A quiet spot in the city


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by koshkha on April 7, 2013

Sometimes when you’re on holiday and visiting lots of different attractions, what you really want and need is a quiet, peaceful place to sit and think and preferably not get pestered by lots of people. If you find yourself in Manali and are searching for tranquillity, you could do a lot worse than track down the Van Vihar National Park. If you are expecting a lot of excitement and things to do, then the place may well disappoint, but if you’re just looking to shift down a gear or two and take things easy, it’s worth a visit.

We had just been to a Buddhist temple nearby and wanted to see the park before looking for somewhere to go for dinner. Our driver had pointed out the park but not told us anything about it but that wasn’t unusual. Our communication with him was always a bit hit and miss; often more miss than hit, if I’m honest, but that was part of the fun. We had been to another Himalayan National Park in Kufri a few days earlier and had really enjoyed that park so we were feeling optimistic.

Van Vihar is part of the Manali Nature Park and I believe it’s run by the Himalaya National Parks organisation but I’m not 100% sure of that. In Manali there are three other parts to the Manali Nature Par. The first is the woods around the Hadimba Temple which we’d seen earlier in the day, the second is a small park by the Manali Bus Stand, the third is by the Circuit House and the last is this one.

Van Vihar is a park without any animals. To be more precise, I should say it’s without any ‘official’ animals since there are plenty of birds and little beasties who live there and a good number of angora rabbits who’ve been brought to the park to generate money for their humans who offer them for photo opportunities. We came to refer to this odd Manali habit as the ‘Pimp my bunny’ trade and we’d already fallen foul of a bunch of local bunny-wielding ladies at the Hadimba Temple earlier that day. You really don’t need to fondle a large white rabbit more than once a day, in my experience, so we took routes through the park which were devised to minimise our bunny ambush risk.

The park occupies a strip of land that lies next to the city’s major river, the River Beas and is heavily wooded with tall, impressive Deodar trees. I would imagine on a hot summer day this would be a fantastic place to escape from the sun but we were there at the beginning of November and it was quite chilly since the canopy of treetops shuts out much of the light and almost all of the heat. It also has the rare distinction of being big enough to get away from other people and we were left alone to wander. The same factor makes it a magnet for young courting couples who stand a good chance of finding a quite place for some canoodling without being spotted by their aunties.

There are good paths laid out through the park and a 1.9 km circular route is proposed for those who feel the need of a good wander. For more energetic souls, there’s also an exercise area.. There is a children’s playground and a small boating lake. We felt the need of a lazy stroll and a sit on a bench under a tree so we only did a part of the route before settling down for a bottle of water and a bit of quiet contemplation. Actually the quiet contemplation was more like a session of watching the ‘Pimp my Bunny’ ladies giving their furry friends some exercise and forcing them on unwary tourists. One bunny did circuits around the base of the tree as his human stood smoking beside the tree.

For those who get wound up by differential ‘tourist pricing’, this is an attraction that charges everyone the same, no matter where they come from. At 10 rupees (12-13 pence) for adults and children over eight years old, and 5 rupees for smaller children, it’s not going to break the bank but at the same time, it’s not filled with things to do. We enjoyed our half hour stroll and bunny-watch and if it had been warmer and we weren’t so hungry, we’d probably have stayed much longer.
Van Vihar National Park
NH 21
Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

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