Friday, 22 June 2012

A farmer turns Jana village into tourist hub

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Jana, a remote village of Kullu, with efforts of its occupants has turned into the fastest growing tourist spot of Manali with 30,000 tourists visiting the place annually. Jana has today the potential to defeat Naggar, Manikaran and other nearby tourist destinations and Mani Ram is the man who had laid foundation to this achievement 11 years ago.

Mani Ram at work at Jana (waterfall) village, Manali
The village is now famous as ‘Jana Waterfall’ as it also has a small waterfall. Tourists have two reasons to visit the village -- waterfall and pure desi food items prepared by Mani Ram. Going back to 2002, when not more than 100 tourists get to have glimpse of beautiful village and its surroundings but the fragrance of Kullu cuisines and efforts of this village guy have established a new milestone.
“I used to invite my foreigner friends to taste my desi food 11 years ago who themselves advertised this place and people started searching for me. Number of my customers has increased from less than 5 in 2002 to more than 300 today and it is increasing every year,” the proud founder of this magical tourist destination, Mani Ram, said. According to him, nobody developed this place and it was the beauty of village and its people which forced people to visit this place.

Situated at height of about 9,000 feet and 32km from Manali, Jana Waterfall has created opportunity for about 50 villagers who after getting influenced from Mani Ram are earning from tourists by operating dhabas, developing photographs and offering taxi services to nearby places.
Mani Ram cooks red rice, makke ki roti at Jana waterfall
Deep Prakash, a Jana villager, who has been witnessing change in the village in last ten years, says, “Only some trekkers used to camp here for a night halt some years ago. No doubt these are the efforts of Mani Ram who never gave up and continued wooing tourists with his talent. He personally kept requesting tourists to visit village and taste his food. Now hundreds of tourists are reaching here daily and opening of nearly 15 more desi dhabas have ensured that Jana is soon going to become number one tourist spot of Manali.”
A thali which contains 11 dishes including red rice, makke ki roti, bichhukooti chatni, lingdi ka achar and local pulses and vegetables prepared by local spices has become the brand of Jana which otherwise cannot be found elsewhere in the world. According to Mani Ram, he cook his dishes with traditional style in traditional pots and his food has same taste as it used to be hundreds of years ago.
Though the tourism department has included Jana waterfall in list of local sightseeing places but Mani Ram complains that condition of the road to village has not been improved by the government for years. “If approach road to Jana would be developed, the number of tourists arrival would definitely double only in a year,” he rues.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Online booking takes toll on small hotels in Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: With 100 percent occupancy, this is indeed a good time for over 500 hotels in Manali, but over 150 hotels that do not have online booking facilities have occupancy rate of less than 50 percent. Having fewer bookings, small hoteliers in Manali rues the summer season is very lean this time.
Over 80 percent of the tourists opt for advance booking through internet or travel agents to avoid any problem during their tour. Remaining 20 percent tourists choose hotel only after their arrival. The growing web of internet is taking a toll on hotels without online booking facility.
Some hoteliers say this is a drastic season for them and they won’t be able to compensate their staff, electricity, water bill and other expenses. A hotelier in Model Town, Vinay Thakur, said, “The summer season is about to end but it seems like that it never started. Except for 2 or 3 days, my hotel didn’t see the full occupancy.”
Similarly, the summer season is very lean for most of the homestay units which do not promote their homes online. Tara Chand, owner of a unit, said tourism department has a small space to advertise the homestays and it does not help them much. “People who are advertising their property online and have vast marketing in big cities are having good flow of customers but I served less than 10 families and couples since April. Online promotion is must for good business,” he said.
According to sources, over 50 percent hotels in Manali are available online while most of the hotels depend on walking tourists who mostly book room only after if they like the room. Such hotels see tourists only after the quality hotels overflow during season time.
On the other side, hotels which have online booking facilities are doing brisk business here. “Control over online marketing, synergy with travel agents, good marketing in Delhi and other cities are must for hoteliers as a vast number of tourists believe booking their hotel in advance,” a hotelier Ankush Bhardwaj said who is wooing his customers online for last three years.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Important distances in Himachal Pradesh

This post is to help estimate the travel time and distances between tourist spots of Himachal Pradesh. Also, one can find the distance between Delhi, Chandigarh and Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Dalousie, Pathankot, Chamba and other tourist spots of Himachal. Please note that the average distance covered by vehicles in one hour in Himachal would be 35 to 40 kms. For more information about the transportation in Himachal (Taxi, Bus, Volvo), you may call at +91 9418336677 (24 hours free helpline) or drop an email at

Important Distance from Shimla:

