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Slow traveling and a Dharamkot trip

Slow traveling and a Dharamkot trip

Himachal Pradesh, India, North

Slow travel is the latest “IT” word in the travel industry. People from all over the planet are raving and writing so much about the benefits of slow travel, that you often wonder if the joy of lazing on a hammock on the beach was ever discovered. The truth is that despite my snarky comment, slow travel was indeed a lost art for quite some time. Vacation planning, traveling, and frenetic sightseeing had taken precedence because the hard working folks wanted full utilization of their holiday time and money. However, with the new trend of young professionals ditching their careers for traveling, slow travel has once again become popular and the lazy hippie ways are making a comeback. Moreover, traveling itself has started paying back and thus, it makes sense to go easy on it. Not too long ago, I used to be one of the lucky few whose job made her travel like crazy and it taught me the art of slowing down. I learned to relax, unravel, breathe easier, listen to my body and soak myself completely into my new environment. When you travel for work, it is quite understandable that your schedule is hectic and holidays are meant for being lazy. My Dharamkot trip is a perfect example of that, and I was not even supposed to be there.

Plan your Dharamkot trip in June for best views and dry season
Welcome to tranquility

You may also like: Slow traveling in Kalimpong

Dalai Lama and a change of plans

My original destination was Bir, the paragliding hub in Himachal Pradesh in India. A friend of mine has a flying school there and I was invited to go paragliding with him. While I was on my way to Bir, a frantic request from my editor to score an interview with His Holiness, Dalai Lama, made me change my plans and I landed up on a Dharamkot trip instead. Though HH Dalai Lama‘s abode was in the famous Dharamshala, crowd, traffic and muddy roads put me off and I headed for the neighbouring Dharamkot. I stayed there holed up for a few days in a small inn, while eagerly waiting for the arrival of HH Dalai Lama. But as luck would have it, some urgent matters canceled his visit at the last minute and I ended up making the detour on my vacation in vain. Dharamkot, however, was so exceptionally relaxing and pretty that I quite liked it there. Despite being within the walking distance of Dharamshala, it was peaceful, tranquil and the air smelled sweeter. Being smack in the middle of the rainy season, hardly any days went without being wet and I stayed at Dharamkot for one entire week. The downpour created messy roads and traffic problems while painting the landscape a dazzling fresh green. Everything looked more alive, more beautiful and the sky was impossibly grey blue. The North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is by its own right a very picturesque place and the rain made it lovelier. Glistening rain drops sparkled on the pine trees and the richly coloured sky contrasted brilliantly with the dazzling snow capped mountains, green valleys, and bountiful orchards.

The Dalai Lama monastery at Dharamshala near Dharamkot
Welcome to the Tibetan Buddhism refuge

Suggested Read: Daksum, the hidden jewel of Kashmir

When time slowed down on my Dharamkot trip

Perhaps it was the rain or the tranquility of Dharamkot which made me slow down and my days were spent reading, napping, walking and being kind to my body. Being on a physically challenging contractual job made me prone to frequent burn outs and it felt simply blissful to just do nothing. The restful body calmed down my whirring mind too and I found myself sleeping better, eating healthier and getting up in the morning without feeling tired. Call it a wellness break or a slow traveling experience, my Dharamkot trip was definitely very relaxing. My toughest decisions were choosing between walking around the fragrant pine forests or eating out at various small restaurants scattered all over the slope; and in a rat race world like ours, that was closest to which I could attain simple living. To many, it may sound monotonous, but there is something mindlessly soothing about having the same routine every day. Only once, did an impromptu Tibetan dance festival lighten up a gloomy afternoon and the splash of mountain costumes against the Himalayan chants was an amazing sight. Sometimes, on clear days, I exhausted myself by hiking through the rhododendron forests of Dharamkot and rainy evenings always guaranteed gently swaying on a hammock with a book. Mountain nights depending on whether clear or stormy can be either magnificent or terrifying and more than once during my stay thunderstorms ripped out the electricity to the village. Those nights were scarily long; mostly spent huddling under blankets by a flickering candle and watching lightning tear violet streaks across inky black nights. Time seemed to move at its slowest then and I stayed awake until flame driven moths left powdery traces of their wings against my window.

