A few weeks ago I traveled to India to meet my family. We decided to travel to Manali for a weekend, and it was one of the best trips we took as a family.
Manali is a popular tourist destination in India. It is famous for its towering peaks and beautiful terrain. People flock here from different parts of the country for their honeymoon, family vacations or backpacking.
Manali was named after a Sanatan Hindu lawgiver, Manu. If we take the literal translation of Manali, its “Manu-Alaya” which means “the abode of Manu.” Legend has it that Manu recreated mankind in Kullu Valley after it was destroyed by a flash flood.
How to get to Manali? Manali is located in the north of Kullu Valley. You can travel to Manali by flying to Kullu (Kullu-Manali Airport) and then taking a bus from there to Manali. Another option is to take a bus from Delhi. In our case, we took a Volvo bus from my hometown, Panipat. The bus was quite comfortable, blankets were provided for the night, and it stopped a couple of times for refreshment. While coming back, there was even wi-fi available on the bus. I can say that the journey to Manali was at least half as good as Manali. The total time it takes to reach from Delhi to Manali is approximately 13 hours.
Now, let’s get to things that you can do in Manali:
1) Vashisht Temple Manali: We kicked off Day 1 with a visit to Vashishth Temple. This temple is famous for its medicinal hot springs. If you bathe in the hot springs, a lot of your skin diseases and ailments will be cured due to its healing powers. The baths are separate for men and women and are usually crowded with lots of devotees. The Vashisht temple is named after a Sage, Rishi. This temple is around 4000 years old and has beautiful carvings of wood. As you can see from my photo, it’s a popular tourist destination.
2) River crossing: After visiting Vashisht temple, we wanted to have some adventure and decided to zip across a river. Since this was the first time I did river crossing, I was a bit scared, but I eventually enjoyed it so much that I was almost dancing with happiness. The cost was 500 INR (A$10) for one time. There are plenty of places where you can do river crossing in Manali and if you cant figure them out, ask your driver or the locals. They will guide you to the right place. This place was suggested by our driver too and it most definitely was a good one.
3) Hidimba Temple: After the river crossing, we were off to Hidimba Temple. According to Mahabharata, an Indian epic, Hidimba was a demon. She was the wife of the second brother of the Pandavas, Bhima. This temple is dedicated to Hidimba Devi. She used to live in this area full of tall beautiful cedar trees with her brother Hidimb. The temple is made out of wood and stone.
Hidimba had pledged that she would marry someone who could defeat her brother Hidimb. Bhima had come to Manali when Pandavas were in exile. While in exile he killed Hidimb to protect the villagers from his tortures. After his win over Hidimb, he married Hidimba. They both had a son named Ghatotkacha whose temple is near Hidimba’s temple- it’s an open temple. The locals worship Hidimba because she was believed to be a very kind and just ruler. Inside the temple, there is a small cave with a stone which is believed to have footprints of Hidimba Devi.
On the way to Ghatotkacha temple, you can get photos clicked in traditional clothes of Manali along with Yaks and rabbits. It was the most exciting part of my trip. The photographers either give you a hard copy of the photos or transfer them to your phone. As far as I remember it was not more than 100INR (A$2) per person. It’s worth a try for such an amazing experience.
4) Hampta Pass: On Day 2, we were off to Hampta Pass. It was at least an hour’s drive from our hotel and we required permissions to enter the pass. The drive was as serene as Hampta valley with its sheer curves. If I remember, there were 42 curves on this few kilometers distance. You can either trek up to Hampta or drive. The treks are very popular amongst backpackers. When we went, there was still some snow left from the season. It’s a popular spot for filming movies and skiing. We went until the end of the valley and the untouched beauty of the place took my breath away. The views were impeccable. It certainly was a very tranquil experience with a beautiful river flowing with pure icy cold water and tall mountains covered with snow. I think it’s one of the few places in India where you can drink water straight out of the river or the tap.
As far as skiing was concerned, it was a good experience but not a great one. It was overpriced and the slope was too small for you to actually experience skiing but if you are like me, go for it. Afterall, it’s all about learning from experiences. The cost was again 500INR (A$10). Apart from this, you can also get photos clicked here in traditional clothes or enjoy hot tea with light snacks.
6) Solang Valley: After Hampta Pass, we went to Solang Valley. It’s the most popular tourist destination in Manali now that Rohtang Pass is closed. The place was full of tourists and stalls selling Maggie, sandwiches, momos and tea/coffee. Solang is a popular spot to do paragliding because of its views. You can do other sports activities as well, like skiing, mountain biking, zip lining etc. Even in the last week of January, the valley was covered with snow.
One thing that I did not like about Solang was that it was very dusty. When you enter the valley, you are greeted with many stalls but don’t stop there. Keep walking up the main road and you will see more stalls but there would be less dust and you will enjoy your food more. We took a cable car and the views from the top were mesmerizing. No camera can capture the beauty that I saw with my naked eyes. It was like a scene out of a movie. On the top, there is a small stall where you can sip your hot tea, eat sweets, feed the cute dogs and just breathe pure air.
It was beautiful! Oh, and you can get clicked with furry rabbits too.
7) Manikaran: Manikaran is around 2 hours and 27 minutes drive from Manali. On the way, you cross Kasol as well, which means you can enjoy another awesome place.
Manikaran is famous for Sri Guru Nanak Devji Gurudwara and it’s hot springs. Both Hindu and Sikh pilgrims come here for worship, and both of the religious communities have their own beliefs about this place. The gurudwara provides free cooked food to all the pilgrims. This food is kept in the pots which are then immersed in the hot springs. These hot springs are supposed to have medicinal value and can cure muscle pain. This is due to their high sulfur content. The gurudwara also provides shelter for people who go there to stay for months. Next to the gurudwara is Lord Shiva temple which is visited by thousands of pilgrims from every part of India.
The temple and gurudwara are located on the banks of river Parvati. There are also several camping spots on the banks of this river. It’s a very peaceful place and has really positive vibes to it.
8) Paragliding: After visiting the gurudwara and the temple, we were off for paragliding in Kullu. Kullu has several places for paragliding and river rafting. Since we went in winter, we could not do river rafting but I am sure it will be incredible in summers. So back to Paragliding. Initially, I was really scared because I have acrophobia- fear of heights. So, I closed my eyes while jumping off from the cliff and opened them when we were in the air and stable.
Honestly, I could not believe my eyes. The view was incredible. It was ecstatic. I felt like a bird soaring through the sky. The stunning views of the river and the mountains next to it stole my heart. It was one of the best experiences of my life, better than the rest of the trip. When I was up there, nothing mattered. There was no thought in mind. NONE. Whatsoever! Nor did I want to click any pictures and neither did I feel like making a video. It was serene. Only if words could describe my feelings!
9) Mall Road, Manali: This brings us to the last part of the trip, SHOPPING. The mall road in Manali is a great place to shop hand embroidered clothes and pashminas. They don’t cost you a bomb and are of extremely good quality. You can buy Kashmiri shawls, gorgeous hand weaved sarees, socks, caps, woollen items, artificial jewellery, wooden souvenirs, antiques, books, Tibetan items and much more. After you are tired of shopping, there are many places to please your hunger pangs as well.
10) Breathe and Enjoy: Lastly, don’t forget to enjoy and have fun. Leave your work behind and enjoy the serenity of the place. Eat momos, go shopping, do trekking or take a bath in a hot spring. Maybe go off the radar? Whatever works best for you to make the most of your trip.
Until next time! Lots of love and positive vibes your way xx