At 2050 meters above sea level, with breathtaking mountain views and crisp fresh air, Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, is an enchanting paradise for tourists all year round. This hilltop town has the ability to attract, and satisfy the needs of, families, honeymooners and travelers looking to relaxing in the laid-back hippy villages alongside the adventurers in search of high adrenalin activities.
The main action of Manali is based around The Mall, where a bundle of hotels, restaurants and stores are located. Running north from The Mall are two roads, alongside the Beas River, leading to the hippy villages of Old Manali, to the west, and Vashisht, to the east. Old Manali, within walking distance of The Mall, maintains the sense of a traditional Indian mountain village and is a popular resting spot for backpackers. Manali is also a stop off location for the Himalayan states of Ladakh and Lahaul.
With an abundance of things to do, whether visiting monasteries, taking part in extreme sports or simply enjoying the time to kick back and soak up the fresh mountain air, it is almost impossible to become bored. Being surrounded by orchards, the town is home to a range of ciders, which are a perfect accompaniment to an easy afternoon watching the world go by. The local “charas” (marijuana seen freely growing in the fields) is also an attraction of the town. However, be warned, a number of tourist have found themselves in difficult situations with the local police and bribery.
There are no trains in and out of Manali, therefore the most common way in is by bus. The station in the centre of The Mall serves both luxury and state buses. There are a number of daily long haul departures to Amritsar, Dharamsala, Jaipur and Shimla as well as Delhi and Chandigarh. Being the stop off for the far north of the country, there are a number of ways to travel onwards and upwards. During the season, July to September, buses trundle up to Leh on a 2-day epic journey, stopping off at either Keylong or Sarchu. Other options for reaching the northern states are by jeep tour or rented motorcycle. Manali town can easily be explored on foot, although the usual amount of rickshaws are eagerly awaiting tourist.
Manali can be visited at all times of the year, however should the desire to venture further north be strong then it is important to plan ahead. Mountain roads usually open from July to October, so be sure to check with tour operators before traveling.
With the soothing sounds of the Beas River flowing through town, the delights of the cedar forests and aroma of the fruit orchards amongst the backdrop of snow capped mountain peaks, it is no wonder that Manali remains to be one of India’s most popular and revered destinations.
Things to do in
Hadimba Temple - This fascinating four tier roofed temple, dating back to 1556, was built in honor of the Hindu god Hadimba. Also known as Dhungiri Temple, the walls are intricately decorated with carvings of mythological characters, animals and dancers. Its location in Dhungiri Van Vihar forest adds to the mysticism. Just passed the temple is a small fair, where you will find anything from children on carousels and local crafts to Angola rabbits and yak rides.
Dhungiri Mela - This celebration of the Hindu god Hadimba takes place in May and sees animal sacrifices at the Hadimba Temple.
Manali Museum - Excellent museum showcasing an interesting collection of relics, artifacts, musical instruments and weapons from the Himachal culture. Opposite the Hadimba Temple. Entrance Rs10.
Buddist Monasteries - The Tibetan area, to the south of The Mall is home to two impressive monasteries. The Himalayan Nyinmapa Buddist Temple and Geluka Cultural Society Gompa are fascinating constructions containing a number of statues depicting Buddist deities. Opening times are 6am - 6pm and 6am - 8pm, respectively.
Nature Park - On the banks of the River Beas you will find this peaceful nature reserve. A great place to enjoy a relaxing stroll with the sounds of nature and the backdrop of the mountains. There is a small aviary with a collection of Himalayan birds. Opening times are 9am - 7pm. Entrance Rs5.
Vashisht - Around 3km to the north east of Manali and across the river is a colorful little village made famous for its hot sulphur springs. The village is made up of a collection of temples and shrines, and a handful of guesthouses and cafés.
Adventure Sports - For those wanting a little more than pure relaxation, Manali is a great place to fulfill all adventurous desires. A number of tour companies arrange activities such as ballooning, jeep safaris, mountain biking, rafting, paragliding and zorbing. Some activities are weather dependent so check in advance.
Budget Hotels Manali
Jamuna Guesthouse - Relaxed hotel in the Tibetan area, to the south of The Mall. Excellent value and elaborately decorated rooms. Gompa Road, Central Manali. Tel (91) (1902) 252506.
Hotel Dream River - Good value hotel with large rooms and the relaxing sound of the river. Close to the majority of restaurants and cafes. Old Manali. Tel (91) (1902) 253301.
Midrange Hotels Manali
Dragon Guest House - An excellent guesthouse with clean and tidy rooms all with relaxing views of apple orchards and the mountains. Decent restaurant, café and reputable travel agency. V.P.O. Old Manali. Tel (91) (1902) 252290.
Hotel Snow View - This elegant hotel is perfect for relaxing and taking in the stunning scenery. Rooms come with TV’s and 24-hour room service. The Mall, Manali. Tel (91) (1902) 252684.
Luxury Hotels Manali
Banon Resorts - Beautiful resort located in 2 acres of well-kept gardens offering the best in luxury and comfort. The rooms are enormous and the cottages the ultimate in relaxation. New hope Orchards Manali, Manali. Tel (91) (1902) 253026.