Dharamsala is best known for two things: Buddhism and yoga. This is the headquarters of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government in exile as well as one of the most popular destinations in India for yoga. For these reasons, Dharamsala is a meeting place for travellers and spiritual seekers. Nestled in the Himalayas, the beautiful natural surroundings and the special spiritual vibe of Dharamsala make this the ideal setting for a yoga retreat. Yoga fans can choose between the many schools teaching all the major styles of yoga here, as well as the many opportunities for yoga teacher training.
Most yoga ashrams and schools in Dharamsala and its environs are situated in peaceful settings surrounded by nature and the quiet of the mountains. Some of these cater to the many casual travellers who pass through Dharamsala, offering drop-in classes or week-long introductory courses. Many of the long-established yoga ashrams have intensive long-term courses for serious students of yoga.
The most popular yoga styles in Dharamsala are hatha, ashtanga, vinyasa, Iyengar and Sivananda. There are also many yoga ashrams and yoga schools here offering yoga teacher training. Most of these are registered with Yoga Alliance, and propose the standard 200-hour teacher training courses leading to certification.
Many yoga schools in Dharamsala are seasonal, open for only a few months a year, before moving south to Goa once the cold of winter sets in. Some long-term yoga students follow their teachers to Goa in the winter and are back in Dharamsala once the heat of summer arrives in Goa. (See the section on ‘When to go to Dharamsala for yoga’.)
The nearest airport is in Gaggal, about an hour’s drive away. There are also bus services from Chandigarh, Delhi, and Shimla. The nearest railway station is in Pathankot, 3 hours away.
McLeod Ganj is the main tourist centre in Dharamsala and is small enough to be navigated on foot.
Not all yoga schools are open throughout the year and many close for the winter months.
To deepen your yoga practice in a beautiful, inspiring atmosphere.
To learn about Buddhism and the Tibetan community in exile.
To have the unique opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama during one of his public teachings. Before your visit, checking his website to make sure he’s in town.
This is a unique place with a special spiritual energy located in a beautiful natural setting – perfect for yoga.
The special Tibetan atmosphere in a typical Indian mountain-town ambiance makes this a unique place in India.
The lush green mountains and valleys are a paradise for nature lovers and trekkers.
The ideal time to practice yoga in Dharamsala is during the warm and dry spring and summer months which fall between April and June. Dharamsala is located at a high altitude (between 1,250 and 1,982 metres) in the Himalayan mountains which means the weather can get very cold in the winter months with temperatures dropping to zero. At the other extreme is very hot weather in June when the mercury can climb up to 38ºC. The monsoon season runs from July to September and can be very wet, so is best avoided. October and November are also pleasant months but temperatures start to get significantly cooler from December. That’s when many schools pack up and relocate to Goa for the height of the yoga season there.
Situated in the magnificent Himalayan mountains in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala means ‘spiritual sanctuary’. Many travellers visit Dharamsala because it is a peaceful place of great natural beauty with a special spiritual energy. It also attracts many people interested in Buddhism and the teachings of the Dalai Lama [www.dalailama.com], as well as those who enjoy the outdoors and come here to trek through the lush green valleys and mountains.
Dharamsala became an important Tibetan settlement when the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, setting up his government in exile here in 1960. Located within the municipality of Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj (also known as ‘Upper Dharamsala’) is the centre of the Tibetan community where several thousand exiles live today. You’re bound to see many monks wearing their familiar maroon-coloured robes and Tibetan women wearing the traditional colourful Tibetan apron here, and the community’s many Tibetan temples, monasteries and schools. McLeod Ganj has also become a popular tourist centre with many hotels and businesses catering to tourists: from restaurants offering Israeli food to classes in jewellery making and astrology. Dharamkot is another area of Dharamsala located close to McLeod Ganj where many yoga schools are located.