Dharamshala is a hill station lying on the spur of the Dhauladhar range about 17 kms north- east of Kangra town. This hill station is wooded with oak and conifer trees and snow capped mountains enfold three sides of the town while the valley stretches in front. The snowline is perhaps more easily accessible at Dharamshala than at any other hill resort and it is possible to make a day’s trek to a snow-point after an early morning’s start. Dharamshala is also the headquarter of the Kangra district. In common Hindi usage, the word dharamshala refers to a shelter or rest house for spiritual pilgrims. Traditionally, such dharamshalas (pilgrims’ rest houses) were commonly constructed near pilgrimage destinations (often located in remote areas) to give visitors a place to sleep for the night. When the first permanent settlement was created in the place now called Dharamshala, there was already one such pilgrims’ rest house existing on the site, and the settlement took its name from that dharamshala.
In 1905, tragedy struck Dharamshala when an earthquake levelled it completely. After its reconstruction, Dharamshala flourished as a quiet health resort. It is divided into two distinct parts. Lower Dharamshala has civil offices and business establishments with courts. Kotwali bazar and Upper Dharamshala comprise of places with names which bear witness to its history like McLeod Ganj and Forsythe Ganj. Since 1960, when it became a temporary headquarter of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Dharamshala has risen to international fame as “The Little Lhasa in India”. Mcleodganj is 9 km from Dharamshala.
Dharamshala is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of stately Deodars. The suburbs of the town includes — McLeod Ganj, Bhagsu Nath, Forsyth Ganj, Naddi, Kotwali Bazaar (the main market of the town), Kaccheri Adda (government offices such as the court, police, post etc.), Dari, Ramnagar, Sidhpur and Sidhbari (where the Karmapa Lama is based).
Dharamshala has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate. Summer starts in early April and peaks in early June, when temperatures can reach 36 °C. Summers last till mid of June. From July to mid September, is the monsoon season, when up to 3000 mm (120 inches) of rain can fall, making Dharamshala one of the wettest places in the state. Autumn is mild and lasts from October to end of November. Autumn temperatures average around 16–17 °C. Winter starts in December and goes on till late February. Snow and sleet is common during the winter in upper Dharamshala, i.e., McLeodganj, Bhagsu Nag, Naddi, etc. Lower Dharamshala hardly receives any solid precipitation except hail. Winter is followed by a short, pleasant spring till April. Historically, the Dhauladhar mountains used to remain snow-covered all year long but for the past five years, they have been losing their snow blanket during dry spells.
In and around Dharamshala, one can visit the Kangra Art museum at Kotwali bazar, War memorial, Kunal Pathri temple and tea gardens on way to Kunal Pathri. There is also a beautiful Cricket stadium in the city facing mighty Dhauladhar.