Manali - a Magical Hillstation



Manali - a Magical Hillstation

This one is very close to my heart. I travelled Manali before Christmas last year and it was a wonderful experience. The vibes of Manali cannot be defined in words, but still lets give this a try.

We all grew up watching YJHD and wanted to visit Manali after watching bunny, and his friends trip to Manali. Everyone loved it, right? I am also one of those, who wanted to visit Manali because I have seen its beauty in YJHD.
Moving forward to the trip its began in Delhi we pre-booked everything like hotels, trains, buses before leaving but one thing we never wanted to plan before visiting was the exit. Yes, there was no exit plan we didn't book any return ticket as we never wanted this trip to end.

At a point of time everyone have that saturation point where they are fed up of their college life and pressure of office work and want to just leave everything for sometime and just enjoy their life. My trip to Manali was the same, I just wanted to leave my ordinary fast life of Delhi and find peace in the beauty of mountains of Himachal.

It was a five day trip and it started in the morning. We started our journey by train (Delhi to kalka shatabdi) at 7:00 in the morning it was a short and comfortable journey and the purpose to go by train was to experience the beautiful journey of kalka to shimla toy train departing at 12:00 pm.

Kalka-Shimla toy train

Kalka Shimla toy train
Kalka Shimla toy train


Kalka to shimla toy train departs soon after shatabdi reaches kalka so we quickly took our lugage and took our seats in the toy train and trust me that train really looks like a toy train that we used to see in thomas and friends.

Remember watching Thomas and friends, those trains running through the hills, toy train is just like that it runs at a speed of 20-30kmph and covers 96 kms journey in 6 hours. So you can calculate how slow it moves.

I was told that toy train would be the best thing that would happen in the journey and it turned out to be true the views, the mountains, the stations, birds flying by the train, sound of rivers, everything sound so pleasant you can just look at the mountains and enjoy the vibes. 

Kalka shimla toy train
View from toy train


Yes, it is true that the view from toy train is very amazing but once you have spent two to three hours in that train you get tired. As it is just 96kms but it feels like a really long and tiring journey and it seems more tiring if your end destination is not shimla which means you have to travel more to reach the final destination.

First destination- Shimla

We reached our first stop - Shimla by 6 pm and we have booked our tickets for the bus to Manali which will depart at 10:00 pm. So we had 4 hours to explore Shimla, we went to some famous points of shimla like Mall road, The Ridge, Christ Church. Also we had a decent dinner is shimla as we haven't eaten properly since morning as we only had snacks while traveling.

Shimla
Christ church, Shimla

While traveling from kalka to shimla as well as in shimla, one thing I was craving for, I wanted to witness live snowfall but I wasn't lucky enough to even see snow while whole journey to shimla. 

We were all tired as we were carrying bags as well as we have been travelling since morning. Firstly, Metro then train after that toy train this seems never ending and yet we have reached halfway to Manali.
 
Shimla to Manali is 248.9km. And when you are travelling in hilly areas it takes around 7 to 8 hours to cover this distance so we estimated to catch our bus by 10 and reach by 6 in the morning and it went as planned. After having yummy and tasty dinner we went to the bus stop and waited for around 15 minutes for the bus and then slept our whole way to Manali in the bus.

To check places to visit in manali visit- 9 places to visit in Manali

Finally reached Manali

We woke up just a few minutes before reaching Manali. We reached Manali and found out that the hotel we chose is 2-3 kms away from the bus stop which means more travel. We all were still tired and wanted to just lie down on the bed and sleep. So we took an autorickshaw to reach our hotel.  Basically it wasn't a hotel it was Hosteller Manali, it has sharing rooms, so we took a dorm with 4 single beds for all 4 people. I highly recommend Hosteller as it is highly affordable ehile traveling alone (Rs 300- 400/bed). We reached their by 6:30 AM and then we slept till 11:00 AM.

We woke up and first thing I did was to open the door of the room and from the balcony we saw what we have been looking for throughout the journey, shinny day, mountains in front of our eyes, snow covering the mountains. This is what we wanted to see. I recommend everyone to stay in Hosteller as view from Hosteller is unforgeable.

Manali
Balcony view from Hosteller Manali


So that view just made our day then we got ready, to go for sight seeing but before that we wanted to have a decent breakfast. And when you visit hilly areas only option you can find in the menu is Maggie. I ate Maggie at 6-7 different places in Manali and all tasted differently.

