Situalted on the Beas River, Manali is an important hillstation (alt. 6,398 ft) at the northern end of Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh. With breathtaking views of snow capped peaks, green valleys with rolling meadows and apple orchards, Manali is a very popular tourist destination in India.
Manali is administratively a part of the Kullu district, with population of approx. 30,000. The small town was the beginning of an ancient trade route to Ladakh and also a gateway to remote and desolate valleys of Lahaul and Spiti. This Himalayan tourist destination is famous for trekking, mountaineering, hiking, rafting, and paragliding. It is also a favorite destination for honeymooners.
Manali is located at 32°10′N 77°06′E / 32.16°N 77.10°E / 32.16; 77.10. The town ranges in elevation from 1,800 m (5,900 ft) to, in the uppermost "Old Manali" section, 2,000 m (6,600 ft).
Languages: Himachali, Hindi, English
Summer: 14º C to 25º C
Winter Season: -7º C to 10º C
Rainfall: 85cms average.
Best Time Best Time to visit Manali: April - June / September – December
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. A naur family in the village Soyal near Haripur on the west bank of Manali was famous for the vast land they owned and their practice of having 'rakshas' as their labourers.
The coming of the British shaped the history of modern day Manali when they made this beautiful town, in the Himalayan valley, their summer retreat. The British introduced apple trees and trout fishing in 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. The abundance of apple crop brought about economic growth and stability to this region. The lacation of Manali, in addition to the British settlement accompanied with economic growth turned Manali into a tourist destination.
During the seventies and eighties the cultivation of marijuana attracted the hippies to this region diminising the popularity of Manali for some time. However, with the rise of turmoil in the Kashmir valley, the tourists started returning to Manali as the landscape and immense beauty of the two places match each other.
Tourism once again received a boost in Manali in the late 1980s. This once quiet village was transformed into a bustling town with many hotels and restaurants.
The nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport (Tel: 01902-65037, 65603), 50 km from Manali, 10 km from Kullu, about two hours away. Indian Airlines, Kingfisher airlines, MDLR Airlines and Jagson Airlines operate flights to Kullu from Delhi and Chandigarh.
Manali has well-connected roads that easily link it to places like Delhi (570 km), Chandigarh (320 km), Ambala (370 km) and Shimla (260 km). Himachal Tourism shuttles regular bus service from places like Shimla, Chandigarh and Delhi. Private tour operators also provide deluxe/ non-deluxe bus services and car-services for getting to Manali.
The closest narrow gauge railway station is located at Jogindernagar, approximately 135 km away. On the other hand, nearest broad gauge railhead is Chandigarh (310 km). The best option to reach Manali by train is to undertake a broad gauge train journey to Chandigarh and take an overnight bus (about 10 hours) to Manali, or travel to Kalka and take the toy train from there to reach Shimla. From Shimla, one can reach Manali by bus (about 8 hrs).
You can check the http://www.irctc.co.in for schedules and rates.
There are various ways of getting around in Manali, if you are not already travelling with your own vehicle. Most tourists hire a taxi (various kinds available), which takes you around to all the sight seeing spots in and around Manali (Rohtang, Manikaran etc). It costs about Rs. 1500 per day, or little over Rs. 3000 if you book together for 3 days (in the peak season).
The second most common way is to hire a bike. There are many places where you can hire a bike (easy to find if you ask around), and is the most common mode of transport for foreigners. Both cruiser bikes like Bullet and sport bikes from Honda, Bajaj, Yamaha etc are easily available, though Bullet is the most commonly seen one on the roads. Rates hover around Rs. 500-600 per day in the peak season, but much discounted at other times.
Public transport is not so good. There are cheap bus services, but they are not so frequent. Yet, if you are going to stay for a long time, it is better to know the times and use them, as other modes of public transport and exorbitant compared to bus. For e.g., auto rickshaws take Rs. 200 from manali mall road to Solang valley, while the bus will cost you just Rs. 10.
There are several places around Manali easily accessible by road.
Lahaul Valley tourist spots
Keylong is the administrative centre of the Lahaul, in the Lahaul and Spiti district, the largest district of Himachal Pradesh that has a terrain totally in contrast to the rest of Himachal Pradesh. With only rugged mountains and snow capped peaks, Lahaul and Spiti has a beauty of its own, which is out of this world. Keylong is connected to Manali (115 kms from Manali)through the Rohtang Pass which is open only during summer months from June to October. There are taxi services from Manali to Keylong. One should preferably rent an SUV or any four Wheel vehicle as the road from Manali to Keylong is very rough. Located at an altitude of 3350 mts, along the Manali-Leh road, 7 km north east of intersection of the Chandra Valley, the Bhaga Valley, and the Chenab Valley; on the banks of Bhaga River, this picturesque hillstation boasts of unspoilt natural beauty and is ideal for nature lovers, trekkers and mountaineers. It faces the Kardang monastery, of the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the largest monastery in Lahaul. The Shasur, Kardan and Tayul monasteries, are all within a few kilometers of Keylong.
