A few kilometers off Manali, on the way to Rohtang, you know you have reached Solang Valley when you see lush greenery, snow-capped peaks and colourful paragliding chutes against picturesque backdrop. Solang Valley is well-known for adventure sports. I have all sorts of adventure sports to check off my bucket list. Manali gave me a chance to check river crossing off my lift and now in Solang I wanted to check off paragliding too
There are 2 jump stations, one on a lower and the other on a higher level. For the higher one, you take the rope way to the top station. They offer tandem paragliding for the less experienced, where you jump from a lesser height. We have to either walk up the hill or ride a horse to reach the point. We hired horses to take us around Solang valley, this time better looking and sturdy horses as compared to the horses in Kufri
After a good 30 minutes bumpy ride up the hill, we were harnessed to our parachutes, helmets on and ready for the jump. As we chose tandem paragliding, we were safely harnessed in front of our respective pilots who instructed us on how to jump, hold the brake handles to swing from right to left and stretch our legs while landing. Few seconds in the air, a bird's eye view of the verdant valley, an adrenaline rush and a memorable experience is what paragliding offers
As you land and get yourself off the harness, an array of photographers will be waiting to show you your videos and photographs they captured during your flight, obviously without your consent. We bought our videos and pictures which were burnt onto a CD, hopped on to our steeds and rode away to a temple close by.
We were told there's a Shiva temple we must visit and the best way to reach is by riding a horse than a hike across a rough terrain. I felt really sorry for our steeds, to be taking our weight and walking through a really rough terrain full of boulders but otherwise, it would have been impossible for us to trek all the way up and back. It took us a good one hour or maybe more to reach the foot of the hill where a temple is constructed with many presiding deities. We thought that was it and were not much impressed until we saw that we had to climb a flight of steps up the hill to reach the Shiv temple. During our ascent, we could see frozen snow on the sides of the steps. The first place in Manali where we could see snow!
Words can't do it justice to the experience we had on reaching the top of the hill (which looks more like a cave) which houses the linga. It is a roofless temple, where a linga is situated right beneath a waterfall. This temple is also called as Anjani Mahadev as it is believed that Anjani Devi, mother of Hanuman meditated here. In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is considered as ' Abhisheka Priya'. Abhisheka is purification done by pouring water over the idol of the deity and Priya in this context means one who loves. The linga beneath a waterfall, for me, looked as if nature is offering the Lord what he loves the most. It seems in winter the linga is completely frozen and tourists reach there in scores for Shivrathri pooja. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call this a mini Amarnath yatra if you are visiting in winter.
Completely thrilled and satisfied with our little adventure, we headed back to take the rope way to Mt. Phatru.
I have taken ropeways in Singapore and Malaysia before but this was my first time in my own country. The ropeway in Solang offers enchanting views of snow-capped mountains, lush green meadows, thick conifer forest. We even saw maple trees here. Until now I didn't know we had maple trees in India However we weren't lucky enough to see the iconic red maple leaf as it was summer and the leaves were lush green.
On reaching the top of the mountain you lose track of time clicking and posing for pictures. No camera can do justice to what you see there. You just have to absorb, breathe in, store it as in indelible memory in your brain to carry with you for long and cherish
There are eat-out joints on top of the mountain where were finished our lunch and rode the cable car back.
Solang Valley was my favourite of all the places/ things I did in Manali. Don't miss this place whenever you plan to visit Himachal Pradesh. The winter skiing festival is organised here so you have all the more reasons to add Solang to your travel bucket list.