You must have heard of Dharamshala, but have you heard of Dharamkot? It is a little hippie village in the Himalayas, near Dharamshala and McLeodganj.
Dharamshala is a famous Buddhist destinations in Himachal Pradesh, India. Both Dharamshala and McLeodganj have become extremely crowded because they are popular summer travel destinations. However, the nearby Dharamkot has managed to maintain its quaint charm.
It is the place where you can get spiritual, Dharamkot is the perfect little Yoga village and is ideal for a few days’ time off from the real world. Or even months.. if you’re lucky enough to take time off work for that long.
Dharamkot is the perfect base for multiple hikes in the Himalayas such as Triund, Illaqua, Indrahar Pass, etc. It is just an overnight bus ride away from the famous backpackers’ hot spot – Kasol. My first visit to this village was back in 2008 and I went back total 5 times for more.
Is Dharamkot for you (Maybe Not)
If you’re looking for a relaxed vacation that doesn’t involve hiking or walking around, then Dharamkot is NOT the place for you. This village doesn’t have any roads, except for a single road that leads to it and pretty much ends at “Trek and Dine” – a famous café. After Trek N Dine, the road narrows down to a pathway, ideal for aimless walks through the village to various other view points, rocks, waterfalls and some treks.
Where is Dharamkot?
Dharamkot is in Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh state of India. As mentioned before, it is near the more famous Dharamshala and McLeodganj.
How to reach Dharamkot:
Reaching Dharamkot by Air
The nearest airport to Dharamkot is Kangra Gaggal Airport, which is also called Dharamshala airport. The airport code is DHM. AllianceAir and Spicejet run flights from here to and from Delhi, Jaipur and Kanpur.
The Kanga Gaggal airport is newly constructed and we loved it. We saw an amazing view of the snow covered Dhauladhar Mountains as we boarded our SpiceJet flight to Delhi from here.
Reaching Dharamkot by Train from Delhi
On most occasions, I have taken an overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot station in order to reach Dharamkot. There are many trains but I prefer Dhalaudhar Express because of the timings. I love to sleep!
There are two options to reach Dharamkot from Pathankot – take a taxi to Dharamkot or a local bus to McLeodganj. The taxi takes around 2.5 hours depending on the traffic and the buses take 4 to 5 hours since they stop at many villages to pick up people and make more money. I have traveled by both.
If you decide to travel by a local bus, it will most likely drop you in McLeodganj, not Dharamkot. You can walk to Dharamkot in 20 minutes from McLeodganj or just take an auto-rickshaw or a taxi. to I have been to McLeodganj a few times while I was a student, so I usually skip this place all together because it has become extremely crowded and is no longer a backpacker destination.
Reaching Dharamkot by Bus from Delhi
It is very easy to reach Dharamkot by bus. You can also take a direct overnight bus from Delhi to McLeodganj. A decent bus will cost you around INR 1000 – 1200 per person but I prefer the trains.
McLeodganj to Dharamkot
From McLeodganj bus stop, there’s a short cut to Dharamkot which will take you 15 minutes to cover if you walk at a leisurely pace, and 20 if you’re carrying luggage and are tired from a bumpy butt breaking bus journey from Pathankot.
Ask anyone at the bus station to point you to the right direction since most of the people here understand English. Upon reaching Dharamkot, you can replenish your energy at any one of the beautiful cafes. I have never had a bad meal or a bad cup of coffee or tea in this area.
Where to Stay in Dharamkot
A few years back, I would have told you to reach Dharamkot without a room and find one here. However things have changed a little since then.
I highly recommend a place called Dharamkot Inn, which is just at the beginning on Dharamkot. We picked this place because we didn’t want to hike with our luggage and our 5 month old baby. This is one of the rare places in Dharamkot where you can reach on a taxi till the door. Moreover, you can also get hot water in Dharamkot Inn because they have solar powered heating system.
You can also also check out the deals on Mountain view budget Stay on Booking.com. Based on the feedback from our friends, here are more places that we recommend you check out – Shiv Shakti guest house (Dharamkot), the Lodge (Dharamkot), Kamal guest house (Dharamkot road, McLeod ganj), Gandhi’s paradise (Dharamkot road,McLeod ganj), and the Castle (Bhagsu village).
