Dharamsala, India: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

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Dharamsala is a city and a municipal corporation in Kangra District in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is also the district headquarters. It used to be known as Bhagsu.The word ‘Dharamsala’ means ‘a spiritual dwelling” and in loose translation as a shelter or rest house for pilgrims and travellers. It is known as the home of the Dalai Lama and where the headquarters of Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile) are.  The city is famous as it is the holy residence of the Dalai Lama and houses the Tibetan monk in exile. It is distinctively separated as upper and lower divisions with different altitudes. The lower division is the Dharamsala town itself where the upper division is popularly known as McLeodGanj. Dharamsala town consists most of the government offices, schools, the local Hospital and commercial areas. It also has a few tea gardens. Upper Dharamsala is home to the Tibetan community and the center of tourist activity. Several thousand Tibetan exiles have now settled in the area, and most live in and around McLeodGanj in Upper Dharamsala, where they have built monasteries, temples and schools. McLeodGanj is also known as ‘Little Lhasa’, after the Tibetan capital city, or ‘Dhasa’ (a compound of ‘Dharamsala’ and ‘Lhasa’). It has become an important tourist destination with many hotels and restaurants. The city is also the winter capital of Himachal Pradesh. The city has a monsoon-influenced humid sub-tropical climate. Summer starts in early April, peaks in early June and lasts till mid-June. From July to mid-September is the monsoon season when up to 3000 mm of rainfall can be experienced, making Dharamsala one of the wettest places in the state. Autumn is mild and lasts from October to the end of November. Winter starts in December and continues until late February. Snow and sleet are common during the winter in Upper Dharamsala. Winter is followed by a short, pleasant sprint until April. The best times to visit the city are the autumn and spring months.