Manali: A Switzerland in Himachal Pradesh

Mira Pawar

Mira Pawar

Mira is is an avid traveler and loves writing travelogues.
Mira Pawar

Surrounded by snow capped mountains, amidst lush greenery, is Manali. Its beauty is enchanting, majestic and breathtaking. Mira profiles the jewel of the Himalayas. Her useful travel tips are boon for the backpackers and other tourists.

Imagine a place that has cold weather throughout the year, making it the most suitable holiday destination. Surrounded by snow capped mountains and the lush green plantations that would take your breath away! Yes, ‘The Switzerland of India’, as it is prominently known, is the entrancing town Manali, in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, at an altitude of 2000 meters. It is the choicest holiday destinations in north India. It is also very well known as a backpacking center and a popular honeymoon destination.

What to do:

While in Manali, one can indulge in a series of activities depending on each one’s interest besides enjoying the weather. There are quite a few temples worth visiting; you can see lovely waterfalls, dam, nature and wildlife, landmarks, outdoor activities and museums.

Temples: Amongst the temples, worth visiting is the Hadimba Temple, built in the 15th century. This is the only temple in India dedicated to a Rakshas (demon). This deity was born into Rakshas family but had supernatural powers. She married Bhim (one of the Pandava brothers). Hadimba and Bhim had a son called Ghatotkachh. There is a temple dedicated in his name located in the same vicinity. Outside the temple, on display is the typical Himachal costume, which a tourist may hire and shoot pictures for keepsake. Another temple one may visit is the Manu Temple dedicated to Indian Sage Manu (believed to be the lawmaker of Mankind). The town Manali is named after him, as it was his abode. Manu temple is in the old Manali region and a walk to the temple is very pleasant with shops on both sides of the road.

Waterfalls: It is fascinating for most nature lovers to watch the waterfalls. In Manali one can view some spectacular waterfalls like Rahala Falls, which is a popular picnic spots with water dripping from rocks in the background. Jogini waterfall is another attractive spot.

Dam: Pandoh Dam is also worth a visit which is on the Beas River in the Mandi District of Himachal Pradesh. The dam was built about 38 years ago and its main purpose has been to generate hydro-electric power.

Valley and Mountain: Solang Valley is located about 14 Kms from Manali and is on the way to Rohtang Pass. In the Solang Valley, besides admiring the snow peaked mountains, one can enjoy summer as well as winter sports like parachuting, paragliding, skating, zorbing and skiing. About 45 Kms away from Solang Valley is the Rohtang Pass, which is a very high mountain pass with abundant natural beauty that connects to Leh and Ladakh. This pass is a trade route since the good old days between the region of Himalayas and the rest of India. Rohtang pass is blocked most of the time due to excessive snowing but there is a project in progress, which is doing some tunnel work that will enable the tourist to go through the Rohtang pass and move forward.

Ancient Edifice: Those interested in old castles, may visit Naggar Castle about 21 kms from Manali located on a mountain top which is an ancient Palace built by Raja Sidh Singh in 1460 AD. The structure is a mix of European and Himalayan architectural splendor made of locally sourced timber wood and stones from the surroundings. For art lovers, the Castle has on display a gallery of paintings of a Russian artist Nicholas Reorich.

Manali Wildlife Sanctuary: Located two Kms from Manali and open to tourists from January through December, from 9.00 am to 6 pm. It is spread over 3,000 hectares with lush green dense forest comprising of Deodar and fir trees. The other visible vegetation is walnut, maple and willow trees. The sanctuary is home to Musk Deer, Brown Bears and Snow Leopards. Heard of Ibex migrate to the sanctuary during the summer. Birds like Chakor, Kokila, Kingfisher and Snow Pigeons are the other attractions for tourists.

Weather Condition: From March to June it is summer time and considered the best time of the year for tourists to visit. The temperature at this time is between 10 to 25 degrees and is most favorable for outdoor sports like paragliding, rafting, trekking and mountain adventure. The flowers are at full bloom and the nature is at its best form. During July and August, it rains heavily and therefore it is not advisable to visit the place. Come September, the monsoon bids goodbye and winter sets in October. During this period, tourists can enjoy the cold weather. However, from December to January it’s time for best snowfall. This period is advisable for people who love skiing.

Shopping: Like all other tourist destinations, Manali too has shopping opportunities to offer the tourists. Most favorable are the quaint roadside shops that sell beautifully hand woven shawls and handicrafts at very reasonable prices. Another famous shopping place is the Mall Road, which is in the centre of town and thus called the heart of Manali. It has something for everyone. The Mall Road has big and small shops/ emporium of shawls, rugs, woolen clothes, jewelry, wooden furniture and books. It also has smaller sectors like Hong Kong Market, Thai Market, Dragon Shopping Complex and underground shopping complex. It has lots of eateries of all kinds to cater for the starving shoppers.

Transportation: Means of transport are flights, buses and taxis. The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, approx 50 Km away from Manali. The flights operate from Delhi and Chandigarh. However, it is customary for the delay/cancellation of flights due to bad weather. There are luxury buses and state run buses from Chandigarh. Taxis are also very easily available from Chandigarh.

Himachal is called the queen of hill stations and Manali is considered as its crown. A visit to Manali, takes away the stress and fatigue completely as the weather and ambience is cool and refreshing. You feel completely rejuvenated! Manali is surrounded by River Beas and the sound of the river flowing sooths one’s soul.

Pix from Net