Manali, at the northern end of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, is a hill station situated at a height of 2050 m (6398 ft) in the Himalayas. Situated on the Beas river (and near its source), it is a popular tourist spot for Indians in summer and a magical, snow-covered place in winter.
A staging point for a number of treks (Beas Kund, Chandrakhani Pass) and sports such as white-water rafting, Manali is also on the road to Ladakh via the valley of Lahaul and Spiti.
In ancient times, the valley was sparsely populated by nomadic hunters known as “rakshas”. The next arrivals were the shepherds who arrived from the Kangra valley and settled to take up agriculture. Some of the earliest inhabitants of the region are the ‘naur’ or ‘nar’, which is a caste unique to the Kullu valley. Only a few naur families are known to exist now.
The British were responsible for introducing apples and trout which were not native to Manali. It is said that when apple trees were first planted the fruits were so plentiful that often branches, unable to bear the weight would collapse. To this day apple along with plum and pear remains the best source of income for the majority of its inhabitants.
Manali is about 550 km from Delhi, the capital of India, and there are buses connecting the town with Delhi, Shimla, Dharamsala and Leh. For service from Delhi to Manali, tickets and reservations can be made at the Inter State Bus Terminus as well as at the Himachal Tourism office on Safdar Hashmi Marg near Mandi House in New Delhi. The approximate travel time from Delhi to Manali is 18 hours; from Ambala to Manali is 10 hours; and from Kulu to Manali is 1.5 to 3 hours. Volvo buses are available from Delhi but you need to book these two to five days in advance.
If hiring a private taxi, ensure that the driver has experience driving in hilly regions and doesn’t have the habit of drinking alcohol.
The nearest Broad Gauge Rail Head is Ambala Cantt(200 km) or Chandigarh (250 km)from Indian Capital New Delhi. Ambala Cantt is on the Delhi – Amritsar and Delhi – Jammu main lines and is well served by rail, but you will need to travel to Ambala to get a bus for the 10 hour ride to Manali. Jogindernagar and Kalka are other, less preferable, rail heads for Manali.
The nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport, 50 km from Manali, 10 km from Kullu, about two hours away. Indian Airlines, Air Deccan and Jagson Airlines operate flights to Kullu from Delhi and Chandigarh.
Rahala waterfalls: About 16 km from Manali at the start of the climb to the Rohtang Pass, are the beautiful Rahalla Falls at an altitude of 2,501 m.
Manali is known for its shiny gompas or Buddhist monasteries. It is maintained by donations from the local community and by sale of hand-woven carpets in the temple workshop. At a distance of 3 km northwest of Manali is Old Manali, famous for its orchards and old guesthouses. There is ruined fort here by the name of Manaligarh. There is also the Manu Maharishi Temple, dedicated to sage Manu. Vashist Hot Water Springs and Temple: Around 3 km from Manali, across the Beas river is Vashist, a small village with natural sulphur springs. Modern bathhouses, with Turkish-style showers, have the hot water piped into them for the convenience of the visitors who come here to benefit from the medicinal properties. Vaishisht, also boasts a pair of old stone temples, opposite each other above the main square. Dedicated to the local patron saint Vashista, the smaller of the two opens on to a partially covered courtyard, and is adorned with elaborate woodcarvings. Those lining the interior of the shrine, blackened by years of oil-lamp and incense smoke, are particularly fine. The temple tanks are underground hot-water/sulfur springs.Solang Valley, popularly known as Snow Point, is 13 km northwest of Manali and famous for its 300-meter ski lift. It is a picturesque spot and offers splendid views of glaciers and the snow-capped mountains. Jagatsukh, the former capital of Manali, is also an important spot. One can visit famous Hadimba Temple.
Skiing is a major pastime in Manali. Facilities for skiing are available at Solang Nullah (January-March) and Rohtang La (during summer). The Mountaineering Institute at Solang Nullah is a good training institute. Heli skiing is possible at the deep snowfields.
Skiing at Solang
The Mountaineering Institute and Allied Sports is about 3 km from the Mall and offers mountaineering and kayaking courses. Kayaking is possible on the Beas River.There are several good hikes from Manali. The 12 km hike up the western banks of the Beas to the Solang Valley is noteworthy. Lama Dugh meadow is a 6 km hike up to the Manalsu Nala, west of Manali town.For the best trekking expedition, take a trek from Solang Valley, on to Dhundhi and from there to Dussar lake and then onwards to Manali. This stretch will take you to places you would have only dreamt of. Pure, unadulterated adventure and fun. Be sure to have a good guide at your disposal who knows this area otherwise you would be lost forever. The trek would typically last for 5 days.
- Old Manali is an impressive array of wonderful, old wooden houses and happy smiling faces appearing from windows and over garden fences.
- There are some interesting temples of Tibetan Buddhist lineages located between old and new Manali.
- Naggar Castle and Art gallery is another place to see and so as beautiful Log Hut Area and club house. In fact both this places especially log hut area has some good hotels to stay as well
- Get your photos clicked with either rabbits or yaks. It will cost about 10-20 rupees (0.5$) for a single photo.
- One can also enjoy paddle boating in a fun park near Hidimba temple.
- River rafting, skiing, zorbing, paragliding, trekking, snow scootering, and river crossing.
- As with other touristed locations, beware of the saffron vendors.
- Try the loacal Hashish. It is visited by many trekkers who follow the hashish trail. Manali’s charas is considered to be the best in India.
- Rock climbing– there are some fabulous routes, however, go with a reputable company that can provide you suitable gear, otherwise this can become a dangerous sport. Look for the bright orange building across from Pizza Olive. The company also does abseiling trips, in which you can swing down into 9 tiers of a waterfall using rock-climbing equipment.
Keychains, name plates, etc which are customized to ones own message are worth buying as mementos. Also one can get his name carved/written on a single grain of rice. One can also visit Manali Market to buy woolen stuff like sweaters, pull overs, shawls, blankets, etc. Hippie clothes/ jewellery can be found in Old Manali.