If you arrive here without a booking, the just keep in mind that the room rates are obviously high at the entry point, i.e., Trek and Dine (Upper Dharamkot) and they get cheaper as the road becomes smaller (Lower Dharamkot). If you’re lucky, you can even find a twin room with a toilet for as low as INR 500 per night inside the village.
The Vibe in Dharamkot:
The best thing about Dharamkot is the vibe. Let me try to describe the vibe here if I can. The vibe is a mix of some of magic, pure spiritual energy of the Himalayas, happiness of the simple folks that live there, peace & serenity and a feeling on oneness with the nature. The sounds of mountain birds, the whistling of air through deodar tree leaves, the distant smells of farm animals mixed with herb-based cooking will awaken all your senses. This is a good spot for early morning yoga and meditation – if you’re in that sort of stuff.
The Food in Dharamkot – What to Eat (and Where)
Everything in Trek N Dine (esp Shakshuka, Wood Fired Pizza and Lasagna)
Most of the destinations on the banana pancake trail usually have cafes with really good food but I think Dharamkot takes the highest spot on my list.
A lot of Israeli, European and Tibetans frequently visit Dharamkot and many have decided to live here. As a result, every single café that I have ever visited here have totally nailed their lasagnas, pastas, pancakes, hummus and Shakshuka. Strangely, the Indian food in Dharamkot is not very appealing.
Of course Dharamkot has many places to eat but there is a reason why Trek N Dine is the most popular place. You will simply never have a bad meal here. I often try to avoid famous places and spend more time in smaller ones but I make an exception with Trek N Dine.
Fresh Mint, Ginger and Lemon tea with Honey
The herbal teas – usually ginger, lemon, honey and mint was our regular beverage everywhere. You will get this in almost every single cafe and they will pluck out fresh mint leaves and put them in the hot water long with freshly grated ginger and a slice of lemon.
Yak Cheese Sandwich in Lama Cafe
Ever seen Yaks? These hairy sisters of buffaloes are super adorable and live in the Himalayas. Called Chhurpi in Nepalese, the Yak cheese tastes like Gouda and you can taste it in Lama Cafe in Dharamkot. This little Nepalese cafe has some really amazing cakes, cookies, coffee and of course Yak cheese sandwiches.
The most amazing dessert to eat in this area is a dessert called Bhagsu cake. Bhagsu cake has a typical crunchy pie crust, layered with sticky caramel toffee sauce and topped with dark chocolate or white chocolate. Seriously, we couldn’t get enough of this and tried this at almost every café.
The dark chocolate one is almost everywhere, but the white one was only available at one place – it’s a shop between Milky Way Galaxy café and Trek and Dine Café. Our favorite place for Bhagsu Cake was Moonlight Cafe. Just so you know, Bhagsu is the name of a nearby village, which is famous for a waterfall and a temple – both extremely crowded.
Vegan Food in Blue Caterpillar and Once in Nature
To continue my talk about the awesome food in this area, I must mention how presently surprised we were to discover a few Vegan cafes in this village. The most famous one is towards the other side of the village, on the way to Bhagsu near the rocks. It’s very easy to find this because you will find many rocks with “Vegan Café” painted on them and they will lead you to this place.
When we visited, there was live trance music and a few traveling artists with their work on display. There were a few other vegan cafes around as well. Do check out Blue Caterpillar and Once in Nature if you’re a Vegan. Personally, I tried to be a Vegan for a few weeks but had to give up because I can’t quit Honey.
I love momos. Momos are Tibetan dumplings that are usually stuffed with pork, chicken or veggies. What better place to eat Tibetan food than Dharamkot. You can find them in many places all over Dharamkot, but again I had the best ones in Trek N Dine.
The Best Coffee (Espresso and Cappuccino) in Dharamkot? Trek N Dine
My husband is half Italian and half German so the Italian in him is always very critical of coffee and to his surprise, Trek and Dine’s espresso was perfect.
Drinking in Dharamkot:
If you like drinking light alcohol, you can try some of the few Himalayan fruit wines and apple cedar which you will easily find in the grocery shops for INR 200 – 300. My favorite was the peach wine but the shopkeeper insisted I try Kiwi as well which was the highest selling. Everything herbal is available in plenty so if you want, you can skip alcohol altogether.
