Manali town can be covered on foot, but for longer excursions and travel out of town, tourist buses and private taxis are available for hire. The Taxi Operators’ Union has a counter near the Tourist office. Himachal Tourism runs regular bus tours to destinations around Manali.
The Himachal Pradesh Tourist Information Counter is located at The Mall.
What to bring
Days are pleasant in summers, but nights can get cold. It is good to have light woolens packed in. Winters are chilly with heavy snowfall during the peak winter months. Keep enough heavy woolens for good protection. If you are planning to go for hikes or take a shot at one of the adventure sports, keep extra pairs of shoes ready. The organizers provide most other gear.
The Mall is the main shopping area, selling local shawls, rugs, caps and footwear, besides a range of Tibetan handicraft items. The Himachal Handicrafts emporium and Bhuttico weavers’ co-operative are good for local handicrafts. The Tibetan Bazaar and Tibetan Carpet centre run by the refugee community sells thankas, rugs, jewellery, prayer wheels amongst other things.
Banks & Money Changers
Banking hours usually are 10 AM to 4 PM Monday to Friday and 10 AM to 12-noon on Saturdays. In Manali you will be able to change your money but it may be a tedious process to change substantial amounts at a time. The banks here accept travellers’ cheques or currency only in either dollars or pound sterling. Changing money anywhere but at accredited bureaus is illegal. Save up all exchange receipts (encashment certificates); these are required for visa extensions and other formalities, and when you want to convert from rupees at the end of your trip.
Manali’s economy is based almost wholly on two things: fruit and tourism. Fruits- pears, apples, and similar fruit- were first introduced to Manali by British settlers who realized that the area was perfectly suited for growing fruit. Today, Manali’s fruit is among the choicest in north India; there’s plenty of it in local markets, and a huge portion finds its way to other parts of India too.
Manali’s natural beauty and its local sights are reason enough for its attractiveness as a tourist destination. In addition to this, it’s a popular base for treks and excursions into the surrounding areas; and the starting point for a trip to Ladakh. Tourism, hospitality and allied activities- including the production of handicrafts- are among the main economic activities in Manali.
The fruit bowl of India, Himachal Pradesh is the place of canned fruits, bottled fruit juice and other products like jams, jellies and pickles. Besides this, timber trade and forestry are other lucrative business ventures. People are very cordial and observe an almost village community level protocol while transacting business.
It is customary to tip 10% of the bill at restaurants, but you may tip less if service charges have been included in the bill. At hotels tip 10 bucks to the bellhop, the same to the doorman ‘Durban’; if the service is particularly good, substantially more to the concierge and housekeeping.Cab drivers do not expect to be tipped but the opposite is true if you have a hired a cab for a long period. You’ll find some of the most friendly and colourful service at tiny nondescript roadside stalls called ‘dhabas’. A small tip, even if it is only loose change, will be appreciated tremendously.
The town is about 40 km north of Kullu, and lies at the intersection of some of the main trade and transport routes of the area. The main route connects Himachal, via the Rohtang and Baralacha passes, to Ladakh. Other secondary routes go to Lahaul, Spiti, Rupshu and Tibet.Manali straddles the Beas River, in an area of alpine meadows, deodar and pine forests and fruit orchards. All around, towering over the town are high snowcapped peaks- plenty of opportunity here to take lots of gorgeous photographs.
The woodlands of Kullu preserve a variety of wildlife. The district has five wildlife sanctuaries of which Manali, Kais, Kanawar, Khokhan are in Kullu Valley and the Great Himalayan National Park is in Sainj valley. These sanctuaries preserve animals like Musk Deer, Common Fox, Leopard, Ibex, Himalayan Tahr, Porcupine, Bear (black & brown), Goral (Nemorhaedus goral), Himalayan Yellow Throated Marten, Langur and Flying Squirrel etc. and pheasants like Cheer Pheasant, Monal, Western Tragopan etc.
