BEYOND AMRITSAR

Amritsar literally translates as ‘amrit ka sar-ovar’, the lake of the holy nectar. It was founded by Guru Ram Das in 1574. Situated on the north-west edge of Punjab (the land of five rivers), it was declared a holy city by the British during their rule in 1915.

Famed for the Golden Temple, it is just like any other small city but with the zest of Punjabi’s - Punjabi music, Punjabi food & Punjabi culture.

It is a patchwork of malls, branded stores, coffee joints, restaurants adjunct to which are the narrow streets and lanes of the walled city where till today one finds the old world charm thriving. Street hawkers, rickshaws, shopkeepers, traders, local eateries, dhabas and more vibrate immensely in their characteristic style which is a must-experience when visiting Amritsar.

The hill station of Dharamshala, in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley, is surrounded by dense coniferous forest, mainly deodars. A scenic drive begins its climb after Pathankot and it takes odd four hours from Amritsar. Dharmshala is the closest one can get to Tibet while still being in India. Known as the winter capital of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala regained social standing with the arrival of the Dalai Lama. It was here that the Dalai Lama and his followers fled after the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Influence of Buddhism and the Tibetans reflects itself across the entire hill station from food, clothes, way of life and more. With immense natural beauty and fresh air, Dharamsala is very popular for trekking.

Further up Dharamsala at an altitude of above 1750 meters lies McLeod Ganj, named after David McLeod, once the British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab. Situated on the Dhauladhar range, it is this upper district that is home to the Tibetan community and the center of tourist activity. Dalai Lama holds his teachings each year for a few days in March which are open to all. The most important Buddhist site in the town is Tsuglagkhang, the Dalai Lama’s temple. The place has innumerable markets known for carefully crafted handicrafts and carpets. With a wide array of restaurants, antique shops and buildings; McLeod Ganj is also called ‘Little Lhasa’ and is the home of the Dalai Lama.

A beautiful hill station in Himachal Pradesh, Dalhousie was established in 1854 by the British Empire in India as a summer retreat, named after Lord Dalhousie who was the British Viceroy at that time. Built on and around five hills located on the western edge of the Dhauladhar mountain range of the Himalayas, it is surrounded by beautiful snow capped peaks. Best time to visit is the summers and enjoy the numerous Victorian and Scottish architecture prevalent amongst the bunglows and churches.