Dharamkot (2109m) is a quaint little, hippy-dippy hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India with only one road that ends where the village starts.
It’s a place where you will hardly find families visiting ( with ours being an exception). It’s mostly populated with locals (naturally, duh!), Non-Indian tourists and few Indian backpackers. McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala are more family oriented destinations.
WHY DHARAMKOT ?
Dharamkot is a Hippies’ paradise !! It has a very spaced out feeling about it. It is not a place to come and “see” but a place to Trek and Dine and soak in the tranquility of nature. This place has many cheap (read reasonable) places to stay and awesome food (mostly Israeli cuisine) to taste.
This place can be enjoyed solo as well as with adventure-loving children!
The Trip to Dharamkot for us was our FIRST UNPLANNED TRIP EVER with our CHILDREN! Except for our bus bookings, we had done no other booking or planning. Having experienced this once, I think we are ever so motivated and tempted to try more of such unplanned trips!
WORD OF CAUTION !! As a “mother” AND a “Non-smoker”, I was balked at the very thought of my children dining at the same place people are smoking cigarettes and hash (charas)!!
However, I soon figured out that it’s either best for kids to play in the open area till food is served or find a place next to the Lamas in the cafe and you will have found a non-smoking area for your kids!!
All said and done, Dharamkot has a sort of peaceful smell – almost as though there is an umbrella of serenity over it !! It’s a kind of place children run up and down, laughing and giggling and hopping around while parents take a “TimeOut”!
THINGS TO DO in DHARMAKOT :
Here are our top 7 recommendations for things to do with children at Dharamkot!
1.Trek to Triund and Camp Overnight :
Which is what we had come for to Dharamshala in the first place.
The Trek to Triund falls under the easy to moderate category. Though the Triund trek is very rocky and can be tiresome for the uninitiated, the view of the beautiful Dhauladhar range from the Triund top is worth all the effort.
The children superseded our expectations and trekked very well on the difficult terrain. It can take 4 to 6 hours depending on your fitness level.
The kids took 4 hours 50 mins to be precise from Dharamkot to Triund Top. Many people start this trek from Galu Devi temple thereby saving 3 km / one hour trek.
You can hire a guide at Galu Devi Temple. The route is well marked and we chose to go on our own, with a light backpack on our back for the night.
We rented tents and sleeping bags which were delivered to us on Triund top.
2. Visit the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Regional Mountaineering Centre :
‘Be Roman in Rome’ and ‘Be a Child when with Children’.
The kids had noticed the obstacles inside the Centre whilst crossing it on our way to McLeod Ganj and so it was a place we had to visit before we could visit absolutely anything else.
These pictures remind me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!
“Mr. Wonka: “Don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted.”
Charlie Bucket: “What happened?”
Mr. Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”
― Roald Dahl, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factor
3. Picnic at the Dal lake (near Tibetan children village) :
Dal Lake is a small greenish water lake by the Shiva Mandir in the village of Tota Rani. The cabs take around Rs 200/- from Dharamkot to Dal Lake. We were not ready to pay for cab and kids were too tired to walk it up and so we gave it a slip!
4. Visit the Monasteries and Temples in McLeod Gunj and Dharamshala :
Chanting in air and peace in mind, if that’s what you are looking for you can visit the various monasteries and temples in Mcleod Gunj and Dharamshala. We visited the Namgyal Monastery which is also referred to as Dalai Lama’s temple. The temple is beautiful but crowded.
5. Getting High in Life on Chocolate :
Our Family favorite was BHAGSU CAKE (a spinoff of an English dessert called millionaire’s shortbread). It has three layers: shortbread, caramel, and chocolate!! Absolutely mind blowing for chocolate lovers like my children and I.
6. Visit Tibetian Market and Cafes in Mcleod Gunj :
The Mcleod GunJ market is full of warm fancy woolen caps and Jewelry Trinkets. If you get tired browsing or shopping the market try Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen!
UPDATE: Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen used to be in the middle of the market area, but has recently moved to Bhagsu Road!
McLeod Gunj Cafes are more crowded than Dharmkot’s!
7. Chill out and Relax :
Dharamkot is a place where you can meditate, walk amidst Deodar trees, trek or do absolutely nothing and you would still be at peace with yourself! It’s a place to chill out and relax!
