After 6 long years, I embarked on a whirlwind trip to Manikaran in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. How I wish I had my husband back in town, sitting down next to me; wrapping me up in his sweater, amidst the romantic ambiance of the winter wonderland! Nevertheless, the trip saw me and my mom cherish in the nature’s lap of elegant beauty.
Manikaran had been my mom’s favorite destination back then when we used to live in Himachal. And, I wanted to walk her back down the lane of those nostalgic memories. With just a 13k bank balance, I was kicked up to venture back down the memory lane with my mom! But, to our surprise, the travel hardly costed us half of my savings. Here is our itinerary!
Before starting on my venture, I booked a room at Hotel Pratap in Mandi via MakeMyTrip for a short sojourn. The rooms were priced at 1200 rupees on the website (still, economical than the rest!)
DAY 1 - THE ROAD TRIP FROM PINJOR TO BILASPUR
Delighted as we’ve always been, my mom and I boarded a bus from Pinjor to Baddi for a mere 30 rupees. Since, we’d just planned on a 3 day trip, we immediately mounted on another 60 rupee trip from Baddi to Swarghat. This stopover destination hosts the most significant temple of the Hindus – The Naina Devi Temple of Goddess Parvati! Perched atop a hill, I and my mom had the time of our lives, trekking up the majestic hill, overlooking the Govind Sagar Lake!
On our way downhill to a cab, we had a young man join us on our drive to Bilaspur. This casual happening of the city. Young travelers join together if they happen to go to a common place. Fortunately for us, he appeared to be great guy and entertained us all the way with his knowledge about the politics! After the 2 hour ride amidst his endless chatters on the local government, we were finally at Bilaspur! The entire trip from Pinjor to Bilaspur lasted for 5 hours, predominantly due to rainy weather.
THE 2 HOUR DRIVE TO MANDI
From Bilaspur, we got into a direct bus to Mandi. The 2 hour travel to Mandi was our favorite phase of the trip. The bus trekked up and down the hilly route, passing by Barmana, my hometown! For a few minutes, my mom and me transcended into a surreal world fantasy!
The beautiful clouds nestled among the hill tops and the chill breeze blowing past our face; and the all the more beautiful Pahari girls with their aesthetic jewelry, had us enjoying every second of the travel. Later, we got down the bus and boarded an auto to the Pratap Hotel at Mandi. To our surprise, the staffs at the front desk offered us the 1.2k rooms for just 900 rupees since we were locales to the city. The price was bargainable and we were accommodated in thoroughly ventilated room that overlooked the nature around us! The smile on my mom’s face gave me the message and I was thrilled at the thought of the other plans that I have made during her sojourn in the city!
MANDI – THE INDIRA MARKET
Once in Mandi, we immediately prepped ourselves to stop by the celebrated Indira market of Mandi. The journey had made the two of us craving for some momos from a Tibetan shop. We had the yummiest of the local dim sums at just rupees 80/plate. We also bought the conventional shawls and clothes of local style as souvenirs to take back to our people!
THE CHOTI KASHI - MANDI
Mandi was a Choti Kashi – not as big as Varnasi, yet had many temples compared to Kashi itself! We found our way to the Bhootnath Temple. This temple of the 1520’s screams of its historic past with its elegant artworks and stone sculpting all around the place.
(BTW, you can see my mom here, doing all the worships)
By then, it was dawn and all the walking and shopping had us rave for more food. We ordered for a 220 rupees thali of local flavored Himachal food for dinner. A plate of rajma chawal had us biting into the most nutritious kidney beans that were grown in the lands nearby. The cold climate had us eating loads of spicy and tangy food. We also had a masala dosa before getting back on our temple tour.
Not far from there, was a Mata Mandir with groups of ladies sitting down for the bhajans and keertans. We sat in amidst the devotional praises of the Goddess for around half an hour and made quite a few friends; who told us about the might of the Kali!
On our way back, we sipped into some masala teas that kept us warm from the winter.
An entire day was gone with us enthralled by the beauty of nature and the flavors of local food. We were done for the day and went back to a deep slumber.
