Sweeping vistas of the mountains, green terraced hill-sides, deodar forests and blooming orchards – this is a hill station of Kullu Manali, a veritable heaven on earth. Despite the transformation that has been brought about in the valley, Kullu still remains a magical land, with quaint villages nestling in high slopes, gushing rivers, natural hot springs, snow peaks glistening in sunlight and above all, very friendly people.
Though the region of Kullu Manali continues to be steeped in ancient traditions, the locals welcome the tourists who pour into the valley regularly. In recent years more and more people are coming to Kullu for adventure sports like trekking, mountaineering, river-rafting, skiing, or just relaxing in these gorgeous surroundings.
So travel to Kullu and explore the beauty of this hill station yourself.
How to Reach Kullu?
By Air : Bhuntar airport, 10 kms from Kullu is the nearest airfield, with regular flights arriving from Delhi. From the airport, there are regular buses to Kullu.
By Rail : The closest narrow gauge railhead is at Jogindernagar, 95 kms from Kullu. The nearest railhead with best train connections is at Chandigarh, 272 kms away. From there, regular buses connect to Kullu.
By Road : You can drive to Kullu from Shimla, Delhi or other nearby places. The drive to Kullu from Delhi takes about 12 hours. Kullu has regular bus connections from Delhi, Shimla, Pathankot, Palampur and Ambala. The main bus stand is in the Sarvari Bazaar. Buses stopping at Dhalpur Maidan are closer to most of the hotels, the tourist office and the District Commissioner’s office.
Best Time to Visit Kullu
Kullu enjoys great weather from March to November. The summer tourist rush and so the peak time is May to July, so if you want to avoid the summer influx of tourists, the best time to visit Kullu are from mid-March to Mid-April and again mid-September till mid-November.
Summer is the main trekking season so if that is the main season for your visit then you should gon in the summer months. Kullu sees Dussehra being celebrated in a very big way way, so this is another reason for you to time your visit in October during this festival.
Things to do in Kullu
Kullu offers a host of things to do that include a lot of options for adventure enthusiasts and religious travellers. Visit various temples like the Raghunathji and Bijli Mahadev Mandir or simply enjoy the panoramic beauty of Kullu and Parvati valley. The area boasts of a variety of adventure sports like trekking and yak safari. You can also sit back and try angling trouts in fast running streams. Explore the diverse flora and fauna of this region. Treat yourself with steaming hot momos or mouth watering soups and shop for Kullu shawls, caps etc from local shops.
Places Near Kullu
Some of the interesting places near Kullu that you can visit are mentioned below for your convenience.
Mandi, an old town at the southern edge of the Kullu valley on the west bank of the Beas River was established in the 16th century by Rajput rulers. Though now visitors just pass through the town on their way to more exotic destinations in the valley, the town is sacred for both Hindus and Buddhists and has some interesting sights to stop for, including several ancient temples, the 17th century palace and the bustling marketplace.
Amongst the major temples are the Trilokinath temple built in the Naggar style with slanting tiled roof and the idol of a three-faced Shiva riding a bull; the Panchavaktra temple with a five-faced Shiva; the Bhutnath temple next to the river where Shivratri celebrations are held, and the Ardhanarishvara temple with the composite male-female image of Shiva and Shakti are some other places near Kullu that you can visit.
The Mata Kuan Rani temple, up from the main market, is dedicated to a princess of Mandi and her consort Padmasambhava (Buddha’s disciple, who introduced Buddhism to Tibet). It is said that the King of Mandi condemned the couple to die in a fire and when the embers died down, a lake with a lotus appeared at the spot. Known as Rewalsar or Tso Pema Lake, it is 24 kms south-east of the main town. Situated at the lake is a 14th century Buddhist monastery with a golden statue of Padmasambhava and a Gurudwara (holy shrine of Sikhs) which marks the visit of the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh.
Manikaran is one of the most popular destinations in the Parvati valley. This village is famed for its hot sulphur springs. According to folklore, Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva lost one of her earrings or Manikaran while bathing in the river. The earring was recovered by Sheshnaga, the divine serpent. When Shiva confronted Sheshnaga, he spat it out in rage, thus giving rise to the foaming springs.
