Getting There & Around
It's possible to avoid Shimla entirely by flying directly to Bhuntar Airport 10km (6 1/4 miles) south of Kullu. In Manali, taxis and auto-rickshaws charge ridiculously inflated rates that fluctuate seasonally and according to the whim of the near-militant local taxi union. Hire a car for the duration of your stay; if you've used a car and driver to get to Manali, you might consider planning ahead to retain the service for any further travel, bearing in mind that a sturdy vehicle with off-road capabilities and a driver who knows the terrain will be essential if you plan on getting to Ladakh or the regions east of the Beas River.
Visitor Information & Travel Agents
For information about the Kullu and Parvati valleys, visit Himachal Pradesh Tourism (tel. 01902/22-2349; www.himachaltourism.nic.in) in Kullu, near the Maidan. In Manali, the Tourist Information Centre (The Mall, Manali; tel. 01902/25-2175; Mon-Sat 10am-1pm and 1:30-5pm) can give you a pile of booklets on destinations throughout the state (most of these are also available from the office in Shimla). Alternatively, try the HPTDC office (tel. 01902/25-2360). An ad-saturated tourist map of Manali is available for Rs 15, and more detailed books and booklets are available for purchase. Matkon Travels (tel. 01902/25-3738 or 98-1600-3738) can also help you with domestic flights and deluxe-bus bookings.
Adventure & Trekking Specialists
If you have questions about what's possible in and around Manali, make contact with the Himalayan Institute of Adventure Sports (Roshan Thakur; tel. 98-1601-6554); you should be able to get assistance organizing reputable and reliable guides for sightseeing, trekking, rafting, paragliding, and skiing -- at the very least they'll point you in the right direction. If you arrive in Manali with no prearranged outdoor activities, you can contact two places. Himalayan Outdoor Centre (en route to Rohtang Rd., 1.5km/1 mile from Manali; tel. 01902/25-2581 or 98-1600-3035) offers a wide range of adventure activities, including rafting on the Beas River, skiing (Apr to mid-May), snowboarding, treks, jeep safaris, and tandem paragliding. You can also approach Antrek, the oldest agency in Manali, and the one we recommend for organized treks.
Avoid the Rush
The low-level but ongoing threat of war in Kashmir has meant that Manali's popularity has soared over the last decade. Visitors who once would have gone to Kashmir for the snow and possibility of skiing now swamp Manali during the Indian high season, which stretches from April until the rains hit in early July, and then again from September to November. Manali's charms have been all but eroded by this tourist explosion, which sets off a soulless cash-rally that seems to involve every proprietor, merchant, and taxi-tour operator in town; hotel tariffs also soar during this period. Bottom line: Try to avoid this usually peaceful town during these months.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.