Have you ever visited a place that totally takes you by surprise and leaves you spell bound? Well that’s the effect Manali had on me! Last year in December (2019), I planned my epic trip to Manali. My biggest goal was to experience snowfall for the first time in my life. I had seen snow in the past but never been in an actual snowfall. Unfortunately it didn’t snow during my stay at Manali, but I still had one hell of a trip!
I would love to visit this place again, thanks to the recent inaugurated Atal Tunnel, an engineering marvel connecting Manali to Lahaul. So, based on my personal experience, here is a list of places I visited (before the opening of Atal Tunnel) that you should totally include in your itinerary. Also have covered other important points like how to reach Manali, how to commute within Manali, where to stay, places to eat and where to shop!
So lets get started!!!
What to pack?
During the winter months, the weather in Manali could be quite harsh and can reach sub zero temperatures. I would suggest packing heavy woolens and warmers. Though the sun does come out during the day it would be good to keep a heavy jacket handy. In addition to this, I would recommend packing trekking boots, comfortable walking shoes, beanies, hand gloves, sunscreen and a camera to capture all the beautiful memories!
Best places to visit in Manali
During the winter months, Rohtang pass is cut off and is not accessible by tourists. But Solang Valley, which otherwise is a lush green valley during the summer months turns into a winter wonderland. Located 14 kms from Manali, the valley offers a variety of activities such as paragliding, zorbing etc. But the main attraction is skiing which draws many tourists. One can enjoy a nice hot bowl of Maggi with the picturesque views.
Out of all the activities offered in Solang Valley, my favorite has to be the tube ride where they make you sit on a rubber tube and push you down the hill. But there are two variations of it and I would recommend trying out the advanced version.
Cost for adventure activities – Different price point for different activities, however the starting point is INR 200.
Trek to Jogini Waterfalls
This is a golden find of Manali (at-least I was not aware of until I reached Manali!). The trek route passes through a narrow lane adjacent to Vashisht temple and goes through apple orchards, tall pine trees and small water streams. On the way few restaurants and guest houses are also available. A gentle walk will take 1 hour to reach the base of the waterfall. The top point of the waterfall can be reached by a walk of another 15 minutes.
The whole trek route is very scenic through beautiful villages aligned with the sprawling valleys. This is one of the best short treks in Manali to enjoy local scenic beauty and village life in Himalayas. The trek can be a little difficult during the winter months due to the melting snow.
Hidimba Devi Temple
This is one of the most famous attractions of Manali. Surrounded by a beautiful cedar forest, this place is a sight to behold! Though the temple is over 5 centuries old, there is no idol of the deity, there are only footprints on stone. The temple is built around a cave where Devi Hidimba performed meditation.
The Indian epic Mahabharat narrates that the Pandavas stayed in Himachal during their exile. In Manali, the strongest person there, named Hidimb and brother of Hidimba, attacked them, and in fight Bhima, strongest amongst the Pandavas, killed him. Bhima and Hidimb’s sister, Hidimba, then got married. It is one of the most popular tourist destination.
Entry Fee – Free
Timings – 8 am to 6 pm all times of the week
Visit Duration – 1 to 2 hours
Vashisht Temple in Manali is dedicated to sage Vashisht, the Kul guru of Lord Rama in the village Vashisht across the River Beas. It is among the most famous places to visit in Manali. The Vashisht temple is believed to be more than 4000 years old. Inside the temple there is a black stone image of the Rishi wearing dhoti. The Vashisht temple is decorated with excellent and beautiful carvings on wood. The interior of this temple is rather traditional which is ornamented with antique painting and figures.
The Vashisht Hot Water Spring is one of the famous attractions of this region. The hot springs is believed to have medicinal value. The springs are said to cure many skin diseases. Many people go to the Vashisht baths to take a dip and rid themselves of skin infections and diseases. There are also separate bathrooms for both men and women.
Entry fee – Free
Timings: Vashisht Temple: 7 am to 9 pm, Vashisht baths: 7 am to 1 pm, and 2 pm to 9 pm on all days.
Visit Duration – 1 Hour
Manu Temple dedicated to the Indian sage Manu is located at old Manali. Manali is named after the sage Manu who was the creator of human race on earth according to mythology and it is believed that he meditated here. This is supposed to be the only temple of Manu in India. Manu Temple was built in pagoda style of architecture. The temple was rebuilt in the year 1992, when the vaulted ceiling and marble floors were added. One can find various artifacts along with the idols of gods and goddesses in different postures in this temple. Travelers are advised to wear dresses covering the knees and shoulders, while inside the temple.
Timings: 8 am to 6 pm
Visit Duration – Half an hour
Day Trip to Manikaran
Manikaran is located in Parvati Valley between the rivers Beas and Parvati in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Manikaran is famous for hot water springs, Ramchandra Temple and a Gurudwara. There are many stories which surround this beautiful area, each shedding light on the history of this enchanting place. The hot springs is said to possess curative powers. Many pilgrims take a dip in the holy water to wash away their sins and others seek its curative qualities. The springs are situated near the bank of Parvati River.
Manikaran is also a pilgrimage centre for Sikhs. The Guru Nanak Devji Gurudwara also known as Manikaran Gurudwara is associated with Guru Nanak. The gurudwara has a langar that offers free food. Kulant Pith in Manikaran is considered to be the most sacred pith. The Shiva temple is situated next to the Gurudwara.
