Manali, a popular picturesque hill station of northern India inherited its name from God. They say Manali, means valley of Gods, but the exact meaning will take one in a prehistoric era as it is made up of Manu Alaya (the abode of sage Manu). Locals believe that in ancient times when the whole world was devastated in a deluge, he stepped off his ark in Manali to recreate human life. The reason for Manu to choose this place for this noble task was perhaps its beauty and tranquillity.
With this thought in mind, we started our second excursion to this hill station, located in the foothills of Himalaya. After boarding early morning Shatabdi from New Delhi, we immediately started our roads trip to Manali from Chandigarh. As the car was moving on the zig-zag hilly roads, the view outside was getting more and more green and beautiful.
Then the sundown in the sky was adding various colours to the landscape, making it more beautiful. Though the bumpy roads, thanks to development works, creating obstacles on regular intervals, but the sight be it green mountains, Beas river, roadside eatery and small snacks shops and beautiful houses could keep one engaged for hours and hours.
By the time, we reached at Kullu, it was completely dark; however, our destination was still one and half hour’s away. Our abode in Manali was ShivAdya, located in Karajan village of Manali region. It is just 20 minutes drive from the heart of the city, Mall Road. The reason of choosing this 15-room boutique resort was of course tranquility and to live away from humdrum of the city for some days.
Trust me, the luxury resort is the destination itself, flanked by the majestic Himalayan range, the resort offers spectacular views of the verdant valleys, lush apple orchards, tall deodar trees and the snow-capped peaks in a landscape. The interesting part is everything is visible either from the resort or just a walking distance from it. The resort, ShivAdya is a beautiful mix of stone, mud and wood that blends into its surroundings. Its rooms are named after the villages, passes and the awe-inspiring mountain peaks of Himachal Pradesh.
Step outside the resort, you will be transported into different village environment: Locals busy with their daily chorus like farming and working in apple orchard, kids playing in the fields and tea shops, teemed with the old people. However, by the time we reached inside the resort, it was very dark. The best thing one could do was to have dinner and sleep.
The next morning as we opened the window, the first thing one could see was the apple orchard and behind it green mountains. Of course, seeing green and red apples on the apple trees was an experience itself, especially urbane like us. However, the best was yet to come. The owner of Shivadya, Ritesh Sood arranged our breakfast inside the orchard only. Early morning, overlooking mountains, apple trees and chirping birds, made our breakfast an unforgettable experience.
Once done with the breakfast, we enquired about the places could be visit during the stay. He immediately cited the names of the places: Old Manali, famous for market, cafes and backpackers, Hidamba Temple, located in a beautiful surrounding it is the temple of Hadimba Devi, who was the wife of Bhima and mother of Gatochkach.
Then there is centuries-old Vashist temple, which has its natural hot spring. Then there is Rohtang Pass, a high mountain pass and also originating point of Beas river. There were a number of such places. But the big question, were we there to visit sights or enjoy nature? When in Manali, how one can miss its natural offerings?
Then it started our tryst with nature, it began with trekking to Sajla Waterfall hike, it goes through a Sajla village. The village also has a famous Vishnu temple, from there walk is about 20-30 minutes through thick pine forest. At the waterfall, which has almost no crowd of selfie-takers, one could sometime listening to the sound of water only.
The best time to visit village and garden is in the evening, this led us to start our visit to Soel, a small and beautiful settlement in Pir Panjal Mountains near village Karjan. It is 15 minutes drive from the resort and then 2.5 kms of hike, consists of little ups and down. While on the trail one could come across Haripur stream, which is beautifully located amidst a forest and then follow a forest trail till Dashal village.
The village gives a glimpse of traditional Himachali houses~ Kath Koni houses; these are the typical wooden houses. In fact, the lobby and dining area of ShivAdya has also tried to ape the same concept. These ‘kath-khuni’ techniques are decades or perhaps centuries old, and are standing stable against all types of seismic and climatic forces. At the end of the village, we also came across an 11th century Shiva temple.
The best way to know the culture is to try their local cuisines; our craving for local food took us to Jana Waterfall. This is beautiful stream, 32 kilometers away from Manali. Another reason to come at this place is the only shop here offers an authentic Himachali Thali.
Enjoying local food alongside the falls! What more can one want? Our nature trip ended at the Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery in Naggar, it was house of Russian artist, Nicholas Roerich, which is converted into a museum now. It houses several of his paintings of Manali, where one could imagine how green, beautiful and picturesque Manali once was.