Manali is a picturesque town situated on the west bank of the Beas River in Kullu valley. Located just 40 km north of Kullu, this town is surrounded by huge snow-capped mountains. Manali’s splendid location, its thick forests, beautiful orchards, and proximity to the snowy mountains have made it one of the popular travel destinations in Himachal Pradesh. It also serves as a base to explore the regions of Ladakh and Spiti Valley in the higher Himalayas. While the town itself is now overrun with the buildings, the surroundings have retained their natural beauty. To get the best out of Manali, go on walks and explore the environs or drive up to the surrounding villages or towns.
Attractions in Manali
Hidimba Devi Temple (or Hadimba Temple)
This multi-tiered pagoda style temple has been sitting in the middle of towering deodars since the 16th-century. It is interesting that the temple is dedicated to Hadimba, who as per the Hindu mythology was a demon and also the wife of ‘Bhima’ – one of the ‘Pandavas’. Hadimba was considered to be the deity by the royal family. The temple is built around a small cave enshrining the footprints of Hadimba. The façade of the temple has exquisite woodcarvings of elephants, crocodiles and folk deities. To reach here, you just need to walk 1.5 km from the main market. If you want to enjoy the solitude, go early in the morning else you may find yourself waiting in the long queue.
Old Manali has turned from a Himachali village to a ‘global village’ or a hippie-land. It is the favourite of backpackers from foreign lands, especially Israel. In the quest of catering to them, many budget guesthouses, cafes and souvenir shacks have sprung up. Hence, the once ethnic feel of the place has now been replaced by the touristy atmosphere. But if you go beyond the backpackers zone, you can still see some of the old wood and stone houses in which locals carry on in their traditional ways.
Vashisht village, 3 km from the bazaar, is situated on the left bank of the Beas River. This village derives its name from the temple dedicated to the sage ‘Vashisht’. This wood-and-stone temple is situated above the main square. The wood carvings of the temple are worth checking out. It is said that sage Vashisht was the guru of Lord Rama. Nearby are the hot sulphur springs piped into the Turkish-style baths. From here, you can hike up to the Vashisht Waterfall. Do this leafy trail in March, and you will be gazing at the apple orchards ornamented with the blossoming fruits.
To enjoy forested walks, you don’t necessarily need to go out of the town. Visit ‘Van Vihar’ stretch near the mall. There you can enjoy walking on a path shaded by the tall pine and deodar trees. This walk will also take you close to the Manalsu stream.
Manali has received its name from this temple. It is believed that this is the only temple dedicated to Manu. As per a legend, Manu had saved all the species on earth after the great flood.
Club House is situated on the left bank of Manalsu stream. It is about 2 km from the town. The location is good and there are indoor games in the building.
This is a natural spring, 5 km north of Manali, on the way to Rohtang Pass. It is believed that this spring is fed by Bhrigu Lake, a high altitude lake in the mountains.
The mall of Manali has no upmarket vibe or colonial charm unlike its counterparts in Shimla and Kasauli. This mall is a jumble of shopping markets, hotels, restaurants, and travel agents.
Excursions from Manali
Solang Valley, 14 km north of Manali, has off late become popular amongst domestic travellers. Its expansive meadow, surrounded by the forests, lends itself very well for several adventure sports. Paragliding is done here, and the slopes are available for skiing during winter. People, who aren’t into sports, can enjoy walking in the surrounding forests. A trek from here leads up to the pastures of Dhumti (8km) and further up to the Beas Kund which is believed to be the source of river Beas. Solang Valley has hotels and resorts, in case you want to stay here.
This snow-laden pass, 52 km north of Manali, can only be visited during summer. It lies on the Manali-Ladakh route. The hair-raising journey to the Rohtang Pass is as beautiful as the destination itself. At the top, there are splendid views of the snow peaks and glaciers. This excursion consumes almost one entire day. There are restrictions on the number of vehicles that can ply between Manali and Rohtang each day. Hence, it is good to check whether your hotel or travel agent will be able to help you with this.
Watch this 14 min video to get an idea about the hair-raising drive from Manali to Rohtang Pass:
Situated on the left bank of Beas, Jagatsukh was the first capital of the Kullu kings and was succeeded by Naggar. It has two ancient temples, one of Lord Shiva and another of Sandhya Gayatri, built in Shikhara style. The temples are said to be dating back to the 6th-century.