From Kinnaur to Kangra, Himachal`s various valleys will leave you gratified with travel and the mountain life. A detour from the city life to the places nestled in these valleys, can either excite your wanderlust bug even more or leave you content with blessings from the mountain gods for life.
Dharamkot in Himachal Pradesh
Situated at an altitude of 6900 ft above the sea level, Dharamkot is quaint village in the lap of ‘Dhauladars of the Kangra region’. The village is now also known as the ‘hippie village’ due to the high influx of Israeli tourists who visit the place commonly for soul searching.
In recent times, the village has gained a lot of prominence due to its strategic location as the base for treks like Illaqua, Indrahar Pass and Triund.
You will get to see stacks of people here. Some can be trekking enthusiasts due to Dharamkot`s proximity to Triund especially, some come to just relax in the hippie ambience, others relish the soul searching days here and a few are just slow travellers who come to seek refuge from the fast city life.
Its proximity to places to like McLoedganj and Dharamshala has made it even more accessible and popular amongst the group of offbeat destination seekers.
Dharamkot dipped in the snow in the month of February while the other half of Dharamshala without snow.
I and a lot of other crazy travellers were here for the coveted SOS Meetup with Stay On Skill. And this time, The Bunkers Hostel was our hostel.
Second part of this meetup happened in Palampur. Read my Palampur guide here.
How to Reach Dharamkot?
Dharamkot is located at a distance of 5 km from Dharamshala and 2 km from McLoedganj. One can get a local bus from Gandhi park (in lower Dharamshala) bus stand up till Mcloedganj, from where autos and taxis are available for Dharamkot. It is a half an hour walk from McLoedganj square up till Dharamkot Chowk, thus one can also choose to hike if the luggage isn’t a problem.
Auto charges from Mcloedganj to Dharamkot- 150 INR (drops you 1 km before The Bunker Hostel)
Taxi charges– 200 INR
Pathankot is the nearest railway station which is 93 km away from Dharamkot. Toy trains run from Pathankot to Kangra which might take longer but as they say, it is always about the journey. Buses and taxis are available further on from Kangra to Dharamshala.
The beautiful Gaggal Airport is the nearest to the Kangra valley and is 20 km away from Dharamkot. A taxi from the airport to Gandhi Park bus stand will charge you 500 INR and takes 40 minutes to reach.
Stay Options in Dharamkot
In this particular trip to Dharamshala, The Bunker Hostel in Dharamkot became a home for us backpackers. The Stay On Skill Meetup happened here. A 4-day celebration with skilled experts and an exploration journey to find what all Dharamkot has to offer, started with our arrival to this Hostel which never fails to offer gorgeous mountain views in all seasons.
The rooms at The Bunkers Hostel are spacious, well ventilated and cheerful.
Just close your eyes and imagine this with me.“To the music of mountains birds, you wake up. A little later you realise, it was precisely the call of the dogs outside. You get up anyhow. Take a deep breath. Freshen up a little. You open the door of your bunker room and let all the fresh sunlight wake your other roommates. Take a minute to realise that you are standing exactly in the lap of the majestic Dhauladhars of Himachal Pradesh. THE BEST MORNING ALREADY. A staircase takes you from the garden area to the funky-hippie common area where a cup of hot coffee awaits your kiss. Views from this floor are even better, isn’t it? Also, wave hello to Tazo, Sky, Anda Bhurji, Oreo and more dogs who are playing in the garden.”
That’s precisely #thebunkerlife for you.
From having the best breakfast to listening to the best of talented experts, the common room is absolutely my favourite spot.
The mornings were gorgeous and tasty! I live for such breakfasts!
Different place, different ideas! BBQ scenes in the morning.
A difference of one and half months, but absolutely different experience and views from the balcony of The Bunkers Hostel.
Address: Bhagsu to Gallu Devi Temple Road, (Near Heena Cafe), village Dharamkot, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh 176219
Phone: 090368 53395
Accomodation cost– 450 INR/Bed (In a 6-dorm room)
Things to do in Dharamkot
1. The No Name Waterfall Hike
Tucked away from the selfie-loving crowd of Bhagsu, this waterfall is located at a distance of a 1.30-hour hike from The Bunkers Hostel in Dharamkot. The hike consists of a few steep accents, some mountains stairs, thin trails, a path full of big stones and some big boulders which one needs to cross by putting a little effort.
After reaching the Gallu-Triund base camp, one needs to follow an offshoot from there onward into the wild.
The path is lengthy but beautiful. At a lot of points, you will encounter Rhododendrons in full bloom during the right season. No worries even if you start the hike alone, some or the other mountain dog will always keep you company.
While crossing the canopy of trees with gaddi dogs, you realise how simple the world is.
In the beginning, one can follow the water pipelines which also go up to the waterfall source and during the last few minutes, the gushing sound of the waterfall will guide you.
The last few steps which lead you to the waterfall are a little tricky. Make sure you hike wearing proper hiking shoes.
Once reached, the scene automatically extracts all your tiredness.
There is only one eatery which is a minute away from the waterfall area. One can pick up some snacks from there.
