India on the Road
From Chandigarh to Manali
Distance: 350 Kms.
Driving Time: 10 hours.
Notes: North India is a spectacular network of roads, which in a way has facilitated the development of Tourism in this part of India. Kudos to the National Highways Authority of India, the nodal body in charge of developing world class road network in India, the journey from Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab to the quaint hill station of Manali in Himachal Pradesh along the National Highway 22 is a journey worth embarking upon, given the sheer beauty of the wayside surroundings. As you proceed from one of India’s best planned cities to the high altitude of Manali, the spectacular North Indian countryside unravels its mystery. From the earthy environs of Punjab to the fascinating lure of the Himalayas, the entire 350 Kms. stretch is replete with wonderful scenic vistas and as the topography changes gradually from the flat plains of Punjab to the impressive Himalayan panorama, the Chandigarh to Manali road journey is indeed unique in many ways. The journey from Chandigarh to Manali passes through places like Bharatgarh-Swarghat-Bilaspur-Surendranagar-Mandi-Kullu-Katrain and ultimately Manali.
As India’s best planned city, Chandigarh needs no introduction. The city, designed to perfection by the master architect Le Corbusier has been for decades a much sought after city for both Indian and foreign tourists. With India growing phenomenally in the global marketplace, Chandigarh epitomises the face of modern India. Apart from being a Union Territory, it is also the capital of the twin states of Punjab and Haryana. Apart from its tree-lined avenues and well-planned urban landscapes, this incredible city is home to some of the most stunning architectural conceptions. According to Le Corbusier – “Chandigarh puts you in touch with the infinite cosmos”. The city has exclusive zones earmarked for residential enclaves, a green belt, an innovative network of roads, areas of special architectural interest, industrial zone as well as the Sukna Lake.
If the City Center with its glitzy malls and departmental stores attracts the attention of the discerning international shoppers, a walk through the city’s green belt is serenity personified with absolutely no noise pollution as vehicular traffic is strictly forbidden. In terms of urban landscape, one only has to embark on a leisurely stroll at the picturesque Leisure Valley and the numerous verdant parks where every effort has been made to preserve India’s natural vegetative pattern by way of planting trees, shrubs and climbers in a way that is visually most pleasing and blend harmoniously with the city’s surroundings.
What to See:
Leisure Valley, Rajendra Park, Bougainvillea Garden, Fitness Trail, Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj, Children’s Traffic Park, Hibiscus Garden, Garden of Fragrance, Smriti Upavan, Botanical Garden, terraced Garden, Topiary Park and Forest around Sukna Lake.
Where to Stay:
Chandigarh STD: 0172
Up market Hotels: Hotel Mountview (2740544, 2743126, 2743268), Hotel Shivalik View (2700001, 2703521), Hotel Park View (2700050, 2728118), Hotel Taj (6613000).
Private Hotels: Hotel Amar (2703608), Hotel Alankar (2708801), Aroma (2700047-48), Hotel Chandigarh (2704708), Hotel Classic (2606092), Divyadeep (2705191), G.K.International (2647510), Heritage (2605909), Hotel Himani (2661070), Hotel Gravity (5065222), Hotel Jullundur (2701121), Kaptain’s Retreat (25005599), KC Residency (2615364), Kwality Regency (2720204), Le Crown (2666061), Maya Palace (2600547), Metro-35 (2604337), Hotel Monarch (2609991), Hotel Pankaj (2709891), Park Inn (2660111), Piccadilly (2707571), Hotel President (2791731), Hotel Regency(2604972), Hotel Orange (5003333), Hotel Samrat (2701846), Hotel Satyadeep (2703103), Hotel Sheronj (2621551), Hotel Solitaire (2735050), Hotel South End (2607935), Hotel Sunbeam (2708100), Hotel Pearl (5067888), Hotel Antheia (4687800).
Guest Houses: Punjab Bhawan (2740463), Circuit House (2695102), Kisan Bhawan (2600413), Haryana Niwas (2741833), Himachal Bhawan (2642088).
Budget Accommodation: Aggarwal Bhawan (2657994), Chanan Ram (2549385), Gujjar Bhawan (2657528), Indira Holiday Home (2715850), Institute of Engineers (2775418), Jat Bhawan (2641127), Khukhrain Bhawan (2602603), Ramgharia Bhawan (2650859), Subwati Dharamsala (2774402), Sood Dharamsala (2703711), Saini Dharamsala (2715200), YWCA Hostels (2746932), YMCA Hostels (2744476).
Where to Eat:
Indian Restaurants: Khyber, Mezban, Ghazal, Mehfill, Al Kareem, Memorable Moments, Yellow Chilli, Bazem, Sher-e-Punjab, Gopal Sweets and ABS Hotel.
Chinese Restaurants: Chop Stix, Mandarin, Shangrilla, Yo China, Yangtse, Magic Wok, Hong Kong, Noodle Bar.
Multi Cuisine Restaurants: Connoisseur Hotel Maya Palace, Rustles Mountview, Salad Bar, Grapevine Hotel, Cooper Chimney, Nimantran, Ruby Tuesday, Sip ‘N’ Dine.
Fast Food: MacDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Dominos, KFC, Nirulas, Hot Millions, Score, Best, Uttams. Food Courts: Club City, Wah Dilli, Fun Republic.
Bakeries: Monica’s, Polka, Cream & Crunch, National Bakery, Golden Bakery, Oven Fresh, Classic Bakery, Hot Breads, Elevenses.
