Heavenly Manali – Winter Trip – Day 3

Welcome along to Heavenly Manali – Winter Trip – Day 3. You can read about day 2 here. What a day it was to wake up and see this? If you thought why I wanted to see the sun the previous day so badly, the reason is below.

                                                         A wonderful morning

The day started as absolutely glorious. I just couldn’t wait to leave my hotel. I got up, put my camera’s up for charging and started getting. As soon as the batteries got full, I left with my backpack.

A day with no plans

There was no plan, just to walk around as much as possible. I stayed quite close to DPS, Dhungri(in the first pic). The area around the school had so much snow, I gave in to my temptation and went ahead. The crunching sound of cracking snow, the cold frosting breeze, the sun, the water droplets falling from the deodar tree leaves made the experience extraordinary. At some places, the snow was knee deep. I am currently preparing a video from my time in Manali and will add the link as soon as it is ready for you to see.

There were dried apple tree farms and few homes whose shades had inches of thick snow as a result of 2 day of heavy snowfall. Then I took a back alley route to Hidimba Devi temple. I had seen the temple from afar for the past two days but did not enter the compound since I wanted the experience to be slow and lasting and not in a hurry. The temple is a protected heritage, one of the oldest mythological temple. You can feel the beauty of the place just as you enter. I am not overstating that it is by far my most favourite place in all of Manali, along with a riverside seat on a snowy stone beside the old Manali bridge( a little later).

                                                                      Hidimba Temple

 

                                                                 Great Himalayan Nature Park

Going old ways

After spending more than an hour trying to absorb and capture everything this place had to offer, I made my way towards Old Manali. The plan was to visit the vintage Manali, go to Manu Rishu temple and come back and have food at one of the famous Old Manali cafe’s. But while on my way towards Old Manali, while descending a set of stairs, my eyes went across the left side where I saw River Beas flowing. There was a beautiful collection of snow-covered stones and the temptation led me there.

As mentioned before as my most favourite place, I couldn’t resist going there. I made my way through the knee and thigh deep snow. Finally, after throwing off the snow from the stone, I made myself comfortable beside the river. Spent a good amount of time, more than an hour I believe at that spot just looking at the flowing water.

 

I finally managed to break the trance of this river and crossed the bridge and reached Old Manali. It is an old looking town, but it has come along with the main town and doesn’t really look old right from the outset. But as you move towards Manu Rishi Temple, you will start to feel the vintage nature coming back to you. The cows strung together in a stable, old shack like houses, traditional Himachal outfit worn by senior members of the society, all give you that throwback feel.

Manu Rishi Temple

By the way, in all this, you should know that reaching Manu Rishi temple by walk is no easy thing. After walking a good 30 min of uphill climb, you will be huffing and puffing when you reach the temple gates.

It is an old temple, dedicated to Manu-Rishi, one of the oldest lawmakers of India. Located in a quiet place, you can sit here in peace for a while. A dog is here to play around with you if you are interested.

                                                            Manu Rishi Temple

After walking so much, it was now time to eat. To my disappointment, I found that some of the known were not open or opened only during summer time. Finally, after descending all the way down, I got down to eat at Evergreen Cafe, right beside the flowing River Beas. Not bad, I thought.

After this delighful meal, I left and made my way towards Mall Road via the circuit house road. On the way I found the Himalayan Nature Park and walked for about an hour inside the park among tall deodar trees.

Finally made my way to Mall Road. It is the busiest place in Manali by far, and having spent so much lone time, I felt good to be back in amongst people.

After spending some time here, and having walked around pretty much the whole day, a total of 11 km, I made my way back to the hotel. Easily one of the best travelling days. Everything was random and with enough time at each place. That’s the whole essence of travelling where you get time to absorb each place. Today it felt like Heavenly Manali.

Next and final day report coming soon.

If you are into Formula 1, please read my other blogs.

