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Manali

This 1,926-metre hill station at the northern end of the Kulu Valley has suffered from over-development, but its setting is superb. The Beas River meanders through town, which is surrounded by deodar and pine trees, tiny fields, orchards and grassy meadows carpeted with flowers in the spring. There are some wonderful views in this area, and it’s a great place to enjoy fresh mountain air, woodland strolls and picturesque vistas.

There are lots of activities which can take you out into the hilly landscape and many people are drawn to this area for its opportunity for hiking and trekking as Manali is the start of treks to Lahoul, Spiti and the Zanskar Valley in Ladakh, and the famed Manali to Leh Highway. Thrill seekers might enjoy white water rafting in the rapids of the Beas river and Manali is considered to be one of the top destinations in India for skiing. In winter tourists and local people flock to this mountainous region for skiing and sledging on the snow-clad Rotang La pass.

The beautifully lush valleys around Manali are home to many indigenous tribes. Visitors will notice their distinctive dress, including pillbox caps for the men, decorated with geometric embroidery. You might be lucky enough to view a performance of traditional folk songs accompanied by regional dancing. The Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art is worth a look for visitors interested in learning more about indigenous tribes. The museum has a fascinating collection of ancestral heritage including masks, musical instruments and traditional Himachal dresses.

Other cultural sights of the area include the Hadimba Temple, an ancient cave temple located in the cedar nature park dedicated to Hadimbi the deity. The temple, which was built in 1553, has a beautifully ornate carved doorway, and inside visitors can examine the sacrificial plinth, which was used for the ritual sacrifice of animals. South of the temple is the sacred tree of Manali, where worshippers come to pay respects to Gatothkach, the warrior son of Hadimbi.

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