Manali has an aura which is kind of mystical in nature. As I boarded the bus to Manali, I waited in anticipation for those beautiful locales that my eyes would meet with when I alight from that same bus the next morning. I wonder if there is anyone who would not return captivated by its beauty and serenity, and the answer would be very hard to find. No wonder Manali is one of the most visited hill stations in India, especially during the peak season when tourists flock to this place to enjoy nature when it is in full form.
We reached Manali early in the morning and got off at the HPTDC bus depot situated on the Mall Road. There was not much of a crowd in the Mall Road at that time. As we started walking to our Hotel by taking directions from the passers-by, we also kept planning of how to spend that day. The caretaker at the hotel also helped us work out a travel itinerary, based on which we could plan out our 1st day in the Manali town.
Manali can be best explored if you prefer to walk across the place, though many of us are not habituated to walking in a hilly terrain. There are a couple of places which you cannot think of giving it a miss while in Manali –
- Visit to the Hadimba Mandir – We had put up at Hotel Rohtang Manalsu (the HPTDC hotel), situated on Hadimba Temple Road and is close by to the Hadimba Mandir. We planned to drop in at the Mandir first before moving to other places. The Mandir is a ‘pagoda-styled’ ancient temple built in the mid sixteenth century and is dedicated to Goddess Hadimba, a key deity of the local people of Manali.
A flight of stairs connected directly with the Hotel took us to the temple. Hidden amidst thick deodar trees, the temple presents a pleasant sight to anyone who comes to pay obeisance here. Just 50 mts. away from the temple lies the open tree temple dedicated to Ghatotkach, to which we paid a short visit.
- Catching a glimpse of rustic Manali by walking down the lanes of Old Manali – Asking directions from the people on our way, we soon reached the iconic bridge that separates new Manali from old Manali, with the river Beas flowing underneath.
Once in Old Manali, a walk through the winding lanes with shops on both sides would transport you totally to a different world. The place is a complete contrast to the Manali that I had started getting used to. A good number of foreign tourists can be spotted here. Sign-boards outside shops written in Hebrew pop up in the area every now and then, which clearly indicates that Old Manali has a sizeable number of Israeli tourists who eventually chose to settle there.
- Visit to the Manu Temple – This temple is situated across Old Manali and is dedicated to Indian sage Manu, who is the creator of Manusmriti. The ‘pagoda-styled’ architecture of the temple is a reminder of the other temples of the region, built more or less in a similar fashion in a combination of stone, wood and marble (the latter used for flooring). Besides the statue of Manu, the temple also houses major Hindu deities like Lord Krishna, Hanuman, Shiva and Rama.
The panoramic view of the mountains and of the picturesque village from the temple made us sit for some time enjoying the nature around, before heading for our next destination.
- Visit to the Vashisht Ashram – Famous for its hot sulphur spring, the Vashisht ashram is situated 5 kms away from the Mall Road. We took an auto as the stretch entailed an uphill walk and we were in no mood to hike that day. The ashram was built in the memory of Rishi Vashishtha and dates back to 3000 – 4000 years.
The main temple was closed by the time we reached but I did dip my feet in the hot spring that I learnt has great medicinal value. There were separate bathing areas for both male and female. Beside the temple, are the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Rama that are built in similar traditional style of wooden carvings and stones.
- Enjoying the view of the Beas river – Sitting beside the river Beas and listening to the gurgling sound of the water flowing downstream was the most beautiful moment for me. While on our way from Vashisht Ashram (we did not get an auto while coming downhill), I could not resist myself from walking down to the bank of the river and spending some quiet time there, sitting on one of the big rocks. If you are an adventure freak, you can also engage yourself in some of the water sports that Manali has plenty to offer to its tourists at the river front.
- Going for a nature’s walk inside the Van Vihar – Very few people would be aware about this place as it does not find mention in many of the local sight-seeing attractions, but nothing could be more refreshing and rejuvenating than taking a walk through this nature trail amidst the tall deodar trees and enjoy a breath-taking view of the river Beas flowing close by. It has been converted into a park and is located right in the middle of Manali and covers a great expanse of the town.
- Taking a stroll though the Mall Road – You could not have possibly missed to stop by the Mall Road, which is a major attraction of any hill station. It is a 1.5 kms stretch lined with shops and hotels on both the sides. Right from famous Kullu woollens and shawls to Kashmiri handloom & artefacts and Tibetan handicrafts & souvenirs, the shops has everything to offer to its tourists. The price quoted on the items were a bit expensive, so I preferred shopping Kullu shawls from Bhuttico (weaver’s co-operative society) showroom that has a good collection and the prices are also very reasonable.
Evening was closing in by the time we reached our hotel and having wandered across the town the whole day, we were very tired and yearned for a hot cup of tea. We seemed to have covered almost every major local attraction on our 1st day in Manali and started planning for the next day. The 2nd day was my most awaited part of that journey, as we had planned to visit the beautiful Rohtang Pass. The sky was getting overcast by then and looking at the sky I pondered – what if rains continued till morning and played a ‘spoilsport’ to our remaining part of the Manali journey.
Check out how our Day 2 from my Manali Diary turned out to be!
– Samrita Baruah