|Manali Trip Report |
|Thanks to all the help from Indiamike and Tripadvisor, me and wife had a memorable vacation in Manali last week. Now it is time to share our experiences. |
Trip Duration: 30th Sep to 6th Oct 2012
It was a very good time to visit Manali. Skies were clear, few people thronging the tourist attractions, less traffic on the roads, we didn't have to use woolens either.
All the prices mentioned here are as on Oct 2012, do take yearly/seasonal inflation into account depending on when you are planning your travel.
We caught the flight from Rajiv Gandhi Airport (the one in Hyderabad if you know many ) to Indira Gandhi Airport and reached Delhi at 1 PM. (Tip: Check travel deals at www.coupondunia.in for airfare and hotel discounts). After reaching Delhi I booked Megacab for a 4 hours, 40KMs package (Cost: 800 INR) and visited Railway Museum, India Gate and Gandhi Smriti. The driver was a really funny guy, the cab was comfortable, billing was transparent.
We reached Chanderlok Building on Cannaught Place (Opposite to Imperial Hotel on Janpath) from where we were supposed to catch HPTDC Volvo to Manali. As we still had around 1.5 hours, we dropped our luggages at Himachal Tourism office and went to McDonalds nearby. We spent a few mins looking at the overpriced items in Cottage Emporium and caught the bus at 6:30 PM.
HPTDC Volvo was clean and quite comfortable as many others have said. It left on time and didn't stop anywhere else in Delhi. Cost: 1220 per person.
Sunrise with spellbinding views of the mountains and Beas river as the bus meandered from Mandi to Kullu helped soothe the exhaustion of the long journey. (Tip: You'll enjoy better views from the bus if you book tickets to the right while going to Manali and vice versa). We reached Manali at 8:30 AM. As soon as one reaches the bus stand, there will be touts behind you. So it is a good idea to reserve at least one night's stay before hand. We took a 50/- Rs auto ride to reach Honeymoon Inn (2 Kms from the Mall Road).
I had booked a Super Deluxe Room for a night through Makemytrip (Cost: INR 2380 after 400 cashback, including breakfast). Upon reaching, they upgraded to Honeymoon Suite which was soaked with pine scent and felt nice. Food is fairly good, they have a beautiful garden and a small library. The properly has an overall positive vibe around it with likable staff.
We visited Hadimba Temple in the afternoon (4 Kms from Honeymoon Inn, auto fare 100) and strolled in Dhungri Van Vihar attached to it. After walking for over 1 KM road towards Old Manali and around 100 m on Log Hut road, we reached Casa Bella Vista. It was a good place to spend the cool evening with some delicious food (Four Seasons Pizza - INR 325, Ginger Lemon Tea - 60, too good).
Checked out from Honeymoon Inn, booked a cab to Naggar from their front desk. Our first stop was Gayatri Temple in Jagatsukh which was done in Shikhara style and looked pretty. En route to Naggar we purchased some shawls from Heritage Emporium (driver told the prices are fair here). Reached Naggar castle around 12 PM and spent some time enjoying the view of the mountains.
At Naggar Castle, we enquired about the Krishna Temple at Thava and got some directions. The path is well laid and you shouldn't have any problems in getting to the temple if you are prepared to do a bit of walking. Thankfully we had our driver as a guide too. After wandering for half an hour in thick Deodar forests with cold breeze caressing us, we were in time for the Aarti in the temple. Nobody except us were there and it was a surreal experience to be in the temple premises with splendid views of far off peaks. Krishna temple at Thava is a must visit place when you go to Naggar.
We started for Jana falls (10 Kms from Naggar) through a scenic route. Roads to Jana falls are narrow ones and we got into a deadlock with a huge truck coming on the opposite side. There was good amount of water in the waterfall and Himachali food there was quite delectable (Cost of Lunch: 150 per person). Later we learnt that this Himachali dhaba serves true Organic food in the whole of Manali. Our final destination that day was Upadhyay cottage in Katrain (8 Kms from Naggar). (Cost of cab 1400/-, driver Thakur was one of the most enthusiastic persons I've ever met. He can be contacted at 9418708672)
Wrapped inside apple, pomegranate, apricot and walnut trees, Upadhyay cottage was beyond what we had expected it to be. And I must mention about the Japanese fruits which were really sweet. Very hospitable people, spectacular views of Pir Panjal range from the balcony, tasty soup and parathas, the stay was just awesome. (Cost: 2350 per night excluding breakfast, dinner: 200 per person). Book well before hand as they have only a few cottages.
