Manali – Valley of the Gods: A Complete Travel Guide


Referred to as the “Queen of the Himachal Pradesh,” Manali is an ancient town in the Kullu district which is situated at an altitude of nearly 2,050 meters from the sea level. Surrounded by high peaks in all the directions in the beautiful Beas valley, beckoning adventurers and backpackers from all directions, Manali is tourist magnet year round.  Manali is blessed with breathtaking beauty that comprises of natural lofty snowcapped mountains, thick deodar coated forest, fruit orchards, beautiful hamlets and meadows that are filled with an abundance of lovely wild flowers.

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Manali offers plenty of different experience which are suitable for every kind of traveller out there. It offers adventure sports such as river rafting, skiing, paragliding and trekking or the adventurous ones. It offers serene climatic views and relaxation for the ones that wish to get away from the hustle of their daily lives.
Get enchanted by the surrealistic snowscape of Rohtang Pass or the Snow Point. Lose yourself in the spiritual realm by paying a visit to Hadimba Temple, Vashisth Bath and Van Vihar. With all these attractions and surreal natural beauty in abundance, Manali makes an ideal holiday and a get away destination for everyone, regardless of their preferences.

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This Manali tour guide is aimed at providing the best and the most reliable information. Book your trip to Manali here.

History of Manali :

Manali is named after the Hindu Lawgiver Manu. The name Manali is regarded as the derivative of ‘Manu-Alaya’ which literally means ‘the abode of Manu’. Legend has it that sage Manu stepped off his ark in Manali to recreate human life after a great flood had deluged the world. The valley is often referred to as the ‘Valley of the Gods’. Old Manali village has an ancient vibe to it and it also houses an ancient temple dedicated to sage Manu.

Manali, which is famous for the apples it exports, did not originally have any apple trees. The first apple trees were introduced by the Britishers and the first apple orchard was set up by the British near Patlikuhl. To this day, apple—along with plum and pear—remain the best source of income for the majority of inhabitants. Both Rainbow and Brown Trout was also introduced into the rivers and streams of the area by the colonisers.

With the increase in disposable incomes and due to its scenic beauty, Manali tourism witnessed a surge in traffic. This was once a quiet village which was transformed into a bustling town with numerous homestays as well as the occasional boutique hotel. During the warmer summer months, cafes and restaurants can be seen doing brisk business.

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Geography and Landscape of Manali :

The geography of Manali is such as that it is located about at a distance of 40 km from Kullu in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The elevation ranges from 1800 m (5,900 ft.) to 2000 m ( 6,600 ft.)  It has a complex and variable topography, with verdant valleys, forested hillsides, and streams. The Sutlej and Beas River cross through the grassy meadows and rocky terrain, Manali offers access to the Lahaul, Spiti and Kinnaur regions of Himachal Pradesh as well as the Leh and Zanskar regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

Manali is located at the foothills of the Himalayan range; one the largest mountain ranges in the world. Due to its proximity to Himalayan range, Manali also shares the characteristic cold climate and looming mountains. The melting of the snow capped mountains in summers provide streams of fresh and clear water that spread throughout the land and nourishes the land.

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Climate of Manali :

The climate in Manali is predominantly cold during winters, and moderately cool during summers. The temperatures range from 4 °C to 26 °C over the year. The average temperature during summer is between 04 °C and 15 °C, and between −15 °C  and 05 °C in the winter. Monthly precipitation varies between 31 millimeter in November to 217 millimeter in July. In average, some 45 millimeters of precipitation is received during winter and spring months, increasing to some 115 millimeters in summer as the monsoon approaches. The average total annual precipitation is 1,363 millimeters. Snowfall often takes place between November end to early February. The weather in Manali is not stable.

Manali becomes a welcome relief for the visitors to get away from the blistering heat which hits the plains. During winters it offers the pleasant garb of the snow to draw people to this beautiful place. Because of its popularity between both the extreme seasons, Manali is one the few locations that is able to draw travellers all year round.

However, the best time to enjoy the beauty of Manali is the onset of spring followed by the summer months. This twilight seasonal climatic condition offers the best climatic conditions, full bloom of the flora and the pristine melting of snow of Manali, makes this the best time to visit Manali. The best time to visit Manali are from March – June.  