The Great Himalayan National Park is situated in the Sainj valley of Kullu district. The park harbours more than 300 species of birds and over 30 species of mammals. The park provides habitat for some of the highly endangered species like western tragopan, snow leopard and musk deer.
Manali sanctuary is located 1 km away from the international hill resort Manali. The main species of animals found in the sanctuary are leopard, musk deer, black bear, brown bear, Himalayn ibex. The birds found in the sanctuary are monal, koklas, chakor, tree creepers, snow pigeon, kingfisher etc. Snakes and lizards are also found.
These sanctuaries are rich in trees like Oak (Quercus incana), Fir (Abies pindrow), Kail , Spruce (Pices smithiana), Deodar (Cedrus deodara), Bras (Rhododendron arborium), Maple (Acer pictum), Walnut (Juglans regia), Fig (Ficus spp), Poplar (Populus ciliata), Pine (Pinus roxburghii), Aesculus (Aesculus indica) etc.
The best time to visit these sanctuaries is April to June and September to October. During this period the weather and visibility is suitable for spotting animals and the high reaches are easily accessible. The nature is also at its festive best.
People & Society
The people of Kullu are primarily farmers, but now the population has also scattered into emerging occupations such as tourism, handloom industry and other skillful fields like computer applications. More than 70% of the people here are literate. This includes an equal ratio of men and women. Govt. sector is one of the most favoured source of employment.There is a rich tradition of folk arts in Kullu. The excellent temple carvings, vibrant handicrafts , spectacular folk dances and melodious songs show the sensitivity of the people.
Traditional Dress of Men
Chola: Chola is a long woolen coat with pleats.
Dora: Dora is a piece of cloth which is tied on the waist and is served as a belt.
Suthan: Suthan is something like a tight pant.
Topa: Topa is a black cap.
Topi: It is now known as Kullu Cap. It is a colorful cap made out of woollen cloth with a Kulluvi designed band around it.
Lachhoo: Lachhoo is a blanket used to cover the shoulders.
Chadder: Chadder or Loi is a gents shawl. It is mostly in grey, white, cream and brown in color.
Traditional Dress of Women
Pattoo: It is a traditional dress of the local women. It is thicker and heavier than shawls, with fast and bright colors. Women wear pattoo over their clothes and pin both ends with local silver broaches called ‘boomini’, which is a long silver chain. It covers the whole body and a piece of cloth is tied around the waist called gachchi, which acts as a belt.
Dhatu or Thipu: Dhatu or Thipu is a square piece of cloth used to cover the head.
Shawls: These shawls are world famous because of their beautiful intricate designs and bright colors.
Pullas: Pullas are footwear like the bedroom slippers made out of hemp (fibre extracted from Marijuana stem). Very colorful designs are made on the upper portion with colored woolen threads.
Though almost all the festivals are celebrated with zest and devotion, Dussehra gets special attention all over the valley. The festival is celebrated in the month of October during the autumn season when the rest of the country celebrates Durga Puja and Vijaya Dashami. The celebration goes on for a few days when all the people of the Kullu valley take part enthusiastically.
The Hadimba Devi fair is another important event in this place and a rather big fair is organized in the Hadimba Devi temple complex. People from in and around the countryside come to visit this fair, which is held during the spring season when the valley is at its spectacular and colourful best.
Spring festival is also called Basantotsava or Pipal jatra and takes place at Dhalpur ground Kullu from 28th April to 30th April. This fair has been declared a state festival by the Himachal Pradesh government. As it marks the beginning of the spring season (and also the tourist season) in the valley, it is also known as Spring Festival.
Snow continues to play a major part in February’s festivals and Himachal’s Winter Carnival is also held in this month. Ski slopes of Kufri, Manali and Narkanda come to life with adventure seekers competing their way downhill. For daredevils, Manali, as a base camp, offers the best opportunity for Heli-Skiing.