Shimla to Manali via
Shimla to Manali ( alternate ) via
Shimla to Mandi via Bilaspur
Shimla to Palampur via Mandi
Shimla to Dharamshala via Mandi
Shimla to Dharamshala via Hamirpur
Shimla to Dalhousie via Hamirpur
Shimla to Sarahan
Shimla to Sangla (Kinnaur)
Shimla to Kalpa (Kinnaur)
Shimla to Nako (Kinnaur)
Shimla to Tabo (Lahaul Spiti)
Shimla to Kaza (Lahaul Spiti)
Shimla to Keylong (Lahaul Spiti) via
Kunzum Pass
Shimla to Hatkoti
Shimla to Chirgaon
Shimla to Kasauli (Solan)
Shimla to Renuka (Sirmaur)
Distances from Manali:

Manali to Rohtang Pass
Manali to Keylong (Lahaul Spiti)
Manali to Leh via Keylong
Manali to Udaipur (Lahaul Spiti)
Manali to Trilokinath
Manali to Kaza via Keylong
Manali to Manikaran               85 km.
Manali to Palampur (Kangra)
Manali to Dharamshala (Kangra)
Manali to Dalhousie via Lahru
Manali to Dalhousie via Chakki
Manali to Chamba
Manali to Kasauli via Arki
Manali to Shimla
Manali to Mandi
Manali to Pathankot
Manali to Chandigarh (Solan)
Manali to Delhi via Chandigarh
Manali to Kullu
Manali to Bhuntar Airport
    52 km.
    115 km.
    474 km.
    150 km.
    150 km.
    200 km.

    200 km.
    235 km.
    360 km.
    385 km.
    402 km.
    275 km.
    260 km.
    110 km.
    325 km.
    320 km.
    570 km.
    40 km.
    50 km.

260 km.

289 km.

150 km.
235 km.
270 km.
235 km.
336 km.
175 km.
230 km.
244 km.
324 km.
374 km.
421 km.
609 km.

109 km.
137 km.
75 km.
165 km.

Important Distance from Delhi:

Delhi to Manali via
Delhi to Chandigarh
Delhi to Shimla via
Delhi to Shimla via
Delhi to Renuka Lake via
Yamunanagar-Paonta Sahib-Shazadpur
Delhi to Dharamshala via
Delhi to Dalhousie via
Delhi to Chamba via
Delhi to Mandi
Delhi to Rewalsar Lake
Delhi to Kasauli (Solan)
Delhi to Barog (Solan)
Delhi to Chail (Solan)
    570 km.

    238 km.
    370 km.

    360 km.
    315 km.

    520 km.

    555 km.

    600 km.

    460 km.
    455 km.
    325 km.
    325 km.
    380 km.

Important Distance from Chandigarh:

Chandigarh to Shimla
Chandigarh to Naldehra (Shimla)
Chandigarh to Chail (Solan)
Chandigarh to Renuka Lake (Sirmaur)
Chandigarh to Mandi
Chandigarh to Manali (Kullu)
Chandigarh to Manikaran (Kullu)
Chandigarh to Jwalamukhi (Kangra)
Chandigarh to Dharamshala (Kangra)
Chandigarh to Dalhousie (Chamba)

117 km.
143 km.
115 km.
123 km.
210 km.
320 km.
325 km.
212 km.
252 km.
318 km.

Important Distance from Pathankot:

Pathankot to Dalhousie (Chamba)
Pathankot to Chamba
Pathankot to Dharamshala (Kangra)
Pathankot to Jwalamukhi (Kangra)
Pathankot to Chintpurni (Una)
Pathankot to Palampur (Kangra)
Pathankot to Manali (Kullu)
Pathankot to Shimla
    80 km.
    119 km.
    90 km.
    122 km.
    125 km.
    124 km.
    325 km.
    295 km.

Important Distance from Dharamshala:

Dharamshala to Chamba via
Dharamshala to Chintpurni (Una)
Dharamshala to Jwalamukhi
Dharamshala to Mandi
Dharamshala to Pathankot
Dharamshala to Chandigarh via
185 km.

78 km.
54 km.

125 km.
90 km.
252 km.

Important Distance from Chamba:

Chamba to Dharamshala via Lahru            
Chamba to Dharamshala via
Banikhet-Chakki Bank
Chamba to Dharamshala via Jot-Lahru
Chamba to Bharmaur
Chamba to Manimahesh Lake
Chamba to Shimla
Chamba to Manali
Chamba to Pathankot

135 km.

65 km.
100 km.
378 km.
402 km.
119 km.
185 km.

