The Complete Guide to DIFF & Dharamshala


Did you know that Dharamshala has no cinemas? Nevertheless, White Crane Arts & Media made light of this difficulty and came up with an idea as bright as this lovely Himalayan township- a 4-day extravaganza christened the Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF). Founded by Ritu Sarin and Sonam Tenzing as a non-profit undertaking in 2013, DIFF aims to bring high quality, independent films along with their filmmakers from around the world to Dharamshala and to promote local film making talent. The DIFF Film Fellow Programme has been constituted to encourage young talents below 30 years of age from the hilly regions of North and North East India. The DIFF also aims to draw lovers of films and visitors to Dharamshala and promote it as a cultural tourism destination. The event will be attended by filmmakers and other personalities from the industry. Neeraj Ghaywan, the maker of the critically acclaimed movie, Masaan will be attending. Other well-known attendees are Abhay Kumar, Dodo Hunziker, The Maw Naing, Lobsang Phuntsok among others.

Dharamshala is the crown jewel of the luxuriant Kangra Valley. Located at the base of the gorgeous, snow-clad Dhauladhars, the town is festooned across a series of ridges and is divided into two main parts- Lower Dharamshala, the commercial hub and the Upper Dharamshala or McLeodganj, the seat of the Tibetan Government in exile. Immense conifers create a mysterious tapestry, before which buildings and structures have mushroomed with careless abandon. The winding, narrow streets are lined with stalls selling colourful jewellery, Tibetan thangkas, antiques and woollens. Away from this urban hotchpotch, nature takes over. Whispering woods, icy brooklets and the clear, cold Himalayan air welds the power to inspire creativity.

Screenings at DIFF 2014

Screenings at DIFF 2014 

Location & Schedule

Since Dharamshala has no theatres, the 500-seater auditorium at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) will serve as the main festival venue. More screenings, master classes, panel discussions and special programmes will be hosted at the HPTDC Club House.

Walking Directions from McLeodganj Main Square:

  1. To HPTDC Club House: Take right at Indique Restaurant and walk past Hotel Sapphire. The HPTDC Club House is on your left, a little distance from here.
  1. Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA): Take left at Main Square on Bhagsunag Road and continue left onto Dharamkot Road. At bifurcation, take left, walk past Men-Tsee-Khang Clinic and onwards to TIPA (on the right).

Until the Official Schedule is released, here is an idea of what to expect:

5 November: Opening Night screening, exclusive Cocktail Party and Musical Night at TIPA

6-7 November: Screenings, master classes, panel discussions and special events

8 November: Screenings, Closing Ceremony


Directions to DIFF Venues from McLeodganj Main Square

Movies, 2015

Body | Malgorzata Szumowska, 2015, Poland

Butter Lamp | Hu Wei, 2013, France

Flapping in the middle of Nowhere | Nguyen Hoang Diep, 2014, Vietnam, France, Norway, Germany

Masaan | Neeraj Ghaywan, 2014, India

Placebo | Abhay Kumar, 2015, India, Finland

Hope | Boris Lojkine, 2014, France

The Monk | The Maw Naing, 2014, Czech Republic, Myanmar

The Tale of Iya | Tetsuichiro Tsuta, 2014, Japan

The Wolfpack | Crystal Moselle, 2014, USA

For the complete and updated list, click here.


Places of Interest in Dharamshala

Norbulingka Institute can as well be termed paradise. Its landscape gardens hemmed with bamboo groves and sparkling fountains and icy streams emanating from gargoyles with the stupendous Buddhist temple in the centre will transport you to a different realm of peace. Established in 1988, the institute is dedicated to the preservation of the Tibetan culture in its literary and artistic forms. There is a doll museum housing dolls that depict the life in ancient Tibet. Art studios include Tibetan statue making, thangka painting, screen-printing, appliqué and tailoring, woodcarving, wood painting, papermaking, and wood and metal craft.

St. John in the Wilderness is set in the heart of the deodar forest. The fantastic neo-Gothic structure is adorned with lovely stained glass windows. In late summer, flowers fill the garden and the beauty of the church is heightened.