Things to do in Dharamkot:
01) Get Lost in the village
My recommendation to everyone who’s visiting this little paradise is to walk around and get lost in the area. Who knows what you may come across? If you discover new a viewpoint, waterfall, or just anything else, let me know! We got lost and found a meditation spot on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere with Buddhist flags and a hand painted message on a rock.
02) Visit Gallu and Admire the Breathtaking Views
You can hike to the nearby village Gallu and admire the breathtaking views from a cafe on top of the hill here. Ask anyone the way to Gallu temple and they will point you in the right direction. The hike from Dharamkot to Gallu is easy and will not take more than 20 minutes. Read my guide to Gallu for more information.
03) Trek to the “no name waterfall” (near Gallu)
Up for some more adventure? From Gallu, you can also hike for one hour and reach an amazing waterfall which is usually empty, unlike Bhagsu’s super crowded waterfall. The hike to this waterfall is super slippery, so please wear good hiking shoes and be comfortable. Carry a swimsuit if you want to take a dip here.
04) Walk to Bhagsu Village from Dharamkot
There are two ways of reaching Bhagsu village from Dharamkot. First, you can hire a took took (auto rickshaw) from Dharamkot’s main road for Bhagsu. Second, there is a shortcut that leads to Bhagsu village from Dharamkot.
The hike from Dharamkot to Bhagsu beautiful and simple. You just need to walk towards the vegan cafe and after you cross it, you will be inside Bhagsu village. Bhagu is famous for a massive waterfall, hippie cafes and a temple. It is definitely not my favorite area because its usually crowded.
05) Trek to Triund and camp there overnight
Triund is four hours hike away from Dharamkot. I recommend you start this hike very early in the morning and camp at Triund at night. You don’t have to carry a tent because it is possible to rent one there. The hike is almost fully uphill and is strenuous. For more information, read my travel guide for Triund.
06) Visit the Monasteries and Temples in McLeodganj and Dharamshala
In order to reach Dharamkot, you will first reach McLeodganj and Dharamshala. Yes, these two towns are crowded and don’t have Dharamkot’s relaxed vibe. However, if you want to visit the famous Buddhist temples and Monasteries here, you can make a day trip. Did you know that the Dalai Lama lives in Dharamshala? If you’re lucky, maybe you can meet him! Oh also, Dharamshala has India’s highest cricket stadium, so try watching a match here if you get a chance.
07) Get Spiritual. Yoga and Meditation in Dharamkot
The Himalayas have a spiritual vibe. You can feel this magic in the air, water and the smiles here. if you get a chance, join one of the Yoga workshops here and make your inner-self happy. You can check out the Yoga courses at Siddhi Yoga.
If you’ve always wanted to learn Yoga, then you can enroll for a Yoga course for beginners at Siddhi Yoga, which is for 100 hours. Apart from this, they also have multiple Yoga Teachers’ Training courses as well that last for half a month or a month or even two months – depending on which one you pick. The fee also covers food and accommodation, so you can stay inside the Yoga Ashram. Apart from Dharamshala, they also have an ashram in Rishikesh.
08) Walk till Naddi village for the Sunset
Where to see the Sunset in Dharamkot? Sorry there’s no West facing sunset spot but you can walk to the nearby village Naddi like we did.
The walk from Dharamkot to Naddi is just 2 KMs and is super easy. San and I did this little hike with our 5 month old baby in our laps. Reach Naddi a few hours before the sunset so that you can walk around and enjoy the viewpoints.
In terms of the views, Naddi is so much better than Dharamkot. On one side you can see the view of snow covered Dhauladhar mountains. Go sit in a small chai shop called Sunrise cafe and drink in the view.
There is a very good sunset viewpoint in Naddi, which is right next to the Sunset cafe. This is a West facing spot and is perfect for sunset, minus the snow covered peaks.
09) Binge on Delicious Food and “Bhagsu Cake”
Yes, I have said this before – the food in Dharamkot is mind-blowing. Visit one of the many cafes, enjoy the views, sip some ginger tea, get high on local herbs, eat some energy balls, order lasagna and sleep with a smile.
Where to go after Dharamkot?
If you’re restless like me and don’t like to stay at the same place for long, you can pack your bags, walk amidst Deodar trees and head to a quieter village called Gallu (or Galu).
How was your Dharamkot experience? What was your favorite café in the area?