Once called the "end of the habitable world," Manali is an important hill station of northern India and is the destination of thousands of tourists every year. Its cool atmosphereprovides a perfect haven for the ones afflicted by the hot Indian summers. Besides offering quite a few places for sightseeing, Manali is also famous for adventure sports like skiing, hiking, mountaineering, paragliding, rafting, trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking. In brief, Manali-the veritable "valley of the Gods"-is an ideal place for the ones in search of both adventure and comfort. The Kulluis in brightly patterned puttoos, Tibetan women wearing ankle-length rainbow-striped pinafores, Nepali porters, Buddhist monks, and even the odd party of Zanskaris, swathed in fusty woolen gonchas, muddled together with souvenir-hunting Indian and Western tourists-all add up to the welcoming hubbub of Manali.
Situated in the central parts of the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, Manali is at the head of the Kullu valley, 280 km north of the state capital Shimla and 108 km from Mandi. Manali is perched at an altitude of 2050 meters above sea level and is spread along the banks of the river Beas. In winters, the temperature can drop below freezing point when heavy woolens are required. Summer temperatures are mild and light woolens/cottons are recommended. In Manali, one can find high mountains shrouded by silent snows and deep boulder strewn gorges. There are thick forests, filled with cool breezes and bird song. There are fields of wild flowers, small picturesque hamlets and fruit-laden orchards, especially apples.
Manali has a pre-historic legend behind its name. Vaivasvata, the seventh incarnation of Manu, the first creation according to Hindu mythology, found a tiny fish in his bathing water. The fish told him to look after it with devotion, for one day it would do him a great service. The seventh Manu cared for the fish until it grew so huge that he released it into the sea. Before departing, the fish warned Manu of an impending deluge when the entire world would be submerged and bade him to build a seaworthy ark. When the flood came, Matsya (fish), the first avatar of Lord Vishnu, towed Vaivasvata and the Seven Sages to safety. As the waters subsided, the seventh Manu's ark came to rest on a hillside and the place was named Manali after him.
Best Time to Visit
The very well-known hill station of Manali is charming all around the year. While summers bring respite from the heated plains of the country, the winters cover the place with a sheet of white snow, making it all the more stunning. One can partake in sightseeing and adventure sports like river rafting, paragliding, zip lining and zorbing in summers, the winters are ideal for enjoying snowfall and snow sports in Manali. It is advisable to avoid the rainy season (July-August) because of landslides.
From September to February, the temperatures might go down to minus 1 degree Celsius and the weather is amazingly cold. In December and January, the place is entirely covered in snow. It is time for snow sports like skiing, snow scooter ride etc. March to June are summer months where the temperature is pleasant, varying between 10 degree C to 25 degree C. During this time, sightseeing, adventure activities at Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass (closed in winter months due to snow on roads) are a must.
How to Reach
BY AIR -Bhuntar airport or Kullu Manali airport is the nearest airport to Manali. It is located at a distance of around 50 km from the main city. This airport at Bhuntar is very well-connected with regular flights to important Indian cities like Delhi and Chandigarh. From outside the airport, private taxis are available.
BY RAIL -The nearest railway station to Manali is Jogindernagar railway station, which is located at a distance of 143 km from here. This railhead connects Manali with important cities of India. Chandigarh railway station (314 km) and Ambala Cantt Junction (342 km) are two other nearest railway station, connecting Manali with other places in India, by train. Taxis and buses make the hill town available from the railway stations.
BY ROAD -The very popular hill station of Manali is well-connected to important tourist destinations of India such as Delhi, Leh, Kullu, Dharamshala, Chandigarh, Ambala, Dehradun and Shimla. Apart from private taxis/cabs, private and state-run buses ply to Manali on a regular basis. There are both, air-conditioned and regular bus services.
- The oft-visited site in Manali is the Hidimba or Dhungri Temple. Erected in 1533, this temple is dedicated to the local deity Hidimba, wife of the Pandava prince, Bhim. A major festival is held here in the month of May. The temple is noted for its four-storeyed pagoda and exquisite wooden carvings.
- Manali is known for its shiny gompas or Buddhist monasteries. With the highest concentration of Tibetan refugees in the entire Kullu valley, it is famous for its Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa, built in 1969. The monastery is maintained by donations from the local community and through the sale of hand-woven carpets in the temple workshop.
- The smaller and more modern Himalayan Nyingamapa Gompa stands nearer the bazaar, in a garden blooming with sunflowers. Its main shrine, lit by dozens of electric bulbs and fragrant with Tibetan incense, houses a colossal gold-faced Buddha, best viewed from the small room on the first floor.
- The Museum of Traditional Himachal Culture, near the Hidimba temple, is worth a visit, which houses artifacts of folk art of the entire Kullu valley.