Important Distance from Dalhousie:

Dalhousie to Chamba via Banikhet
Dalhousie to Chamba via Khajjiar
Dalhousie to Dharamshala via Lahru
Dalhousie to Dharamshala via Chakki
Dalhousie to Palampur via Lahru
Dalhousie to Mandi
Dalhousie to Manali
Dalhousie to Shimla
Dalhousie to Khajiar
    56 km.
    43 km.
    127 km.
    143 km.
    176 km.
    360 km.
    360 km.
    336 km.
    24 km.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Snowfall brings down temperature in Himachal

Himachal Vacation Travel News
SHIMLA/ MANALI: Heavy snowfall on peaks around Kullu, Kinnaur and Chamba districts of Himachal has triggered a fresh wave of cold in lower regions of the state forcing people to wear the woollens on Wednesday.
Till last reports, Rohtang pass received 10 cm fresh snow while Kugti jot in Chamba, Reo Pargil, Kinner-Kailash ranges in Kinnaur, Deo Tibba, Hanuman Tibba and Seven Sister ranges in Kullu received 10 to 30 cm fresh snow and the snowfall was still continued. Snowfall on peaks above 12,000 feet and moderate rain on lower areas have caused sharp drop in temperature.
Tourists enjoy fresh snowfall near Rohtang pass, Manali
More than 15 thousands tourists on Wednesday thronged Rohtang top to witness the fresh snowfall and jammed the traffic for over four hours. Most of the tourists reached here before 5 am to avoid traffic jams but with desire to see snow all reached Rohtang early morning and jammed the traffic. “I cannot believe that we saw real fresh snowfall at Rohtang and that’s too in June when entire country is fainted with scorching heat,” a tourist from New Delhi, Balbir Kapoor, said.
Tourism industry of the state with snow capped mountains and cool weather is hoping for good time in coming days. According to meteorological office Shimla director Manmohan Singh, the similar weather condition would remain in the state for five more days. “High altitude hills would experience mild snow while mid and lower hills would receive rain with thundershowers,” he said.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Despite ban, chingu sells like hot cake in Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Chingu, an item of suspense for customers and part of strategy to earn cash for Kashmiri shopkeepers, is robbing thousands of innocent people for whom it is a souvenir from Manali. Despite complete ban, shopkeepers are selling it uninterrupted for years and the business is at peak point these days.
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Multi-crore market of chingu, a blanket which Kashmiri shopkeepers claim to be made of feathers of a rare animal, is making hundreds of tourists the victim of fraud every day. Having no fear of the police, Kashmiri shopkeepers have spread their network in Vashisht, Old Manali, Dhungari and Manali. Out of curiosity, tourists are purchasing chingu blanket, which in fact is an ordinary blanket, for over 5 thousand rupees. The business of chingu sellers is flourishing everywhere in Kullu district and all attempts by police and administration to tighten screws over such shopkeepers have failed.
“No such animal exist. This is only a business strategy to create suspense among the customers,” a chingu seller in Manali said adding that a chingu package which includes a blanket (which they claim made of chingu feather), a shawl, a bed sheet and warm clothes is selling upto Rs 20 thousand easily.
Chingu sellers sell their products after convincing the purchasers that they have limited stock as chingu animals are on the verge of extinction. Some sellers sign agreement documents with purchasers where they mention that they would refund the full money if chingu would spoil before two years. Customers can also avail the online facility being provided by all chingu sellers. Customers can pay after receiving the delivery at their doorstep.
A chingu victim from West Bengal, Ayushman Dwivedi, complained with TOI that he has been cheated by a Kashimiri seller for Rs 9 thousand. “The guy forcefully pulled me inside the shop and asked me to spare a moment to check the blankets which he claimed to be of a rare mountain animal called chingu. The blanket was so soft that my wife forced me to purchase two of them. After bargaining for five minutes we picked up two for Rs 9 thousand but when we reached our hotel, our hotel manager said that we have been cheated,” he said.
Police, local beopar mandal and administration in their meetings have planned to eradicate the chingu fraud many a time but nothing has been done on ground level. Kullu police chief Ashok Kumar said that they have alerted local shopkeepers and residents to keep close watch on the chingu sellers. He said, “Some people have been complaining of fraud with tourists by selling chingu blankets. I have requested public to complain with us and also have directed police not to spare such fraud shopkeepers.”

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Passion of biking on world’s highest motorable road drives foreigners to Manali

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Enthusiasm of biking through the world’s highest motorable passes on Manali-Leh road is proving beneficial for the economy of Manali as more and more bikers are reaching here every year and thus breaking the previous years’ records. Manali-Leh highway has been opened for vehicles and thousands of tourists from abroad are set to start their adventurous journey with the help from experts in Manali.