PWD rest house and Himachal Pradesh Tourism Corporation Tourist bunglow provide decent accommodation. Other hotels in Keylong are Gyespa Hotel, Dekyid Hotel, Lamayuru, Hotel Snowland and Hotel Gang Steng.
One can also visit Udaipur and Trilokinath from Keylong or Manali, by bus or taxi.
Udaipur is located at an altitude of 2,743 meters, and is around 53 km north of Keylong. Major attraction here is the Markula Devi Temple. A temple dedicated to this goddess is quiet famous in Lahaul because of the wooden carvings in it. The village is situated at the point where the Chenab and Mayar Nallah meet, hence it also becomes a starting point of the Mayar valley. This place is therefore a starting point for Mayar valley and further on to Zanskar and other peaks. This is a green area rather the whole Chenab valley is greener than the Lahaul valley. It has a rest house and some hotels and is a good resting place
Trilokonath: The famous Triloknath shrine has been revered by both Hindus and Buddhists for centuries. This is primarily a Buddhist place of worship situated on the left bank of the Chenab River.
Spiti Valley tourist spots
Kunzum PassAs Rohtang pass is a gateway to Lahaul, Kunzum pass (4590 m) is the gateway to Spiti from Kulu and Lahaul. Kunzum Pass, is accessible from Manali by bus and taxi. After crossing Rohtang pass and driving 20kms, one has to turn right from Gramphoo. While going to this pass, the panoramic view of Bara-Sigri glacier (second longest glacier in the world) is enthralling and inspiring. The view from the top is breathtaking. On one side is the Spiti valley and to the other are numerous Chandra-Bhaga range peaks. There is a temple named Kunzum Devi, which is dedicated to Goddess Kali, in the vicinity.
Lake Chandra Tal in Spiti Valley also known as 'Moon Lake' is one of the most beautiful and spectacular lakes in the Indian subcontinent. Situated at a height of 4300 mts, it is 6 kms away from Kunzum Pass, and is the source of river Chandra. It offers excellent views of Mulkila mountain range and Samudra Tapu Glacier. The color of water keeps changing through out the day from reddish to orange to blue to emerald green as day passes.
One can stay at the Chandratal Lake Camp Retreat which comprises of comfortable 15 trekking tents with comfortable sleeping and sitting areas with attached bathrooms having hot water and western toilettes. The camp also has a kitchen that offers a variety of cuisines.
Pin Valley National Park in Spiti is located near Mikkim in the Pin valley of Spiti at height ranging from 3,500 m to 6000 m above sea level. It is home to endangered species like Snow leopard, the endemic Himalayan Ibex, the mighty Bharal or Blue Sheep and Lynx. One can take the road from Manali to Mikkim to reach the Pin Valley National Park.
Kaza town is situated about 224 kms. from Manali. Kaza is a sub-divisional headquarters of Spiti Valley. Located on the bank of Spiti river, it has modern facilities and is well connected by road with Manali and Shimla except in the winter months.
Kibber town is one of the highest villages in the world at an altitude of 4205 meters above sea level. This village is situated in a narrow valley surrounded by mountains from all sides.
Gette village, at a short distance away from Kaza, is the highest in the world with a height of 4270 m.
There are five main Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Spiti -- Ki, Komic, Dhankar, Kungri (in the Pin Valley) and Tabo. Visiting these monasteries is a fascinating experience.
Ki Manastery located not far from Kaza, Ki Gompa is the largest and most accessible monastery in Spiti.
Tabo Monastery: Founded in 996 AD, Tabo is the oldest monastery and has an important role to play. The Dalai Lama will retire from his duties there. Although Tabo is located 2 hours from Kaza, it's well worth a visit.
Dhankar Monastery: It's the spectacular rocky setting that makes this monastery special. The sculptures and frescoes are also interesting.
Komic Monastery: This small monastery is perched on a desolate hilltop overlooking Asia's highest village.
Tourist destinations in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
Dharmashala, is is located in the Kangra valley, in the Dhauladhar mountains, and is the capital of the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. Dharmashala is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of stately Deodars, the Himalayan cedar. The town is divided between McLeod Ganj or Upper Dharamshala (which retains a British colonial atmosphere), and Lower Dharamshala (the commercial centre). Upper Dharamshala is about 9 kilometers from Lower Dharamshala by road and is about 1,500 ft higher. McLeod Ganj, is the home of Tibetan spiritual leader, and Nobel Laureate Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government. With the arrival of the Dalai Lama, along with thousands of refugees to Dharamshala in 1959 (after the Chinese ocuupation of Tibet), a number of tibetan settlements with religious education centers came up making Dharamshala the headquarter of the Tibetan Government in exile, and a popular destination for Buddhist, Indian and foreign tourists.
Dharmashala is well connected by road with other parts of North India. There are several HPTDC and private bus services from Manali to Dharmashala. The nearest airport is Gaggal airport in Kangra.
