Backpacking Dharamshala is an incredibly fun experience. This is definitely the lighter side of travel. In district Dharamshala lie the sibling towns of McLeod Gunj, Bhagsu Nag and Dharamkot.
Weather and When to Visit
The best time to visit Dharamshala is from April to July, and in October. End of July and September witness heavy monsoon, which make being in Dharamshala extremely wet, inconvenient and slippery. However, if rains is your thing, join the few who spend this time in the rainy daze of Dharamshala.
Dharamshala is very close to my place, as I have spent many summers and monsoons in Dharamshala. And at each visit, found it tough to tear myself away and get back, or get moving. I have worked jobs in restaurants in Bhagsu and Dharamkot, so that I could stay longer. I have fallen in love in Dharamshala, and with Dharamshala. We go way back. Here is a little travel wisdom on the towns here.
When china attacked Tibet, the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama fled to India and built a home high in the mountains where he vowed to keep alive the peace and nature loving way of life of the simple Tibetan mountain folk.
Tip: Eat Momos at the temple road, and visit the The Dalai Lama Temple here.
Bhagsu is the hippie capital of Dharamshala. While lower Bhagsu is built upward from the bus stop, and is motorable, Upper Bhagsu must be reached on foot. I stayed, of course, in upper Bhagsu, where all the backpacking population of Dharamshala lies clustered. Most of the unmotorable part of Bhagsu is built on either side of two massive staircases built into the mountainside. Each step is about half a foot tall, and about 300 steps connect Lower Bhagsu to Dharamkot.
Here, lie cheap cafes and guesthouses, which receive many ‘regulars’ that come to stay the season (3 to 4 months). Look out for live music at the many cafes in Bhagsu and Dharamkot.
Try: Bhagsu Cake at Singh Corner, Bhagsu. You will thank me later.
Also Try: A swim in the Bhagsu Fresh water swimming pool (if you dare). You may/may not be so thankful.
Trek to Triund & Snow Line Cafe
The trek starts from Bhagsu (4 to 5 hours) or Dharamkot (3 to 4 hours). It is mid level, semi tough trek, and leads to a mountaintop overlooking the Triund peak. It is advisable to start in the morning. The mountaintop is a large, flat space, a field carpeted with soft grass, offering a stunning view of the peaks around. The place is absolutely brilliant, a quiet little clearing with caves, horses, and tents, waterfalls and warm bonfires at night. A world away from the world. Triund has no cellphone network, no electricity. It is far from civilisation, and it has a way of bringing you into the present. When you are in Triund, you aren’t anywhere else. For me, each visit to Triund has been magical.
There are three modest ‘cafes’ at Triund which offer basic food and lodging. Plan an overnight stay.
If you are astounded by Triund (which you will be), don’t stop there. Walk an additional hour and half up to the snowline cafe (the last cafe on the mountain). It is even quieter than Triund.
For now, keep away your iPads, and talk to complete strangers. Try new cuisines and dishes. Soak in this absolutely brilliant piece of the Himalayas. And you will be glad that you did.