 

 

Heavenly Manali – Winter Trip – Day 2

So welcome along to my Heavenly Manali – Winter Trip – Day 2 experience. Read about day 1 here. The snowfall from Solang Valley has descended down to Manali town and there was heavy snowfall the previous night. I felt the chill from within my room and for once I wished the snowfall stopped. But then I slept anyway and woke up to another murky morning. Having wet my jacket yesterday which wasn’t totally dry in the morning, I did not want this dark and cloudy weather to continue. But that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Naggar Castle:

The day’s plan was to cover Naggar castle, one monastery and Jana waterfall along with Kullu Valley. So after all the hopes for sun withered away, it was time to leave in the rain. I hated the idea of getting wet again but it’s part of the experience and I went along. Soon the cab arrived and I was on my way. It is about 40kms away from Manali and in a not so distant past, Kullu also received snow, but it doesn’t anymore. Naggar Castle is an artistic monument which also has a hotel and restaurant inside along with a temple. The architecture is pretty and the monument is well maintained. It was the official seat of kings for centuries. was built by Raja Sidh Singh more than 500 years ago. According to a legend, he used stones from the abandoned palace (Gardhak) of Rana Bhonsal to build the castle. (Src: Wikipedia).

Naggar Castle

Jana waterfall:

To be honest, I wasn’t really enjoying the rain and somehow wanted to end the day tour short. My jacket was wet again and it’s very uncomfortable in cold weather. So next I went to Jana waterfall, which was about an hour from the palace. It is a famous tourist destination as and I saw a few people climbing up the rocks up the waterfall. I tried to go for a short while and then lost my way. The rocks had become very slippery due to constant rain so I decided to track back and return. It must be a different experience in a different weather, but rain continued to play spoilsport.

slippery road

Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery

Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery

Next, we visited the Dhakpo Shedrupling Monastery, one of the biggest you will find in Kullu. Truly beautiful, and the scenes from this place are fantastic. I walked the campus and clicked a few pictures, saw the classrooms and hostels for students. After that, it was time for the next destination.

On the way back to the hotel, we halted near the Kullu River rafting point. I sat by the riverside on the stones for a long time and clicked a few pictures and tried a few more things with the camera which didn’t work out. It was the best time of the day, with no rain and slow breeze was blowing. Hearing the River Beas flow gives an amazing peace of mind and I wish I could have stayed there forever but it’s not possible, is it? Had to finally leave but was glad that this happened because it made my day whole lot better. I was no more sulking at the weather.

So it was all in all an okay experience with the highlight coming right at the end. That also marked the end of my car expeditions and next day onwards it will be all walk.

Heavenly Manali – Winter Trip – Day 1

Day 1

After an incomplete trip to Sikkim (read this), I was eager to explore more. I kept reading about regular snowfall and heart kept telling me Manali. So, I decided to make a short trip to Manali in February 3rd week. I read other blogs like this and this and a few more as part of pre-trip research.

When I was planning the trip, I was sure of one thing and that was I would go around as much as possible on my own. I did not want to be sitting inside a car and be dropped off at some locations. Sure, some far off places like Solang and Kullu Valley do require vehicles, but Manali in itself can be very much covered on foot. So there we go, the day came and I took my flight to Delhi.

Delhi

I reached Delhi sometime in the afternoon, probably around 3.30 pm. Then I caught metro for Hauz Khaas and a subsequent metro to Kashmere Gate, ISBT. The total cost of the metro journey was only Rs.50 (imagine taking Ola or Uber). Delhi Metro is one of the best things to have happened for the people there. Anyway, I had my lunch and went towards the Bus Stand, found out the departure point (not very difficult) and waited for about an hour. I had booked for Himachal Tourism Volvo which departed @ 6 pm. As it said, we did depart on time. The bus was comfortable and the pilot was a very very good and calm fellow.

Manali

We were on time and reached Manali around 7.40 am in the morning. There is always a concern in these regions whether there will be any road blockages. I was told that the previous day’s bus was about 7 hours late due to landslide somewhere. Anyway I got down and called my accommodation guy for pick up arrangements. We also discussed a tour plan of Rs.3500 which included pick up and drop as well as 4 days of sightseeing in a cab. I found this cheap since I compared it to my cost from other places so I was tempted. But I refused the part where the cab would take me local sightseeing. So finally, we agreed on a 2-day trip plus pick and drop for Rs. 2200. Rest of the journey I had already decided to cover on foot.