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How to reach Manali :

By air :

The nearest airport to Manali is in Bhuntar, which is in the Kullu district, which is at a distance of 50 kilometers from Manali. To reach Manali from the airport, one has to take a private cab which are readily available at the airport.

There are many flights to Manali offered from all the major cities of India. To get the best value for your money, book your return ticket at the same time. Air India, Spicejet, Indigo and Jet airways offer some of the most economical flights to Manali.

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By train :

Joginder Nagar Railway Station is the nearest railway station to Manali and is connected with several important cities of the country. Ambala and Chandigarh are other economical options to reach Manali by train. From the railheads, one can avail several modes of transportation including taxi and bus at a reasonable cost. Besides this, the Kalka Railway Station, a terminal in the foot of Himachal heights, connects Manali to the major cities like New Delhi, Amritsar, Jammu, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bhopal, Indore, Patna, Kanpur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, circuitously.

The nearest broad gauge station is Kiratpur Sahib in Punjab near the city of Nangal. It lies in Ropar district of Punjab. The station lies on the Ambala Cantt – Una route of Indian Railways. From here you can easily get buses for Manali.

By road :

Manali is connected to popular tourist destinations like Delhi, Shimla, Kullu and Leh by the means of an extensively laid roads. The twisting of the roads on the mountainous terrain of Manali provides an intense and a very fun experience.

Manali can be reached from Delhi by national highway NH 1 up to Ambala and from there NH 22 to Chandigarh and from there by national highway NH21 that passes through Bilaspur, Sundernagar, Mandi and Kullu towns. The road distance from Chandigarh to Manali is 310 km (190 mi), and the total distance from Delhi to Manali is 570 km (350 mi). Luxury buses (including Volvos) usually pass on this route and are available from all major bus terminals.

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Things to see and to do in Manali :

Manali has no dearth for beautiful places to visit. Manali is called the Valley of the Gods for a reason and that reason is because of the immense beauty possessed by the place and its strong ancient roots that adds a flair to this place.

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Pray at the Hidimba Devi temple :

Hidimba temple is one of the oldest temples in Manali, renowned for its beauty and cultural charm. The history of this temple dates back to the Mahabharata times and the main deity is Hadimba Devi. This temple has intricately carved doors and a 24 meters tall wooden tower above the sanctuary.

Visit the Solang valley :

Solang valley derives its name from a nearby village named Solang and Nullah a water stream. It is at a distance of 14 kilometers to the northwest of the resort town of Manali. Giant slopes of lawn has turned Solang valley into a popular ski resort area. The sports offered here are parachuting, paragliding, skiing and zorbing.

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Explore the Rohtang pass :

Rohtang pass situated at an altitude of 3,978 meters; is the highest motorable pass in the world. It is located at the eastern Pir Panjal range which is at a distance of 52 kilometers from Manali. This pass is open from May to November and it remains closed during the other months because of unpredictable snowstorms.

Frolic in the Bhrigu lake :

Bhrigu lake is a high altitude lake which is situated at a height of 4,300 meters above sea level. It is located to the east of the Rohtang pass at a distance of about 6 kilometers. It is named after the great sage of Hindu mythology, Maharishi Bhrigu. This lake never freezes completely. It lies on various trek routes.

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Visit the Pandoh dam :

Pandoh dam is an embankment dam on the Beas river. Under the Beas project, the dam was completed in 1977, and its primary purposes is generating hydroelectric power. This dam is built to utilize the hydropower of the two rivers; the Beas and the Sutlej. The scenic beauty of this dam is astounding and it provides an educational experience as well.

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Visit the Manali Sanctuary :

The Manali Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh in northern India. The sanctuary starts about 2 km from Manali. A path from Manali log huts and Dhungri temple passes through dense Deodar, Kail, Horse chestnut, Walnut and Maple forests. Musk deer, Monal and Brown bear, Leopard and Snow leopards are some of the common animals seen here. Herds of Ibex are seen migrating in the glacier zone in summers.

