Winter Escape to Manali

5th Dec 2018
Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Managing a short winter break of 4 days, we eloped into the hills, and this time it was Manali! My husband had done an extensive research of the hotels and home stays in and around Manali. So after rating the top 4 of our options on 3 major parameters: 1. Look & Feel 2. Location (optimal distance from the Mall road) 3. Value for money, we settled for the Mary's Cottage on Hidamba Road. It was a beautiful wooden home stay located 2 km away from the Mall Road, on the higher and peaceful altitudes of Hadimba Road.

This time since the distance from Delhi was more than 450km, we decided to go by HRTC Volvo. We left from Dwarka , Delhi for ISBT Kashmiri Gate and made ourselves comfortable in the Volvo. It started sharp at 8:00 pm, irrespective of the low occupancy. During the journey , we were missing our usual pit-stops on the GT karnal highway. The bus driver zoomed past all good restaurants of Murthal and stopped for dinner very late at around 10:30 pm at a low standard hotel. This was definitely a turn off, as we were not very happy with the gentry at the hotel, nor the vibrancy of the place. After this halt for dinner, there was no further halt and straight away we reached Manali next day at 8:30 am. We missed out on all the views of the hills as it was dark outside all throughout. So this was a learning as to never again travel in Volvo for the Hills as all our favorite pits stops and valley views got a miss!

Day 1

Anyhow, the moment we got down at Manali, the excitement gushed in! It was the first week of December and extremely cold. We took an auto from the HRTC bus stand near Mall Road and it rattled uphill onto Hidamba road and dropped us at Mary's Cottage for Rs. 100/-. The cottage was as beautiful as expected. It had a lovely garden and wooden finishing. Our room was located upstairs. After quickly dropping off our bags and without wasting much time, we set off for finding out a bike on rent for.

Our Home Stay:

Photo of Mary's Cottages, Hadimba Temple Road, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

Garden Area of the Home stay:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

We walked downhill from our cottage , crossing the local shops and houses. In just 10-15 mins we found a bike on rent shop and picked our favourite bike Royal Enfield Himalayan for Rs. 1000/- per day. Our destination for the day was Solang Valley. We were told that we could find snow there on higher altitudes, which made us super excited for the day! Putting our caps, gloves and helmets we drove off towards Solang Valley. The mountains were lush green near Manali cross over bridge. But as we went nearer to Solang Valley, we could see the greens turning to white! They were the snow covered peaks! The view was simply worth glancing forever.

Photo of Solang Valley, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

We saw the Solang Ropeway and hundreds of All Terrain Vehicles parked on the roadside, realizing that the road was closed ahead for private vehicles and the only way to go further was to either climb the peaks or take the ATV or take the pony ride. We were told it would be difficult to climb up the rocky terrain by the pony hawkers and ATV rent guys. We were determined to enjoy each and every moment of the up climb all by ourselves. So we ventured on foot. It was an undulating steep upward terrain, rocky at several places and damp at many. After about a 20 mins of tiring yet scenic walk along the snow covered peaks, we reached the snow point of Solang Valley.

The snow was about 1 cm thick at the base and mostly old and dirty. Majority of the crowd was happy just there and was clicking photos and posing with the snowy layer. We looked up and saw very few people venturing further onto the thick bed of snow and playing with big snow balls. So we got energized to go further up and be at a spot much away from the regular touristy crowd. We climbed and climbed, stopping in between for catching our breath and checking the depth and freshness of snow. The fresher the snow, the softer it was, whereas the old snow was frozen into ice and made the path slippery and risky. So we were careful with our steps, avoiding the ice and placing out feet on the snow. We identified a nice spot to sit and enjoy the snow bed and started making a snow man. We removed our gloves to feel the chill of the snow and enjoy the weather! Our snowman was ready after a lot effort and this was certainly the best experience in snow we had ever had!!

Our Snowie:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Solang Valley Base :

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Snowie with a different cap!

