Clustered on a wooded ridge in the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala – or more accurately the township of McLeod Ganj above it – is internationally famous as the home of the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It’s also the home of a sizeable, and ever-growing, numbers of Tibetan refugees, most of whom undertook dangerous journeys across the mountains of their homeland to get there.
Their presence has totally transformed what was formerly a sleepy hill station into one of India’s principal attractions for foreign visitors. Tourists from all over the world come not only to attend public teachings by the Dalai Lama himself, but also to study Buddhist meditation, Tibetan performing arts, crafts and medicine, and to experience the unique atmosphere of this refugee town in the Himalayas.
Set against the grey, snow-capped crags of the Dhauladhar Range (which here reach a culminating altitude of around 4,600m/15,000ft), the rooftops of McLeod Ganj are strung with fluttering prayer flags. Monasteries and temples house ranks of red-and-gold prayer wheels visited year-round by streams of Tibetan pilgrims from the plains. Sweeping views over the treetops and down the valley are to be had from the handful of lovely hotels TransIndus use in this area. But to savour the full majesty of the nearby Himalayan watershed, you’ll have to bring your hiking boots – McLeod Ganj is perfectly placed for some of the region’s finest treks.