Manali

Trip to Manali - A beautiful Himalayan Valley

Whenever I read or hear this word – Trip to Manali, I get lost in the dreams of my past days in the beautiful valley surrounded by mountains, lush green pine forests, and the gurgling Beas river flowing through. Manali, one of the popular hill station and tourist destination in India is blessed with outstanding scenic beauty by nature. In fact, it seems like a gift to the world from the Himalayas.

Manali lies at the northern end of the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh and it is nestled at a height of 2050 meters above from the sea level. In summers, the weather here remains cool and pleasant while in winters, the valley experiences mid to heavy snowfall.

The town of Manali has a specialty of its own which makes it different from other hill stations. It was once just a village that has now transformed into a modern town while maintaining its rich cultural heritage and age-old traditions.

I have so much affection for this place that since 2012, I have been visiting Manali every year. It was only the year 2019 when I was not able to make it up for this hamlet.

Trip to Manali
The Mall Road, Manali

Best Time To Visit Manali

Manali is a renowned hill station in India and it is visited by tourists from all parts of the world. For Indian tourists, it is one of the prime destinations to visit that’s why many of them plan their trip to Manali like the honeymooners, friends and family groups, and even solo backpackers.

Although, there is no such month or season which could be said as the best time to visit Manali as the favorable weather conditions of this place welcomes all travelers throughout the year. From December to February, Manali experiences shivering cold and this is the time when the place gets mid to heavy snowfall. Domestic tourists love to spend their Christmas and New Year holidays in this hill station. From March onwards, the coldness lowers down and till the month of June, it remains pleasant. May and June are considered the peak season of tourists in Manali and this time one can experience the long traffic jams everywhere in Manali.

From July till September, like the rest of India, monsoon season lasts in Manali but still, the valley looks beautiful with fog and clouds that can be seen over the mountains.

October is the finest month where one gets clear visibility of far-sighted mountains and the temperature also remains very pleasant. From November onwards, the valley starts experiencing cold.

Personally, I like the months of March and October ideal to visit Manali and the surrounding places.

Manali Budget Escapes
View of Old Manali

How To Get There?

Manali is very well connected by road to other major North Indian cities. Unlike other hill stations, the mountainous road to Manali is much broader and smooth. Below are the options through which you can reach Manali.

By Flight – There is a daily flight that is operated by Air India between Delhi and Bhuntar (the airport for Kullu and Manali) and it takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes. From Bhuntar, you can hire a local cab or even take a local bus for Manali, which is 52 km from here. Hiring a taxi would cost you somewhere around Rs. 2000. However, if you take a local bus then it would cost you around Rs. 100 per person.

By Train – The nearest major railway station to Manali is Chandigarh, which is very well connected by trains to the rest of India. From normal to premium, all trains are available for Chandigarh from Delhi, Mumbai, Howrah, Ahmedabad, Ernakulam, etc. From Chandigarh, you have two options to reach Manali. Either you can hire a taxi that would cost you around Rs. 5000 or you can take the state road transport corporation bus that would cost you Rs. 500 per person. The distance from Chandigarh to Manali is 300 km.

By Bus – Manali is well connected to almost every city in North India by state roadways and private buses. There are regular bus services from Delhi (both government and private) to Manali which takes around 14-15 hrs to cover the distance of 550 km. From Ordinary to Luxury (Volvo) you will get many buses on this route. The fare of Ordinary bus from Delhi is around Rs. 750 per person while for Volvo bus, the ticket price is somewhere around Rs. 1700 per person.

Manali New Bus Stand - Budget Escapes
Manali Private Bus Stand

Accommodation

You will find an ample amount of hotels everywhere in Manali. From luxury to budget category, there are more than 2500 hotels scattered in and around Manali. Depending on the season, the tariff of these hotels varies from one month to another. For budget travellers and backpackers, there are many stay options available in the town. Depending on the location of the hotel, the tariff varies accordingly. If it is located near to the Mall Road, then it will cost you a bit expensive as compared to hotels in other locations.

During peak season (April – June / December – January) the tariff of the budget hotels/lodges/guest houses starts from somewhere around Rs. 800 which goes down to Rs. 600 during the lean season (July – September). If you are planning to visit in the months of October, November, February or March then you may have to pay somewhere between Rs. 600 to Rs. 800 per room.

For backpackers/solo travelers, there are many hostels also available in Manali where you get a shared accommodation/ Bunk beds at approx. Rs. 600 per bed (in peak season) and Rs. 400 per bed (in lean season).

There are many websites from where you can book your room/bed in advance for your travel dates. Few are as mentioned below:

Hotels in Manali
A Hotel in Manali

Places To Visit

Manali is a perfect tourist destination for those who love mountains, rivers, forests and those who are also a bit interested in knowing the history, culture and tradition of a particular place. It is one of the favorite spot for backpackers and solo travelers as the place provides a great opportunity to free yourself and attain inner peace amidst the nature.

Although, there are many places in and around Manali that attracts all kind of travelers but here I have listed those which I personally feel that one should definitely not miss while on his/her trip to Manali. The Mall road of Manali is considered as the centre point of the town so we will calculate the distance of tourist spots from the Mall road itself.

