The next day we started quite early in the morning for Manali, since the Shimla to Manali road trip used to take around 8-9 hrs. The Shimla to Manali road remains open throughout the year and serves as main link to Manali town. It was not affected by the snowfall in winter. In fact, it used to become more scenic in winter season. We were forced to go slow, not only because of the abrupt climbs and hairpin turns but because the whole drive was so scenic, we wanted to pamper into the natural beauty by stopping several times in between and driving slow through the extra scenic areas.
Shimla to Manali road trip was one of the most scenic ones that I have taken in my life. The distance between Shimla and Manali is about 250 kms. And, the Shimla to Manali road trip run through the massive Himalayas. So, it should take 8-9 hours to reach Manali from Shimla covering that distance. The time what I calculated includes stops for breakfast and lunch. However, every bit of the Shimla to Manali road trip was very scenic and beautiful, with the grand mountains on one side and the lavish green, deep valley at the other side of the road. But, one should start as early in the morning. So that one could spend more time on the way to Manali and still reach there before dark. I connected my pen drive with cab sound system. ‘Do you wanna’ of Modern Talking started playing from cab sound system.
We booked Shimla to Manali cab. In fact the cab was with us all through our Shimla-Kullu-Manali Trip. But, one could also do the Shimla to Manali road trip by booking a Shimla to Manali HPTC Bus. While Kalka-Shimla toy train provided for an enjoyable journey to Shimla via train, unfortunately there was no train connectivity to Manali.
Since we started very early we reached Shimla Manali highway in no time from our hotel at Shimla. After traveling 78 km from Shimla we reached Beri junction, before Bilaspur. At this intersection the roads from Chandigarh, Delhi and Kalka side join the Shimla Manali road. We stopped there for a while since our driver needed little rest. We parked our cab on the road side and walked out. Fresh air and lush green mountains and valleys welcomed us. We all strolled a little here and there on the road side before ongoing further.
After Beri driving for about 40 kms we reached Bilaspur. Bilaspur is a town and a municipal council in Himachal Pradesh. Settled at foothills of Bandla Hills, Bilaspur is famed to be the first planned hill town of Himachal. The place holds a history dating back to 7th century when the Chandela Rajput king, Raja Deep Chand who established it as its capital. Guru Tegh Bahadur went to Bilaspur to attend the funeral ceremony for Raja Dip Chand of Bilaspur. Rani Champa of Bilaspur made an offer to the Guru with a piece of land in her state, which the Guru accepted at the cost of 500 rupees. During the control of the Rajput rulers, a number of temples were created, which today, stand as the proud heritage.
Countless number of pilgrims and religious travelers horded here to pay homage in these sacred shrines and to immerse themselves in Bilaspur’s incomparable spiritual glory. Shri Naina Devi Temple, Vyas Gufa, Rishi Markanday Temple, and Sheetla Mandir are few of the highly admired temples that make for the must visit attractions when on a religious tour in Bilaspur.
From here, after covering about 55 km, we hit Sundarnagar. The fascinating beauty of this small town was embraced by the man-made lake produced by the waters of Beas-Sutlej Project. This project was India’s Biggest Hydel Project. The green beauty was perfect for a winter as well as summer get away. It might be a small town but visiting here would surely sooth your mind and soul. The temples represented the rich culture of the area and the most visited being Mahamaya Temple. It was a blessed town with natural beauty, provided perfect photographic backdrop for snaps, all through the way.
After crossing Sundernagar and driving about 8 km we reached Mandi. Packed with a thick green cover of pine and deodar trees, the town of Mandi was situated at the junction of Kullu and Dharamshala. It was often referred to as ‘Varanasi of Hills’ or ‘Choti Kashi as the town had as many as 81 temples spread across its area.
Serving as a gateway to some famous valleys such as Kullu, Manali, Spiti and Lahaul, Mandi was on our north India itinerary. Mandi was also the nearest town to various treks like Prashar Lake and Janjheli. Once the drive along the river bank started, the whole route was dotted with eateries. We stopped at a local dhaba (Indian roadside restaurant) and had hot toondori roti,delicious Indian curries, pickle and salad, sitting along the bank of the River Beas. There were not many fancy restaurants, but these small roadside dhabas were a must try for the taste of authentic North Indian food. One must stop for lunch at one of these roadside dhabas on the way to Manali. Do not forget to take salted ‘chanch’ (Buttermilk) after main course. From there after driving about 67 km we reached Kullu.
Around 50 km before Manali comes the town Kullu. There was a beautiful bridge across the river which leads to the town; it looks like a painting done by the almighty himself. The highway runs on one side of the bridge, while on the other side, the beautiful cottages, huts all along the opposite bank of the river present a scene that found only in fairy tale. As the road started approaching Kullu, one could start seeing many small hotels and camps alongside the river. These present a nice staying option besides the river and enjoy the scenery. Many of them also arranged for river rafting, fishing, kayakiing and other adventure and sports activities.