DAY 2 - OFF TO MANIKARAN WITH THE PARVATI VALLEY FLOWING BY OUR SIDE!
We had a few bananas for the breakfast and left off to savor the last day of our short stay in the city. We boarded a bus to Bhuntar. The elegant cascades of water from the Parvati Valley started of here and traversed across although the routes until Manikaran; merging into the Beas.
From Bhuntar, we boarded another bus to Manikaran. The Parvati valley was still following creating a picturesque environment. En route to Manikaran, the bus hosted a lot of South Indian travelers too, who were enthralled by the beauty of the valley. There were many young men, playing the guitar and screaming atop the roars of the valley. We drove past apple farms, green mountains, chilly weather and a screaming valley that we could never get enough off! The bus halted at Kasol and all the travelers got down, bidding adieu to us.
Kasol hosted a few locales and many foreigners who just aren’t willing to part with the beauty of the city; just like us! 4km later, there was little rain still, when we reached Manikaran. I got up to the roof of the bus and brought down my baggage- feeling like a superhero! The entire tip from Mandi to Manikaran cost us a mere 250 bucks. But, taking a taxi would’ve eaten up around 4k; also depriving us from the friendly gossips with fellow travelers.
THE LODGINGS AT DHARAMSHALA
At Manikaran, we lodged ourselves at Dharamshala. Any other hotels around the city would cost you around 1500 to 3000 rupees. But, Dharamshala hosted us at just 1300 rupees for a decent lodging of 4 days! If you are a solo traveler, you could also opt for free lodgings here sans the mountain view from your room! All funds to the Dharamshala go to the Ram Mandir that dates back to the era of Pandavas. If you are a little tight on the budget, you could opt for the free food – dhaam. The only probable constraint is that it should be eaten in a thaal within the premises only and cannot be taken into your room. The food was great and costed us nothing! The room felt like an accommodation in the portals of heaven; that I extended my 2 day sojourn by a day.
(View from my room)
THE TEMPLE TOUR AT MANIKARAN
We walked off to a couple of temples around. A Gurudwara and a hot springs geyser noticeably stood out from the rest. The food made in the Gurudwara is all cooked within the hot spring geyser. It was a great sight to see the mass cooking.
THE RAM MANDIR
Within the premises of the Ram Mandir, my mom and I decided to take the holy shower. There were 2 tanks (Kund), one for males (Ram Kund) and another for females (Sita Kund). We got into the Sita Kund, with the mild waves softly touching our body. After a hot water bath, we went back to our rooms and changed our clothes and had the spicy masala tea. Few hours later, we ventured to the Tibetan markets around – buying the local clothes, dry fruits, nuts and dried apples at unbelievably cheap prices. We didn’t miss out on the local food as well! The eateries around gave us the classic Himachali dish – the Siddu!
THE ADHI SHAKTHI TEMPLE
After all the shopping and food, my mom sat on the steps of Ram Temple; while I set out on a short trek uphill to the Adhi Shakthi temple! The hike up the hill brought forth the most graceful view of the valley! Wooden houses skirted the sides of the valley. It was a place of tranquility where I found myself sitting by a rock for over an hour; plainly awestruck by the beauty around me! The snow-capped mountains and the Parvati valley tugged to my heart’s strings and making it difficult for a retreat! So, when we went back to our room, we extended our stay by a day and decided to get lost into nature’s wilderness, again!
When we checked out after a day, the hotel staffs bid as adieu with tiny packets of Prasadh from the Temple. My mom was at her happiest self now and I could tell it from the broad smile on her face! That meant the world to me! Finally, we took a special bus from Buntar to Chandigarh for 750 rupees (for 2); thus we were back at Pinjor from a trip that costed us only 6000 rupees despite a heavy shopping!
Few more pictures from our trip:
Pinjor to Baddi – 30
Baddi to Swarghat – 60
Stay at Mandi – 900
Momos – 80
Dinner at Mandi – 220
Mandi to Manikaran – 250
Dharamshala – 1300
Bhuntar to Chandigarh – 750
TOTAL = 3560 + shopping + food of your cuisine
Also, if you are planning a budget trip to Himachal then check out my blog of Home Stay Destinations in Himachal