1) Hadimba Devi Temple (2 km from Mall Road) – It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Hadimba, the wife of one of the Pandavaas – Bheem. The temple was was built in 1553 AD by Maharaja Bahadur Singh, in pagoda-style architecture. Surrounded by tall pine trees, the cone-shaped roof and the carved wooden walls and doors, the temple will just amaze you with its beauty. Don’t forget to visit Ghatotkach Tree Temple that is 5 min. walking distance from Hadimba Devi Temple. It is regarded as an abode of the mighty warrior Ghatotkach.

Hadimba Devi Temple
Hadimba Devi Temple

2) Manu Temple (3 km from Mall Road) – The beautiful Manu Temple is dedicated to Sage Manu. Manali got its name from this sage’s name only. The temple has a pagoda style structure and it has a high spiritual and religious importance. So, if you are roaming around Old Manali, don’t forget to visit this temple. After crossing the Old Manali bridge, you have to walk up for about 1 km to reach Manu Temple. You will see many café’s and restaurant on your way to the temple. Also, you will find many foreigners especially Israelis roaming around this place.

Manu Temple Manali
Manu Temple

3) Vashishtha Temple and Hot Water Springs (3 km from Mall Road) – Dedicated to the great sage Rishi Vashishth, the Vashishtha Temple is located in a beautiful small village of Vashisht that lies on the eastern side of Beas river. The temple is believed to be more than 4000 years old and is made up of beautiful carvings on wood. The interiors are decorated with historic paintings and figures. This temple is among the most famous tourist spots to visit in Manali. Close to the temple, you will find the Hot Water Spring that is believed to have medicinal value. It is said that taking a dip into it cures many skin diseases.

Vashishtha Temple
Vashishtha Temple

4) Tibetan Monastery (300 meters from Mall Road) – The Tibetan Monastery or the Himalaya Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple is one of the oldest and famous monasteries in Manali. It is situated at a walking distance from the Mall and it has religious importance among the devotees. The colourful paintings on its walls and the architectural beauty of the place magnetize and amaze tourists who visit here. Those who want to calm their minds and experience the spiritual importance of Buddhism, must definitely visit this monastery.

Tibetan Monastery
Himalayan Nyingmapa Tibetan Monastery

5) Old Manali (2 km from Mall Road) – Driving or walking 2 km further from Manali you will reach the place known for its scenic spots, apple orchards, multicuisine cafés, local handicraft shops and backpacker lodgings. Yes, just after crossing the bridge over the Manalsu River, you will reach to the hippie land of Old Manali. Due to its serenity, soothing atmosphere and colourful traditional markets, the place is much famous among the tourists especially solo travelers and backpackers. You can walk up to the alleys enjoying the nature and local market.

Old Manali
Old Manali

6) Van Vihar Park (200 meters from Mall Road) – Just a few steps before the starting of Mall Road, lies Van Vihar also known as Van Vihar National Park that is known for the tall deodar trees, beautiful garden, man-made lake and lush green landscape. One can also enjoy boating on the lake here.

Van Vihar Park
Van Vihar Park

7) Solang Valley (13 km from Mall Road) – Solang Valley is one of the most popular tourist destinations near Manali and it is normally included in the Manali sightseeing. A huge number of tourists visit here every year to enjoy scenic beauty and participate in some adventure activities including Paragliding, Horse Riding, Zorbing etc. During winters, Solang Valley receives good snowfall thus making it a favourable spot for Skiing as well. There are few Ski training institutes here. Apart from that, few tourists love to take an ATB ride here. Solang is a perfect spot for all age group tourists.

Solang Valley
Solang Valley

8) Rohtang Pass (52 km from Mall Road) – Located at a massive height of 3,978 meters above from the sea level, Rohtang Pass or Rohtang La is a high altitude motorable pass on the Manali-Leh road. It is the most popular tourist spot and every tourist visiting Manali, loves to take a day tour of Rohtang Pass. The mesmerizing beauty, stunning landscape and the immaculate views of the Himalayas will freshen up you and leave you breathless. For visiting this place you have to apply for the vehicle pass from the local authorities in Manali. Due to the huge flow of tourists, especially in peak summers, you may experience long traffic jams on this route. It is advisable to leave as early as possible in the morning from your hotel in Manali, if you are planning to visit Rohtang Pass.

Rohtang Pass
Rohtang Pass

9) Naggar Castle (21 km from Mall Road) – Built in 1460 AD by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu, Naggar Castle is an ancient building that was constructed in Kathkuni – the traditional Pahari style architecture. The wooden carvings and the medieval stone used are the perfect examples of construction engineering that was used at that time. There is a gallery here that houses the paintings of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich. The castle has now been converted into a Heritage Hotel by HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation). But, it is opened for tourists. So, when you are on your trip to Manali, don’t forget to visit Naggar Castle.