Day 1: Buddhist Monastery and Mall Road

After having cheesy Maggie we went towards the mall road Manali that is near bus stop which means we need to get a cab to visit there. No, we decided to take a long walk towards the mall road as it was cold out there and the view throughout the way was very amazing. We walked by the river for around 1 km the sound of the river was pleasant, empty roads that we never see in Delhi. For localites these are a part of their routine but we find this air, those pleasant sounds, fascinating.

Manali - a Magical Hillstation
View while walking towards mall road, Manali


We walked around 3 kms and reached Mall road and we were not at all tired, then we first visited Buddhist monastery, Manali. We just visited inside to have a look but the location was beautiful. Those famous Ladakh flags hanging on the walls of monastery attracted us and we stayed their for around 1-2 hours. And then went towards mall road.

Buddhist Monastery
Buddhist Monastery


Mall road in every hillstation has alot to shop and eat and our focus was to try famous siddu of Manali and a variety of maggie and momos. We ate chaat, Maggie, momos, siddu and as it started raining so we decided to have hot soup to keep ourselves warm. One thing was still missing was snow. We could see snow on the mountains but we were still too far from it. And we had planned to visit solang valley on the last day to actually touch snow and to experience snowfall if we are lucky enough.

Manali - a Magical Hillstation
Siddu-a popular dish of Manali


We shopped some attractive stuff and ate alot while roaming around Mall road. Till now this seems to be a normal trip. Sight seeing, staying in hotels. Everyone does that, what is differrnt. As we told we are YJHD fans although we can't fight with localites in Manali but can still do some adventureous stuff to enjoy just like they did in the movie. 

Mall road, Manali
Mall Road, Manali

Day 2: Trekking, Camping and Sight-seeing

So we had planned to stay at camp site for a day and it was also booked so next day was camping day. So we went back to hotel around 9 pm and everyone talked about their previous traveling experiences and then we watched YJHD and slept after that. I was very excited for the camping part as I love adventurous activites. I want to try everything that I haven't tried before.

So, I woke up early before everyone and was excited, so i quickly got ready and kciked everyone to wake up and get ready, so that we can leave for the camp site.

Again, we wanted to take a long walk towards the Mall road first and then go to the camp site which is 2kms away from the Mall road. Today's target was to visit Hidimba Temple first. We asked from people on the Mall road about the directions and went toward the Hidimba temple. Carrying our track bags walking for hours was a full fun trekking expereince although we wanted to go for salong valley trek but it was closed due to heavy snowfall in recent days.

We reached stairs which is the way to reach Hidimba temple. There were around 400-500 steps and we walked it all to the top and reached Hidimba temple. Their was a little bit snow around the temple, but it wasn't fresh. We saw rabits and clicked photographs with them offcourse those were pets and to carry those one need to pay. 

Hadimba temple, Manali
Hadimba temple


Most of the people visit Hidimba temple not to worship Hidimba devi but just for the view from that location. We were one of those people. And next to Hidimba Temple there was a Nature park the reserved forest area of Manali and we bought tickets for that and went inside. The location was beautiful tall trees all around.

There was only one momo shop in that area and they charged us Ruppess 10/momo which was quite expensive but we didn't have any option. So we ate maggie and momos and then went ahead and found snow on the top of that reserved area. The sight was lovely you can sit there for hours and never get bored.

Manali - a Magical Hillstation
Nature Park


We stayed there for sometime and then again started walking towards the camp site. We took a different gate to exit which didn't have any stairs and then walked down the road towards the camp site and we reached the camp site by the evening.

On our way, we say few water sports activity by the side of river and we decided to do these the next day as we were tired as we are walking since morning. It was a river side camp with a view of mountains and bonfire in the centre of all the tents this is what we have been waiting for to sit by the bonfire with friends.
Camping in Manali
Bornfire at Himtrek adventure camp



So, we quickly visited our tents and threw our luggage there and quickly changed our clothes so that we can get a bit comfortable there. The camp was quite empty very few people were there. And we found out that we forgot to buy waffers and cold drinks. I mean night is incomplete without these two ingredients. So we walked back towards the village area to buy some waffers around 7:30 pm and it was very dark we could not even see anyone on the road and it was scary as well as there was no house on that road. But we kept our calm and bought some waffers from the nearby shop and went back to the camp site.

After reaching we sat by the bonfire and had our dinner which was the part of our booking. Wow, isn't that amazing. Rs. 800 for the tents as well as 2 times meal per person. That was quite a good offer, the food was tasty as well. And we found out that other people were not at the camp while we sat by the bonfire. So we sat there singing, talking and laughing about the incidents happened during the day. As I have said earlier you just need a bunch of people with similar thought process to have fun and these were those people.

