Manali is a picturesque small town in the Kullu Valley, in the Indian state of Himanchal Pradesh. It attracts a lot of Indian and foreign tourists, particularly in the summer months. I visited Manali in June 2005 because it is on the way to Ladakh. When rest of the India is buckling under heat wave, Manali is cool and pleasant and therein lays its charm.
There is a rail link from Delhi to a place called Jogindernagar and after that, one has to travel 92 km by bus to reach Manali. We tried this in the year 2002, while trying to reach Bhunter. The train runs on narrow gage. But in summer months, they are horribly crowded. It also moves only by divine intervention. I remember we abandoned the train at Kangra and continued by bus.
By bus, Manali is 16 hours from Delhi. Both government and private operators offer bus services. Government buses are cheap but slightly uncomfortable. Private buses (2X2) are more costly and the seats recline but many of them are in bad shape. Only the Volvo Goldline AC buses look in proper shape but they cost twice the amount of the non AC 2X2 private buses.
Manali is full of hotels of all size and shape. As soon as the bus stops at Manali, brokers of all kind descend upon the travelers. One can take their help to find a hotel or walk in any that strikes your fancy and ask for a room. The places that we stayed at are nothing to write home about.
There are many things to do at Manali but we have sampled only a few. Here are some of the attractions that we visited.
Hidimba is a character out of the famous epic Mahabharata and there is a temple devoted to her. One can take a taxi to the place but one can as easily walk up there. The way is through pine forest and as you come near the temple, you will find people trying to sell all kind of things. I remember an opportunity to get photographed with a Yak or wear a python around my neck! I declined both. The temple in itself is a curious wood building adorned with animal horns and is worth a visit. Remember you are required to remove your shoes to visit Hindu temples.
The Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa: Situated right in the middle of the city is this peaceful Buddhist architecture. It has the ‘wheels of life’ all around it and beautiful paintings and statue of Lord Buddha inside. One can voluntarily donate some money (even small amounts as Rupees 5 are welcome) that is used for maintaining the Gompa. I enjoyed this serene and beautiful place.
The main market in Manali is situated along The Mall Road. It gets crowded in the evenings in the summer months. One can buy shawls, Kullu caps, shirts or other stuff in this area. I found that prices here are lower than Ladakh. There are many eating joints along this road and one can try these places. Many hotels are also on this road. The busiest part of the town where one can take a stroll but it will not be leisurely. It could be more enjoyable in the off-season months.
Paragliding, river rafting, trekking routes and many other things can be tried in Manali but I have no personal experience of it.
The Rohtang Pass (a little more than 50 km from Manali) lies on the way to Leh. When we had started for Leh at 2 am and when we reached there an hour later, the place was bewitching. As far as the eye could see, there was snow and silence. I passed through it again while coming back from Leh. This time it was 11.00 am in the morning and as far as the eye could see there were vehicles parked all over the place and temporary tents selling food have sprung up everywhere.
What I do not like about Manali: The place is too crowded for words in the summer months and it makes it impossible to do anything leisurely.
The second thing that completely put me off Manali is the amount of litter strewn everywhere. For this I have to blame us only, the Indian tourists. We Indians take a lot of pride in keeping our houses spotlessly clean but when it comes to streets, we litter with glee. How many times you will see people sitting in a swank car eating potato chips. A little while later the empty packet of chips will be thrown in the beautiful surroundings without a thought. Imagine what will happen to a place that attracts throngs of people? It becomes dirty like anything and yet people will keep on throwing things without a thought. This was the biggest put off for me in Manali.
Those who are trying to go on trekking routes from Manali have to visit it. So, do the people who want to go to beautiful Leh or Lahul and Spiti. There is no avoiding Manali for them. And they will have to go in season only as the routes to other places are open only during those months.
25 thoughts on “Manali, Himanchal Pradesh: Beautiful but Crowd and Litter Everywhere!”
I went there a few years back…that time also it was crowded with tourists, businessmen and the brokers…But I still remember the Hidimba Temple .. so serene and beautiful …anyways thanx for making me nostalgic.
how do u manage to find time to go on tour all the time!!!
Avik Hidimba temple is beautiful but I was so scared of the Python man that I almost refused to move forward!Ashok (Poision), I do not travel but write about travel all the time 🙂 I edited my post and said I went to Manali in June 2005. I am sorry if I give the impression that all my travels are recent.
Whenever you went, it is another great post!
Hi Mridula,I just discovered that you left some comments on my India-blog (maybe already some time ago, I had not checked it for a while). I think it’s really funny that you found my blog, cause I’ve been reading yours for a while now too, found it through bbc. I really enjoy reading your blog. I guess everything about India is interesting to me now as I’m planning a trip there. It’s very interesting to read your stories, I like the fact that you give some bad critique too sometimes. The pictures are beautiful. Your trips are an inspiration for me.Thanks again for visiting my blog (it’s kind of asleep right now, will probably start posting really active once I get in India, hopefully in december)regards,Ine
Thank you so much Teri.Ine, I discovered your blog when I was searching something on either google or technorati. And I am so happy I discovered it. I guess December is a good time to come to India, as he weather is cold. The summer in India is particulalrly harsh. But tell me something, why don’t you write about Germany in the meanwhile? It is an exotic location for us in this part of the globe.
