Even if they are unbeknownst to it, fans and followers of the lands of Narnia have a really cool place to look forward to, a place which just doesn’t have the beauty of the fictional lands but has lots of different kinds of fun to offer too.
Manali, named after one of the most prominent Hindu figures – Manu, pulls towards itself all kinds of travelers year long; hippies who wander aimlessly in its beautiful streets; adrenaline junkies who come looking for the thrill of paragliding and skiing and families who come just to take in the chilly breeze and cool their heels off in the breaks. Also, being a checkpoint in the travels to other popular destinations like Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul many a people come here to stay just for the night and then move on, but find themselves enjoying the city even after a week.
Manali is nested deep in the mountains of Himachal at the northern end of the Kullu valley, which’s also why it is often called by the name of Kullu-Manali, even when it is actually 40 kilometers away from Kullu. Located at an altitude of more than 2000 meters and situated by the Vyaas (Beas) river makes it a perfect hill-station.
The altitude means the winter months of November to January go really cold with temperatures dropping to -5 degree Celsius. In summers it becomes a haven for people trying to get away from the heat as temperatures are normally between 15-20 degrees. It receives moderate rainfall during the monsoon.
Disproportional to the amount of tourism it generates Manali is relatively a small town with a population no more than 7000. Manali yearlong, has something for everybody and is a very complete tourist destination.
Places of interest are:-
Religiously oriented tourists go to a wide array of temples situated at or near Manali. Raghunath Temple is one of the prime magnets in Kullu and is a Temple dedicated to Lord Ram. The Bijli Temple is a Shiva temple enormously famous for being regularly struck by lightning being at a height of 2400 meters. The most famous temple in Manali would easily be the Hidimba Temple made completely out of wood and stone, it is situated at half a mile’s distance from the tourist office in Manali. Built by King in 1553, its unique architectural built feels similar to a Buddhist Pagoda. As many Tibetans live in the valley, there are many monasteries located in proximity and are frequently visited by curious tourists.
Rohtang pass is the jump point for one’s trip to another wonderful place called Ladakh, up in the mountains. At height fairly more than 4100 meters it is the highest and most picturesque point in the area. Most of the regions beyond this point are cut away and at great distances which make Rohtang pass somewhat inaccessible; this can be credited with retaining the virginal beauty of the place. The best time to visit is in summer months between June and September as the pass is closed due to heavy snowfalls in winters.
At only 5 kilometers from Manali is the fabled Arjun Ghufa, a cave which tourists love to explore, mainly because of the story behind it. On the baks of Vyaas, it is said it is here that Arjuna prayed and meditated for years in order to please the lord Indra and get a mighty weapon called Pashupata Ashtra.
Popular as the most busy market area of Kullu district and the valley, Akhara bazaar is place to find almost all the things available in Manali; with shops selling everything from food items, beverages to regional attires and clothing items like rugs, shawls and Kullu caps.
Kullu comes with an added attraction of many tourist places very near to it; so, if one feels they have seen all there is to see in Kullu, which in itself is a very great task, then they can leave for other popular scenic hill stations most of which are under the 100 kilometer radius. Known for its apple orchards and located at the center of Kullu valley Katrain is fairly popular, also, there is Kasol is known for the scenic beauty which by some is considered even better than Kullu itself. Then one can always head to the capital of the state Shimla also known as the Queen of Hills and rightly so. Vashistha, Mandi and Manikaran are some other worthy destinations around the corner.
Manali offers almost all kinds of accommodations for visitors. The luxury resorts and 5 star hotels run very busy especially during summers and snowfall. There are numerous budget accommodations to choose from if one is running a tight show. Also in the list are home-stay cottages which let you stay in small home like huts and cottages charging cheap rates for a very close-to-nature experience.
Manali leaves no disappointments for foodies and provides all kinds of cuisines from international to Italian and Chinese. Indian cuisine of course is the most popular. Most of these distinct restaurants can be found in the main market just opposite the main bust stand. A few good names are The Lazy Dog, Red House Café and Shere Punjab. The locals drink two kinds of liquor Lugdi and Arak both of which are similar to beers fermented from rice.
The activities to take up in Manali are too many in number and one always falls short on time. A hot sulphur bath is many visitors’ perfect idea of a relaxing day; these are accessible at different locations like Kalath village , Vashistha village or Manikaran.
Vashistha village is also the center of many adventure activities form river crossing to rock climbing, rappelling and zorbing. As many would expect the valley provides for some very beautiful and enjoyable treks which mesmerize the people so much that most return for another.
Paragliding can be called the most popular sport in Manali given how cheap, less time consuming and easy it is.
Manali is 570 kms from Delhi, the capital of India, and there are buses connecting the town with Delhi, Shimla, Dharamsala and Leh. It can also be reached by hiring a private taxi though a reliable and experienced driver is advised as the hilly roads may prove to be treacherous for travel especially during monsoons and snowfall.The nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport, 50 km from Manali, 10 km from Kullu, it takes about 2 hours to reach Manali from here.
Getting around in Manali can be done easily via hiring a taxi which takes people to almost all the popular spots according to one’s package; the taxi cost about 2000 rupees per day. Public transport is erratic and cannot be depended upon especially when one is on a short leash. The other way is to hire a motorbike which is cheaper than the taxis. The dress materials for the trip to Rohtang cost about 200 rupees and include all necessities including boot and shawls.
A trip to Manali should be on everybody’s must-visit-places list.