One of the most scenic hill stations in India, Manali has so much to offer in terms of places to visit and people to meet. I realised this the moment I de-boarded from the A/C Sleeper Coach Bus in which I had a fairly comfortable overnight journey. Once I checked into the hotel, the first thing to do was to get some sleep and be ready for the later half of the day.
The guy at the hotel reception suggested a few places in and around Manali. First things first, reach the Mall Road and then move on from there. A small distance away from the Mall Road, an uphill trek took me to the Hidimba Temple which was surrounded by tall Deodar trees. The Temple is built in the typical mountain style shape and architecture but the forest around the it make this small trek worth the visit. There is a nice road-side market right outside the Temple complex with all the local stuff available in great variety.
Once back on the Mall Road, a short walk in one of the by lanes took me to the local Monastery and this one is a must visit. Its amazing to experience the calmness inside the monastery even though it is in the center of the town with all the chaos around in the area.
Then I got introduced by Old Manali which has a host of cafes and budget hotels. The most iconic of those cafes and the one that greeted me to Old Manali is Dylan’s Toasted & Roasted named after the great Bob Dylan. As a coffee lover, this was a must visit for me personally.
A trek further into Old Manali led me to Maharishi Manu’s Temple, one of the four Maharishis in the Hindu culture. Incidentally Temples dedicated to all four of them are in and around Manali.
Next day my hired cab was at the hotel gate in the morning ready to take me to the most popular destination near Manali. A drive towards Rohtang Pass brought me to Bashisht which is barely 3kms outside Manali. At Bashisht I saw Maharishi Vashisht’s Temple which is almost completely built of wood. It is constructed beautifully and the market outside the Temple offers a variety of local dishes and winter clothes.
Then a drive through Madhi moving on for another 52kms finally got me to the famous Rohtang Pass. But at the Pass I saw a small Igloo shaped Temple which is dedicated to Maharishi Ved Vyas and inside this Temple originates the great river Beas that flows through Manali down into the plains.
At the Rohtang Pass, there are a host of activities on offer including quad bikes, pony rides, trekking etc. But the one place not to miss is the scenic Rohtang Lake from where the views of the Himalayas and valleys is beyond beautiful. The fun of riding a quad bike is exhilarating.
While coming back to Manali, there are a host of options for paragliding. It was not my cup of tea but my friend went in for it and thankfully enjoyed it thoroughly. Do try it especially as it has multiple options of a short, medium or long distance travels with the price directionally proportional to the distance of the paraglide.
Back in Manali, next day was a long one with an early start at 7am for this next visit as this place is about 100kms from Manali. This place is the amazing Parashar Lake which has the Maharishi Parashar Temple right next to it. The drive up to this place is not great but then it is surely worth it considering how beautiful this place is across the year. By the time we got back, we were dead tired.
Another day and another experience, this one is again a must visit to Gurudwara Manikaran Sahib which is on the banks of River Parvati. It is about 60kms from Manali and route will take you through the much known place called Kasol, though we had no interest here.
Next day our destination was a day long excursion to Naggar which is very close to Manali but again a must visit place. It has the Art Gallery housed in the excellently preserved home of Nicholas Roerich and Devika Rani.
Naggar also has the Naggar Castle which is a HPTDC Heritage hotel but was a palace of the King years back. It is beautifully conserved and a place that offers calmness and awesome views of the Beas Valley. I had the pleasure of having my lunch in the porch of this castle turned hotel and it was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.