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Asia > India > Himachal Pradesh > Kangra Valley > Dharamkot
HOW TO REACH HERE
- Air India and SpiceJet fly to Gaggal Airport (also known as Kangra Airport) which happens to be the nearest airport to Dharamkot. From Gaggal Airport it is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) to McLeod Ganj and takes about 45 minutes by taxi.
- The nearest railway stations to Dharamkot are Pathankot and Chakki Bank. Chakki Bank is a smaller station near Pathankot. Once you reach Pathankot, there are three options to get to Mcleod Ganj:
- Taxi (convenient and quickest but expensive): The taxi takes around 2.5 hours depending on the traffic but the fares are high.
- Bus ( economical but usually crowded): the bus stops at every village and takes around 4 to 5 hours.
- and the Kangra Toy Train (very very slow but spectacular): tickets are available at Pathankot Railway Station. The Toy Train leaves Pathankot at 9:05 am and reaches Kangra at 1:45 pm.
- Regular Deluxe bus services are available from Delhi, Chandigarh, and Pathankot to Dharamshala. We booked Himachal Road Transport Corporation‘s Himsuta A/C(Volvo) Seater (2+2) for Rs.1272/- on www.redbus.in
- We took Yellow Line Metro to Delhi ISBT Kashmiri Gate to avoid Delhi traffic. I must say ISBT was everything that I had not expected it to be. It was clean and air-conditioned and our bus departed on time. Our bus left sharp 8:30 pm and we reached McLeod Ganj the next morning around 7:30 am.
For hubby dear and the then 8-year-old, a couple of hours on winding mountain roads is a sure set recipe for sickness.
On the advice of a doctor friend, whose child has a similar problem, we gave avomine tablet to the kids and they slept like babies!!
Much to our relief, contrary to our previous experiences, they were fresh when they woke up and were all set to explore the place.
From McLeodGanj bus stop, there’s a shortcut to Dharamkot which depending upon your fitness level can take anywhere between 15 to 30 mins.
Since we had luggage and children with us, we chose to hire a cab which cost us Rs.200 / – . However, on all our subsequent visits to McleodGanj, we did not bother to hire a cab and chose to travel up and down the hill on foot.
WHERE TO STAY and WHERE TO EAT !!
You can walk in almost any cafe in Dharamkot and ask the staff for a place to stay since most of them rent out rooms in their own properties.
If they are booked, they will soon call out “Bhai (or Chacha or Aunty), aapke pass room hai kya ?
Since there is not much to do you can go exploring home stays and zero down on the one which suits your needs. You can find rooms starting at Rs.500 / – to Rs. 2000/- per night. If you are staying longer you can get a good bargain.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that every single café that we visited in Dharamkot had totally nailed their salads, hummus, pasta, wood-fired pizzas, bruschettas, and shakshuka.
At the entry point of Dharamkot is Dharmkot Chowk ( 10 minutes from McleodGanj) and at the chowk is the Himalaya Tea Shop. This is the only place which sells Wai Wai Noodles in the whole of Dharamkot and McLeodGanj area and so for my ‘Wai Wai’ loving kids, this was the most favorite place to be in.
Himalaya Tea Shop, as the name suggests, is not a Homestay. This place is good for titbits. This place is also at the starting point of Triund Trek.
As you move down from here, a narrow lane on the right leads you to this serene picturesque cafe called Morgan’s Place. This place has rooms to stay and there is an outdoor and indoor sitting area for dining. We liked everything we ordered here especially their wood oven pizzas.
Little further down is Radha Krishna Cafe. We found this place comparatively more expensive than the other cafes.
At the start of the Dharamkot Market is Dharamkot Inn, which is where we stayed. A family room at Dharamkot Inn cost us Rs.1000/- and extra mattress for Rs. 200/-. The staff was exceptionally hospitable and amicable.
and then there was TREK AND DINE !
Our family favorite and of all the days we were at Dharamkot, we spent most of our time here. Their set breakfasts are a treat to have.
Planning a trip to the mountains? You will find these posts helpful:-
- 17 Curated Evergreen Hindi Melodious songs that will get you grooving.
- Driving 101: How To Drive In The Hills in India!
- 10 tips for trekking with children – The more you go on regular hikes or treks, the more the chances of your children bonding with nature! It doesn’t matter where you are located!
Have you been to a Hippie Hill station? How was your Experience? Don’t forget to write about it in the comments!
If you love slow travel, try your hands at Travel Sketching, Painting, even Yoga. The following 3 posts will keep you creative in your Sojourn.
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