The springs are reputed to be the hottest in the world and men and women bathe in separate areas to experience the springs’ healing powers. Sitting at the bottom of a dark gorge, the village has two shrines devoted to the Hindu gods Rama and Shiva. The Gurudwara (Sikh shrine) with an onion-shaped dome has an underground pool where Sikhs bathe before listening to recitals of the holy Guru Granth Sahib.
Manikaran is also on the way for trek routes to Pulga, Khirganga, and Mantalai. At Khirganga, there are more hot springs with open bathing spaces for men and an enclosure for women. Here, Shiva is said to have meditated for 2,000 years at a stretch. Of great natural beauty, this route finally reaches the Pin Parvati Pass to open into the Sutlej valley in Lahaul-Spiti.
Kasol is a tiny resort a short distance from Manikaran. An open space that goes down to clear white sands by the Parvati River, Kasol is also popular for trout fishing.
Naggar, 23 kms north of Kullu was the ancient capital of the kingdom before it was shifted to Kullu in the mid-18th century. The 16th century castle built in the traditional Pahari style with alternating stone and timber withstood a severe earthquake in 1905. After the capital was shifted, the castle served as the summer residence of the ruler’s until the time it was sold to a British officer in 1846. The building surrounds a central courtyard, with the first floor verandas providing magnificent views of the valley.
The Jagti Pat temple within the castle has a triangular stone slab icon. It is believed that the slab was brought from the summit of Deo Tibba, the celestial seat of all the deities. A small museum within the fort displays traditional dresses, costumes of folk dancers and musical instruments. Himachal Tourism now runs a hotel in the castle.
A short climb up from the Naggar castle is the Nicholas Roerich Museum, displaying paintings and photographs of the famous Russian painter, philosopher, and writer. Born in 1874, Roerich travelled extensively through the Himalayas and is famed for his paintings of the majestic mountains. In 1929, Roerich returned to settle in Naggar where his family established the Uruswati Himalayan Folk Art Museum. The painter died in 1947, but the Institute continues with a display of local folk art, costumes, Roerich’s paintings, and even Russian folk art. There is a library of rare books, an herb garden, and a counter selling postcards and books.
Amongst the holy shrines in Naggar, the most significant ones are the temples of Tripura Sundari, the Murlidhar Mandir, and the Gaurishankar Mandir. The pagoda-style wooden temple of Tripura Sundari dedicated to the mother goddess has a three-tiered roof and animal carvings. Every year in mid-May there is a fair at the temple when deities from surrounding villages are brought here in procession.
The stone-carved Murlidhar Mandir is believed to be one of the oldest shrines in the area and is strictly out of bounds for non-Hindus. It sits on a stone base with magnificent views of the surrounding valley and snow peaks. The temple was destroyed in the earthquake of 1905, but has since been restored. The Gaurishankar Mandir, near the bus stand, has carved stone shikharas (spires) and a paved courtyard. This is also a very old temple.
Trekking down 7 kms after the Chanderkhani Pass (3,660 metres) you will reach the remote village of Malana. The people of this village are governed by rigid rules and are dictated by the orders of their village deity, Jamlu. The village is believed to be the oldest practising democracy in the world, where all decisions are taken jointly, under the watchful presence of Jamlu. The local people are distinct from others in the area and speak a Tibetan-based language. They believe that they are descendants of soldiers from Alexander’s lost army. Any interaction of the villagers with outsiders is frowned upon, though the rigid caste-based rules have relaxed quite a bit. Even the presiding deity Jamlu maintains his separate identity in the cluster of village deities in the region.
At the Dussehra festival in Kullu, Jamlu is the only god who does not pay obeisance to Raghunathji, and remains on the opposite bank of the Beas River. Considered remote and inhospitable till recent times, Malana’s curious customs and legends have attracted many visitors to the village, thus giving rise to some basic tourist accommodation in the area.
Hotels in Kullu – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Kullu ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.