The Hills Are Alive – Manali

Manali is a popular tourist town in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is located at a distance of about 550 km from Delhi, at an altitude of 2050 m.

Manali Town

This small town offers a bundle of natural beauty, ancient heritage, great food and adventure sports. The Beas river flows through the town and splits it in two parts. July August is the season of Apples. The town really is beautiful. As such Manali can be visited throughout the year. People visit in summers to escape the heat in the plains – that is the peak season. During winters people visit Manali to experience snowfall and winter activities. Time during the monsoons is the low season – the motorcycle riding tours start from Manali in June and continue till September / October.

The Beas river, seen at a distance
The Beas river, seen at a distance
The Beas River
A house in the nearby village

Mall road

The center of Manali, the most happening place. The main area with lots of shops, restaurants and cafes. Street food options that can be tried here are (1) Aloo Tikki (2) Pani Puri (3) Bread Pakoda and (4) Gulab Jamun. The cafes serve pizzas, momos, apple pies, pan cakes and other snacks. A place where the locals and the tourists come together. Got to see a local Himachali dance competition at the time of Christmas and new year.

Traditional Himachali Dance
Traditional Himachali Dance
Traditional Himachali Dance

Temples and Monasteries

Hidimba Temple

This ancient cave temple is dedicated to Goddess Hidimba, wife of Bhima, the second among the five Pandavas. Goddess Hidimba is worshipped by the people of Manali as their deity.

Manu Temple

This temple is dedicated to the Indian sage Manu. The name Manali is derived from “Manu Alaya” meaning the abode of Manu. It is believed that after the great flood had deluged the world, Manu stepped off his ark in Manali to recreate human life.

Gayatri Temple

An ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Gayatri. The wood work done at the temple is exquisite.

Vashishtha Temple

Dedicated to Sage Vashishtha, this temple is located about 3 Kms. from Manali.

Tibetan Monastery

Around Manali

Naggar

Tall trees – along the way to Naggar

Naggar Castle

At present this castle is run as a heritage hotel by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC). It was built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu in 1460. Built mostly using stone and wood, this castle survived the earthquake in 1905.

A temple in the castle premises
View from Naggar Castle

International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT)

Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, writer, archaeologist, and a philosopher. This place houses the exhibition of Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetoslav Roerich’s paintings. These paintings are great works of art. A must visit place if you are in Manali.

Rohtang La (Rohtang Pass)

Located at an altitude of ~4000 m, and ~50 km from Manali, Rohtang La connects Kullu valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valley. Due to heavy snowfall this pass remains closed for traffic generally from November to May. This is the first pass that you cross when traveling from Manali to Leh.

Riding through the clouds and poor visibility at Rohtang La

Manikaran and Kasol

Manikaran at an altitude of 1829 m, is located ~40 km from Kullu in the Parvati River valley. Manikaran is famous for its hot water springs. The temperature of the water is enough to cook rice if it is tied in a cloth bag and put in the spring water. On one side the river water is almost freezing cold and on the other side the spring water is boiling hot. Due to Raghunathjee and Gurudawara, Manikaran is a favorite resort of pilgrims for Hindus and Sikhs.

Kasol is a small town near Manikaran. Known as mini Israel of India due to high percentage of Israeli tourists visiting here. Several camping options are available on the banks of the Parvati river. Additionally treks to Malana and Kheerganga start here.

Manikaran Gurudwara
The Parvati River
Steam from hot spring and freezing cold water of the Parvati River

Gulaba

Gulaba is a small village located about 27 km from Manali. It is located on the way to Rohtang La, on the Manali – Leh highway. It offers beautiful views of the snow-capped mountains and the green meadows.

Adventure and Winter Sports

One can visit Manali for adventure and winter sports such as paragliding, rafting and skiing. Kullu near Manali and the Solang Nala offer paragliding to enthusiasts. Guided rafting is conducted on the Beas river near Kullu. The best locations for skiing near Manali are Rohtang La and the slopes of Solang Nala near Manali.

Motorcycle riding

Himachal Pradesh is holy grail for the motorcycle riding enthusiasts. A major riding route in Himachal is the world famous Manali – Leh Highway starting from Manali (~ 2000 m) – Taglang La (5300+ m) and reaching Leh (~ 3500 m) in Ladakh region of India, covering a distance of ~450 km. It covers 5 high altitude passes with altitudes of 4000 m and higher. Visits to some of the oldest monasteries add the cultural flavor to the experience. The landscape changes from green to barren and the Himalayas exhibit different colors. There is not much traffic on the road and the silence is occasionally broken by the sound of a passing vehicle. You experience some good patches of road, but mostly broken roads, water stream crossings and beautiful views all along the road.

Accommodation, food and local commuting

Many hotels are available in Manali and near by areas. For Ex. the Naggar Castle is a heritage hotel run by the HPTDC. Log Hut area, the Mall Road and the Vashishtha areas offer plenty of options for accommodation.

If the non-vegetarians don’t eat the trout fish by the river they are going to be missing out a real experience. Street food like chat can be tried out at the Mall Road. Some of the good options for food and drinks in Manali are (1) the Johnson’s Cafe (2) Cafe 1947 (3) Chopsticks Manali (4) Drifter’s Inn & Cafe and (5) The Lazy Dog. One major thing about the food in Manali is that the ingredients are fresh and mostly locally produced.

A taxi stand is located near the Mall Road and one can easily book taxis / auto rickshaws for local and intercity commuting. A number of motorcycle / two wheeler rental shops are located in the Vashishtha area. Riding on a Royal Enfield to the Rohtang La is a good experience.

Hotel in Manali (first visit)
Hotel in Manali (second visit)

Manali provides combination of escaping into the Himalayas, beautiful nature, adventure, great food, and art. “The Hills are Alive” from “Sound of Music” is possibly the appropriate song to describe the beauty of Manali.

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