Express News Service

As the winter fog descends on the north Indian plains, it’s time for a quick getaway to the hills. McLeodganj, a suburb of Dharamshala in Himachal’s Kangra district, always tops the list of winter destinations in the country. But this time giving McLeo a miss might not be a bad idea. Let the explorer in you climb a little higher to reach Dharamkot. Popularly known as mini Israel or the ‘Tel Aviv of the hills’, it is the only village in Himachal Pradesh with a Jewish community centre—the Chabad house.

Have you ever heard of being somewhere when you are not even supposed to be there? Dharamkot is the perfect example. Located 12 km from McLeodganj, this village redefines slow travel. Nestled amid tall deodars, the tiny hamlet welcomes you with quaint cafes, shops selling gems and semi-precious stones, vipassana sessions, musical bowl healing and more.

It feels as if people from all over come here for Nirvana. A little walk around the town and you will be surprised to find how this place is an amalgamation of culture, cuisine, and language—a beautiful marriage between the East and the West.

A little walk around this quaint hamlet of Dharamkot and you will be surprised to find this place is an amalgamation of culture, cuisine, and language. Do not be surprised if you find an Indian flutist talking to his Israeli student in Hebrew or the Himachali bakery shopkeeper bragging about his delicacies in fluent French.

Yoga practitioners; a local selling beads

There are cafes selling all kinds of cakes, muffins, cheesecakes, and croissants alongside shops selling bal mithai, matthi and chai. Strangely enough, all seem to have come together to weave a seamless harmony here. It is a one-stop shop for the Indo-Western hipster soul in you.

Nobody in Dharamkot rushes to work. There is no honking traffic. Everyone has a purpose here, however. Clark from Arizona is learning to play the drums from his guru; two girls from Russia are diligently learning how to make dreamcatchers with crochet.

There are girls fishing through a basket of colourful beads in a shop, looking for the right alphabet for their personalised bracelets. Meanwhile, Hari is trying to sell ‘happy drums’ to passers-by. Laidback and quiet, Dharamkot lets people here do what they love doing, even if it is no more than strumming the ukulele for friends and bystanders.

With peaceful mountains around, fast Internet and restaurants serving multi-cuisine food, there are many who have already made Dharamkot their mountain abode. A few kilometres away is the famous Gallu Devi temple, also the starting point for the popular Triund trek. With ample choice to spend your days as per one’s preference—be it wandering in the woods, enjoying the sunset with your favourite book, musings over a hot cuppa or walking up to the nearby Bhagsu Falls, Dharamkot offers the best to all its guests.

For those hooked on to Nancy Meyers’ 2006 romantic comedy The Holiday, Dharamkot is the perfect destination. You can experience snowfall with a steaming cup of coffee, celebrate love or get over heartbreak. This little village will embrace you with all its simplicity and let you heal. In the end, isn’t that what we all aspire for?

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