With plenty of planned tours on offer, you’re never short of activities to make the most of your free time when volunteering in India. We’ve listed below some of the popular sites and tours that past IVHQ volunteers have experienced while on the IVHQ India - Dharamsala program.
The IVHQ India - Dharamsala program is located in the north of India, near to the home of the Dali Lama. The projects themselves are based in Naddi and Rait, small communities close to popular hilltop Tibetan communities and the Buddhist monasteries of McLeod Ganj.
In and Around Dharamsala
There are 6 major Tibetan monasteries and schools of Tebitan Buddhism in and around Bir, which volunteers are welcome to visit during their free time. Some monasteries directly benefit from volunteers Teaching English, while others are always open to visitors, and are set in beautiful locations which are a little more remote. Most are accessed via a peaceful walk through the forests surrounding Bir. The Monasteries around Bir include Chokling Monastery, Dzongsar Khyentse, Palpung Sherab Ling, Dirru Monastery, Drikung Dozin Theckcho Ling Monastery and Palyul Chökhorling Monastery.
Visit the Bir Tea Factory
When driving into Bir, you’ll notice the green fields that cloak the mountains in the Dharamsala region. These are fields of tea leaves with the area surrounding Bir being renowned for its tea. A popular trip for volunteers during their weekend is to visit the Bir Tea Factory to learn more about the leaf-growing process, and have the chance to taste the tea, as made by the experts.
For the adventurous and thrill-seeking volunteers, one of Bir’s biggest draw-cards is Paragliding. Bir is regarded by international paragliding groups as the second best site in the world for paragliding (after Lake Como in Italy) and this little town in the north of India has also been home to the Paragliding World Championships. The launch point is at approximately 2400 meters (7874 feet) and is at a modest spot at the top of the ridge, directly north of Bir itself. Volunteers can either catch a shuttle to the top, or enjoy a hike through the forests, starting from Bir and arriving at the launch point. The landing area is back in the town of Bir, so after the glide you can pop back to the volunteer accommodation, rest up and relay your experience to the other volunteers!
While volunteering in India Dharamsala, many volunteers choose to travel away over the weekends, and there’s plenty to see and do in the north of India. We’ve highlighted a couple of popular weekend activities for volunteers that our local staff are more than happy to help arrange with you.
Mcleod Ganj and the Home of the Dalai Lama
If you’re looking to relax, go shopping, eat out, or socialize in the evenings, keep a weekend free to visit McLeod Ganj! Approximately 2 hours from Bir, there is plenty to do here, including visiting the Tibet Museum and meditating at the Dalai Lama Temple. You’ll also find markets, yoga and meditation classes, a mixture of Tibetan and Indian cuisine, and cafes with plenty of Chai, Coffee and WiFi connectivity.
Amritsar and the Golden Temple
Take a 4 hour drive or 1 hour flight from McLeod Ganj to Amritsar and visit the gold-plated Harmandir Sahib (or Golden Temple). It is the holiest of all Sikh shrines and considered by many to be the most important attraction in Amritsar, symbolizing the magnificence and strength of the Sikh religion which is very strong throughout Northern India. Visitors are required to remove their shoes and wash their feet before entering, and remain bare footed while inside the temple complex as a mark of respect. Visitors are also required to cover their heads and wear appropriate covered clothing in order to maintain a place of sanctity.
Agra and The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal speaks for itself and holds its own as the Number One place to visit during a trip to India. Located in Agra, volunteers on the Dharamsala program can fly to Agra to take the opportunity to see “Mumtaz Mahal” (Chosen One of the Palace).
To apply for the India - Dharamsala program or explore the volunteering opportunities available in India, visit our Volunteer in India - Dharamsala page.