Manali - a Magical Hillstation
Night view at Himtrak adventure camp


After 10:00 it become very cold outside. So, we 4 decided to go and sit in a single tent and talk. So we talked for hours planning about next days trip to solang valley as well as no one wanted to sleep as it was scary to sleep in tents. So we talked till 4:00 in the morning and then everyone slept for four hours and woke up around 8:00 am.

One thing about manali was that we didn't slept much but still none of us was tired, we were all enjoying the trip and those days in manali still feels like heaven.

Day 3: Solang Valley


So we woke up in the morning with awesome view of the river and mountains and sun coming out of the mountains was a perfect start for the day. Hot water was not available in the tent so we decided not to bath but we have to brush our teeths. And water was very cold even colder than holding an ice cube in the hand. The toughest part in that trip was to brush our teeths on that day.

Camping site, Manali
Morning View at Himtrek camp site


However, we did it and then sat by the bench facing towrds the rivers and mountains to watch the sunrise. A sunrise at 8:30, yes at 8:30 as you could not see the sun behind the mountains before that. The care taker served us with a hot cup of tea and aloo ke parathe which was a perfect breakfast in last 4 days of this trip.

Now, we wanted to visit our final destination solang valley and wanted to visit solang valley not by a bus but scooty so we rented scooty from the nearby shop and as suggested by the camp's caretaker left after 11:30 so that we do not fall on the slippery roads as it is not safe to ride towards solang in the morning. As during night roads get slippery so we waited till 11:00 in the camp and then left

We rode our scooty towards solang valley and journey was beautiful, snow by the sides of roads, birds chirping around and feels like wind is singing a song for us as I mentioned before it felt like heaven. People stopped us to rent suits to wear in solang valley as it is difficult to walk with normal shoes and and walking in normal cloths is highly uncomfortable and you can get cold as well as your clothes will become wet in snow but we asked them not to worry as we want pics in our own clothes not in those ugly dresses. Traffic jam was a bit turn off but it wasn't a long journey we reached Solang in no time.

Solang Valley, Manali
Maggie at Solang Valley


I mentioned in the above para that the journey felt like heaven but trust me after reaching solang my opinion changed that area was covered with snow all you could see from naked eyes was snow, snow and snow. First thing we did was to eat Maggie and then played with snow and did some more snow activities. We sat on the tube tyre and slided towards the end point, these activites were amazing. We wanted to go for paragliding but it was extreamly cold and it isn't possible to ride back to Manali after paragliding. So, we decides to skip it for this time.

Then we went to a cafe in solang and ate manchurian fried rice, which was not the best I have ate but atleast this was not Maggie and we found one cute kid there who was very attractive, she sat with us, ate with us, and we ended up smiling all the time she talked about something. I always say this, "one thing is common between nature and kids both end up putting a smile on your face" and thats how we left from salong valley smiling and taking a lot of memories kept safe in our hearts.

Manali - a Magical Hillstation
View at solang valley


And I remember those lines by Naina from YJHD that "something was magical in the air of those mountains, that made me fall in love." These mountains made me fell in love as well but not in love with a specific person but with everything, my companions, journey, weather, locations and myself. I do feel something is magical in manali and solang that you fell in love with everything you experience there.

 Wait, trip is not ended yet as I told you we didn't had a return ticket as we do not wanted this trip to end but it was near to the end we need to leave that night so that reach next day and take some rest as we have to get back to work.

Solang valley, Manali


So we went back to the camp picked our bags, returned the scooty and booked an autorickshaw to reach bus stop. The auto driver droped us at the private bus stop where non government busses operate and I never trust those but for the very first time looking at the crowd in bus trusted those and purchased the tickets and i do not regret it. Price was low and The return journey was nice, safe and comfortable.

We had tears while returning back to our normal lives as we still wanted to enjoy that magic of the mountains of manali that wake you fall in love with everything.

So if you are planning a trip to manali do take leaves of as many days as possible because you will never feel that 4-5 days are enough. You just want to stay there forever.
Also, do not try to cover Shimla and Manali on the same trip as you will not be satisfied with one of those, make different plans for both. I am telling this from my personal experience.


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4 Comments

  1. I love you posts, amazing man

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  2. Wow! Traveling by toy train through the mountains looks like such a fantastic experience and these photos are so cool! It looks like you were able to do so much in just 5 days. I can't wait until we are all able to travel again, India is next on my list!

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    1. Yeah, looking at the mountains are always pleasant and yes, we had a lot of fun in those 5 days. Wish you good luck for your upcoming trip to India

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