Manali is one of the most popular hill stations in India situated at the northern end of the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh at a height of 2050m (6398 ft) in the Himalayas. It attracts many tourists from all around the globe for its majestic landscape. Manali is a paradise for honeymooners and a playground for adventure lover with many activities such as Skiing, Climbing, Rafting, Mountaineering, Paragliding and many more.
How to get there?
By Air, the nearest airport Kullu-Manali Bhuntar Airport (IATA code KUU) situated on NH21 about 50 km south of Manali. Many domestic airlines has regular flights from New Delhi and other parts of India.
By Road, Manali can be reached from Delhi by national highway NH1 up to Ambala and from there NH22 to Chandigarh and from there by NH21 that passes through Bilaspur, Sundernagar, Nandi & Kullu Town. The road distance from Chandigarh to Manali is 310 km, and the total distance from Delhi to Manali is 570 km.
Before I start my journey, I must say “On spot plan with friends is always the best”
It was my first road trip with my besties after I left India and started working in Nigeria. I came to India after a year on my annual vacation and wanted to have a blast with my buddies. So, I and my friend Ankit decided to plan a road trip from Delhi to any nearby location with our other three besties.
We started making a call to them to tell about a road trip plan but one thing we both (being a bachelor) were ignoring the fact that- “ three of them were now married and after marriage priorities changes” hahaha Lol!!!
I am glad that Ankit was able to convince two of them to join us in Delhi for a road trip and that was a happy moment for us., so without wasting much time we both started searching for the nearby places where we can drive.
One thing is very good in our friendship that we respect each other’s decisions and when it comes to selecting a destination, suddenly Ankit said let’s drive to the Manali and we all were like, that’s great let’s book the Traveler Van (That’s how we made ours on spot plan)
“Togetherness matters more than the destination”
Our Journey Begins!!!
One chilly morning in Delhi I along with my friends Ankit Khanduja, Ashish Badkur, Shubhangi Badkur, Prateek Motwani, Nisha Motwani, Monica Goswami, and our talented driver Harry left Delhi by 07:00 am for Manali.
I and Ankit were already excited about this trip for the last two days but at the same time, a bit hopeful too, as this was our first road trip with Shubhangi & Nisha. Also, I have invited my friend Monica to join with us on this trip. We both were just hoping for the best and looking forward to having a good one.
All set, and we left Delhi by 07:00 am. As it was a weekday so took us nearly 2 hours to cross Delhi city and link to the express highway. Typically, in India’s road trip, the journey is incomplete without having the first stop for Tea, Samosa, Poha & Aloo Paratha (Indian Traditional Breakfast).
After 2 hours of driving, we stop for the first meal of our day. The best thing about driving in Indian road, is you get many “Dhaba’s” (Motels & Restaurants) along the way and believe me, most of them are very hygienic and offers a wide range of Indian cuisines.
After having our small stop for breakfast, we continued our journey to NH1 (National Highway-1). We knew it’s going to be a good 20 hours drive with a few stops and none of us wanted to exhaust themselves. Along the way, we all were chatting, cracking jokes on each other’s, and discussing what are the things we can do in Manali.
Ashish (our deal master) has already done his research on the excursion part and suggested some activities which we must do in Manali like Paragliding, Snowmobile, Skiing, River Rafting, and few temple sightseeing. Not only that he is a pure vegetarian have also shortlisted few pure veg restaurant in Manali where we can have our vegan meal.
After driving for 10 hours. we were almost halfway and reached Chandigarh. Which is one of the early planned cities in India and is internationally known for its architecture and urban design. The people here are very kind and very friendly. We decided to stop here to take our second meal of the day to recharge ourselves for the next leg of our journey.
After having a delicious meal, we left Chandigarh and continued towards Manali. All of us were charged up and were very active that we started playing dumb charades, pulling each other’s leg. Especially of Ashish & Prateek’s by sharing their crazy college stories with their wives and making fun out of it.
None of India’s road trips complete without playing Antakshari (It is a spoken singing game played in India). We all are music lovers, but the irony is none of us can sing better except Ashish, we don’t know when this Antakshari turns into a freestyle singing jam room and we all started singing as per our own choice of songs.
I still remember there was one song we played in a loop for more than 50 times and out of the frustration our driver Harry immediately changed the song without even asking us. The song was “Main Rang Sharbaton Ka” Oh My God!!! What fun that was?
It was around 10:45 pm and a time for the final meal (late meal) of the day and we decided to stop at the hotel. It is also a time for the surprise celebration as we were approaching to 12 mid-night and its “Ankit’s Birthday”
I will never forget that moment especially the cake which was made by Subhangi on spot with the slice of bread and layered it with jam and somehow, she got lucky to get a candle to light on the top of it. That was a very emotional moment when Ankit saw that instantly made cake, full of love and emotion!!! He hugs each one of us and we started singing the birthday song for him.
After the celebration and having a great meal, we continued to our last leg of the journey. The spirit and energy level among all of us was still high, I still remember the craziest part of our journey, when we stopped at the fuel station to fuel up our van. While the staff was fueling the tank I saw there is one light bulb flickering on the roof and the intensity of the light was annoying me.
Suddenly, what comes in my mind to climb up to the top of our van to fix the bulb. Believe me, all the staff at the fuel station and all my friends were looking at me and giving me a very scary look as if I have embarrassed them.
I was totally in a different happy and funny mood, so I replied to them; guys don’t look at me like this. “As If I Care” Lol!
Guess what next???
Later on, all my friends join me on the top of the van, and we had this amazing photoshoot “Crazy People isn’t it? (All crazy people at the same time at the same place).
