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St John In The Wilderness Dharamshala

Immerse in the composure of nature and a church amidst its greenest foliage! You have to journey for less than an hour from the main town of Dharamshala and there it is. St. John’s Church is the most ancient structure of the town and it is a gothic stone shrine amidst the forest in between Mcleodganj and Forsyth Ganj. It is an Anglican structure that is a tribute to John the Baptist. ‘St. John in the Wilderness’ is no more a hidden entity.

Blue Mountains Stood Strong

Doesn’t the word Blue Mountains have a kind of mysticism about it? Dharamshala has an awe-inspiring shadow of the Trans Himalayas and thus correctly it is called the township of the Blue Mountains. The navy bluish range can be understood against the backdrop of the sky and the green foliage. During the Kangra earthquake in 1905 the towns of Mcleodganj, Kangra and Dharamshala were affected severely and almost twenty thousand people succumbed before nature’s apathy claws. The St. John’s Church survived, although its Bell Tower got destroyed. Later in 1915 a new bell that was constructed by Mears and Stainbank in England was imported and was installed in the compound.

About the Church

The neo-Gothic church dates back to 1852 when this was the only structure in Dharamshala town. It is made out of grey stone completely. Because it is built inside the dense woods it is also famous as ‘St. John in the Wilderness’. It looks like a hidden treasure and it has that element to turn the tourist in you into tireless traveller. You just can’t ignore the urge to visit it once that you have heard of it.

History of St. John’s Church, Dharamshala

Think of a structure that was born a hundred and sixty one years ago. 161 years of rain has created moss on its walls. It also has a memorial constructed as a dedication to Lord Elgin who was the Viceroy of the erstwhile India under imperial British rule. The Belgium tinted glass of the windows was donated to the church by Lady Elgin. Lord Elgin was so attached with the Deodar grove that surrounded the church that he wished he would rest in peace if he was buried here in the church premises. The place reminded him of Scotland. According to his wish he was buried in the premises of the St. John’s Church in Dharamshala. In the same premises is also the grave of the Lieutenant General of Punjab David Mcleod after whom the place Mcleodganj is named.


When you walk down from Mcleodganj or Naddi to lower Dharamshala, it takes 10 to 15 minutes. You can hire a car on rent or catch a local bus that would take you to the place. A few steps into the woods and there the wonder is waiting for your lenses and your footprints. This church is situated within four or five kilometres from the Peace of Mind Spot of Mcleodganj.


The St. John’s Church inside the forest in the outskirts of Dharamshala was established 161 years ago. It was made out of black stone. The nomenclature was done after the name of John the Baptist. The church holds immense historical significance and remains to be one of the oldest structures of the town of Dharamshala. This hill station is the residence of the universal religious head of the Buddhist community, the Dalai Lama. It is a town wrapped in with hills and many devotees come here with the intention to meditate and gain spiritual solace. The uniqueness about this shrine is it welcomes people across all religions to come and attain salvation. For a weekend getaway it is a perfect destination. For those who seek a peaceful escape of the mind it is a beautiful place to visit.

Don’t Forget to See The James Bruce Memorial

Lord James Bruce who was the Governor of Jamaica, the Governor General of Canada and also the Ambassador to China became the Viceroy and the Governor General of India. When he died in the year 1863, his body was buried near the St. John’s Church in Dharamshala. His widowed wife Mary Lousia built a memorial in reminiscence to his departed soul which is also a famous tourist attraction at the church. There is a graveyard in the premises where many eminent officers of the British Empire were buried.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to pay a visit to Dharamshala is in between May and September. The winter is severe and there is snowfall that often results in the upper passes getting blocked. The popular tourist attractions suffer fewer crowds due to erratic weather conditions. You can see Dharamshala in the summer months although rainfall may disturb if you are visiting post July. The climate remains warm during the day and you have to wear light woollens after the evening. There are budget hotels in and around Dharamshala and it would not be a problem even to drive to nearest towns like Kangra and Mcleodganj. Mcleodganj has good hotels where you can find a suitable place to stay. There are other places for sight-seeing that you can plan with a local guide.

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