Early morning, fresh air & a cup of hot tea brings back the memories of good times. This morning reminded me of our last trip to Shimla & Manali. So, finally after a long break, I'm here to take you with me through those beautiful lanes and mesmerizing valleys of Himachal Pradesh.
A pre-planned tour Delhi-Shimla-Kullu-Manali-Delhi started on Republic Day from Bangalore with morning flight to join our family who were coming from Mumbai. Never trust the flight schedules. We had left home at 3 am and finally, by around 12.45 PM, we had started for Shimla from Delhi airport. It's really a very long journey of 8-9 hrs through mountains with sharp turns and stunning beauty. The best part of this day for me was relishing Aloo paratha with Makhaan 🤤 at a dhaba in Haryana. We reached our hotel by 8 PM. It was freezing cold outside🥶 that we could hardly talk with
Tip: Have a good 8-10 hours sleep a night before the trip. Carry medicines if you have/anticipate mountain sickness or nauseousness while travelling in car.
Day 2 was planned for state capital sight-seeing. The day started with yummy breakfast, amazing view from the hotel veranda and clicking few pictures. We left for Kufri, a snow clad hill station famous for adventure activities and majorly for snow. Your driver will drop you at the start point. You need to rent boots and suit if you don't want to spoil your clothes. Beware, you might slip a lot on the way if you decide to walk up to the snow point. Or as majority of the people do, take a pony ride and scream at top of your voice when you feel that's it, you're going to die next minute🤐. Up there, you can play, slide, relax, sleep in snow, click pictures in traditional Pahadi costumes, relish hot mountain maggie and parathas and much much more! In short, highly recommended for half day visit. Second half of the day we went to Mall Road. Reaching this place was itself very different experience. You need to take two lifts to get to the Mall Road as vehicles are not allowed here. Once here, you can walk through the market place, visit Christ church, enjoy coffee/tea in Cafe. Don't forget to visit Lakkhar Bazaar - famous for wooden items and souvenirs. By the time we were in Lakkar Bazaar, it had started snowing. And that was like Paisa Vasool moment for all of us.😍 Perfect farewell!!! Then we came back to the hotel, followed by dinner and sleep.
Day 3 was again a bit hectic due to transfer from Shimla to Manali with activities planned in Kullu. We started at 8 AM and reached at our first stop where we were going to do river rafting. It was my third time with rafting and compared to earlier ones, this experience was not that great as the water currents of the river were not strong. But with family, it is always a different experience and to add more fun, it started to drizzle🌧. Then we went to Vaishno devi temple. Don't confuse this temple with the one in Jammu😅. The temple is small but very beautiful. The amazing view of Beas river from this temple was itself so satisfying. Next we did some shopping at one of the Factory outlets for which Kullu is famous - handmade shawls. You can get variety of items here made of wool from rabbit, sheep, yak. In next 40 minutes we were at the hotel. It was raining continuously since we reached Kullu. But Manali had some other plans to welcome us. It had already covered itself with white blanket of fresh snow. The temperature had dropped quite a lot and I was almost on the verge of turning into an ice statue. As we were already tired with travel and rafting, we had dinner and went to sleep.
Tip: don't trust the rafting vendors as the jackets and helmets they provide are not as good as they promise to be while booking. Get everything checked before leaving the camp.
