Manali is a picturesque town nestled in the Kullu valley or 'Valley of the Gods' in Himachal Pradesh. The nearest rail link is Kalka Shimla railway, and nearest airport is the small airport in Bhuntar town about 50 km south of Manali, so it’s best to use roads to reach the city from Chandigarh, Shimla, Mandi, Dehradun and Delhi. The city falls on the ancient trade route that connects it to Ladakh, Yarkand and Khotan. Beside farming growing apples, plum, pear and fishing in beas river was the most important economic activity for the locals, till tourism boom resulted in influx of tourist from across the world; especially European countries, Israel and USA. Most of them go on onward journey to Malana village about 80 km from Manali, to enjoy ‘Malana Cream’ made from local weed, considered one of the best weed variety; that is grown downhills of Parvati valley beside Malana village.
The city has tourists flocking all the year round except during rainy season when it trickles down as access to town becomes difficult due to recurring landslides. During winter the city blanketed in snow is a treat for tourists who wish to experience the snowfall. Those planning to visit Manali are best advised to keep warm cloths, blankets handy always apart from summers. The city is one of India’s top adventure sports destinations including skiing and paragliding; much of which are done nearby in the beautiful Solang Valley. River rafting on the Beas river is also another adventure sport that visitors especially adrenaline junkies can enjoy.
Those who wish to go on adventure backpacking tours on horseback or foot; the neighbouring valleys are perfect for getaway trips that can last from one day to a week with camping. For ultimate thrill seekers, travelling on bike or cars across Rohtang Pass from Manali to Leh during summers soaking up the pristine beauty of the surrounding valleys and mountains is the best prize. The city is a staging point for tourists who want to visit the Lahaul & Spiti valley nestled at even higher altitude across the mountains. There are certified agencies in the town that handle all such requirements for conducting guided tours.
Local legend has it that Manali is home of mythical sage Manu, the law giver. It’s said Manu setup his residence or 'Manu-Alaya' that literally means 'the abode of Manu'; at this place when he stepped out of his ark after the great floods to recreate human life. A temple dedicated to sage Manu, still exists in old Manali village. There are many lodges, 2-star, 3-star hotels and boutique resorts in the town for backpackers on shoe string budget. Cashing in on tourism boom locals have also started renting out their residence as homestays for tourists.
Nearby villages like Dharamkot, Old Manali, Vashishth, Kasol and Tosh are known as mini Israel due to presence of Israeli tourist, most of who come here after completing their compulsory military training. An interesting fact about the city and neighbouring villages is that there are large number of foreigners both men and women living permanently after marrying locals and are mostly involved in running hotels and restaurants. Also many villages around Manali are known their peculiar customs that they zealously follow.
Mall road is a pedestrian friendly main shopping street in the city with most shops selling all sorts of cheap wares and is frequented by backpackers. There are numerous hotels, cafes, restaurants selling not just Indian, Punjabi, local Himachali cuisine; but also international cuisines for tourists from countries like Israel, Korea, Germany, and Russia. In and around the city, tourists can visit locations in Parvati and Kullu valley like Hidimba Devi Temple, Kheerganga hot springs, Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa Monastery, Rahala Falls, Raghunath Temple, Jana Waterfall, Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art, Zana Falls, Siyali Mahadev Temple, Manali Sanctuary, Beas Kund, Bhrigu Lake, Pandoh Dam, Great Himalayan National Park, Jogini Waterfall, Hampta Pass, Manikaran Gurudwara, Himalayan Nyingmapa Gompa, Manikaran hot springs, Gulaba, Naggar Castle, and Vishnu Temple. Manali allows everyone be it foreigners and Indians seeking adventure sports or soak the pristine beauty of nature at its best.