Famous for its apple orchards and spectacular Alpine setting, Manali sits at the head of the grandiose Kullu Valley, overlooked by cedar forest and snow peaks. Holidaymakers from the plains flock here in April and May, when the resort’s temperate climate offers relief from the oppressive heat at sea level, but the town is accessible, and much quieter, in the spring snowmelt, when the apple trees are in blossom, and during the autumn months, when the snow line drops to the edge of the deodar cedar forest.
Although it appears to lie in a giant cul-de-sac of mountains, Manali is also the starting point for one of the world’s great road trips: the Trans-Himalayan to Leh, Ladakh. The route begins with a tortuous ascent to Rohtang La, on the watershed of the Great Himalayan Range to the north, which marks a stark switch from the lush green slopes of Kullu to the chocolate-brown mountains of Lahaul – a journey that will soon be possible via a 5-mile-long tunnel currently being constructed beneath the pass.
Noisy and congested during the season, Manali town itself holds less appeal than its pretty environs, where some delightful wood-lined hotels and guest houses nestle amid the apple orchards. Most have log fires to keep the rooms cosy, and splendid valley views from their balconies. Fishing trips, forest walks and visits to old Kullu-style temples with receding shingle-slate roofs fill the days. Make the most of the easy living. Whichever direction you head in afterwards, the onwards journeys from Manali tend to be long and high - though unforgettable.