Manali has always been a favorite among the Indian traveler. Along with Dharamshala and Shimla, Manali forms a triumvirate of the 3 most frequented vacation destinations in Himachal Pradesh.
What makes Manali so special among travelers across the board is that there’s something appealing for everyone. For the backpacker and the adventurers, the quaint cafes of Old Manali, pocket sized guesthouses and the hot water springs of Vashisht. Manali is also a gateway to some amazing treks and is a welcome pit stop on the arduous journey to Leh.
For the quintessential Indian traveler groups, family, friends and couples. Geater Manali presents an idyllic setting to vacation in. For the spiritual traveler Manali boasts of more than a few Yoga retreats and is also home to some truly beautiful Buddhist monasteries and temples
History and Culture of Manali
Manali gets its name from a Hindu sage Manu. Manali literally translates into the home of Manu. The town like the rest of Kullu district is also closely linked with Lord Ram. It is said that the ruler of Manali was Lord Raghunathji an avatar of Lord Ram and the princely rulers ruled in their name.
Legend has it that an Idol of Lord Raghunath would be placed on the throne after someone told the erstwhile ruler, Raja Jagat Singh to personally visit Ayodhya and procure this idol that would cure his leprosy. Miraculously after being cured of his leprosy. Raja Jagat Singh and all his successors would rule Manal and by extension the kingdom of Mandi in Lord Raghunathji’s trust.
A local temple that is frequented is the Hidimbi temple. Hidimbi was the wife of Bhima. Though she is believed to be of the Rakshasa clan (demon) She is worshipped as a deity and huge crowds throng to the temple during Dussehra and Navratri to worship and pay their offering.
Manali also has a strong Buddhist influence and is home to a few monasteries. The Himalayan Nyinmapa Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in the new town of Manali is one of the most frequently visited due to its proximity to the markets of Manali. Tibetan and European influencers can also be found in the cafes and the German bakeries that can be spotted across all of Old Manali.
How to get to Manali
By Air – The closest airport to Manali is the Kullu – Manali airport in Bhuntar, Kullu district which is a little under two hours away from Manali. The flight connectivity between Bhuntar and Chandigarh, Delhi and Shimla is extremely erratic and expensive. Flying into Chandigarh or Delhi is the safer option. Manali is about 16 hours away from Delhi and about 10 from Chandigarh
By Rail – Manali like the rest of Himachal is not well connected by Rail. The best bet again is to take a train until Delhi or Chandigarh and then take a bus or hire a taxi to make the rest of the journey.
By Road – Primary mode of reaching Manali. Road connectivity from both Delhi and Chandigarh is great. While the distances are long and the roads full of hairpin turns. The quality of roads is really good and the journeys are smoother and not as taxing.
Best time to travel to Manali
What makes Manali so special among travelers is the fact that it is accessible throughout the year. While most of the country prepares itself for the insufferable Indian Summer, the weather gods shine upon Manali, making it a perfect time to visit this mountain town, to prepare for a hike, a yoga retreat or just to catch a break. Manali does not judge and welcomes all.
Manali can get overcrowded during Christmas and New years eve coupled with extremely cold weather and overpriced accommodation. A late December trip to Manali is best avoided.
Getting around Manali
Manali is a really small town. You best bet is to walk. However there are taxis and bus services to go check out places on the outskirts. Within Manali, walking and auto rickshaws remain your best bet at transit.
Breaking stereotypes about Manali
Manali is extremely touristic – Well it is true that New Manali and the mall road area is touristic and crowded and not very retreat in the mountain like. Old Manali however retains some of the old world charm and is more peaceful since it is relatively untouched. If Manali is on your list, spend as much time in Old Manali as possible
Go check out
Hidimba Devi Temple – Built in the 16th century, Hidimba Devi Temple is a cave temple dedicated to the deity Hidimbi, the wife of Bhima from Mahabharata. The temple is surrounded by a beautiful cedar forest and the temple holds a special place among the locals of Manali. Try visiting the Temple, especially during Navaratri or Hidimba Devi fair that takes place in May.
Hampta Pass – An avid trekkers favorite, the Hampta pass crossover trek has so much to offer. For the uninitiated, the trek is moderately easy and can be covered over 5 days. What is changes in scenery that take place with every day of this, from forests to fjords to beautiful meadows. The Hampta pass is a truly riveting experience.