Once upon a time, Manali was a backpacking capital of India. A dirt track from Manali to Kullu was part of the popular hippie trail. Today it is tough to imagine Manali as a backpacker’s paradise. It has easily become one of the most popular hill stations in India with tourists thronging to Manali in the height of summer as well as winter.
Manali suits the needs of every kind of travel mindset. A family looking for some bonding time, a couple for some peace and quiet, solo travellers for some solitude or a group of friends seeking an adventure.
There are a whole lot of things to do in and around Manali.
Visit the Rohtang Pass
If you are returning from the higher Himalayan valleys of Ladakh or Spiti, you would have already crossed this king of the Himalayan passes on your Leh to Manali journey. Or if you took the Manali Kaza route to Spiti valley.
If not, then reserve a day of your trip to Manali for the Rohtang Pass. Be bowled over by the lush green winding roads that slowly lead to snow. At parts of the Rohtang Pass, the snow never melts. Which means what you see and hold in your hands, could very well be ancient snow. Be a child once again, and let loose as you play in the snow.
Listen to the Beas sing
The river Beas flows through Manali and chances it will dominate the landscape during your stay in Manali. You can enjoy your morning tea perched prettily on the lawns over this river as the gushing river makes music with birdsong.
Enjoy this blissful time with your family, your partner and just by yourself. Open a book and be lost in it as the mountains lose themselves in the clouds. Or pack your bags and head down to the river for some rafting action.
Pluck your own fruits or understand the fruit market
Peaches, plums, cherries and litchis all eventually give way to apples – in every colour you’ve imagined apples to be. Which means there’s always a fruit waiting for you to be enjoyed in Manali.
You can arrange for a visit to the fruit orchard or explore the fruit markets which, in the summer months are busy transporting fruits all across the country.
Cleanse yourself in the Himalayan spas
On the outskirts of Manali are the hot water springs of Vashisht where you can detoxify yourself naturally amidst the pristine forests.
Or, if you want to make a day trip of it, go all the way to Manikaran, a place of religious importance for the Hindus and the Sikhs. You can rejuvenate yourself here in the piping hot medicated waters. Manikaran has a number of options to stay if you decided to spend the night here.
Make a day trip to the Parvati valley
- Start early in the morning from Manali. Make your way through Kullu, Bhuntar and cross over to the Parvati valley.
- The landscape here is easily capable of making a 3-hour drive into an 8-hour photo-ops filled journey. The road climbs up steadily as you go further into the Parvati valley. Stone houses with flat slate roofs start making an appearance.
- There are a few tourist hubs here, like Kasol and Malana which also lead to many multi-day Himalayan treks like the Chanderkhani.
These short touch-and-go trips are not something that we usually recommend. Parvati valley deserves a long trip all for itself. But say, you are returning from a long exhausting trip to Ladakh or Spiti or are just pumped up enough to explore a bit beyond Manali, we say, why not! Go for it.
You can go further ahead to Manikaran or the end of the road at Pulga. Just remember that you have to drive back and driving in the dark might not be advisable. Don’t make safety secondary while you are busy having all the fun.
Local Manali “sightseeing”
- Walk up to the Hidimba temple on one of the evenings during your stay in Manali. It’s a simple walk through some beautiful forests.
- A beautiful forest walk connects Old Manali to the Manali market. You walk through the thick deodar forest along the Beas river as numerous birds follow you. It’s hard to believe that the road is just a few meters away.
- You can spend some time in the Solang valley to get that adrenaline going
- Naggar palace is well preserved and will satiate the history buff in you.
Beyond all of this, don’t forget to be an explorer in Manali. Look beyond the obvious. You will find numerous trails all around Manali and if any looks inviting, just ask any local about it. Find where it leads to, how easy or difficult it is. And armed with this information, just follow your heart.
After all, that is what travel is all about.
Where to stay in Manali?
- Stay away from the Mall road and the market is our top tip for where to stay in Manali.
- Naggar Road has a lot of good options for a comfortable and quiet stay in Manali. Snow Bliss, Manali is a beautiful home with rooms available in many combinations. It is our top recommendation for your stay in Manali.
- If you are visiting Manali with your family or a big group of friends (especially with kids), it’s best to stay in a vacation home instead of a hotel. Some holiday home options for your stay in Manali are Pause at Manali, Hamta house cottage, and Heaven’s Abode.
- Old Manali is a backpacker’s haven. Loads of hostels and guest houses surrounded by all kinds of adventure shops, this part of Manali is very different than the one you see around the market. All the big hostel chains in India like Zostel, Moustache, Backpacker Panda are present here. Besides these, there are a number of niche boutique hostels in Old Manali as well.
- Manali has now become a year-round destination. Especially, if you are planning your honeymoon, you should consider these Manali Honeymoon Packages for a memorable holiday.