A biker on Manali-Leh road (Himachal Vacation Photo)

Overseas tourists have started flocking to Kullu and Manali for various adventure activities in Western Himalayas. Biking, jeep safaris, trekking and camping are the main activities which would keep them busy for next five months here. It is villages of Kullu which get maximum benefit from foreigners who usually wish to stay in calm environment away from towns. More than 30 persons are providing bikes on hiring basis and over 5,00 locals are earning good after working as tour guides, cooks, helpers and porters. More than 700 families in Vashisht, Old Manali, Naggar, Manikaran, Kasol, Shuru, Aleo and dozens of other villages are very much dependant on foreign tourists for their livelihood.
“Foreigners have started gathering in Kullu to start various adventure activities and smiles are back on the faces of local residents,” a prominent foreigner tourist’s guide Dhani Thakur said. He added that successful biking across some of the highest mountain passes of the world, including Khardung La (17,582 ft), Marismik La (18,314 ft), Baralacha La (16,050 ft) in Himachal and Ladakh is similar to summiting Mt Everest for bikers. “It is dream of all biker to drive on this route. Arrival of more and more tourists is ensuring good income opportunity for locals. Biking and other adventure activities would continue till late October,” he added.
Main benefit from foreigners is that they live for months in guest houses in villages and provide earning opportunities to villagers. Youths of the villages in Kullu have acclimatized themselves according to the needs of tourists and are offering their services as guides, tour operators and helpers. Ever since the Khardung La in Nubra valley of Ladakh has been opened for motor vehicles in 1988, bikers are dying to set records on this high altitude mountain road.
The annual foreign tourist arrival in Kullu in 1980s was less than 20 thousand and it was nearly 40 thousand in 1090s. 1.33 lakh tourists from abroad visited district in 2009-10 and the number increased to 1.38 lakh in 2010-11. And this number is estimated to cross the 1.5 lakh mark this year.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Himachal tour likely to become expensive as taxi operators decide to increase fares

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI/ SHIMLA: Tourists visiting Shimla, Kullu-Manali and other hill resorts of Himachal in June may have to spend some extra money on transportation facilities as taxi unions have decided to increase taxi charges up to 30 percent following hike in petrol prices.
A taxi plying Manali-Leh highway (photo by: Anil Herku)
“Our taxi operators are facing problems continuing with last year’s fares and they are asking for slight increase to cover their expenses,” Him-anchal taxi operators’ union president Puran Chand said. He added that they had decided not to increase fares if fuel prices were increased only Rs 2-3 but an increase of Rs 7.50 is unbearable. “We are soon going to have a meeting with local SDM and would apply for an increase of 20 to 30 percent in existing prices.”
Current charge for a full day tour to Rohtang pass by a basic car is Rs 1,700 which could become Rs 2,100 next month. Similarly, the charges would be increased for local and long routes. Leh-Ladakh jeep safari tours are going to begin soon. The basic cost of Rs 17,000 for 2 day-long Manali-Leh tour is expected to increase to Rs 21,000 this year.
A taxi driver, Rakesh Sharma, said that mileage of the cars reduce to almost half in the congested roads full of pathholes and drivers are not able to save according to their hard work. He adds, “Petrol prices have been increased many times but we are offering our services at the old rates. Now, keeping in view the fuel price and geography of hilly roads, the taxi fare is needed to be increased.”

Opening of snow-clad Rohtang pass brings cheer to tourists

Himachal Vacation Travel News
MANALI: Opening of snow clad Rohtang pass has brought cheer to thousands of tourists heading to the hill state to get respite from scorching heat of plains. Over 15 thousand tourists are thronging Rohtang to enjoy the freezing weather every day.
Tourists are enjoying each moment exploring the virgin snow here. 10 to 20 feet high walls of snow are thrilling the tourists who did not expect winter-like conditions in the end of May. Winter games have doubled the enjoyment as tourists are getting to try hand on skiing, tube sliding and sledging on thick layer of snow.
A couple takes photograph of a snow-wall at Rohtang pass
“Availability of enough snow only at a distance of 52 kms from Manali town is like dream for us,” Sarthak Dubey, a tourist from Noida, said who is on Himachal tour with his wife and parents. “The geographical and weather conditions change so fast while driving from Manali to Rohtang pass that we felt like we have entered another world. We have lost our hearts to the beautiful view, snow, cold temperature and mood of fun at Rohtang.”
Snow has disappeared at Marhi and Beas Nullah, the previous snow points of Manali, and Rohtang pass is the last snow point where tourists would see snow until it melts away completely. The temperature being low and quantity of snow being much enough to last till end of the summer season, local ski and dhaba operators are very happy. But the unavailability of parking at Rohtang is again an obstacle in fun of holidaying. High walls of snow standing along roadsides have covered the parking and taxi drivers are forced to park their cars on the highway.
A day tour to Rohtang was all fun for Sumit and Megha, honeymooners from Lucknow, but traffic jam was the odd point which cut their holiday enthusiasm. “Skiing, horse riding and mountain biking, all were perfect, but waiting for hours to see the highway clear was annoying,” the couple said. But they were happy that they made good use of Bharat Bandh when all markets were closed.
Meanwhile, given the high rush of tourists to Rohtang, the tourism development department has decided to install temporary toilets at Rohtang pass. The local Kulluvi folk dance parties are being arranged on Mall Road for the entertainment of tourist every day.