°F to 100°F) with an average rainfall of 290 mm.

Settlement Population:

Present Population: 10,470
Number of Villages: Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala are distributed across the hills and divided into five divisions based on their locations.


Tibetans in Dharamsala do not have leased land from the Indian government like other settlements in India. They rely on various sources of income, including small restaurants, shops, seasonal businesses, handicraft work, and more.

Facilities in the Settlement:


Several schools, including one secondary and one senior secondary school, cater to the educational needs of the settlement's youth.


The settlement features a modern allopathic hospital (Delek Hospital) and the Tibetan Medical and Astro Institute (Men Tsee Khang).


Dharamsala boasts 15 monasteries, each contributing to the rich tapestry of Tibetan culture and spirituality.

Old People's Home

The settlement includes an old people's home under the direct care of the Department of Home, housing 150 elders and staff.

Administrative Setup:

Tibetan Welfare Office

Serving as the liaison between the Tibetans in Dharamsala and the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration, this office ensures the welfare and overall management of Tibetan affairs in Dharamsala.

Local Assembly

Elected representatives act as intermediaries between the Tibetan people and relevant authorities. They address issues, convey information, resolve disputes, and collect funds, advocating for the welfare of their community.

Travel Information:

Nearest Railway Station

Pathankot, located 80 kilometers away.

Nearest Airport

Gaggal, approximately 15 kilometers from Lower Dharamsala.

Bus and Taxi Services

Readily available throughout the area to facilitate your local travels.

Explore Dharamsala and its vibrant Tibetan culture

while reveling in the serene beauty of the Himalayan foothills. Experience a unique blend of tradition and natural wonder in this captivating region.

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