No Dharamkot trip is complete without hiking in its pine forests
Welcome to pines and rhododendron forests

More from the mountains: Wet apple flowers of Kokkernag

Moving on before boredom settles in

Post stormy nights, Dharamkot, mornings always dawned crystal clear. The air was so sweet that you could almost taste it in your mouth. Birds chattered endlessly outside my window and the rain swollen waterfalls could be heard from the terrace. My late naps usually on such mornings ended with heavy traditional Indian breakfasts, after which acute restlessness used to set it. As long as I can remember, restlessness has always been a struggle for me and it continues to hinder my complete indulgence in slow travel. Even during my Dharamkot trip, I used to hike around the forests like a real wild child, until my energy would get snapped up. With a small packed lunch, water bottle and a hiking stick, I roamed for hours, stopping only to collect fallen rhododendron blossoms and listen to the cries of unseen birds echoing through the valleys below. Those were some of my finest travel moments, and even now, upon closing my eyes, I can smell the fresh pine needles crunching beneath my boots. The hikes always began and concluded the same way; by following, groups of saffron robed monks to and from Dharamkot, with a light dinner at my favourite eatery at night. Needless to say, this got mundane soon and before I knew it, boredom crept in. Slow travel was good as long as it lasted and finally, I came to terms with the fact, that perhaps it was completely not meant for me. Moving on was more of my style and at that time, my friend‘s renewed invitation for paragliding came as a welcome respite.

The pine forests around Dharamkot
Welcome to Dharamkot

Travel Tip

How to reach

The best way to reach Dharamkot is by bus from Delhi to Dharamshala (also known as Mcleodganj). The buses leave from ISBT and Majnu ka Tilla and are suitable for all budget. The comforts vary according to the bus fare and it takes around 11 hours to reach Dharamshala. The quiet village of Dharamkot is around 30 minutes walk (2 kilometers) from Dharamshala bus station and you can also take an autorickshaw to reach there.

When to visit

April – June is the best time to visit Dharamkot. Winters can be very cold there and July – September is avoidable due to the heavy monsoon. October and November are also pretty nice, and the prices are much lower than in summer.

Stay and Dine

There are many inns, guest houses and homestays at Upper and Lower Dharamkot. I stayed at the Dharamkot Inn and found it to be pretty comfortable. Dharamkot is a delicious destination and one can enjoy Indian and western dishes at one of the many restaurants there. Do not miss eating out at the very popular Trek and Dine cafe. The food lovers may try the delicious Bhagsu cake, the best sample of which is available at the Moonlight Cafe. There are also some restaurants serving only vegetarian and vegan food. Many restaurants and homestays offer cooking classes too. Like most Himalayan hill stations in India, herb and fruit based alcohol are easily found at Dharamkot. Grocery shops sell many varieties of Himalayan fruit wines and apple cedar. Try the Rhododendron wine, if you are feeling adventurous or skip alcohol completely.

Things to Do

For such a small village, Dharamkot offers an incredible array of meditation and yoga courses, alternative therapies and workshops. It is a hippie base too, though most travelers find it tranquil and peaceful. The best way to enjoy Dharamkot is by walking around the lovely nature in which it nestles. It is a great place for unwinding, reading a book, relaxing and slow travel in general. For those looking for some spiritual healing, there are the Tushita Buddhist Meditation Center. A beautiful, colourful Tibetan style monastery, Tushita offers programmes like the 10 days discovering Buddhism course. There is a daily guided meditation course at 9.30am held in the beautifully decorated Tibetan gompa next to the Dhamma Sikhara Vipassana Meditation Centre. Since Tushita is extremely popular, book ahead in advance. Dharamkot is also very popular as a base for treks such as the Triund, Illaqua and Indrahar Pass. Alternatively, you can book a single or multiple days local village and countryside hike and start off with the neighbouring village of Bhagsu. For a more action packed day, head to the Dalai Lama Monastery, which is also known as the Tsuglagkhang Complex. Spend time at the Tibetan Museum, eat momos and other Tibetan food and volunteer with the refugees. You may also stand a chance to attend an audience with HH Dalai Lama himself if he is in town.