Distance– 2.50 km from Dharamkot
Time- 1:30 hours
Elevation- 2125 metres
2. Gallu Temple and Flag Point Hike
A place that keeps me calling back to Dharamkot, apart from Family Pizzaria, is this hill-top viewpoint. From here you can see all the spots of Kangra valley together.
Spot lower Kangra, Dharamshala, McLoedganj and the trail that leads one to Triund, from here. Basically, Gallu is also known as the base camp of Triund trek.
The place and the village is named after one of the Himachal Goddesses. The presence of the Tibetan flags is due to the fact that Dharamshala is also home to Dalai Lama.
After reaching the Gallu Devi temple, the flag point is another 5 minutes hikes away.
It’s an unfathomable feeling to stand midst so many colours.
To me, it feels the right amalgamation of India`s secularism. I also visited this place once on the eve of Losar (Tibetan New Year) and it felt just right. The positive vibes and prayers that fly out from these flags actually calm your inner self. To see the layers of mountains from brown to barren and from green to white, felt like heaven.
Triund trek is another 6 km from here.
Distance from The Bunkers Hostel– 15-minute hike
3. Triund Hike
You can start your Triund Trek from Gallu Devi base camp. From Gallu, once can reach the Magic View Café in about 40-90 minutes. On your way to Triund, there are other cafes too but if you don’t stop at a lot of points and have good stamina, you can make it to Triund within 3 hours.
The exhaustion suddenly disappears as you see the majestic Dhauladhars on one side and the Kangra valley on the other. You are not even reminded of the last exhausting 30 minutes of the hike.
Plan to stay overnight at Triund in a tent and spot the best of milky way skies.
The next morning once can also hike up to the snowline of Triund which is called Illaqua. It is another 30-minute hike from Triund.
Elevation– 9,800 feet (2975 meters).
Distance from the Bunkers Hostel- approx 4 hours
Distance from Gallu Devi Temple– 6 km (3-hour hike)
4. Café Hopping in Dharamkot Market
From tiny, stuck-in-the-wall cafes to some really extravagant, Dharamkot is home to some really cool and hippie cafes.
Trek and Dine remain as one of my most favourite places. I had the tastiest Israeli cuisine Shakshouka and the craziest white chocolate brownie here.
Where do you find the best pizza in the whole Kangra valley? It is here at Family Pizzaria in Dharamkot.
It is a chilled-out space with some indoor and maximum outdoor seating. Taste the best of gourmet brownies and pizza with some ginger honey lemon tea. Eat in peace! That’s what this spot is all about.
Other places which you should definitely give a try to are Bodhi Greens (completely vegan), Moonlight Cafe (for best Bhagsu Cake) and Morgans Place.
5. Dharamkot Hippie Market Walk
You might think Old Manali or Kasol hippie markets have set your standards too high but not until one has experienced the Dharamkot one too. A street, down the hill, full of free-spirited crowd, is what the hippie vibe is all about.
You will find a lot of Israeli tourists who are daily visitors to the cafes which offer a wide variety of cuisines. Some are there to learn musical instruments, weaving, braiding or anything which keeps their creative juices flowing.
The market is also full of these dream catchers ranging from being tiny in size to some really giant ones.
6. Get your Chakras right and Dive into some Soul Searching
The magic of the spiritual Himalayan vibe is always in the thin mountain air. You can feel it even more closely either by joining numerous meditation workshops happening almost everywhere or by enrolling for the vipassana course at the dedicated meditation centres.
Tushita (1.3 km from The Bunkers Hostel) and Dhamma Shikhar Vipassana (1.1 km from The Bunkers Hostel) centres are the two places which one can join for a 10-day vipassana course.
The other nearby things around Dharamkot are hikes to places like Bhagsu village and waterfall, Naddi sunset point and McLoedganj market and monasteries.Distances
Dharamkot to Naddi– 2 km (40-min hike)
Dharamkot to Mcloedganj– 1.9 km (30-min downhill hike)
Dharamkot to Bhagsu waterfall– 2 km (40-min hike)
Dharamkot to Guna Mata– 6 km (2-hour hike)
Dharamkot to Triund– 9 km
Things to Remember
- The whole Dharamkot village is still not motorable. Don’t go with the expectations of being able to park your personal vehicles wherever you go. Neither the place has enough road space for plenty of outside cars to be parked. It is advisable to use public transportation wherever possible.
- It’s a spot which is still trying to imbibe the newly found tourism pressure. Please respect the place in all terms. Treat it as you would treat your own home. Do not litter.
- Don’t mistake this place with Kasol. It’s still pristine and far away from that culture. Try to keep it this way only, otherwise environmental degradation might follow.
- You won’t find any ATM facility in Dharamkot. Nearest would be in McLoedganj Market.
- Seasons to visit:
December-February– A white Dharamkot due to snowfall
February onward– Experience spring
July-September– Heavy Monsoon season will start, which one can avoid.
This travel guide to Dharamkot takes you through my personal experiences from the place. And I was lucky enough to have experienced two different seasons here, back to back.