Shopping: Chandigarh’s principal shopping district is at the City Center Sector 17. It is a huge shopping complex with four principal piazzas congregating at a “central chowk” or square. The beautiful fountains add a touch of sublime charm to the entire shopping experience. From designer labels like Pepe, Peter England, Duke, Nike, and Reebok etc… to the ethnic government emporiums, the City Center has it all. The “Chowk” comes alive in the afternoons as the office crowd converges into the “Chowk” for their afternoon siesta. And in the evening as the lights come on, the City Center is festooned as it were with millions of neon lit shops doing brisk business on the backdrop of the cascading waterfalls at the “Dove of Peace” sculpture.
Notes: As you proceed on your onward journey to Manali, leaving the tree-lined avenues of Chandigarh behind, you pass by places like Kharar, Ghanauli, Bharatgarh, Swarghat, Bilaspur, Sundernagar and Ner Chowk to Mandi. Mandi is located at a distance of 200 Kms. from Chandigarh and is renowned in the tourism circles as a historic town. It is nestled at an impressive height of 800 meters and this picturesque town is your first brush with the eternal Himalayas. The swift flowing river Beas meanders through much of Mandi and legend has it that sage Mandya meditated in the verdant surroundings of Mandi’s riverbank. Presently, this quaint little Himalayan town serves as a district headquarter. The local folks are warm and friendly. Most of them speak decent Hindi and Punjabi along with a spattering of English.
What to See:
Rewalser, Prashar, Joginder Nagar, Sunder Nagar, Janjehli.
The local folks of Mandi are apt to compare this little Himalayan town with that of Varanasi on the plains of the Ganga. There is always a show of one up-manship and they cite the instance that whereas Varanasi has 80 temples, Mandi has 81. Most devout Hindus regard Mandi is the Himalayan version of Varanasi. The ethereal charm of Mandi lies in the numerous ancient temples that dot the banks of river Beas.
Your next Himalayan destination enroute to Manali is the scenic hill station of Kullu, which is a mere 71 Kms. drive from Mandi and the drive is beautiful indeed as you pass by hairpin bends at regular intervals. The Himalayan panorama mesmerizes the first time visitor on this stretch. The captivating Kullu Valley with an area encompassing all of 5,503 Sq.Kms. casts a magical spell on the visitors with its fairytale meadows, swift flowing Himalayan streams with the river Beas playing a dominant role in terms of riverine grandeur. With a population of just 301,729 and located at an altitude of 1230 meters, Kullu is a bewitching Himalayan hill station, minus the evils of Mass Tourism.The chilled mountain air is refreshing to the senses, particularly for those who come here to get away from the heat and dust of the plains. Kullu is renowned in tourism circles as the “Valley of Gods” due to its numerous fairs and festivals, particularly the annual Dusshera festival.
What to See:
Bijli Mahadev Shrine, Raghunathji Temple, Vaishno Devi Temple, Camping Sight at Raison, Katrain, Naggar, Kasol, Manikaran Hot Springs, Malana, Bajaura, Larji, Banjar.
What to Buy:
Intricately woven hand made shawls and traditional Kullu caps.
Your ultimate destination – Manali is a beautiful 42 Kms drive from Kullu with a number of interesting things to see along the way. Manali is located at an altitude of 6,398 feet above sea level at the northern tip of Kullu Valley. In the days of yore, Manali used to be on the much popular Trans-Himalayan trade route to Ladakh, Karakoram and beyond. There are many pleasant walks around the town and a large number of hotels and restaurants. Smaller villages around Manali have a semi-permanent “Hippy” populations as the region is renowned for its dope which grows wild all around. In ancient times, Manali was home to the nomadic hunters – “Rakshas” and then came the shepherds from Kangra Valley. It was the visionary zeal of the British East India Company that saw the introduction of Apples into the valley and they along with Plum and Pear fruits remain the principal source of income generation for the locals. Present day Manali is actually a new creation that has kind of superseded the Old Village, which is just a few kilometers away. You would do well to cross the cascading Manaslu stream over a mountain bridge and climb your way up to the Old Village for a glimpse of the Manali of yore.
What to See:
Hadimba Temple, Rohtang Pass, Buddhist Monasteries, Rahala Waterfalls, Vashist Hot Springs, Solang Valley, Jagatsukh, Manikaran Hot Springs, Manu Temple, Nehru Kund, Arjun Gufa, Kothi.
Where to Stay:
Manali STD: 01902
During the peak tourist season May-June when the costs go up, Manali’s resident freak population tends to head out to the villages around Manali. The conditions are likely to be primitive but that in no way deters the enthusiasm of the tourists. Some of Manali’s popular hotels are mentioned below:
Asia Sulphur Springs (258801), Banon Resorts (253026), Glacier Resorts (253190), Hadimba Cottages (252334), Hotel Honeymoon Inn (253234), Hotel Kunzam (253197), Hotel Rohtang Manalsu (252332), HPTDC Log Huts (253225), John Bannon Guest House (252335), Johnson’s Lodge (253764), Mahadev Resorts (252636), Manali Resorts (252274), Ram Regency (253234), Sagar Resorts (252551), Shingar Regency (252251), Snow Crest manor (253351), Snow Valley Resorts (253027), Sterling Holiday resorts 9251550), The Orchard Greens (252444), Timber Trail (254181-84), Whispering Rock (256092/180).
Where to Eat:
Monalisa Restaurant right next to the bus station is top rate. There are other restaurants like Mount View, Adarsh Restaurant, Mayur Restaurant as well as the HPTDC run restaurants like Café Rohtang and Chandratal restaurants that offer quality menus at a very affordable price. The Moonlight restaurant with its Spartan ambience is renowned for its bread and cakes.
What to Buy:
Intricately woven Tibetan Carpets and handicrafts from the Tibetan Monastery in Manali.