Every year thousands of Israelis visit this quaint little village to wallow in some beautiful & vivid mountain views, low-floor café experiences, self-enlightening yoga and meditation courses and the inexplicable indulgences – Now I know why!
Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, Id-ul-Fitr or Durga Puja Ashtami are festivals I never celebrate and to put it quite blatantly, they work as great weekend getaways for a short trip to the hills for most of us Delhiites. On one such occasion, I decided to head to Dharamkot alone (will come to this as to why I did it), a tiny village close to McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. Also, I thought I would do some justice to Shivaratri (Lord Shiva’s Birthday) by going to the mountains! I was feeling slightly guilty being a Hindu!
Well, a 10-hour smooth drive from Delhi via Chandigarh with the infamous Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba (informally known as a restaurant) on the way for some crazy Indian Parathas and other delicacies. Also, I didn’t believe in the concept of mirage until I did this road trip.
Things to do on the Way
- Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba for Great Food
- Anandpur Sahib – Holy Temple for Sikhs (I usually go for the sweet desert)
- Pragpur Village – India’s first Heritage Village with pleasing architectural structures
- Kangra Fort – Yeah, some fort for which there are always road signs (maybe you could skip this if you want to reach in 10 hours – I always do that)
I met Rosalie in January this year while I was coming back to India on my backpacking trip to Thailand (and no I did not go to Pattaya or Phuket, at least this time), Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. More on that later – so ya she had invited me to Dharamkot and it was my first-hand experience of living a wanna-be backpacking westerners’ life.
Surrounded on 3-sides by the spectacular Dhauladhar Range, the first thing that hits you when you are introduced to Dharamkot is the VV – the View and the Vibe. Let me tell you more about the Vibe – since you can always google the view.
As you climb up-hill from McLeod Ganj, you reach the CBD or the Centre of Dharamkot, except it only houses one tea-shop and two Buddhist Ashrams offering Tushita Meditation Courses (indulge in a 10-15 day retreat for some self-introspection) and Yoga Classes.
Out of the 3 roads, one of them takes you to a line of cafés located as part of slanting non-linear houses converted into restaurants offering Israeli, Mexican, American, Italian and other select global menu items specifically designed to cater to the foreign tourists.
With 70% of the tourists being Israelis, as per inputs from one the Israeli backpacker that I met was of the opinion, who visit India or head to South America to relieve and re-live post their mandatory Army training and as stated ‘because life is too stressful in Israel in general’. Given that perspective, I think all working Indians should travel to Thailand more often, oh wait they already do!
Other reasons cited were good food; cheap accommodation (INR 500-600 per night for a guesthouse accommodation) coupled with breathtaking views and of course the liberty to indulge your mind in a foggy multi-dimensional dream. You were waiting for this, weren’t you!
Amidst the dimness of the cafes and the highness of the mountains, this little hippie village never fails to disappoint with what it offers for the kind who like to separate themselves from reality and seek to explore the deeper realms of a parallel world which exists beyond. Honestly, you don’t need to scrape the surface too much for this – it comes as a package with the vibe.
During the day, you could visit the Bhagsu Waterfalls, Gallu Temple & the Waterfall, Upper Dharamkot for some more cafés and even more splendid views or possibly do the trek to Triund, Indrahar Pass, etc.
Must Cafes to Visit
- Trek n Dine (Focal point for Dharamkot Café’s – Robust offering with almost everything close to perfection)
- Morgan’s Place (Run by an Australian India with a legit accent – Go for variety of blue cheese pizzas)
- Moonshine Café (Go for Bhagsu cake – an indigenous delicacy)
- Space out (Run by an Israeli Woman – do take into consideration her customised offerings)
- Cool Talk Café (Go for the Egg Seaweed Sushi and the Carrot Cake)
- Illiterati Café at McLeod Ganj (Go for the incredible library, piano and the view)
Djembe (the goblet drum), Blanket Shawls, Stone Crafting and the Lulu (an intricate thread like hair extension or alternatively a wrist accessory usually embedded with silver / golden beads) are some of the things synonymous with the culture there. Additionally, you might want to pay a visit to Spike – the Tattoo and the Piercing Guy. Who would believe that India’s first Tattoo (yes that’s true – he has been at it for the last 15 years) artist is currently based out of this awe-inspiring destination.
All in all, this trippy little den is undoubtedly the hub for travellers looking to escape some real ground and unearth a plethora of enigmatic & spiritual experiences. From ecstatic dance classes (might have to write a separate blog to justify the essence of this) to soap making lessons coupled with devouring food options and the jaw-dropping views; this place is quite untouched and far from reality.
P.S. Locals are quite pally with the foreign tourists as compared to Indian Tourists – a trend witnessed in Kasol as well. So, don’t get offended, they stay and sustain their businesses perpetually.