Tibet in Exile: Dharamsala, India

Posted on August 31, 2010 by

As our bus crawled into the misty highlands of Dharamsala, we felt like we had left India behind. The humid heat and raucous chaos were all gone, only to be replaced by cool mountain air and calm serenity. Tibetan monks stroll languidly through the town’s narrow alleys. Since China claimed Tibetan territories, the Tibet government including His Holiness the Dalai Lamai have been in exile here in Dharamsala, India. Tucked in the highlands of the Indian Himalayas, Dharamsala has a mystic air for both its heavenly location and its spiritual residents.

town of Dhramsala, India

Little Tibet

Poised above the main city center of Dharamsala is McLeod Ganj, the main base for Tibetans refugees and these days, hordes of tourists. The mountain station was set up by British Officer McLeod who was stationed here when the British ruled India. Today, it’s home to the largest Tibetan community outside of Tibet – naturally, you can expect to see evidence of Tibetan existence in every corner of the town.

Tibetan colors in Dharamsala, India

A bright red Tibetan temple stands in the heart of McLeod Ganj, flanked by two main streets. The temple is decorated with intricate Buddhist carvings, shimmering golden figurines and praying wheels. Climbing to the rooftop of the temple, we were treated to a view of the bustling town – misty clouds hung mid-air backdropped by a shade of obscure greenery.

Tibetan temple in McLeod Ganj 

Praying wheels of Tibetan temple in DharamsalaTibetan praying wheels – turn it in a clockwise direction and send your prayers out.

Golden Buddhist  figurine

Tushita Meditation Center

Curious to learn more about the town’s relation with Tibetan Buddhism, we hiked up to the surrounding forest to visit the Tushita Meditation Center. The center organizes intensive meditation courses conducted by both Tibetan and Western teachers. Besides these month-long retreats, you can also sign up for short meditation classes that gives you an introduction to all forms of meditation. Non-Buddhists are welcomed to attend. His Holiness Dalai Lama even gives teachings here whenever he’s in town. Be sure to check out Tushita’s website for the schedule.

Tushita Meditation Center

Tushita Meditation Center hall

The People of Tibet

One of the most interesting places in McLeod Ganj was the Tibet Museum. It told the story of the Tibetans – how their resilience have brought them here. They’d traversed miles and overcome difficulties like frost bites and extreme weather and find home here. In their eyes, I could see determination and strength.

ATibetan in Dharamsala An old lady in traditional Tibetan costume.

Tibetan monks in Dharamsala, India Tibetan monks strolling along the streets of Dharamsala, India.

A lady selling typical Tibetan street food, momos. A lady selling typical Tibetan street food, momos.


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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

9 Responses to “Tibet in Exile: Dharamsala, India”

  1. Adam Axon September 2, 2010 1:46 pm #

    How much I would love to to Dharamsala! Articles such as this one serve only to heighten this desire!

    Thanks for sharing the photos and the insight into the experience of visiting!

  2. Zubi Travel January 14, 2013 1:54 am #

    Great photo set!
    Indeed, Dharamsala seems to keep the mystic air of Tibet.

  3. Fortravelssake January 14, 2013 4:34 am #

    Beautiful summary of one of my favourite places in India :)

  4. Hello my loved one! I want to say that this post is amazing, nice written and include almost all important infos.

    I would like to see extra posts like this .

  5. Palak Gupta April 28, 2017 1:28 pm #

    Awesome article…..I love Dharamsala and enjoy our vacation most of the times in Dharamsala. You can enjoy here astounding monasteries, temples, a huge cricket stadium, a war memorial, waterfalls, and much more.

    Thanks for sharing such great article.


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