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Shimla or Manali which is better?

Discussion in 'Himachal Pradesh' started by ManishSethi, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. ManishSethi

    ManishSethi New Member

    There are two destinations in Himachal Pradesh one is Shimla and the other Manali, and I have not been to either of these places.

    Both destinations have their beauty but are very similar in their ways. I am only able to go to one of the places, so I would like to know from members what they think Shimla or Manali which is better?

    Going with me would be my wife, brother in law, sister and the kids aged between 4 - 15 years.
  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello there, welcome to the forum!

    Deciding on which hill station to visit is always quite nerve-wracking. Both hill stations, Shimla and Manali, are beautiful destinations and a must visit even just once in your lifetime. However, we don't always have all the time in the world and as such, there's always this question that comes up, 'Which hill station is the best for me to visit?'

    Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh, was once a British summer residence. Its beauty captured the attention of even the British soldiers so there's no doubt that Shimla is quite mesmerising. Whether you're visiting during the summer or winter season, you'd be greeted by different landscapes and it's always a welcome change from the heat and noise of the city.


    Then you have Manali, yet another captivating destination. It's a haven for adventure seekers with the plethora of activities that you can do here. Just like Shimla, the different seasons provide a different experience for travellers visiting Manali. The views of either the snow-capped mountains with the white blanket of snow or the colourful meadows are sure to entice you and make you love the hill station even more.

    Now, let us highlight the main differences between these two hill stations:

    1. Accessibility
    • Shimla - This hill station is well-connected to some of the main cities in the country. In fact, from Delhi, there are direct buses plying to Shimla and vice versa. There are private buses and even government-operated buses (HPTDC & HRTC) which depart either from Anand Vihar or ISBT in Delhi. If travelling by train is more convenient to you, just reach the Kalka Railway Station and from there, ride the toy train to Shimla. Aside from the connectivity, there's the bonus of the scenic views along the way. Shimla also has the Jabarhatti Airport, just over a 30-minute drive away to its city centre. And if going by road with your private vehicle, you also won't need to worry as road conditions here are good, apart from the usual traffic you'd encounter.
    • Manali - To reach Manali, you have many options. By far, the easiest mode would be by bus as the hill station has direct connectivity with Delhi. HPTDC and HRTC buses also ply directly from Delhi to Manali. There are also private bus operators plying this route. On the other hand, train connectivity is a bit more complicated. You need to reach Chandigarh first and from there, ride a bus to reach Manali. If going by flight, there's the Bhuntar Airport but flights are quite sparse even from Delhi so you need to book tickets quite in advance. The airport is also about 50 kilometres away from Manali itself. Going by road is a good option if you have your own vehicle though as the attractions in Manali are quite far apart.
    2. Accommodations
    • Shimla - Since Shimla is a famed tourist destination, there are plenty of accommodation options in the hill station. However, make sure that you book well in advance especially if you're visiting during peak tourist season (summer and winter) or else you'd have to settle for a hotel with a high tariff that doesn't fit your standards. Usually during peak tourist season, hotels have a mark-up in their room rates and it's also not unusual to find the best hotels to be fully booked already. But you'd be spoiled for choices here, from budget hotels to luxury hotels, there won't be an issue with options.
    • Manali - Just like Shimla, Manali won't also disappoint when it comes to accommodation options. Budget hotels, luxury hotels, guest houses and home stays, you name it, Manali has it. It's also better to book in advance, as much as possible but even if you find yourself in Manali during peak tourist season without a reservation, you might still be able to book a good hotel personally. Although hotels are mainly located at the main city centre, you can also find hotels and guest houses in other places like Solang Valley or even in the Kullu-Manali area.
    3. Attractions
    • Shimla - Most of the main attractions of Shimla is located close by each other. The major attractions here are the temples like the Jakhoo Temple, Tara Devi Temple and Kali Bari Temple. For historical attractions, there's the Kuthar Fort, Annandale and the Viceregal Lodge. Shimla also has many viewpoints, namely the Hatu Peak and Shaily Peak. For those interested in wildlife and nature, you can venture further into the Shimla Water Catchment Sanctuary, where you might be able to spot animals like langurs and rhesus macaques. There are plenty of attractions around Shimla to keep you busy during your visit. But these attractions can be visited in about one to two days and beyond that, you won't have anything to visit in Shimla anymore.
    • Manali - In the city centre of Manali, you can visit attractions like the Hadimba Temple and the Vashisht Temple. Venture a bit further from the city centre and you'll find other religious attractions like the Basheshwar Mahadev Temple and the Bijli Mahadev Temple. Manali also has natural attractions like the Jogini Waterfalls, Rahala Waterfalls and Jana Waterfalls, but they're over 20 minutes away from the city centre. For families, there's the Van Vihar Park which is easily accessible from the city centre. Other excursions out of Manali are the Beas River, Rohtang Pass and Solang Valley. Since these attractions are situated a bit far away from each other, you need to spend about two to four days in Manali to visit them all.