Rajeev, the owner of the cottages suggested that we go hiking the mountains behind the cottage. Our guide Alok was a friendly chap who had a lot of stories to share, from taxi union in Manali hampering tourism prospects to his adventures in Spiti valley.
On Rajeev's Scorpio, we went to Sheela village, nearly 12 Kms from the cottage. We were lucky to be in Manali towards the end of apple season, we roamed around in the apple Orchards in Sheela and learnt about how apple harvesting/ packing/ transporting is done. Our trek started somewhere down. Over the next 5 hours, we kept walking and it was an experience to cherish for a long time. Wonderful views of mountains and greenery all around, strangers who smile at you as if they have known you for a long time - me and wife couldn't have thought of a better vacation in Himachal. The trails became a little tough here and there, but I must thank Rajeev for recommending it. The trek ended in Tarashi village behind the cottage. (Cost: 1100 including transport, guide and packed lunch)
We had a sumptuous breakfast and checked out of Upadhyay cottages. Rajeev had arranged an Alto for the sightseeing that day. We spent some time on the banks of Beas river, but didn't feel hungry enough to have lunch at some riverside restaurants near Patlikuhl.
Next stop was Vashisth temple. Ignoring pleads of "See some Chingus sir", we kept asking for directions to Jogini falls. Our driver had told us that we should take a guide, still we just kept walking on the zig-zag lanes all by ourselves. After 20 mins or so, we reached the first stage of Jogini Falls. It was really beautiful. Our legs were feeling tired because of the trek the day before, still we thought of marching further. En route we met a bunch of govt employees who were forced to trek from Old Manali to Jogini falls for 4 hours and were running out of breath. They easily convinced us that it would be futile to venture further without a guide and with just 2 us, there was a high chance that we would be lost somewhere in the mountains. We retraced the path back to the village.
After reaching Solang, we took the ropeway to the mountain top (Cost: 500 per person). The view from there was truly out of the world. Quite a few snow capped peaks to hold your eyes, breathtaking green vistas, chilly wind, we had to literally force ourselves to come back.
The cab dropped us at Holiday Cottages at Simsa. Cost of the ride: 1200
Holiday Cottage was another amazing place. Situated at a fairly good height, the views from the Balcony are awe-inspiring. Rushing beas river, panoramic views of Himalayas, verdant apple orchards, birds creaking, it was quite an experience. I had booked a Deluxe room for 2200 from their site (including breakfast) and they upgraded to Super Deluxe. The property was new, bathroom fittings to the lightings, it was more than what one would expect from a 3-star hotel. Food prices may seem to be on the higher side (e.g. Tomato soup: 150, tea: 70).
I can't remember why I booked 3 different places to stay for 4 days, but all of them were excellent with some uniqueness of their own. It had rained the night before and we could see some more snow on the mountains.
We checked out of Holiday cottage at 1 PM, booked a local sightseeing package for 550 through their travel desk and visited a few other local attractions in Manali. Manu temple was calm and serene. While coming down to club house, I saw Drifter's cafe by the side which I had read about. We had some yummy Pizza and chilly garlic potato fries (Cost: 300 for two). Club house, Tibetan Monastery, Van Vihar were all nice places with snowy mountains, tall Deodar forests and the gushing Beas river creating a picturesque setting. Better to spend some time at these places than getting bored in the hotel lobby.
We caught HPTDC Volvo at 5:30 PM from Govt Bus stand on Mall road. The return journey felt much less tiring.
The bus reached Cannaught Place around 7:30 AM. There were a few taxi and auto drivers waiting there ready to pounce on us (with someone shouting from behind: 'leave them to me'). We paid 80 Rs to catch an auto to Karol Bagh where I had booked Saar Inn for a night. (Cost: 2100 including breakfast, high value for money, thanks to Tripadvisor for all the hotel choices).
Before catching the train back to Hyderabad, we visited Akshardham Temple, Lotus Temple and Humayun's Tomb, ending our vacation with indelible memories!!!
Person 1: You came this far to Manali, but didn't go to Rohtang???
Person 2: It is good that they didn't plan for Rohtang. There is nothing to see there in Oct 1st week except barren mountains.
Rohtang Pass, for another trip to Manali...