Dalai Lama Temple houses a monastery and a Buddhist temple. Glowing butter lamps add a mystic aura to the place. Later afternoon, the courtyard is filled with young monks in maroon garments practicing prayers, hymns and lessons with their superiors. The walk from the temple to the main street is through one of the liveliest of bazaars. Colourful thangkas, artefacts, metal and woodcarvings, antiques, jewellery and semi-precious stones brighten even the gloomiest of days. The scent of soup and dumplings pervade the air.

At McLeodganj Bazaar

Misty forests around Dharamshala

Misty forests around Dharamshala

Day Hikes & Walks

Galu: A short and easy hike brings you to Galu, a vantage point overlooking the Kangra Valley. The snow peaks of the Dhauladhars rise behind. The Galu Devta Temple is located nearby. A little further up is magic point that commands a panoramic vista. You can camp at Galu for the night.

Kareri Village: The hike to Kareri Village winds through dense groves along a stream. A longer trek takes you further into the mountains and to a glacial lake, the Kareri Lake. The serenity here is striking.

Triund Hill: The most popular of all treks in Dharamshala, the Triund Hill Trek brings you atop the 3300 m high Triund Top. The 6 km trial winds through mixed forests of oak, deodar and rhododendron in the shadows of the snowy Dhauladhars. There are 22 bends en route.

Indrunag: The trek to Indrunag is relatively unknown. The 7 km trail winds up the slope, through expansive grasslands to reach the Indru Nag Temple, dedicated to Lord of the Snakes and Lord of the Rain. Breath-taking views of the Kangra Valley can be had from here.

Guna Devi Temple: The route climbs further up from the Dal Lake, past Naddi and The Tibetan Children's Village to the Guna Devi Temple which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. On the way, we will cross the Bhated River. Birds abound in the lush forests and grasslands.

Guna Devi Temple

Guna Devi Temple 

The Foodie's Guide

If your knowledge of Tibetan food is limited to momos and thukpa, McLeodganj will jolt you hard! To begin with, start with the noodle soups: thukpa, phakthu, thenthuk, mentsetse and gyathuk. The variety of dumplings will leave you spoilt for choice. Simple yet exotic preparations of chicken and pork are available. For lunch, go for an authentic Tibetan thali. We recommend Hotel Tibet, Tibet Cafe and Common Ground Cafe.

Good Indian food, mostly North Indian, is available at a number of restaurants, including the wonderful Ashoka Restaurant and McLlos Restaurant and Bar. Take your fill of paranthas smeared with butter, pindi chana, chhola bhatura, kulcha, shahi paneer and countless other vegetable preparations. Tandoori and butter chicken are the most popular non-vegetarian options.

Since Dharamshala sees a good number of foreign tourists, cafes serving continental cuisine are popular. Boards marked Israeli breakfast and Japanese food caught our eyes. The ubiquitous English breakfast of eggs, scones, tea, bacon is popular. The top picks are Cafe Illiterati, Jimmy's Italian Restaurant, Seed Cafe, Lhamo's Croissant, Vagabond Cafe and Namgyal Cafe. Lungta and Dokebe serve Japanese and Korean cuisine restaurants.

Tibet Quality Bakery and Woeser Bakery serve delicious desserts.

Travelling to Dharamshala

The nearest airport is at Gaggal, 13 km away. There are flights from Delhi, Chandigarh and Kullu. The nearest international airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi. Buses depart from ISBT. The roads are excellent and the journey is beautiful. You can also hire a car.

If coming by train, the nearest railhead is the toy-train station at Kangra, 17 km away. However, it is easier to travel by train to Pathankot, 85 km away, and then take the road to Dharamshala.

Driving Directions from Delhi (473 km, NH1 & NH3): Delhi - Panipat - Karnal - Ambala - Panchkula - Una - Kangra - Dharamshala

Driving Directions from Pathankot (87 km, Mandi-Pathankot Road): Pathankot - Haryal - Jassur - Nurpur - Kohri - Maa Bagulamukhi Temple - Chandaran - Rait - Dharamshala

For more details, drop us a line at

Article by: Mohana Das

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