Kullu was a resort town of Himachal Pradesh, located on the banks of Beas River. It was the capital town of Kullu district. It was the entry point to the most beautiful scenic places like the very famous Rohtang Pass, Beas Kund, and Chandrataal Lake. Its closeness and good road connectivity with major cities like Delhi and Chandigarh made it an ideal weekend getaway for people seeking a short escape from the bustle of these cities. A distance of 207 km lied between Kullu and the state capital, Shimla.
Kullu had an altitude of 1279 m which made it an ideal hill station with an ideal climate that was neither hot nor extremely cold. Most tourists preferred to travel there during summers to escape the scorching heat of the plains and took shelter in the cold hills of Kullu with refreshing, unpolluted air. Though in order to enjoy snowfall in Kullu, December and January are the best months to visit it when the snow-blanketed Kullu was a sight you could not forget. Whether you want to breathe in some silence, want to get adventurous and taste the excitement or admire the craftsmanship of God, Kullu is a perfect place to come to with wishes and return with experiences and memories. The hills of Kullu are covered with pine and deodar trees, adding a vibrant green to the picturesqueness of the place. Whereas, the sound of the flowing Beas River adds sweet rhythm to the atmosphere. The hills, the forest and the river in Kullu collectively make it God’s perfect imagination and a blessing to the humanity.
Due to its attractive landscape where we saw the blue water of Beas River flowing smoothly with splendid, lush green hills in the backdrop, Kullu enticed us to take few snaps. Photography-lovers stopover Kullu in search of picture-perfect frames and they find them here easily.
Kullu claimed of some exclusive tourist attractions including old Hindu temples and nature escapes. One of the best tourist attractions in Kullu was The Great Himalayan National Park, spread over an area of 1171 sq km within numerous species of flora and fauna. Kullu was full with some prominent Hindu temples that attract pilgrims in great numbers. Among the most famous religious sites situated in Kullu are Gauri Shankar Temple and Bijli Mahadev Temple that received huge footfall of both tourists and devotees. Besides, there were some remarkably good places in Kullu district around Kullu town like Manikaran and Kasol that could be easily visited to check some spectacular views that would leave you mesmerized.
This drive for us was more like a relaxed walk. We stopped at lots of places, for tea, coffee, lunch, photography and at times simply to took a few moments and appreciated the natural beauty in front of us. In the town of Kullu there was Namdhari Shwal Industries right on the highway, which houses some fine woolen shawls, carpets, sweaters, pullovers, caps and other garments made by the locals. The ground floor had the spinning and manufacturing machines and first floor had the shop. We stopped there for some nice half an hour and did pick some sovereigns and some shawls.
From Kullu we covered about 28 km and reached Naggar. Naggar was a big village with two valuable heritages situated at a distance of 22 Kms from Manali in Himachal Pradesh . Naggar was at a height of 5750 fts from sea level and situated on sleepy hill, nearer to the left bank of Beas River. In 17th century Naggar was the capital for Kullu under Raja Jagat Singh.
From Kullu to Manali the river streamed almost at the same level as the road, just besides it. On one side there were the hills and farms and on the other side the riverbed and the beautiful stream was flowing till the town of Manali. Almost 10-15 km before reaching Manali, the road passed through the nearby villages, with green fields on either side of the road and a few village houses popping up now and then.
Hotel Golden Tulip at Manali
Finally from there, we headed straight to Manali. Once in Manali town, we asked the directions for our Hotel Golden Tulip and we headed straight to the hotel. As we arrived at the hotel, it was almost sunset time. The hotel was located just near the Durga Devi Temple. The final stretch of a few hundred meters to the hotel was narrow and steep. However, it was all worth it because of the scene that we were greeted with as soon as we reached the hotel. Just in front of the hotel, the mountain peaks were covered with snow and the whole scene was very beautiful.
No doubt, it was one of the most scenic road trips that I had taken in India. Finally, we arrived at our hotel by evening 5pm. Then we checked-in, got fresh, had dinner and slept.
Overall, it was a drive of almost 9 hours for us, but we didn’t feel a bit tired when we reached our destination, Hotel Golden Tulip, Manali. When we were driving along the bank of the river, almost at the same level with the river bed, it felt so overwhelming; we wished the journey would never come to an end. The tea I had taken sitting on the bank of River Beas was the memory of my lifetime. The Shimla Manali highway condition was very good. And you could easily do the trip via a cab or a bus. You could self-drive as well, if you were confident enough to drive for long hours on the winding Himalayan route.
Till then Good Night…….
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