Personally this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. There is something in the air of this place which brings peace to your mind and body. If you ask me I would highly recommend you to go here to experience the beauty this place has to offer
Day trip to Kasol
On your way to Manikaran from Manali you will also cross the beautiful village of Kasol, also known as the Mini Isreal of India. It is one of the most famous Himalayan hotspot for backpackers. This place has its own charm and it will not fail to disappoint you. Though we had limited time at this place but I made sure I took the experience of sitting beside the Parvati river and enjoy the sheer and raw beauty this place has to offer!
Explore the Manali Mall Road
If you are someone like me who loves to shop then the Mall Road is the place for you. Renowned for street shopping adventure and bustled with heaps of activities, the Mall Road of Manali has got a lot of things to keep one busy for the day. Lined with multiple restaurants, cafes, and dhabas, this place is ideal for those who have got a flavor of bargaining skills deeply rooted in them. I personally love to support these small shop owners who sell amazing woolen wear or hand crafted goodness. I would suggest to take out a good amount of time to from your itinerary to explore the gems this place has to offer.
Other places to explore
If you are in Manali for a longer duration then apart from the above you can also explore the below places –
- Great Himalayan National Park
- Kheerganga Trek
- Nagger Castle
- Go white water rafting in the Beas River
Restaurants and Cafes in Manali
Personally for me no trip is complete without some lip-smacking food. Manali has some great places to eat when it comes to food. From small budget eateries to high end restaurants Manali has it all. Some of my favorite places to eat at Manali are –
Lazy Dog Café – The café is located in Old Manali and is one of the most popular places to eat here. Due to it being popular among locals and travelers, there is some waiting time. However, its totally worth it. The food is absolutely amazing and they have an amazing band which plays here during the evening. Cost for two – INR 800.
Cafe 1947, Near Nehru Kund, Leh Manali Highway – I would highly highly recommend checking out this place. Apart from the food (which is simply amazing!!), the café also offers an outstanding view of the mountains! Located beside the beas river, you can totally enjoy a good meal with a view! Also, this place offers an outdoor as well as an indoor seating! Cost for two – INR 1500
Momos near the Gadhan Thekchhokling Gampa Monastery – If you are someone who loves momos as much as I do, this should be on your list! There is a woman who has her stall right beside the Monastery who sell amazing vegetarian momos (even if you are a non-veg momos fan you would still love it!!) and siddu (a traditional Himachali dish). I was glad to have found this place on my very first day of exploring the best of Mall road. You should definitely check this place out. Also, the lady is one of the sweetest people I have come across while travelling.
Johnson Bar and Restaurant – Another famous café in Manali, this place is known for its ambience and live band. Though the place is a bit pricey but the experience is worth it. Cost for two – INR 2500.
Other recommendations – Il Forno (famous for Pizza’s), Drifters café, Rocky’s café.
How to reach Manali
Manali is well connected by buses and flight.
Bus – As the distance between New Delhi and Manali is 533 kilometers (12 hours of travel time), I would suggest taking an overnight bus. There are AC buses available and you can travel very comfortably. You can book your bus tickets via https://www.redbus.in/ just like I booked and can choose from a variety of carriers. My top suggestion would be to check our the amenities provided by the bus and the reviews posted by other travelers!
Flight – The nearest airport to Manali is the Bhuntar airport. After reaching Bhuntar from Delhi you can either take the local bus or travel to Manali or you can hire a taxi. In case you wish to save some time on travelling you can definitely take a flight. The prices are a tad bit high so if you want to save some extra bucks I would suggest travelling by bus.
If you are feeling extra adventurous and can drive on the mountains like a pro, you can also drive down to Manali. You can either take your own car or hire one from zoom. You can also hire cars from Delhi with a dedicated driver. Although this option can be a little heavy on the pocket!
For all my bike lovers, you can definitely travel to Manali by your bikes and enjoy the amazing route and the scenic views it has to offer!
Getting around in Manali
Manali does not have the luxury of Uber or Ola but you can still get around quite easily. The best and the easiest option to get around Manali is booking a taxi with any local driver. You can either ask your hotel/airbnb to arrange one for you or can you hire one yourself by asking around. My pro tip would be to stick to one cab driver for your entire stay as you can bargain on the prices and customize your trip easily.
When it comes to accomodation, Manali has a lot to offer. Starting from budget options to luxury stays you can take your pick. You can check websites like https://www.makemytrip.com/ and https://www.airbnb.co.in/ for affordable stay options.
Hostels – If you are a solo traveler or tight on a budget, Manali has a lot of hostel options to offer like Backpackers Headquarter Manali, Culture Nation Hostel etc. For more info you can check https://www.booking.com/
If you ask my recommendation, then I would suggest booking the Ride at Hill Cottage in Manali through AirBnB. The service is impeccable and the hosts are very sweet. Also, they have a very affordable and amazing café menu. You can contact them on their Instagram handle – https://www.instagram.com/ride_2014/ (Not sponsored! I really liked their property and service).
Best time to explore Manali
The beauty of Manali can be explored all year around. But if you want to experience snow I would highly recommend going during the months of November to January (Snowfall starts at the end of November!). The landscape changes during the summer and the autumn months. I would not recommend going during the rainy season i.e. July to September as the place experiences heavy rains.
Best time to explore Manali
You will need around 4-5 days to explore the beauty this place has to offer. If you are short on time, you should definitely book a minimum stay of three days to cover all the places I mentioned above.
So that’s my ultimate guide for a trip to Manali!
If you have any specific queries, put them in the comments section below. Will get back to you soon.
The mountains are the last place where man can feel truly wild.