A view of Dharamshala from the distance
Located very close to
The Tibetan Dalai Lama monastery at Dharamshala
The very famous Dharamshala
The quiet and green Dharamkot trip is relaxing for mind, body and soul
Dharamkot is a completely different planet.
There are many opportunities to practise meditation on your Dharamkot trip
Go there to meditate
The pine forests and waterfalls around Dharamkot are great for hiking
Explore nature
Dharamkot is a cute hippie village near Dharamshala
Be a hippie and
The Tibetan Dalai Lama monastery is not to be missed on your Dharamkot trip
Volunteer with the refugees
Dharamkot trip makes sense if you are looking to do nothing
Visit Dharamkot to find yourself
Plan a Dharamkot trip for slow travel
It is a great place for slow travel

Here is what other bloggers say about Dharamkot – Global GallivantingDrifter Planet

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About the author

Hi! I am Svetlana, a cloud gypsy, a story teller and a Maverickbird. A mother, writer, entrepreneur, traveler, foodie and an animal lover, I am a Super girl from India.

28 Comments

  1. rupam { xhobdo }
    March 16, 2016 at 7:05 am
    Reply

    Just read your post, beautiful. Thanks for awesome pics.

    • maverickbird
      March 16, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Thank you. I am glad that you liked the post.

  2. Andrew
    March 16, 2016 at 10:55 am
    Reply

    how wonderful does it look through your eyes? great photos, great post – as always! 🙂

    • maverickbird
      March 16, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you very much. Himachal Pradesh is very beautiful.

  3. Vipin
    March 17, 2016 at 9:08 am
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article. Also the photos are awesome.

    • maverickbird
      March 17, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Thank you. I am happy that you enjoyed the post.

  4. Steps Together
    March 17, 2016 at 11:14 am
    Reply

    Great post.. and spectacular captures..

    • maverickbird
      March 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      Thank you very much.

  5. MP UPPAL
    March 17, 2016 at 2:17 pm
    Reply

    LOVELY pictures all.

    • maverickbird
      March 18, 2016 at 6:05 am

      Thank you very much.

  6. Hema
    March 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm
    Reply

    You’re giving me some serious wanderlust, Svetlana!

    • maverickbird
      March 17, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      Thank you for your kind words.

  7. Sneh
    March 18, 2016 at 4:56 am
    Reply

    You have a knack for photography!!! Amazing shots.. keep sharing 🙂

    • maverickbird
      March 18, 2016 at 6:04 am

      Thank you. I am glad that you liked the photos.

  8. The Untourists
    March 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm
    Reply

    Just gorgeous. And I feel a slight sense of good natured jealousy 🙂

  9. Alka
    March 29, 2016 at 7:35 am
    Reply

    Beautiful post and some amazing clicks

  10. Sonam
    May 12, 2016 at 9:21 am
    Reply

    Hello Svetlana. Lovely Post.

    I am travelling to Dharmkot soon. Tickets are booked. Need a place to stay. Where were you putting up in Dharmkot?

  11. Renuka
    July 28, 2017 at 9:48 am
    Reply

    Svetlana, both your pictures and writing are so mesmeric. Yes, slow travel was always there. It’s just that it disappeared becasue of people’s hectic life. Thankfully, it’s come back and how! I mean I hate ticking off a list.

    • maverickbird
      July 28, 2017 at 10:01 am

      Thank you Renuka. It is true. Slow traveling was somewhere lost in rush for ticking off lists. I find it extremely relaxing too.

  12. Indra
    July 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm
    Reply

    Enjoyed the post and the pics

  13. The Untourists
    August 10, 2017 at 3:16 am
    Reply

    I completely agree with the soothing nature of a daily routine. I think it takes away anxiety and also gives the head space to think. Love your posts, as always…

    • maverickbird
      August 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Thank you very much. Slow traveling is indeed a mind, body and soul healer.

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