Manali – Himachal Pradesh
Manali is a popular hill resort, which is located at an altitude of 1,830m (6,000 ft). Many travelers come here to spend months or even years, as it is a beautiful place. For some people it is a major stopping point on their trip to India. It is the best place to get the two-day bus to Leh.
There are also a few interesting spiritual places in the Kullu Valley. When the Pandavas were in exile they are said to have resided in the Manali area for a year.
The best times to come to Manali are May to June and September to October. In September and April the nights can be cold, and you definitely need some warm clothing. May and June is when most of the tourists come here, at which time the temperatures are between 12ºC and 26ºC. From November to the beginning of March it is very cold and the temperatures are between 2ºC and 14ºC.
The HPTDC Tourist Office is beneath the Hotel Kunzam. Open in the summer daily 10 am to 5 pm. They have a trekking booklet that has basic maps and possible routes. The HPTDC Tourist Market Office, next door, reserves HPTDC hotels, books HPTDC buses and arranges skiing courses. There is a notice-board here that you can use.
Mountaineering Institute, 2km south of The Mall near the Hotel Manali Ashok, organizes beginners and advanced mountaineering, trekking, skiing and other activities.
HPTDC Tourism Marketing Office and several private bus companies organize package tours to places in the area.
One is to Rohtang Pass (3978m) to see some snow, which also goes to Nehru Kund (a lake), Kothi and Marrhi (a viewpoint) for fee (departs 9 am).
Another goes to Parvati Valley visiting Manikaran. A third tour goes to Naggar, the temples in Jagatsukh and to Solang Nullah.
Hadimba Temple (Dhungri)
This four-storey, 26m high temple was built in 1553 and is dedicated to Hadimba, the wife of Bhima, who is one of the five Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata. It is said that Bhima was married to Hadimba here, after he killed her man-eating brother, Hadimb. Bhima and Hadimba had a son named Ghatotkatch, who died a hero’s death on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Hadimba is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Kali.
The temple has a 3-tier pagoda style roof and some intricate carvings on the temple. There is a big festival at the temple in early May. To walk to this temple, which is about a km (20 minutes) from the downtown, you get on the road to Old Manali. You then turn left at the road just before John Banon’s Guest House. You then walk about 200m and then take the path to the temple. It is in the Dhungri area of Manali.
There is the 3-day Dhungri Festival at the temple in May.
Gadhan Thekchokling Gompa
This Buddhist gompa was built by Tibetans in the 1960s. It has some colorful paintings in it. Open 6 am to 6 pm.
There is another small gompa closer to the bazaar.
Old Manali and the Manu Temple
Old Manali is a peaceful pleasant town, 3km north of The Mall. There are some good walks in the area and it is a popular place to stay for budget travelers. To get here you walk north on The Mall. After you pass the State Bank of India you take the right fork in the road and you go until you get to the bridge. You cross the bridge and you then turn left and walk five minutes to the village of Old Manali.
It is said that after the great deluge, Manu first stepped back onto land at this place and then lived here. Manali is supposed to be the changed name of “Manu-Alaya,” or the “Home of Manu.” When the entire world was covered with water, Lord Vishnu took the form of a fish called Matsya and protected Vaivasvata Manu, keeping him on a boat. He also saved the Vedas from the flood. This temple is located in the Old Manali village, about 3km from downtown Manali. It is most likely the only temple of Manu in India.
Skiing There is skiing at Solang Nullah, 15km north of Manali, from January to March. This can be arranged at the place, with the HPTDC, or with various travel agencies in Manali. You can rent equipment from the Mountaineering Institute, North Face Adventure Tours and Snowbird Adventures. It is extremely cold here in January.
Rafting You can raft on the Beas River. Rafting trips usually begin at Mohal, north of the town of Kullu and go for around 10km. The season is usually May to mid-June and from mid-September to mid-October. Snowbird Adventures and Himalayan Adventurers arrange rafting. Some low-class travel agencies tell you after the trip is over that you have to pay your own return transportation, so check this in advance.
Paragliding This can be done at Solang Nullah, 15km north of Manali. Paragliding can be organized through Himalayan Adventurers, North Face Adventure Tours and Snowbird Adventures.
There are a good selection of shops in Manali and the area, catering to tourists. There are Tibetan goods, wool sweaters, Buddhist items, music cassettes and low-end jewelry. A high quality pashima shawl made from the underbelly of a Ladakhi goat starts at around Rs 10,000. The test for pashima is, if it creases when crumpled it is not pure.
The Kullu-Kashmir Shawl Emporium is a cooperative run by local women.
There is a taxi stand on The Mall. Prices are fixed. Himalayan Journeys and Snowbird Adventures rent mountain bikes.
Air There is an airport south of Kullu in Bhuntar (50km) that has daily flights to Delhi. Local buses go from Manali to Bhuntar. The Archana Airways office is at Ambassador Travels, next to the State Bank of India.
Bus You can book buses up to a month in advance at the bus stand (open 9 am to noon and 2 to 5 pm).
There are deluxe buses to and from Delhi (16 hr). Buses depart from the road in front of the New Delhi train station and from the Inter-State bus stand in Old Delhi. Deluxe bus tickets can be purchased from travel agencies in Paharganj or by the New Delhi railway station.
There are deluxe buses to Shimla (10 hr) and deluxe buses to Dharamsala (10 hr). The HPTDC deluxe buses to Shimla, Chandigarh and Delhi are booked and leave from the tourist office. During the season the demand is heavy for these buses, so it is best to book as far in advance as possible.
There are local buses to Dharamsala (11 hr), Amritsar (16 hr), Chandigarh, Mandi and Jammu (16 hr). Within the area there are buses to Kullu (2 hr on the west side of the river and 2½ hr on the east side, every 15 min), Naggar (1 hr, 4 daily) and to Parvati Valley (7 daily).
Travel To Leh The trip by bus to Leh takes two days (28 hours actually driving). You have to stay in a tent overnight. The Manali-Leh Highway is officially open from mid-June to Sept 15, after which the state-run services stop. Some of the private companies keep operating into October. The most comfortable and expensive buses to Leh are the HPDTC luxury buses, which are booked at the tourist office. Avoid the bumpy back seat of the bus, as the road can be quite rough.