Dharamsala is situated in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It lies on a spur of the Dhauladhar range, the Pir Panjal region of the Outer Himalayas; and commands majestic views of the mighty Dhauladhar ranges above, and the Kangra Valley below. Dhauladhar means “white ridge” and this breathtaking, snow-capped range rises out of the Kangra Valley to a height of 5,200 m (17,000 ft).
The mountains dominate the scenery in McLeod Ganj. They form a treacherous range creating unpredictable weather, but passes of 2,400 m (8,900 ft) provide route for the herdsmen of the Ravi Valley beyond.
The Kangra Valley is a wide, fertile plain, criss-crossed by low hills. The scenery touched the heart of a British official who wrote: “No scenery, in my opinion, presents such sublime and delightful contrasts. Below lies the plain, a picture of rural loveliness and repose… Turning from this scene of peaceful beauty, the stern and majestic hills confront us… above all are wastes of snow to rest on.”
Dharamsala is divided into two very different parts. Kotwali Bazaar and areas further down the valley (at the average height of 1,250 m) are called Lower Dharamsala, while McLeod Ganj (at the height of nearly 1,800 m) and surrounding areas are known as Upper Dharamsala. McLeod Ganj is 9 km by bus route and 4 km by taxi route up the hill from Kotwali Bazaar. While inhabitants of Lower Dharamsala are almost all Indians, McLeod Ganj is primarily a Tibetan area. McLeod Ganj is surrounded by pine, Himalayan oak, rhododendron and deodar forests. The main crops grown by local Indians in the valleys below McLeod Ganj are rice, wheat and tea.
Today, streams of Tibetan refugees from all over the world flock to McLeod Ganj to receive blessings and teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Western and Indian tourists and scholars come here to see the rebirth of an ancient and fascinating civilization. The high altitude and cool weather contribute physically to this recreation of the original Tibetan environment. Dharamsala pulsates with the sights and sounds of old Tibet. Though certainly more modern, life is basically Tibetan in character. Shops strung out along the narrow streets of McLeod Ganj sell traditional Tibetan arts and handicrafts and the aroma of Tibetan dishes lingers in