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Manali, the entrance port to Ladakh


Manali in Beas River valley is a small town at the border with Ladakh at an altitude of 1950 meter. It is an important hill station in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India, near the northern end of the Kullu Valley.

Surrounding of Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Manali is small town with population of about 30,000 people. The small town was the beginning of an ancient trade route to Ladakh and, from there, over the Karakoram Pass on to Yarkand and Khotan in the Tarim Basin. It is still the start for many of their journey to the nearby Rhotang Pass and Ladakh

The town and surrounding are popular with tourists, not in the last place because of cool weather, a nice contrast to the heat of the Indian lowlands.

Hiking around Manali

It is famous for the more adventurous people who love skiing, hiking, mountaineering, paragliding, rafting, trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking.

cricket in the forest of ManaliIn India, cricket is almost more important then religion, politics or even corruption! Everyone plays cricket, from young to old, from salesmen to monks. Indians play cricket at any time and in any place (like here in the forest next to the Hidimba Devi Temple)

It all becomes even more clear during the world cup, especially when India plays Pakistan.

Once I was in India, when India lost from Pakistan in the semi finals (if I remember right) and the whole population was mourning. However, when Pakistan played the final against Australia, all Indians were in favor of Pakistan. "Maybe we disagree on many things, but we're also still brothers", one Indian told me.

Around town there are some nice gompas (Buddhist monasteries) but for me the Hidimba Devi Temple was the reason to come. It is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimba Devi, sister of Hidimba, who was a character in the Mahabharata. The temple is surrounded by a cedar forest at the foot of the Himalayas. Part of the beauty is the wood sculpturing in the temple which is stunning. The temple was build in the 16th century and is a must visit in this area.

Hidimba Devi Temple Manali, Himachal Pradesh

Hidimba Devi Temple
Hidimba Devi Temple in the hills nearby

From June to October, depending on the snow situation on the pass, you can cross from Manali into Ladakh. Hikers might be able to go a bit earlier. The Rhotang Pass is 50km from the city and a long climb to over 4000 meter. Many arrive at the pass with suffer from altitude sickness. Be very careful! You can arrange a bus from Manali to Leh.

Posing in a village near Manali

Around the town, much deeper in the mountains are some nice waterfalls and hot springs. Best way to find them is to hire a guide in Manali and hike.

Getting there

Manali is well connected. You can get a direct bus from Delhi's northern bus station, as I once did when I wanted to go straight to Leh, Ladakh. In Manali there are buses to Leh available when the Rhotang Pass is open. Other destinations you can reach by bus are Shimla, Dalhousie, Dharamsala and Rishikesh amongst many others.

Just outside the Manali town center, near the forest
Just outside the town center, near the forest

Where to Stay

Manali has many very cheap (though not always too clean or having decent facilities) guesthouses and hotels. For a little bit of extra money you can have a comfortable room in the town center. I stayed once in the funny named (for this area) Ocean Hotel, which was an excellent choice for not even $10.

Local transport Lady in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh

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