Dharamkot – a Hippie village in the Himalayas
Dharamkot is a cute little hippie village in the Himalayas. It’s near Dharamshala and McLeodganj – the famous Buddhist destinations in Himachal Pradesh, India. While Dharamshala and McLeodganj have become extremely crowded because they are popular summer travel destinations, fortunately, Dharamkot has managed to maintain its quaint charm. This little Yoga village 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 kept going back for more.
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 where there’s a very famous café called “Trek and Dine”. After this café, 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?
Asia > India > Himachal > Kangra Valley > Dharamkot
How to reach Dharamkot:
We took an overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot station. From Pathankot, we had two options – take a taxi 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. We obviously chose the latter. 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. 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.
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. You can check out Dev Cottage on Agoda, where you will hopefully find deals. You can also check out the deals on Nature Friendly Stay on Booking.com.
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
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. To my surprise and delight, every single café that I have ever visited here have totally nailed their lasagnas, pastas, pancakes, hummus and shakshukas. The herbal teas – usually ginger, lemon, honey and mint was our regular beverage everywhere. 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. Strangely, the Indian food in this area is not very appealing.
The most amazing thing 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.
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.
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 | Visit 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 | Visit Bhagsu Village
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 is 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 | Hike 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 | Try some 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.
08 | Binge on Delicious Food and “Bhagu Cake”
Yes, I have said this before – the food here 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?
You may also like:
Triund Trek of Himachal Pradesh, India
Kheerganga – a trek on the Hippie Trail in the Himalayas
Galu village, Himachal Pradesh
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.Sonal Kwatra Paladini