Before we realized the tagline “As If I Care” already became our group’s new funny slang for the rest of the journey.
After this funny incident, we started our journey and we were now 4 hours away from our destination, so everyone decided to sleep to avoid any drowsiness in the morning. But I decided to stay awake and give the company to our driver Harry.
Upon arrival at Hotel Mountain Trail Manali after check-in, we all made ourselves comfortable and decided to take some more rest. Also, we ask our driver to sleep and have some rest, as he was the one driving us for the last 20 hours. I was not feeling tired, so I decided to take my camera and wanted to explore the surroundings.
I must say our hotel has a breathtaking view from every room. The hotel manager is a super cool and very friendly human, especially he took very good care of my vegan friend and his wife. He also made our onwards tour itinerary for the next two days and book the 4×4 jeep to take us for the Rohtang Pass.
The first day in Manali was mainly spent in the hotel and explore surrounding such as Hidimba Devi Temple and Manali Mall Road market. Mall road is also a paradise for foodie, that street has a lot to boost your taste buds with delicious delights and a wide range of both local and intercontinental cuisines.
After visiting the temple and the local market we returned to our hotel for evening bonfire party arranged by our hotel manager only for us, Our hotel manager is such a nice person, he made us feel like home and even gave us the excess to the kitchen to cook food as per our taste. (So nice of him). I must say our chef Nisha cooked very delicious Indian Chicken Masala Curry, the taste of her recipe still in my mouth while Shubhangi made some vegetarian food for us.
Every one of us distributed our work like, I and Nisha took charge of the kitchen, Ashish & Shubhangi took the charge of the bar, while Ankit was our DJ, Monica was our photographer (I must say, she captured that night very well in her camera) and lastly, Prateek (whom we call Neta) was supervising things. (which means he did nothing hahaha)
The next morning, we all woke up fresh and ready for the adventure, as our day was planned for Paragliding, and Skiing at Rohtang Pass. We hired a 4×4 Jeep for this excursion. As a part of the tour package, on our way to we stopped at their shop to collect our gears for the snow activities and also dressed up in thermal wear to protect ourselves from the cold weather.
Upon reaching the Rohtang Pass, none of us knows how to skiing. Still, all of us wanted to try except Prateek & Nisha as they tried this in Switzerland last year and aware of the challenges of Skiing, and Monica as she was freezing and not feeling fine because of the high altitude sickness, so she decided to stay in the jeep and wanted to enjoy her coffee.
Oh God!!! Skiing is not that easy as it looks, I and Ankit being overconfident and said yeah, we can go skiing, believe me, it is one of the hardest sports to do. We fall so much time on the snow and the hardest part is to get up without removing your ski gears.
The same happens with Ashish and Shubhangi they were also struggling with Skiing. Prateek and Nisha looking at us and laughing as they escaped from this. Later on, both of them decided to go for a snowmobile instead of watching us falling hehe. After a while, Ashish & Shubhangi also joined them for snowmobile, while I prefer to check on Monica to see how is she feeling, while Ankit was busy taking pictures of nature.
On our way coming back, we were scheduled to do Paragliding. Prateek is scared of heights and he surprised every one of us by saying “YES” I love his sporting spirit although he took the short gliding path but most importantly, he did it for us. (Love you man). We all had an amazing experience while paragliding and saw the best of nature from the top of the valley.
After having a day full of adventure, we returned to our hotel and decided to relax and stay at the property. I, Ankit & Monica decided to give some space to the couples and let them have some quality time together in Manali.
At night we gather again for dinner, we had a few drinks, chatting and missing our 5th besties Ajay & his wife Aayushi unfortunately, due to the last moment of office work they couldn’t make it to Manali. After having the last delicious meal of the day, it was time to bed so that we can get up on time to leave for Delhi early morning with the sunrise.
With all the amazing memories of Manali, we depart for Delhi. On our way, we saw a few local tour agents offering a very cheap River Rafting package. I guess there is some more adventure remain in us, so we decided to experience one last adventure before leaving Manali and without giving a second thought we booked the package. Rafting is not new adventure for us. Infact many of us has done already, because it was very affordable, so we all decided to do it.
The tour operator does not have the bigger raft, so we have to divide ourselves into two groups. In 1st group; I, Monica, Ashish & Shubangi and in 2nd group; Ankit, Prateek & Nisha. After wearing all the safety gear, we were ready to put our raft into the water. 2nd group left fist and 1st group was following them.
Everything was going well and smooth as the rapids are not so strong and the water level was normal, though it a bit rocky path. Both the rafts were sailing well, and we all were enjoying and splashing water on each other. Suddenly, one big rapid comes and hits the 1st group raft.
The hit was very strong that we could not control our raft and it got stuck between the rocks. Immediate after a few seconds because of the force of the water it started sinking from the one side. It was very a panic situation. Our raft started sinking from one side, we were unable to move as it stuck between the two rocks.
Our 2nd group was helpless as they were already gone far and because of the opposite flow of water, they can’t come to rescue us. Somehow, we manage to jump over the rock and hold ourselves tight until the rescue team came to pull us out.
It was a thrilling experience and after this incident, I would highly recommend everyone NOT to book your rafting from any roadside tour agent to save money. Please look for a certified and registered tour operators. Luckily all of us were safe and after this thrilling experience we were ready to depart for Delhi.
It’s time to finally say bye-bye Manali. We all enjoyed our Manali trip and none of us had ever thought off that our Manali road trip going to be the best trip ever for the rest of our life. Every one of us misses this trip like crazy even till today. Cheers to our “FRIENDSHIP”
A big thanks to our Friendship.