Solang Valley

One look at the sky and you could tell that the weather was about to get worse ( or good, if snowfall is your thing). From my Sikkim experience, I knew if I decide to rest today, I might not get a chance to go to Solang Valley since the roads will get blocked. So, even after a 12 hr long journey on bus, I decided to visit Solang that very day. The cab came at around 11 am, and I left. I went to Manali all prepared for snowfall (and yes, it is my thing) and boy it was about to pay dividends the very first day.

After encountering traffic, which is usual, by the way, due to constant road repair work, we reached Solang by 12.45 pm. It is only 19kms but traffic takes a chunk of your time. You would be amazed at the queue of vehicles on the way. So the cabbie asked me to get down and complete rest on foot since it would be very difficult to turn back from further ahead. I could see why, and so I got down.

You will find so many people who come here to enjoy the snow, kids falling and jumping in snow pile, girls and boys throwing snowballs at each other. Did I say it was severely cold?. SnowMobiles were begging me to take a ride but I continued afoot. Please carry sunglasses or snow reflectors if you do not want to go blind watching snow all the time.

The sight was absolutely amazing to behold. Beautiful white pine trees, kids in colourful jackets adding much-needed colour and vibrancy to the otherwise white scenery. It is what happiness looks like to me, it is white. Pine tree stems and leaves covered with snow, snow falling from the tall deodar trees as they sway right and left. Half an hour in Solang Valley, it began. Yes, snowfall. I was moving towards the ropeway when I felt the gentlest of landing on my cheecks and gloves. It couldn’t be anything else other than the white feathers of nature.

I continued and on my way and snowfall got stronger. In some time I looked like this(see the background).

I could not have made a better decision that day than to come here. I felt amazing and experienced something I had wished for long. Solang Ropeway was wuite far from my intial estimation and reached there after quite a long and tedious walk and bought tickets for Rs.650. As the carriage started going up, you could see the snowfall getting heavier. Paragliding was going on in the midst of it. At the top, the scenes were extraordinary. Few English guys were prepping for snowboarding in fresh powder and for a while, I felt jealous to not know that stuff. And then I saw them making a long climb up with their boards and felt I don’t need that.

After this amazing experience, it was time to head back to find my cab in all of those thousands of other similar ones. On my way back, got some more photos. Take a look.

I did somehow managed to find my ride and went back very satisfied. It was like all I wanted to see on this trip and I had it all on the first day itself. On the way back, the driver was telling me about the culture, people and seasons as well as the vegetation. I felt quite informed by the end of first day and happy that my I did not rest that day. Whatever happened that day, vindicated my decision.

 

Manali trip on a budget

Brief Intro:

Named after the rishi ‘Manu’,  ancient India’s first law-maker. My guess is that its initial name will be “Manalay”(Manu+ alaya), meaning Manu’s home, which in time came to be known as Manali. One of the most popular hill stations in India in every season but saves its best for winters. Situated in Kullu District of Devbhoomi (Himachal), around 550 km from Delhi, Manali is a hub for tourists who plan to visit Leh, Spiti, Kasol, Mandi or do some other famous treks to lake such as Bhrigu.

I had the privilege to visit Manali this February and experienced its glory first hand. I had planned a budget trip, so in this write-up, I will let you know how I managed it. Also, since this was my first solo trip, exploring on foot would be the best option to save a few hundred. I will detail my trip in another series of blog, here I will tell you how to cheaply plan your trip if you are a backpacker with a decent fitness level. Read on for how to plan Manali trip on a budget.

