Manali, (alt. 1,950 m or 6,398 ft) in the Beas River valley, is an important hill station in the Himalayan mountains of Himachal Pradesh, India, near the northern end of the Kullu Valley. It is administratively a part of the Kullu District. The population is approx. 30,000. The small town was the beginning of an ancient trade route to Ladakh and, from there, over the Karakoram Pass on to Yarkand and Khotan in the Tarim Basin. Manali and its surrounding areas are of great significance to the Indian culture and heritage as it was the home and abode of the Saptarshi or seven sages. The ancient cave temple, Hidimba Devi Temple, is not far from town.
In ancient times, the valley was sparsely populated by nomadic hunters known as "rakshas". The next arrivals were the shepherds who arrived from the Kangra valley and settled to take up agriculture. Some of the earliest inhabitants of the region are the 'naur' or 'nar' which is a caste unique to the Kullu valley. Only a few naur families are known to exist now. A naur family in the village Soyal near Haripur on the west bank of Manali was famous for the vast land they owned and their practice of having 'rakshas' as their labourers.
The British were responsible for introducing apples and trout which were not native to Manali. It is said that when apple trees were first planted the fruits were so plentiful that often branches, unable to bear the weight would collapse. To this day apple along with plum and pear remains the best source of income for the majority of its inhabitants.
Tourism in Manali received a real boost after the rise of militancy in Kashmir in the late 1980s. This once quiet village was transformed into a bustling town with hundreds of hotels and restaurants.