Manali, a year-round magnet for tourists, is surrounded by high peaks in the beautiful green Beas valley, with mountain adventures beckoning from all directions. Backpackers come to hang out in the hippie villages around the main town; adventurers come for trekking, climbing, rafting and skiing; Indian families and honeymooners come for the mountain air and a taste of snow on the Rohtang La pass. It makes sense to unwind and feed up here for a few days while organising your trip into the mountains.
This much-revered wood-and-stone temple, constructed in 1553, stands in a clearing in the cedar forest. Pilgrims come from across India to honour Hadimba, the demon wife of the Pandava Bhima from the Mahabharata. The temple’s wooden doorway, under a three-tier pagoda-style roof, is richly carved with figures of gods, animals and dancers; antlers and ibex horns adorn the outside walls. The Dhungri Mela festival, over several days in mid-May, sees a gathering of devtas (village deities) carried here on palanquins.
Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art
Worth a look if you’re visiting the nearby Hadimba temple, the museum contains interesting models of temples and forts in and around the Kullu Valley, as well as traditional textiles, musical instruments, dance masks, domestic and artisans’ utensils and masks representing devtas (village deities).
Himalayan Nyinmapa Buddhist Temple
The Himalayan Nyinmapa Buddhist Temple contains a two-storey statue of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha. It’s visited by many tourists and a sign reminds visitors of the correct direction in which to walk round chortens (stupas): anti-clockwise.
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Von Ngari Monastery
The Tibetan Von Ngari Monastery has an atmospheric prayer room crammed with statues of bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) and revered lamas.
This woodland of magnificent towering deodars (cedars) is easily the nicest route between the centre and Old Manali, though not recommended for women travelling solo. There is often no one at the gates to collect the admission fee. South of the centre is the similar Van Vihar Park.