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Snow in Solang Valley:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

We scrapped off thick snow rolled it into balls and played volleyball with it, catching and bursting it back into snow granules. The whole experience was something to be soaked in forever. After spending almost the whole day enjoying in the snow bed, we traversed back to the base where our Himalayan Bike was parked. The walk was more challenging downhill as we had to mind our steps at slippery places. We took breaks to gain some energy and enjoy tea & Maggi on the way. At around sunset we drove back to the Mall Road feasting on the every beautiful views along the road.

Day 2

The next day we woke up to a surprise as we spotted small flakes of snow tricking down the window! We rushed out to our garden as the snow shower increased! Within a minute the whole garden, trees and chairs were covered with super white snow balls which were as small and soft as a thermocol balls! We jumped with joy taking in all the showers. We rolled the soft balls into a big snow balls and played with them. It felt like heaven! Our hair was full of snow crystals and chilly shivers ran through us. We were told this phenomenon was called a flurry. It lasted for about 20 minutes. The sheer bliss of experiencing the snowfall made our trip to Manali super successful!

Our Garden:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

After 2 minutes :

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

We then took a cab to Gulaba , anticipating the risk to travel on a bike in case it rained or snowed . Gulaba was a hour away from Main Manali and our cabby dropped us at the most touristy and crowded spot of Gulaba. It was so windy and chilly out there, that we had to buy mufflers to cover our face! The mountain view was just fantastic. But to experience the snow beds, we had to climb upwards for about 20-25 mins. The terrain was risky as it was steep and rocky with ice embedded at several places. We saw a big crowd of tourists clicking pics at the snow point and trying out skiing on a small patch. Though we went up in the snowy area, we were not very happy with the crowd. So we did not spend much time over there and came back to the road thinking of our plan B. In our enthusiam to explore more, we walked along the Leh-Manali Highway unaware of what awaited us beyond! We walked and walked enjoying the array of mountains and valleys. At about 1 km away we reached the Rohtang base barricading. Cars were not permitted beyond that point and we could see few people at the mountain top enjoying in the snow laden peak! So we decided this was it! We had to reach the top most point of the mountain and since no vehicles were around it was a pure blissful walk in the nature. The snow was getting thicker as we moved towards higher altitudes. We picked up a stick and did depth check of snow along the road with stick to find out the best spot to play with in the snow. We went about 2 km ahead on the road, and took shortcuts through the hills in between to enjoy being in the lap of the nature. With the sun shining through the mountains and random and scenic patches of snow bed all around and lush green pines standing tall looking towards the sky, we felt like deliberately losing ourselves over there to never return home!

Gulaba Snow Point:

Photo of Gulaba Tourist Spot, Leh Manali Highway, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

Further ahead on Leh-Manali Highway:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Breathtaking Views:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma
Day 3

The next day at Manali we explored the local area. We got up early in the morning and walked towards the Hidamba Temple. It was just a 10 mins walk away from our home stay. It looked like a Buddhist Monastry with wooden architecture and was located in the middle of the dense forest. The trees were as thick as 5 trees' stem combined. This temple was constructed in the memory of Hidamba Rakshashi who was the wife of Pandava Bhim and regarded as a Devi in the Hills. Almost everything in Manali was with name of Hidamba as she was considered to be savior of the place. The woods were serene and the walk through them was an experience in itself. Ghatotkach, the epitome of strength was the son of Hidamba and BHIM and there was a temple to revere him also just a few minutes away from the Hidamba Temple. We saw a barbed mesh next to the Hidamba Temple enclosed dense forest and realized that it was the Manali Nature Park. So we decided to visit that once we were done exploring the Hidamba Road. Further ahead there was another temple worshiping Shivji. We walked uphill along the road and reached Manu Temple which was the last point along the road. So this was our circuitous walk from Mary's to Hidamba Temple to Manu Temple and then back to Mary's via the Old Manali Road. It took us about an hour and half and we were so refreshingly tired that we stopped by for a good road side breakfast. We tried the local dish Sidhu, which tasted like idli stuffed with sweet dry fruits and the super delicious local cuisine of Trout fish.