    4. Activities
    • Shimla - For adventure activities, it's best to visit Shimla during winter season. During this time, you can do activities like skiing and ice skating. For those seeking for more thrill, there's heli skiing, which is done in Kufri or Narkanda, near Shimla. If you're visiting during the summer season though, some activities that can be done during that season are trekking, paragliding and mountain biking. Although Shimla is not known as an adventure destination, there are still some adrenaline-pumping activities that you can do here.
    • Manali - Nothing beats Manali when it comes to adventure activities. Just head on over to Solang Valley and indulge in winter sports like skiing, snow scootering or tobogganing. If you're visiting during the summer though, you can join in activities like paragliding, zorbing and quad biking. A less adventurous activity would be the Gondola ride or ropeway which gives you a bird's eye view of the hill station and surrounding mountains. For those who are quite adventurous and have some experience, do try out rafting in the Beas River which has moderate to difficult rapids. If travelling with kids, Rohtang Pass is a good destination as well, they can build snow men here or partake in skiing or other snow activities. Of course, trekking, camping and nature trailing are quite popular activities in Manali as well.
    5. Food
    • Shimla - It's difficult to find local cuisine in Shimla although you might find the usual Tibetan dishes like momos and noodles here. You can find most eateries and restaurants in The Mall road area and The Ridge area. Some of the best restaurants here are Seventh Heaven and Cecil, which are both located in hotels. The dishes here are not local though and in fact a combination of Indian and international cuisines. For the best local cuisine, try eating in the dhabas or food stalls around Shimla.
    • Manali - The best place for tasting the local cuisine in the hill station is undoubtedly Old Manali. Here you have an assortment of cafes and quirky eateries that will not only soothe your taste buds but also your other senses. Some of the best restaurants in Old Manali are The Lazy Dog, Johnson's Cafe and People. There are also many eateries around the city centre of Manali like Rose Garden and Chopsticks. Add to that the numerous street food stalls and dhabas in Manali as well so you are spoiled with choices.
    6. Crowds
    • Shimla - Out of the two destinations, Shimla is definitely more crowded and congested. The hill station is not that far from some of the major cities hence it's a favourite amongst locals and foreigners alike as a destination. It is still very beautiful though and if you can handle the bustle of it, Shimla would still make for a good vacation destination. The popular areas of The Mall and The Ridge roads are always teeming with people but it's good thing that vehicles are not allowed in these places.
    • Manali - This hill station is less crowded since it's a bit further away from some of the main cities. Add to that, the attractions in Manali are far apart and quite hard to reach. During peak tourist season, you'd find Solang Valley and Rohtang Pass congested but aside from these places, you would find the other attractions far from the city centre to be quite less populated.
    So there you go, it's up to you to decide now that I've given you an overview of the hill stations. The verdict is that Shimla is a more crowded destination but all its attractions are quite close to the city centre. So if you are travelling without your private vehicle, Shimla is a better choice. You can reach the main attractions by foot or by hiring a taxi. It is a bit commercialised though so expect hawkers, noise and a bit of chaos during peak tourist season.

    On the other hand, Manali is more for adventure seekers and best visited during winter season. If you're someone who enjoys adventure sports, Manali is a good choice. But you would need to bring your own vehicle for convenience as the attractions here are far from each other. Or you can hire a taxi in Manali itself but that can be quite expensive.

    I hope this helps you!:)

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