Your post is really nice, Mridula. I remember visiting Manali when I was a kid. I guess it was much quieter then. The thing I most remember about that trip is the bus journey to Manali itself. We had started from Ambala (close to Delhi) and I distinctly remember it was very scenic along the way. The river (I think it was Beas) flows along for quite a while and has cut some really sheer cliffs on its way. We also visited Bhuntar and I remember it as a sleepy and peaceful town. I would love to visit again.
Nice photos! That Rhotang pass looks DANGEROUS and SPOOKY with all the fog!
The first picture looks like it could have been taken around where I live. I would never have guessed it’s in India; I had no idea there are pine forests there.Are there no trash cans on the streets in the cities or do people just ignore them? The way I was raised, littering came just after murder on the list of Things We Do Not Do.
Mrindula,my trip in Germany is coming very close to the end, I’ll be flying home on thursday. But I will write a big piece about my experiences in Berlin some time this weekend. And I promise to write about my home country, Belgium too in the future, cause that is probably just as exotic to you as Germany. Of course I wont be writing this on my India blog, but on my other blog …
oops I wrote your name wrong, sorry. That happens sometimes with exotic names 😉
Pooja, it is river Beas and it lends incredible beauty to the way. Husband and I are thinking of cycling sometime part of the way, and if my husband can have his way, it will be a big part!Mo, are you still in Florida? You give a new spin to Rohtang Pass.I do not know Lily, trash cans are not so easily visible, and still it is also the culture. It is not very difficult to stuff a wrapper somewhere till one finds a dustbin. The lower Himalayan regions are full of pine forests in India and many of them can be reached by traveling overnight from Delhi.Ine, never mind, my name is tongue twisting I know. Belgium is on my wish list along with New Zealand but these are dream destinations and if I can ever manage, they are going to cost me heaven and earth, unless I go there to attend some conferences. I have visited Athens, Modena and Venice and Amsterdam and Groningen for attending academic conferences. I would love reading about Belgium and Germany too.
Great photos and memorable entry. Fond fond memories of Kulu Manali trip! Hidimba was so beautiful, much more beautiful than it was in that Mani Ratnam movie. Rohtang and breaking beyond the crowd to go up to get to the ice, the hot water gutters, fast flowing river, the openly growing marijuana, the small odd getaways. It was so long ago, I forget the names, but its so beautiful. The ride to Manali matches the ride to Gangtok along the Teesta river in sheer beauty, Not worth flying there!
The Rohtang Pass looks awesome!!!! i never heard of Manali. its not written in ordinary travel guide books. thank u very much(^^)/
Hi!Those are some awesome Pics!Read my Kissay@http://kissay.rediffblogs.com
Khakra, now that you mention Mani Ratnam, I can think of Roja and Hidimba Temple but never thought of it before! I guess you have such fond memories because it was long ago. Manali is just too crowded for words in season now.Niki, I think Manali is very commanly mentioned destination and a lot of people visit it every year. You will find it in Lonely Planet. Thank you Vaibhav. I will surely check out your blog.
Litter can really ruin and detract from otherwise pretty surroundings, and I remember going to Golden Gate State Park in San Francisco and being so put off by all the liter. I think Americans have made a pretty good get-the-word-out campaign to end littering, and everyone knows that it’s Not Okay, so I rarely see liter strewn areas anymore. Popular parks and sights are kept especially clean. Maybe it’ll get better in India if the gov’t takes up the cause, and I think in Paris there’s a big push for ridding the city of the prolierous dog poop problem. Paris is lovely but there are millions of dogs in that city, and the owners never pick up after them. This is one reason they lost the Olympic bid to London!
Awesome shot of the Rohtang pass…Dont landscapes always make you want to stop and take a deep breath?
I guess so Crystal. I think the government tries in a half hearted way. But what pains me most is that educated, well off people indulge in it too.I agree Deepak, and I have been pestering my husband to go somewhere on a weekend trip soon, so that I can breath again but another trip seems possible only in November. So sad.
very nice,description,Mridula..And I love visiting temples!!
We went to Manali last year. And even though it is a beautiful place, you are right – what put me off too was the crowd and the litter everywhere. Even a place like Rohtang Pass was not really spared. I believe the best thing to do is to visit these places during off season days. I am sure it would be really peaceful and beautiful at that time.
It is such a pity Emma. The people who went there earlier have such fond memories of the place. And you are right about the off season thing.
i went to manali about 13 years ago… i love monastries.. i remember entering a monastery and reading the no photography sign.. but seeing no one around i could not resist my temptation of taking photographs of teh huge budha statues with their golden and red hue.. and guess what happened.. after three shots the the camera rewinded just like that .. it rewinds when the role gets over but i was just on the 7 snap!!! i was later told that the film was faulty.. but i wonder at times.. was it 😉
Thoughts, that is an amazing incident. But now the monastries have changed their policies. They let you take pictures. A few of them appeal to donate small sums for the upkeep but nothing is mandatory.13 years before Manali must have been like heaven.
hi there, great blog. I just got back from manali a few weeks ago. I loved the place, but couldnt agree more with you in terms of people throwing their rubbish everywhere. I think this is a wider problem that needs addressing to the whole of India. Its true Indians are just not bothered about the society they live in, and litter without a care in the world. I am Indian,but from Britain and visit India regularly and it makes me real sad when I see that there is little change in the mentality of the people in India, even as time progresses. India is such a naturally beautiful country,and its about time that we Indians show respect to our land.