Next day we woke up to the amazing view of snow clad roofs and roads and mountains and trees. It felt like being Elsa from the movie Frozen. That view reminded me of my trip to Swiss, especially stay in Interlaken. It was obvious that all roads are closed due to heavy snowfall received throughout the night. But the Mall Road, Himalayan Nyinmapa Tibetan Buddhist Monastery and Van Vihar Garden were open. We had to change our plans for the day as travel by car was not possible. Post breakfast, we stepped out to visit the monastery and market. I had been to Manali 7 years ago and the Mall Road market brought back all my college trip's memories. Somehow this market place felt very lively with mix of locals and tourists enjoying every bit of pleasant weather. In that random noise, I could find my own peace. And that's what you look for in your vacation right! The Himalayan Nyinmapa Tibetan Buddhist monastery is very beautiful and colourful. This one is small compared to the other monasteries I had been to and amidst the market place with a huge shrine. There are 108 prayers wheels which you have to roll while chanting the holy mantra written at the entrance of shrine. You can get good pictures clicked in its garden area. Oh!!! how can I forget my all time favourite - garama garam jalebis. As it is said that when you are in mountains, it is a ritual to have Maggie. For me another one is hot jalebis. It's a fantastic combination for people with sweet tooth. Evening we went to Van Vihar garden opposite the monastery. There's nothing different or much to do here in winter. In summers, you can do boating but the artificial lake is as big as a medium sized swimming pool. Cool thing about this garden was that you get the feel of forest scenes from the movie Raaz. Then comes the best part - Momos 😋. There is a restaurant named Mount View Noodles where you get Thukpas, momos and some other local food. Not a fan of veg momos though but the chicken momos were super yummy. You must try these momos. All restaurants and eateries will have momos on their menu here. Overall it turned out to be a day at leisure which was much needed.
Day 5 was planned for visiting Solang valley as per the itinerary. As none of us was interested in paragliding in this unpredictable weather, we thought of skipping it and covering the places we missed the previous day due to road closures. After breakfast, we left for Hidimba Devi temple. Vehicles were not allowed till the top due to slippery roads, so, we had to get down near one of the gate from where a path was cut through snow to reach the foothill. Someone had carved beautiful snow sculptures at the foothill. We clicked a lot of pictures here and started climbing up the hill. There are stairs to the top but as snow had started melting, a layer of ice was formed on it which made it difficult to even stand on it. Same was the condition in the whole temple premises such that one would get experience of ice skating even without any necessary gears. Yes, along with few bruises here and there. A little walk further would take you to Ghatotkach tree temple. Next we went to Clubhouse where we tried river crossing and zip-lining. There were other activities too like Burma bridge, boating (closed during winter) and it also has few shops for souvenir shopping. There are 2 restaurants too inside where you can also let your tummies enjoy some delicious delicacies. Post lunch we went to Vashistha hot water springs. There are various mythological stories related to the emergence of hot water springs at this place. Both the temples are recently renovated with carvings made from pure Oak wood. There are separate kunds for men and women. The only thing I found little disapproving of was the hygiene. Local people come here for daily bathing and in-spite of separate place made available to them beside the kund for bathing or washing purpose, few of them were using soap and shampoos inside the common kund. Got to know from my husband that similar was the case in Men's side too. Its better to just wash your feet with the spring water in such condition. Also, the lane to the temple is narrow and steep which causes traffic jam as all the tourist vehicles try to get the parking near the temple.
Tip: If your vehicle is parked at the foothill, people with knee problem should avoid climbing up the hill to Vashishtha temple.
Last we visited Him Valley. There is nothing as special to say about this place. We got to see a cultural dance show and magic show only out of all the shows mentioned on the pass. Especially in winter, most of the things remain close so its not worth visiting. Not recommended. That was the end of the day for us. We went back to hotel and started packing for our way back home.
Next day we left early morning for Delhi airport. It was a very long and tiring journey back home. We left around 8 am from Manali and reached around 10.30 pm at Delhi airport. Our flight to Bangalore was at 2.00 am and our family's to Mumbai was at 2.40 am. All of us were exhausted by now and very sleepy. Finally we bid good byes and were back to home by 7.30 am. So it was almost 24 hrs of continuous traveling. Within an hour after reaching home, we were off to bed to wake up only after 10 hours of sound sleep. Here's how our Shimla Manali trip came to an end with beautiful memories to cherish for lifetime.
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Thanks to you all for taking out time and reading till here. Special thanks to my husband cum travel partner for helping me finally complete this blog. 😋
Have a nice day!!! 😊
Pic Courtesy : Ankush Sankhe & Amey Sankhe