Manali has a distinctive reputation as a ‘global village’ that has been bolstered by its popularity with backpackers.

This famous hippie haven has riverside cafés that waylay your senses with promises of scrumptuous soups, pastas, hummus and pita, momos, pancakes, along with soul-soothing ginger-honey tea. Rohtang Pass, which is a gateway to the barren but beautiful reaches of Ladakh and Spiti, can also be reached from here.

Manali has something for everyone. There are numerous old temples for the believers to visit and plenty of organised adventure activities for the thrill seekers to enjoy. But best of all, Manali offers that haunting beauty to which places in the lower Himalayan ranges can only aspire.

Things to See & Do
Manali is actually a collection of three adjacent hills, each with a village and an old temple: Old Manali (Manu Temple), Vashishtha (Vashishtha Temple) and Dhungri (Hadimba Temple).

Kapil Taragi
Paragliding in Solang
Paragliding in Solang

If you enjoy exploring, walk to either the Manu or the Vashishtha Temple, past Old Manali or the Vashishtha village respectively, and soak in some serenity, which you can especially enjoy out of season. Fifteen minutes past Old Manali, you can sit on the rocks by the Manalsu stream. Further on, a shepherds’ trail goes up a hill. Some half an hour along this rather narrow path, the valley yields utterly enchanting views of the river that is eventually seen emerging through a thick forest. Past Vashishtha village, walk through some woods and land up at the Vashishtha waterfall which is a wonderful sight to behold. Walking through Old Manali is an absolute treat.

In March–April, you will able to watch butterflies flit around and beautiful apple blossoms greet you. By September, luscious apples dot the trees. In May– June, you will be able to see the locals at work, spreading the new crop in their courtyards and using their bullocks to separate the husks.

The 400-year-old Hadimba Temple, also known as Dhungiri Temple, framed by towering deodars, is worth visiting. Come here early in the morning to see the dark wood on its sloping roof glow like burnished metal. Near Nehru Park on the Mall Road, take the path to the protected Van Vihar stretch. This is a beautiful 20-minute trail that runs parallel to the Manalsu stream through enchanting pine and deodar woods.

Madhu Kapparath
Snow Point, a popular stop en route to Rohtang Pass
Snow Point, a popular stop en route to Rohtang Pass

The 51-km climb up to the 13,400-ft-high Rohtang Pass (open usually in July–September) is formidable. On the way is the village of Nehru Kothi (15km), where you can savour phenomenal views of the mighty Beas River.

Further along are the Rahalla Falls. Once there, savour the stunning panoramas of peaks and glaciers, and the glorious Lahaul Valley below. Rohtang is cold, so rent coats, snowboots and gloves. These are available at many points on the road.

If you’re here during winter, head on the Rohtang Route to Snow Point, which is not a fixed point, but is the spot closest to Manali with ample snow. Amble around in snowshoes, build a snowman and have a snowball fight with your friends.

Manali is an unbeatable arena for adventure sports. Go paragliding at Gulaba or Phatru, both accessible from Solang. If you’ve got the nerve and stamina, go rafting (May to mid-June; end-September to mid-October) on the Beas. The 16-km rides start at Pirdi and terminate at Jhirhi.

Manali is an excellent rock climbing destination (Contact Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports – Tel: 01902-252342, 253789; adventurehimalaya.org).

The city is also good trekking territory (early April to mid-June; from mid- September to mid-October), and Rohtang, the gateway to Lahaul, Spiti, Leh and Ladakh, sees plenty of activity.

Gireesh GV
The wooden Hadimba Temple in Manali
The wooden Hadimba Temple in Manali

The trek to the frozen Beas Kund, the source of the Beas, is a must-visit. There are trekking and adventure sports operators on the Mall Road and lower Circuit House Road.

Manali’s Mall Road is packed with shops selling woollens and winter wear, toys, fruit wine and much more. The HPMC outlet on the Mall stocks Himachali jams, chutneys, pickles and wine, and the very rare apple pickle that you will find only in Manali.

Manu Market, just off the Mall has bookstores, handloom stores and grocers. Many shops here stock second-hand goods sold by departing backpackers, so if you’re buying any imported edibles, be sure to check expiry dates.

You can pick up yak cheese from the German Bakery. You can also find shops stocking dried fruits, nuts, saffron and churan here.

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- 251523, Cell: 09816045123; Tariff: ₹3,200) has well-appointed rooms and cottages. The lovely cottages of Leela Huts (Tel: 252464; Tariff: ₹5,500–12,000) are recommended too. Negi’s Hotel May Flower (Tel: 252104, 250256; Tariff: ₹3,455–6,000), next to Circuit House, remains a popular option with its excellent Continental cuisine. Hotel Snowcrests Manor (Tel: 253351/ 54; Tariff: ₹2,500– 7,200) 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: ₹6,000–9,000) 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: ₹7,666–18,666). HPTDC’s Rohtang Manalsu (Tel: 252332, 253723; Tariff: ₹1,600–3,000) is a budget option near Nehru Park. Hotel Beas (Tel: 252832; Tariff: ₹1,800–3,600) 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

Among Manali’s best restaurants is Johnson’s Café. You can head there for well-made pasta and the grilled trout.

Chopsticks, on the Mall Road, serves Tibetan and Chinese cuisine. Negi’s Hotel May Flower is known for its Continental food.

Be sure to visit Café Amigos (aka German Bakery) opposite Nehru Park for cakes, croissants and coffee.

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. In old Manali, try the home-made noodles at Tibet Kitchen. For authentic Italian, stop at Roberta Angelone’s Il Forno, on the way to the Hadimba Devi Temple.

Fast Facts
When to go
Every season offers a reason to visit Manali. The weather is best in spring and summer. Manali is covered in snow and absolutely beautiful between the months of January and February, when the slopes of Solang attract the skiing crowd

Tourist offices

HPTDC, The Mall, Manali, Tel: 01902-253531/ 2325

HPTDC, Chanderlok Building, 36, Janpath, New Delhi, Tel: 011- 23325320, 23325233, hptdc.nic.in

STD code 01902

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Bhuntar (50km/ 1.5hrs). Taxi costs ₹1,500

Rail Nearest railhead: Chandigarh serviced by the Shatabdi from Delhi. Taxi (7/8 hrs) costs ₹4,000 to Manali

Road It’s a 565km/ 14hr drive from Delhi Bus An AC Volvo bus leaves Delhi’s ISBT Kashmere Gate at 7.00pm