A chilled out town set at the head of Kullu Valley and surrounded by orchards, pine forests and snowcapped peaks, Manali has been a traveller’s haven since the 1970s. Whilst its hippie roots are gradually fading, the reasons for visiting Manali are still prominent – it’s a great base for trekking in the Himalayan foothills, it has thermal springs to enjoy and most of all, it is the perfect place to sit back, relax and soak up the spectacular scenery in comfort.
Located a few kilometres from Manali, Vishisht village sits on the bank of the River Beas. Here sulphur hot springs emerge straight out of the granite rock – legend tells that the spring formed after Lakshman, younger half brother of the god Rama, shot an arrow into the ground. Surrounded by lush greenery all year round, the waters are between 43 and 50 Celsius and there are separate baths for men and women to bathe. Turkish-style showers are available for visitors.
Beautifully set amongst a cedar forest, Hidimba was constructed in 1553 over an old cave temple where Hidimba, a goddess from Hindu mythology, was said to meditate. The temple itself is a three tiered tower – make sure you examine the intricate carvings on the wooden doors. Inside, the temple is dominated by a rock on which is the goddess’ footprint.
An easy, lovely day trip from Manali or a relaxed place to stay for a couple of days, Naggar sits high up the Kullu Valley and was once the capital of the Kullu Kingdom. The Russian painter Nicholas Roerich settled here early in the 20th century and there is an art gallery in his name in the town, as well as a few temples and the old, unique wood and stone Naggar Castle, which has been converted into a heritage hotel.
Manali has become a hub for adventure activities – from paragliding and rafting to zorbing, skiing and trekking, this is the place to throw yourself off things and speed down hills. Any of these activities is a great, and different, way to really enjoy the epic panoramas that Manali offers.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.