Trout Fish :

Photo of Hadimba Devi Temple, Old Manali, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

The Sidhu:

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Our next stop was the Manali Nature Park. It had the entrance from a few meter away from the Mall Road. The entry ticket was just Rs. 20 /- per person. It was a dense forest with tall and thick pine trees. The terrain was rocky and rough covered in green algae like grass. The park was along river Beas and the view of the gushing water all along the hill forest was just mesmerizing. We picked some dried pine flowers and miniature pine cones. Some shiny stones and rocks were present at many places and we were just happy to spend about 2 hours in the company of the fat and tall trees and the river in the 5 km long nature Park.

Dried Pine Flowers:

Fallen off Pine Flowers

Photo of Manali Nature Park, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

Pine Cones:

Mini Pine cones

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

The Wonderful Woods:

PIne Flower

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma


Dense Forest

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

Miles to go..

Walking through Bliss

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma
Day 4

The traveler in us couldn't resist the Jogini waterfalls. We rented a Bullet and sped past the Beas River along the hills to reach the Jogini Falls. It was just a 15 mins drive from Main Manali and since there was no signage of it on the road, we asked the locals about the way to reach there. It was located on right while going towards Solang, and was led by a kuccha path banked by local homes, restaurants and home stays. We parked the bike at the base and saw people coming down the rocky terrain. Upon asking them we realized that it was a 2 km trek for us to reach the highest point and witness the grand site. It was an effort in itself as the path was steep, stony and completely random. There was no fixed route to be followed. We had to solve the puzzle of where to place our foot and follow the trail. There was a group of a school kids who had probably come for picnic and seeing them quickly go up hill across the mountainous path, we got inspired to take up the challenge. We took breaks and pauses to breathe and regain the strength while scaling the hill. It was not very tough though, but not very easy either. One had to be careful and mindful of the steps. Halfway there was a small temple so we took a break to sit along the water fall and dip our hands and feet in the freezing water. Traversing further for about 15 more mins, we finally reached the gorgeous site where the water fall began!

Despite the cold weather, we were sweaty and our calf muscles were slightly sore. It was a wonderful view. We were on top of the mountain and could see the water steeply gushing down onto the rocks and disappearing in the valley. We sat there for about half n hour feasting on the views. Then as the sun was about to set we started our downhill journey otherwise it would get all scary. Balancing our feet and slowly dragging ourselves along the steep path, we hit the base where our bike was parked. We definitely needed a plate of pakoras and chai to regain our energy, which we did at a restaurant just near the base of Jogini Falls.

Jogini Falls

Photo of Jogini Falls, Vashist, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

We had our last few hours in Manali and without wasting a bit of it, we rode towards Vashisht. It was a world in itself all together. There was a detour just before the Manali Beas crossover bridge towards the left which led to the Vashisht Temple. The area was banked by hotels, stalls, homes, showrooms and of course the hills. It was a touristy and market place similar to the Mall Road. At the end of the road was the Vashisht Temple which had hot water spring and a small bathing area of hot water. We did not take a dip in the kund as it was over crowded by male tourists. We were also pulled into shops by the sparoo sellers, giving us a scheme of buying the sparoo blanket for 8500/- along with 10 gift items with a 90% cashback policy after 2 years of usage. We were prudent enough to check the authenticity of the sparoo scheme on Google and sped out of the shops immediately. One needs to be careful of the sparoo and kesar hawkers on road who come to you asking to buy their products.

View from a restaurant at Vashisht:

Photo of Vashist, Himachal Pradesh, India by Swati Verma

Our local Guide :)

Our local guide

Photo of Winter Escape to Manali by Swati Verma

So that was the last stop for us in Manali and we were right in time for our Volvo back for Delhi. We realised that return buses start from a place away from the usual HRTC stop in Mall road, a bit downhill where the new bus stand was being developed. We bade farewell to the hills and the lovely place that Manali was, only to return again at much higher altitudes!

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