The beautiful hill station of Manali basks in the surging number of tourists mainly during the summer months of March to June. Its rugged terrain, emerald rolling hills and the beautifully balanced climate makes Manali a major hub of adventure sports. The narrow paths cut into the mountains and the thrilling silence of lush vegetation with lovely waterfalls peeking out at every interval attract a huge number of backpackers. The serene glades of sparkling green grass shaded by tall pine and deodar trees, the sunrays filtering through the canopy of leaves and the soothing whisper of the Beas River flowing by makes for a perfect honeymooner’s paradise. Whether you are backpacking, spending some close time with your spouse or enjoying a family vacation, Manali offers a plethora of activities that will keep your vacation filled.
Listed below are some of the things to try your hands on:
1. Adventure Sports
Manali is a happening place for various kinds of adventure sports. The dry and cool weather of the summer months of March to June enables you to indulge in a fair amount of paragliding, parachuting and zorbing. Solang Valley is the nerve centre of all sports in Manali. The undulated surface of the valley makes the new-found sport of zorbing a thrilling experience. While you are paragliding or soaring above in a parachute, the breath-taking view of the snow-clad mountains makes for an exhilarating experience. The gurgling flow of the Beas River, though unfit for swimming, is a haven for white water rafting. It is advisable to keep aside one full day for rafting. The starting point is Pirdi, 45kms from Manali and rafting starts approximately at 10am every day. The steep rock surfaces of Manali offer a perfect onset for rock-climbing and mountaineering both in summer and winter.
Ice skating and skiing are the predominant sports during the winter months of November to February. During this time, Manali is covered in a thick white blanket of snow. Most hotels have their own adventure sports agencies which can provide you with experienced instructors and the necessary equipment.
2. Trekking & Camping
Manali is a paradise for backpackers. Hiking and camping are mostly done during the summer season from March to June. There are several trails leading through the various ravines and hills throughout Manali that will open up many wonders of nature in front of your eyes. There are a huge number of big and small waterfalls snaking through the sides of the steep mountains. Most of these falls are concealed in dense vegetation and are only accessible by hiking to certain areas. While you walk through the narrow trails and forests of pine and deodar trees, keep your ears open for the gushing sounds of a waterfall. Take along a pair of binoculars as you might spot several birds and other wildlife in the dense greenery. There are several agencies that will provide you with trail maps, directions and guides for hiking.
The bank of the River Beas is popular for camping out in Manali. Camping is generally done during May to end June and during the monsoon season in September and October. The silent night broken only by the soothing whisper of the Beas River is a lovely experience. Summer Camps are often organized by different schools where the students get an opportunity to bond and try their hands at different adventure sports with supervision. Camping paraphernalia can be obtained from the hotel or any of the many agencies operating in Manali.
3. Mountain Biking
At 18,370 feet above sea-level, the Khardungla Pass is the highest motorable pass that attracts a fair amount of mountain biking. Apart from that, mountain biking is predominant in the Rohtang Pass area winding through Lahaul and Spiti and upto Leh. However, these are the trails used only by the professionals and needs considerable amount of experience and strength.
For the amateurs and leisure biking, Kullu is the most enjoyable place. The rolling hills and undulating surface of Kullu Valley provides astounding views of its picture perfect landscape. Cycling through the apple orchards add a mystic effect and makes biking an enjoyable experience. The summer and monsoon months starting from May, right up to September is the best time for mountain biking. However, care should be taken during September when heavy showers of rain increase the risk of landslides at different areas. Be sure to take the advice and guidance from an agency regarding the routes to take.
4. Site Seeing And Kullu Visit
Manali and Kullu being endowed with an amazing scenic beauty provide ample opportunity to do good photography. You can venture out on your own or take a guided site-seeing tour that will take you through some amazing wonders of nature. There are many interesting places that not only have wonderful views but also in some cases have a history or a story or two to tell.
Tucked away in the laps of nature, you will find small temples, Buddhist monasteries and museums that makes for a day’s worth of site-seeing. Among the popular Tibetan Monasteries in Kullu-Manali are Dechen Choekhor Monastery and Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa. You can experience an authentic Tibetan culture from these monasteries and talk to the Lamas and learn about their ways of life and the rituals they follow.
There are many temples tucked in the mountain niches in Kullu and Manali. The most famous among them are Bijli Mahadev Temple, Jamula Temple and Raghunathji Temple. The Sikh Gurudwara at Manikaran is a very popular devotional place. Its main attractions are the natural hot water springs. The pilgrims cook their food consisting of rice and lentils by putting them in cloth-bags and hanging them from the sides of the hot water springs to boil in the water. This makes for an interesting experience!
The apple orchards of Kullu deserve a special mention. Kullu is famous for producing rich red and juicy apples. The town is dotted with numerous apple orchards. The fruits flourish during the months of September and October. If you are in the area during this time, be sure to visit an apple orchard. The warmth and hospitality of the people will immediately entice you. Apart from a tour of the orchard and learning interesting facts about apple harvesting, you can also taste their apple jams and pickles. Bottled jams and pickles and boxes of apples can be bought from them at a reasonable price.
Besides all these, Kullu and Manali have a generous offering of beautiful waterfalls at every interval. A drive through the towns is a sheer pleasure as you roll along the River Beas with the occasional lush green patches of glades where you can stop for some time and have a small picnic.
No vacation is complete without shopping for the authentic and unique local products. Every city has their own specialty and range of products and Kullu and Manali are no less. Kullu and Manali are most famous for their woolen clothes. The unique products of Kullu are the famous Kullu and Kinnauri Shawls and Kullu caps that can be best purchased from Akhara Bazaar in Kullu. Among the other items on sale at this market are jewellery made of semi-precious stones, woolen clothing and colorful rugs. Weaving is another specialty in Kullu and there are several shops selling hand-woven clothes, bags and colorful mats.
Old Manali market and the Mall are two busiest shopping centers in Manali. Apart from the little shops selling a wide range of products from woolen clothes to tiny souvenirs and memorabilia, there are several restaurants and eateries offering mouth-watering North-Indian delicacies. Bhuttico is a famous women’s cooperative shopping Centre that sells handlooms made by local women. The Tibetan Market in Manali offers a wide range of Tibetan handicrafts, woodcraft, colorful Tibetan rugs, prayer wheels, small souvenirs and memorabilia made from bamboo and silver jewellery set with semi-precious stones. Thangkas, a unique painting on cloth done by the Buddhists are famous in this market.
Tip: Bargain hard and buy the products at the lowest prices at this market!
Manali along with Kullu has all the essence of a flourishing and picture perfect hill station and packs enough thrilling, interesting and exciting activities that is sure to keep your vacation quite busy and enjoyable!