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Manali, at the northern end of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh, is a hill station situated at a height of 2050m (6398 ft) in the Himalayas. Situated on the Beas river (Vyaas in Hindi) and near its source, it is a popular tourist spot for Indians in summer and a magical, snow-covered place in winter. A staging point for a number of treks (Beas Kund, Chandrakhani Pass) and sports such as white-water rafting, Manali is also on the road to Ladakh via the valley of Lahaul and Spiti and rohtang pass which is main attraction near Manali.
Kullu River, Manali
Minimum temp could be below -5°C from October ‘thru March. December, January and February are the coldest months. Rest of the year, the minimum temperature would be 15-20°C.
Manali is 570km from Delhi, the capital of India, and there are buses connecting the town with Delhi, Shimla, Dharamsala and Leh. For service from Delhi to Manali and back, tickets and reservations can be made at the Inter State Bus Terminus or the Himachal Tourism office on Safdar Hashmi Marg near Mandi House in New Delhi. You can book tickets online too. The approximate travel time from Delhi to Manali is 14 hours; from Ambala to Manali is 10 hours; from Chandigarh is 08 hours and from Kulu to Manali is 1.5 to 3 hours. Volvo buses—which depart around 17:00 and arrive about 10:00 the next day—are available from Delhi and is the best option in terms of comfort and value for money to reach Manali but you need to book these in advance. Some hotels like Snow Valley Resorts will book your Volvo & sightseeing along with their hotel package which results in a good package deal as you get everything in one go.
As the windows do not open outward on the Volvo buses, passengers are advised to carry anti vomiting medicines (‘Avomin’ is quite effective) which should be taken about 30min before the bus approaches the mountains. Also, avoid eating meals just before/after boarding the bus. Volvos offer bags that people may use if they feel like vomiting. You may enjoy a better view of the valley and the beautiful Beas river if you book seats on the right side of bus while travelling from Delhi.
By private taxi
If hiring a private taxi, ensure that the driver has experience driving in hilly regions and does not have the habit of drinking alcohol. Also make sure the driver has done the trip at least once before and knows all roads. Also make sure that the driver is used to drive for long hours. If you are going to Manali through Chandigarh-Ropar-Kiratpur-Mandi highway, then your driver would need to drive on hilly roads for at least 6 hours. Chandigarh to Manali would be about 8-9 hours by taxi.
The nearest Broad Gauge Rail Head is Ambala Cantt (200km) or Chandigarh (250km)from Indian Capital New Delhi. Ambala Cantt is on the Delhi – Amritsar and Delhi – Jammu main lines and is well served by rail, but you will need to travel to Ambala to get a bus for the 10 hour ride to Manali. Jogindernagar and Kalka are other, less preferable, rail heads for Manali.
The nearest broad gauge station is Kiratpur Sahib in Punjab near the city of Nangal. It lies in Ropar district of Punjab. The station lies on the Ambala Cantt – Una route of Indian Railways. From here you can easily get buses for Manali.
The nearest airport is Bhuntar ( Kullu ) Airport ( Tel: 01902-265037, 265603), 50km from Manali, 10 km from Kullu, about two hours away. Air India Regional operate flights to Kullu from Delhi. However the services can be irregular, and airfares can be high. Himalyan Bulls offer flight services from Chandigarh to kullu airport. It can be booked from their site. From the airport the best option to go to Manali is by Pre Paid taxi which is easily available there. The taxi stand is 100 metres from the airport. They have written prices with minimum Rs. 1200 to Manali. Alternatively just go to Kullu and take a frequent public bus (Rs. 35, see Get Around section).
There are various ways of getting around in Manali, if you are not already travelling with your own vehicle. Most tourists hire a taxi (various kinds available), which takes you around to all the sight-seeing spots in and around Manali (Rohtang, Manikaran etc). It costs about Rs. 1,800 per day, or little over Rs. 3,000 if you book together for 3 days (in the peak season). Dress for Rohtang cost around Rs. 150 for each set including boots and skiing set will cost you around Rs. 200. These detail are mentioned at a board at Mall Road. Be sure to bargain.
The second most common way is to hire a motorbike. There are many places where you can hire a motorbike (easy to find if you ask around), and is the most common mode of transport for foreigners. Both cruiser bikes like Bullet and sport bikes from Honda, Bajaj, Yamaha etc are easily available, though Bullet is the most commonly seen one on the roads. Rates hover around 500-600 per day in the peak season, but much discounted at other times. A good place worth a look will be in Bike rentals Manali office in Vashisht 9816044140, have a good selection of Royal Enfields and Pulsars. Also ‘Tinku’ Bike mechanic near old Manali bridge is an honest shop for bike rentals.
Public transport is not so good. There are cheap bus services, but they are not so frequent. Yet, if you are going to stay for a long time, it is better to know the times and use them, as other modes of public transport are exorbitant compared to bus. For e.g., auto rickshaws take ₹200 from manali mall road to Solang valley, while the bus will cost you just Rs. 10. The buses are not punctual specially because they seem not have a written schedule. The best option is to ask about timing at the bus terminal. Buses starts to run at 07:00. Frequently a bus can be cancelled or late. You can get in / out almost at any place on the route just wave to the driver.
Public bus routes
Kullu – Manali. Price Rs. 40. Every 15min
Manali – Naggar. Every 1.5h
Manali – Solang. Every 1h