The beauty and serenity of the incredible Himalayas can be observed in the small but very popular hill station of Manali. The tiny hill station located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh is one of the most visited hill stations in India simply because of its natural beauty and wonderful surroundings with an essence of peace, serenity and heavenly atmosphere. The cheery on the top of the cake is the presence of the Beas river flowing right through the heart of Manali. The hill station is a fantastic example which justifies the title of Incredible India and has quite many unusual places near it which should visit for an engrossing experience.
History of Manali
According to the legends, the name Manali is derived from the Santan Hindu sage Manu Rishi. Manali stands for ‘Manu-Alya’ or ‘abode of Manu.’ The stories regarding the creation of the town are fascinating and compelling, according to the stories lawmaker Manu stepped into the ark of Manali to recreate humanity after a great flood. The town of Manali has a dedicated Manu temple too.
The British also played a significant role in the development of Manali by introducing apple, plum and apricot plantation in the area. Apart from the fruits, trout fish was also brought in the region by the British. These items till date remain the best and high earning sources for the local inhabitants apart from tourism.
The hill station continued into oblivion for a long time mainly because of the tourist paradise Kashmir. The hill station got its due recognition in the eighties, mainly after the Kashmir militancy. The former Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a regular visitor and admirer of the natural beauty of the hill station.
Geography of the town;
The town of Manali is situated in the upper regions of Himachal Pradesh around 40kms north of Kullu. The city is located at an estimated height of 2100 meters and is an important stop which connects the secluded Spiti Valley from the rest of Himachal Pradesh. The weather cycle of Manali is typically like every other northern Indian mountainous state. The winters are cold, while summers are scorching. The Manali weather has no effect in the tourist inflow as the town is packed for the whole year.
Places of Interest;
The town has numerous places to visit, from temples to markets, to natural scenic views, Manali is a complete holiday destination and has all the ingredients of making a perfect getaway from the city. The important features of interest to visit in or near the town are;
1. Rohtang Pass– The natural pass towards the south of Himalayas in the Pir Panjal ranges, is a famous tourist hub and considered as the ‘snow point’, because of the presence of snow all along the year. The pass connects the Kullu valley from the remote Lahaul and Spiti valley, further connecting Leh & Ladakh. The pass is around 50kms north of Manali and is a famous tourist hotspot. The pass is closed for tourist during winters because of heavy snowfall. The best time for visiting the Rohtang Pass is from May to September.
2. Solang Valley– The skiing paradise and gondola ride surrounded by the snow-clad mountains make the Solang Valley a memorable and must visit tourist site. The valley situated around 20kms from the central city. It is a huge ground around high rise mountains and has a different variety of sports and adventure activities during different seasons. The summers are all about paragliding, zopling, trekking and gondola ride to the top of the mountain. The winters are all about heavy snowfall and skiing. The Solang Valley is also the home of Anjani Mahadev.
3. Naggar Castle– can anyone remember the famous song of Jab We Met, “Ye Ishq Haye bathe bithaye Jannat dikhaae haan”? Well, the famous song along with many other movies are shot in the Naggar castle, near Manali. The castle is situated in the Naggar settlement on the new Kullu- Manali route. It is situated on a hilltop and overlooks the Beas basin and Kullu valley. The Naggar castle houses a museum, aquarium and an authentic Himachali restaurant which serves fantastic hill food. Further crossing the Naggar village one can reach to Jana falls, a beautiful small waterfall in the middle of dense Deodar forests.
4. Vashisht– The village of Vashisht is around 2kms from Manali. The village is part of Old Manali and is famous amongst the tourist. The Indian tourist visit Vashisht water bath and temple to take a dip in the holy spring hot water, whereas the foreign tourist prefers it for its cheap accommodation and the high-quality recreational substances available.
5. The Mall Road– The famous spot of every hill station is its Mall Road. The crowded central marketplace of Manali is home to numerous shops and small joints. The market is full of Tibetan traders and their colorful and unique stuff. PN any given the day the Mall road of Manali is packed with tourist.
6. Hadimba Temple– The most unusual tourist attraction in the city of Manali is the famous Hadimba Temple. Located deep inside the deodar forest patch, the temple is one the most sacred Hindu religious sites and famous among the local inhabitants.
7. Van Vihar or forest trail– The peace and serenity of nature can be felt inside the Van Vihar in different parts of Manali. The Van Vihar is a patch of deodar trees along the course of river Beas and is a perfect place to find peace and time for yourself. The place is perfect to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
8. Hari Nala– Hari Nala is a fish farm situated in the way of Naggar and Kullu. The farm is famous for its trout fish farming, and one can see the whole process. The fish farm produces a variety of fishes and supplies it to the local market.
9. Bijli Mahadev– The love for trekking and history can lead one to Bijli Mahadev, one of the most sacred Hindu temples of Himachal. The temple of Lord Shiva is situated at an height of 2700 meters, and is around 22kms from the old town of Kullu. To reach the temple one needs trek for 3 kms to the top of the hill. The silver statue of Shiva shines brightly in sunlight and the high rise tower is installed there to absorb the lightening, which also considered as a blessing of Lord Shiva.
How to reach Manali;
The most common source for connectivity is by Air. The nearest airport is the Kullu-Manali airport in the city of Bhuntar, which is south of Manali nearly 50kms apart. The airport has a kilometer long runway and is set amidst the beautiful Himalayas next to the bed of Beas river. Air India operates regular flights from Delhi and Chandigarh.
The hill station is very well connected with all the major cities of North India through a developing and scenic highway route. The national capital of Delhi is around 570kms from Manali, whereas the capital, Punjab, Chandigarh is about 370kms away. The state capital of Shimla is around 250kms. The state bus services and private travel agencies run some bus services from Delhi to Manali, including luxury Volvo buses.
The connectivity from railways is not that great in this part of the country. The nearest standard gauge railway station is Pathankot, around 310kms. The nearest meter gauge is Shimla. Buses and taxis are readily available from the railway stations.
Best time to Visit;
The hill station is flocked by tourist throughout the year and is packed in every season that India experiences. The peak season is from May to June end, and the hill station is packed with many visitors causing massive traffic jams and complete chaos. The winters are pretty harsh, and connectivity and other basic amenities are not available due to the high amount of snowfall. The Manali weather is unpredictable, and one cannot judge the accurate forecast, so for safety purposes, monsoon and winters should be avoided. The best time to visit the hill station, in my opinion, is from late February to mid march. The snowfall is not harsh, and the climate is perfect to explore the beauty of the hill station.
Budget to visit Manali;
Money is an important factor for any trip. The hill station of Manali attracts every strata of Indian society because of the presence of numerous hotels in every budget. The five star lounges and the budget hotels, all are packed and full of people during peak holiday seasons. The average cost per person for one day in Manali is around 700 to 1000 during peak season. The off season rates are far more less.
The overall information about Manali gives an overview about the beauty and uniqueness of the hill station. The hill station is must visit for everyone to experience the real beauty of nature and to beat the daily stress of life. The coming summers are perfect to pack your bags and go and explore the tiny hill station with family and friends.
Also read about; Chail- The unexplored paradise of Himachal Pradesh