How to reach:

There are primarily 2 ways to reach here, either by bus or air. The preferred location to start your trip will be from Delhi. In case you are coming from another city, you can take a train or flight to Delhi or Chandigarh. As for getting to Manali, let me elaborate:

  • Air – The nearest airport is in Kullu, about 50 km from Manali. The flights to Kullu are rather expensive, so I would not advise it if you are not looking to splurge.
  • Bus from Delhi: The best option is to take a bus from ISBT Kashmere Gate, Delhi to Manali. It will cost you around 1700/- for an HRTC bus. There are a lot of semi sleeper Volvo buses as well as general public buses plying from Delhi to Manali daily. From punctuality perspective, your best bet would be HRTC buses, since they don’t stop at any random location to pick up passengers. Other private buses start from either Majnu ka Tila or from Himachal Bhavan.  The journey will take you around 13-14 hrs, given there are no roadblocks due to tress or landslides. Read Redbus reviews before making bus selection.
  • Bus from Chandigarh: Almost the same as Delhi with regards to buses. The pickup location is in Sector-43, takes about 3-4 hrs less than what it takes from Delhi. Consequently, the price is a bit less, with HRTC buses costing around 1200/-.

If you want less bus time, you should opt for Chandigarh. Else, both locations are equally appropriate locations for starting your trip.

Where to stay:

This is the trickiest part of the trip. For a wonderful experience, the place of stay has to be very ideally located. As for me, I stayed at a place around 2 km from Mall Road. I wouldn’t say it was ideally located since some places mentioned in the next section were quite close while somewhere we somewhat far in terms of walking. So let me help you with the selection, from what I have learnt from my trip.

As far as my opinion goes, I would suggest you pick a place very near Mall road since it is ideally located in the heart of Manali. Let’s look at distances of various local attractions from Mall Road:

  1. Hidimba Devi Temple – ~2 km
  2. Great Himalayan Nature Park – ~1.5 km
  3. Vashisht – ~3.5 km
  4. Manu Rishi Temple – ~2.5 km
  5. Old Manali –  ~1.5 km

All these distance are from my own personal experience. I had covered 21 km in 2 days which included exploring all the above places. You can divide these places between 2 days, and walk it out. If you pick a sightseeing local cab, all these will be done in a day and could cost you about 1500/-.

If you are looking for a quieter experience, you can choose to stay little beyond Hidimba temple (where I stayed). It is quite a solitary experience and wonderful for peace of mind.

For Solang Valley, excursion to Kullu Valley and for visiting Rohtang pass, you would have to anyway get a private/shared cab. So it hardly matters where you are staying.

For cheap, hassle-free booking you can always choose Airbnb. I have had a very good experience all the 3 times that I have used it.

What To Explore:

Once you reach there in the morning, there will be a line of cab drivers hounding you, offering to drop you to your hotel. I would suggest to talk to your hotel and ask for a pickup or at least pick-up charge and then bargain with the cabbies. They ask something around 300-400 for your drop, depending on how far and how elevated your hotel is.

Ideally, after a long bus journey, you would want to take it easy that day and rest in your hotel with a light stroll sometime in the evening or night.

The places mentioned below can all be done on foot. You can take your sweet time to go about it and try to soak in as much as you can.

Hidimba Temple: One of my favourite places simply because of the mythological feel to it as well as it is surrounded by tall Deodar trees giving it a very woody and rollback-in-time feeling. The temple is very old and dedicated to Hidimba (wife of Bhima).

Great Himalayan Nature Park: Walking around in the evening amongst the tall Deodar trees is easily one of the most soothing feelings. You will always have a sense of belonging amongst trees and that provides a very calming experience.

Old Manali: The older, ethnic of Manali. Lying at the other end of the bridge over River Beas, come here to experience the rustic charm of this mythological wonder of a place. You have a large number of cafe’s to choose from to spend your evening riverside and some faint music. I would suggest Cafe Kathmandu, which has a blistering view of flowing Beas river.

Mall Road:

Busy place, best for shopping. Variety of shops selling all kinds of stuff. Kashmiri products like Saffron, Shawls, dry fruits are also available readily. With local handicrafts, eateries, travel agencies all available, this can be your shopping destination.

Manu Rishi Temple:

Once you reach cross the bridge for Old Manali, take left and keep walking until you see the signboard below and then walk some more.

