When I was in Manali and I had the urge to get in touch with my adventurous side and go paragliding, I visited Solang Valley, about 12km from Manali on the way to the Rohtang Pass. Before you reach the paragliding venue, you will be able to see its telltale markers – several make-shift roadside stalls selling paragliding jumpsuits. The sellers here offer horse rides to the top of the hill from where you take off, but the distance looks relatively short from the shops. So, I trusted my stamina and trudged on, but regretted my decision 15 minutes into my uphill trek. Dragging my feet, trying hard not to think about my screaming lungs, I cursed myself for trying to save a couple of hundred bucks. However, the moment I ran to the edge of the cliff with my paragliding guide, jumped off the ground, and the wind pulled at my parachute, my uphill hike seemed worth it!

Paragliding was one of the most liberating adventure experiences I’ve ever had. As you soar through the sky like a bird, the experience gives you a whole new perspective on and appreciation for life and all its little surprises. It was in the sky that I was the calmest that I had ever been. It was an exhilarating, surreal, almost meditative experience and I would be lying if I said that I did not want to try it again.

If sky diving has always been on your bucket list, starting off with an experience like paragliding is going to make you more comfortable with the idea of a freefall.

manali3_TI

manali3_FI_1

Kapil Taragi
Paraglide across Manali in winter
Paraglide across Manali in winter

Remember to pack a good pair of sunglasses, since the sunlight reflected off of the nearby snow-capped peaks is going to hurt your eyes and hinder your experience since you won’t be able to marvel at the breathtaking views that this sport will offer you.

Don’t forget to pair your experience with the quintessential roadside piping hot Maggi, which you get close to the venue!

Where to Stay

There’s plenty of choice in Manali but if you’re heading here during tourist season, make sure that you book your stay in advance. Johnson Hotel (Tel: 01902-253764, 253023, Cell: 09816073023; Tariff: ₹3,500–9,200) on Circuit House Road has well-appointed rooms and cottages. The lovely cottages of Leela Huts (Tel: 252464, Cell: 09816506610; Tariff: ₹6,000–13,000) are recommended too. Negi’s Hotel May Flower (Tel: 252104, 250256; Tariff: ₹7,000), next to Circuit House, remains a popular option with its excellent Continental cuisine. Hotel Snowcrests Manor (Tel: 253351-54; Tariff: ₹3,500–8,000) is away from the rush of the bazaar. Banon Resorts (Tel: 252490, 253026, Cell: 09418095359; Tariff: ₹6,000–18,000) is in the midst of apple orchards. Highland Park Manali (Cell: 09816043949; Tariff: ₹5,000–18,000) is four kilometres from town on the Rohtang Pass Road. If you want a place by the Beas, check out Manu Allaya Resorts (Tel: 252235-38; Tariff: ₹11,900–35,000). HPTDC’s Rohtang Manalsu (Tel: 252332, 253723; Tariff: ₹1,600–2,800) is a budget option on Hadimba Temple Road. Hotel Beas (Tel: 252832; Tariff: ₹1,200–2,300) has rooms overlooking the river.

For those looking for cheap options, Old Manali village is a treasure-trove of guesthouses. Rockway Cottage near the river is the nicest.

Where to Eat

The Mall is full of restaurants. Amongst Manali’s best restaurants is Johnson’s Café on Circuit House Road. You can head there for pasta and the house speciality – grilled trout. Chopsticks, on Mall Road, serves Tibetan and Chinese cuisine. Negi’s Hotel May Flower is known for its Continental food. Visit Café Amigos opposite Nehru Park for cakes, croissants and coffee. Do pick up home-made yak cheese. Tuck into south Indian fare at Swamiji’s Madras Café, or north Indian meals at the Himalayan Dhaba, both located on the Mall. Go for momos and apple cider at Mount View. Try the home-made Cantonese noodles at the Tibet Kitchen. For authentic Italian, stop at Roberta Angelone’s Il Forno, en route to the Hadimba Devi Temple

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Bhuntar (50km/ 1.5hrs), serviced by Indian Airlines and Jagson Airlines. Arrange a pick-up at Him-Aanchal Taxi Operators Union, The Mall, Manali (Tel: 01902- 252450, 252120). It costs around ₹1,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Chandigarh serviced by the Shatabdi from Delhi.

Taxi (7/ 8hrs) costs around ₹4,000 to Manali

Road It’s a 565km drive from Delhi and takes about 14hrs, but you might prefer a night halt en route Bus An HPTDC Volvo AC bus leaves Delhi’s ISBT Kashmere Gate 7.00pm, reaching Manali by 9.30am. The last bus leave at 9.00pm. Fare is about ₹1300