Naggar Castle
Naggar Castle

10) Manikaran (80 km from Mall Road) – A famous Sikh and Hindu pilgrimage place, Manikaran is another destination to visit if you are on your trip to Manali. It is a small town that is located in Parvati valley known for the famous Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib, Shiva Temple, Ram Temple and the hot water springs. As per the Hindu mythology, it is believed that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were mesmerized by the beauty of this place and decided to stay here for some time. As per the Sikh mythology, Guru Nanak Dev Ji came to this place with his disciple Bhai Mardana. Bhai Mardana had to cook the food but there was no fire so Guru Nanak Dev Ji asked him to remove a stone after which a spring of hot water erupted and then Prasada (food) was cooked here using that hot water. Visit the Shiva Temple and Gurudwara here, have some langar that is served here continuously. Roam around the place and explore the local market as well.

Manikaran
Manikaran

How To Do Local Sightseeing?

Well, Manali is a small town and the tourist spots which are in the town itself can be easily covered on foot. Mall Road, Van Vihar, Tibetan Monastery, Hadimba Devi Temple and Old Manali can be visited on your own climbing up and passing through the narrow lanes. You will find it exciting to explore the places on foot rather than taking auto-rickshaws or taxis. For Vashishtha Temple, if you have enough days to stay in Manali, you can keep a half-day trek for the visit to Vashishtha else, you can hire an auto-rickshaw that will charge you approx. Rs. 200 for a round trip.

For Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass, I would suggest you hire a cab for a full day and cover both the places on the same day. Start early in the morning and first visit Rohtang Pass. Spend some time there and by afternoon, reach Solang Valley. Enjoy your lunch at Solang Valley, if you wish to take some soft adventure activities and then by evening return back to Manali. A hatchback taxi for a full day hire would cost you somewhere around Rs. 7500-8000 which may go up to Rs. 10000-12000 during the months of May-June, the peak seasons. If you are a solo traveller, you can look up for a shared taxi through a local travel agent but then you should have good negotiation skills. For a single person using a shared taxi, the cost should not go beyond Rs. 2000 per person. Rest depends on your bargaining skills.

For Naggar Castle and Manikaran, you can go to the Manali bus stand and look for the local bus that plies to Kullu or Bhuntar via Naggar. There are many private bus operators who provide service on this route. Board the bus and purchase the ticket till Naggar which would cost you around Rs. 40 per person. Get down at Naggar, visit the Castle and after spending some time board another bus for Kullu. The ticket price would be again around Rs. 40 per person. Once you reach Kullu, you will get another bus for Manikaran which is 45 km from here. So, by paying approx. Rs. 70-80 you will reach Manikaran. Spend some time at Manikaran, visit the temple and the Gurudwara and post afternoon, return back to Manali by again taking a bus to Kullu and then to Manali.

If you wish to depart for your hometown on the same day, then you don’t need to go back to Manali. You can get down at Bhuntar and from there you will easily get buses for Chandigarh and Delhi.

Rohtang Pass Road
Sightseeing Tour Towards Rohtang Pass

What To Eat In Manali?

I have seen many people planning their trip to Manali just to stay a few days close to nature and taste some local cuisines. So, when you travel to Manali there are some local dishes there that you should not miss. There are many restaurants and cafés in Manali where you can fulfill your cravings for the food. Especially the ones which are located in Old Manali that serve many delicious cuisines including Italian, Chinese, Israeli, Indian etc.

The must-try food in Manali are:

Trout Fish – This is the specialty of Manali. The trout fish is found locally in rivers and streams of Manali and it is cooked using some local herbs and flavours. It has a spicy and tangy taste and is generally served with rice. However, many people prefer to have it grilled also.

Siddu – Siddu is a fermented bread that is prepared using wheat flour, yeast and filled with the stuffing of walnut and other spices pastes. It is in the form of a round bun and is generally served with ghee.

Siddu
Siddu

Masala Omelette – You will find this almost is every street of Manali. Although Omelette is quite common everywhere but when you are in a cold place like Manali this dish becomes a perfect one to keep your body warm and fulfill your hunger.

Red Rice – You must have eaten various types of rice but have you ever tried the Pahadi red rice. Yes, like most of the hilly areas Manali also specializes in red rice which is very tasty and high in nutrition. It contains vitamins, antioxidants, lowers the cholesterol and prevents heart diseases. So, ask for some local red rice when you are in some dhaba or restaurant in Manali.

Patande – It is a type of a pancake, a Himachali pancake that is prepared using wheat flour, milk and sugar. It is very good in taste and you should definitely try it once.

Dham – Dham is famous everywhere in Himachal. It is a traditional thali prepared during auspicious occasions in Himachal. Dham includes a variety of vegetables, curries, curd, rice and some sweets. It may not easily available everywhere. There are a few restaurants that serve Dham.

Apart from the above, there are many national and international cuisines like pizza, pasta, pancakes, noodles etc.  which you can find in the cafés and restaurants in Manali.

Manali is an all-time favourite destination for most of the Indian and International tourists. Due to its easy access, good approachability, beautiful scenic spots, rich culture and tradition and pleasant weather many people love to visit it again and again. It is a hill destination that suits every segment of tourists whether the luxury or budget traveler. So, you should definitely plan a trip to Manali as a backpacker or with your loved ones.

By Avdhesh

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