Finally, after a long, arduous climb for about a km, you will reach the gates of the temple. Walk up, take your blessing, enjoy the view, catch your breath and get ready to walk back.

Manu Rishi Temple

Vashisht Temple:

Ideally should be done the following day, since it is also quite a walk from Mall road, around 3.5 km. The journey is filled with a few steep inclines that will puncture your breathing tube on multiple occasions. But you should carry on to the end. Once there, you can take a dip in the hot water pool. This is supposed to have medicinal value and also quite relaxing.

 

Vashisht Temple

 

Ram temple

All the above-mentioned places can be done by walk (as I did) but you can always choose a local sightseeing package if there is time constraint so you will be able to complete in a single day.

Few other important places:

There are a few more places for which you will have to find a cab or rent a bike to see. Since I went in the winter season, I took a cab but summer people can go for bikes.

Solang Valley:

The adventure destination of Manali, full of winter and adventure sports, is around 19 km from Manali. Open all year round and one of the best places to enjoy snowfall, if you are lucky (I was). Get your hands dirty at skiing, fly with paragliding or take the ropeway to give yourself an awesome view.

Gulaba View Point/ Rohtang Pass:

Around 50 km from Manali lies Rohtang Pass, one of the busiest pass in India. Open for around 4 months in a year, fetches a lot of tourists who are on a road trip to Leh, Spiti Valley. This pass opens only in mid-May. As an alternative, tourists flock to Gulaba viewpoint in the winters. But this winter has been particularly good, which meant that even Gulaba isn’t open for tourists.

Kullu Valley Tour:

Only if you have any extra day in hand, opt for this tour. You will be taken to Naggar Castle, Jana waterfall, Monastery visit and a Handicraft centre.

The total package that I used, cost me Rs. 2200/-. This also included a drop to bus stand on the day of departure apart from the 2-day tour, one each for Solang Valley and other for the Kullu Valley.

The rest of the points I covered in the other 2 days on foot. It took me 4-5 hr each day, without much exertion.

I stayed @ this homestay which cost me about 3600/- for 4 days. It was a wonderful place with a good view all around especially with the thick layers of snow.

All in all, that’s how I planned my Manali trip on a budget and gave myself the best experience possible. I hope, this can help you in some way to plan your trip. For any question, you can always comment or message me on Instagram (profile via above pictures).

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Manali in pictures

Manali

In this post, I will take you a journey of Manali in pictures that I have taken from my camera phone. I stayed there for 5 days and experienced sun, rain, snow apart from the bone-cracking cold.

About 500 km from the capital city of Delhi, lies this beautiful place in the lap of the mountains. Tourists flock to Manali mostly for relaxing weekends or honeymoon. White winters are a speciality of this place, especially winter this year has been good in terms of snowfall. During my stay of 5 days, there was snowfall on 3 of those days. But in summers, Manali turns into a base camp for most treks, trips, and bike tours to further north of India like Spiti, Leh etc.

The older part of this hamlet, better known as Old Manali, turns back time and you get to old style traditional Himachal homes. The place is filled with cafe’s that serve delicious bakery as well as exotic dishes.

It was my first visit to this magical place and I have been blown away by the beauty of this place, partly because of heavy snowfall this winters. But that notwithstanding, it’s still quite difficult to describe in words how beautiful it was. But, I am not here to tease your aesthetical senses with just words. As they famously say “Show, don’t tell”, so here we go:

Before and After an overnight snowfall

Sunshine after snowfall

Great Himalayan Nature Park

Forest Trails

The right way is between the tress

Murky weather, riverside

Amazing

Solang Valley- Snow Storm

Hidimba Devi Temple

Effortlessly awesome

Manu Rishi Temple- the guardian

Old-school Himachal

The Good Life

I hope that you liked the Manali in pictures journey. I will shortly publish related blogs about my visit to Manali, which will be very helpful in making you plan a worthy-of-time experience.

Please check my Instagram to keep yourself updated with my picture journey as I will keep adding more and more experiences. Also for previous and future trips, keep reading my blogs.