Visit Vashisht village :

Around 3 kilometers from Manali, across the Beas river is Vashist, a small village with natural sulphur springs. Vashisht, also boasts a pair of old stone temples, opposite each other above the main square. Dedicated to the local patron saint Vashista, the smaller of the two opens on to a partially covered courtyard, and is adorned with elaborate wood carving. The temple tanks are underground hot-water/sulfur springs. A bath in the water from these hot springs are able to cure all the skin ailments that people are suffering from.  

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Explore old Manali :

At a distance of 3 kilometers to the northwest of Manali is Old Manali, famous for its orchards and old guesthouses. Calm and serene surroundings coupled with the sound of Beas river is a very peaceful experience. There is ruined fort here by the name of Manaligarh. There is also the Manu Maharishi Temple, dedicated to sage Manu.

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Visit the Monasteries :

Manali is known for its shiny gompas or Buddhist monasteries. It is maintained by donations from the local community and by sale of hand-woven carpets in the temple workshop.

Visit the Maa Shravani temple :

This temple is represented as KULDEVI of the kings of Kullu in early times and is worshipped as a manifestation of Durga, and image of the goddess is also enshrined here. The divinity is popularly worshipped throughout the region during the festivals and the Goddess is transported to Kullu to visit the Lord Raghunathji during Dussehra festival. This temple is on the top of above the Shaminallah village, which is around 5 kilometers from Manali, across the Beas river on the left bank on the way to Naggar Castle.

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Food in Manali :

Manali is famous for vegetarian as well non-vegetarian foods. Some of the most popular dishes are kaddu ka khatta, guchhi matter and sepu vadi while famous non-vegetarian dishes include kullu trout, grilled fish and chicken anardana.

Manali has a lot of fresh ingredients available for consumption, so their food is also made with the freshest ingredients. Here are some of the most authentic restaurants in Manali that serve the most delicious food.

  • The Johnson’s cafe and hotel
  • The lazy dog lounge
  • Aadarsh restaurant
  • Casa Bella Vista
  • Cafe 1947
  • Renaissance Manali
  • Vibes Himachali cuisine
  • Gozy restaurant
  • Fat plate
  • Cafe Ave Maria

These are some of the famous restaurants that serve the most delicious food in Manali. Also try out the food from local street vendors for mouth-smacking snacks and delicacies.

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Where to shop and what to buy in Manali :

The mall road :

Mall Road is one of the top places to shop in Manali. It is also one of the most visited destinations of the hill station which attracts the number of tourists. The shops on both sides of the road are neatly lined and offer many attractive products which you can purchase at a reasonable cost by showing the bargaining skills. You can find a huge range of products on Mall Road which also covers famous Kashmiri shawls, sarees, books, antique items, and a lot more.

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Tibetan Market :

The Tibetan market is famous for the different Tibetan products range and it is the best option for those who are looking to buy Tibetan stuff. At the streets of this market, you can walk and see different products on both sides of the road which will help you to connect with the Tibetan culture and tradition. Apart from this, there is a lot more to explore in the market where you can find products like bamboo items, Buddhist painting cloth, jewellery, decorative items, and apparels.

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Old Manali market :

The old charm of this popular market of Manali has something different which attracts almost every tourist visiting the place. Find your way through the narrow roads to find colourful streets of this market from where you can buy a lot of cool stuff like different accessories of famous celebrities, t-shirts, stylish woollen clothes, and much more. Exploring the market and bargaining for the right place is another enjoyable task which you will be going to do here.

Manu market :

This is one of the smallest but one of the most busiest shopping places of Manali. Manu Market is the place which is frequented by both the locals and the tourists. Different products you can get from this place includes books, clothes, footwear, handloom items, utensils, crockery, artificial jewellery, home appliances, etc. You can also have some delicious food from different vendors at this place.

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Clothes to pack to Manali :

Manali is a hill station on the foothills of the Himalayan region with temperatures decreasing 0 in the nights. So, make sure to pack warm clothes to fight against the cold climate. Pack scarves, mufflers, gloves and hats along with coats to keep yourself warm. Carry lots of moisturizer to keep your skin soft and to fight against the dry cold weather of Manali.

Important contacts :

Police – 100

Fire station – 101

Ambulance – 102

Manu diagnostic centre and hospital – 9418083587

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