Things To Do in Dharmashala:
There are a number of things to do in Dharmashala, activities such as trekking, rock-climbing, fishing, pilgrimage, heritage tours.
Dharamkot: This village is 20 minutes walk further up the hill from McLeod Ganj. It is a favorite picnic spot with a panoramic view of the Kangra valley and outer Himalaya – the fabled Pir Panjal range.
Palampur: 50 kms away from Dharamsala Palampur is famous for its tea gardens. The best Kangra tea is available at the Agricultural University at Palampur.
Bhagsunag falls has many waterfalls, an ancient temple, numerous slate quarries and a fresh water spring. This place is at a distance of around 11 kms from Dharamshala and it is easily approachable by road from Mcleodganj.
Norbulingka Institute located 15 kms below McLeod Ganj in Sidhpur, is committed to preserving Tibetan arts-and-crafts skills. Master artists train young apprentices in thangka (intricate Tibetan scroll painting depicting meditational deities), metalwork, appliqué, embroidery, and wood carving. You can visit the artists in their studios, pick up a sample in the gift shop, and pop into the Losel Doll Museum to see a wonderful collection of traditional Tibetan costumes.
Tsuglagkhang Complex on Temple Road is the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet, and it has a large meditation hall containing some beautiful statues and thangkas, as well as a Kalachakra temple with beautiful murals. It is the monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and is located just in front of his residence.
On the basement level of the complex you will also find the Namgyal Cafe, which is run as a work-training center for Tibetan youth.
Tibet Museum, opposite Tsuglagkhang is a small but interesting museum on the history of Tibet and its people.
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), on the road to Dharamkot, hosts wonderful evenings of music and dance, and an International Himalayan Festival every December.
More Info: Fodor's, Bharat Online
Dalhousie is a quiet hill station in the Chamba District of Himachal Pradesh. A number of picturesque walks run through the oak, pine and deodar forests around the town and offer excellent views of the Chenab, the Ravi and the Beas valleys. It is thickly wooded with stately pines and oaks and has lovely picnic spot all around. Lord Dalhousie founded the town in 1854 as its fresh and peaceful atmosphere and healthy surroundings enchanted him. Later it became a sanatorium for the British. The modern town is situated among the five hills Balun, Kathlog, Petreyn, Tehra and Bakrota, facing the Pir Panjal range of snow-capped and pristine mountains.
There are bus services from Pathankot to Dalhousie and local(HPTDC) buses that ply between Dalhousie and Dharmashala.
Things to do around Dalhousie:
Though spread over five distinct hills - Kathlog, Portreyn, Tehra, Bakrota and Balun, covering an area of 13 sq kms, the main center continues to be at Portreyn. The Figure of Eight of Portreyn is the most popular walk in Dalhousie.
Bakrota Hills : (alt. 2,085 metres ) The fascinating and bewitching Bakrota Hills offer a grand view of snow-clad peaks. Tourists can enjoy brisk walks here.
Kalatope: One of the best views of the glorious surroundings of Dalhousie can be obtained from Kalatope, 8 kms from the center of Dalhousie.
Panchpulla (Five Bridges) - is a good spot for picnics.
Satdhara has long been known for its mineral water which was once shipped to England on a regular basis.
Daikund- the Singing Hill: The passage of mountain winds through the forest at Dainkund produces a series of effects - depending on the wind's velocity - ranging from a gentle humming to an eerie wail. Hence Daikund is also called the Singing Hill.
Churches in Dalhousie: Dalhousie town has several old Churches that form an integral part of a complete tour of this picturesque Himalayan town.Built by the British, the churches in Dalhousie carry the old European charm with its architectural style and ambiance. The churches of Dalhousie attract a large number of worshipers and followers as their architectural brilliance and beautiful locations have made them places of great tourist attraction. Few of the churches have libraries and photo galleries that preserve rare information and photographs of the old days. Some of Dalhousie's most visited churches are:
- St. John's Church
- St. Patrick's Church
- St. Andrew's Church
- St. Francis Church
There are several other places of tourist interest close to Dalhousie.
Khajjiar is 7 kilometers from Dalhousie. It is a paradise for nature lover’s and adventure seekers. The marvelous meadow, lovely lake and the captivating cedar trees add to the beauty of Khajjiar. The ancient, golden domed temple of Khajinag lends its name to Khajjiar. Khajjiar also has a nine-hole golf course.
Chamba Also called the Jewel of the Himalayas, Chamba is 56 kms away from Dalhousie. Chamba could have derived its name from the abundance of fragrant Champa flowers in the area or the princess Champavati. While in Chamba visit the Lakshminarayana temple complex. The temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu reveal the elegance of the Hindu style of architecture. Another place to visit in Chamba is the Rang Mahal Palace. This palace is in the shape of a feudal castle and boasts of marvelous murals. The Bhuri Singh Museum is also worth visiting in Chamba. Amongst the many exhibits are the paintings, sculptures, stone inscriptions, wonderful embroideries, ancient weapons, and other rare artifacts.