An essential stopover on the road to attaining Nirvana, Old Manali is virtually the backpacker’s heaven. With sprawling mountains, crisp air, twittering birds, gushing waters, swaying eucalyptus, and cobblestone pathways, this vintage town has a charm like no other. The beauty of nature in and around here is so profound that it evokes feelings of spirituality in many.
If you wish to experience Manali at its best, ditch the commercialized New Manali, and make your way to Old Manali. The expression, “the road less traveled” defines this place. In all honesty, spontaneous detours and discovering secret trails are the best way to explore it. Be that as it may, there are some worthwhile sites that you must if you don’t want to miss out on the experience of a lifetime.
Manali’s Must-See Attractions
Located on the Leh highway, this stunning snow-covered pass is no less than a winter wonderland. A visit to this pass will surely be the highlight of your stay here. It offers spectacular views of mountain peaks, glaciers, and the Chandra River. Popular activities like skiing and sledding are also available. In winter, the overwhelming snow makes it impossible to travel, which is why the pass remains closed from October to May.
When one door closes, another one opens. Open all year round, the quiet and picturesque Solang Valley is snugly tucked between Beas Kund and Solang village. The sheer beauty of the panoramic peaks and glorious glaciers lingers like a kiss. Also known as Snow Point, it is a hotspot for exhilarating activities like paragliding, parachuting, zorbing, horse riding, and more.
Once the capital of Kullu, Nagar is home to the beguiling Naggar Castle. A seamless amalgamation of European and Himalayan architecture, the castle’s history goes back to more than 500 years when it was built by Raja Sidh Singh. With gorgeous fireplaces, staircases, exquisite stone and wood interiors, the palace is located amidst wondrous forested hills.
Old Manali has ancient temples on almost every street, and Hidimba Temple is one such beauty. The wood and stone temple is known for its unique architecture. Located in Dhungri Park, the temple is dedicated to Hadimba, a warrior princess and wife of Pandava Bhima.
Some of the other notable temples are Gauri Shankar Temple and Krishna Temple in mysterious Kullu, and Manu Temple. The temple was said to be constructed in honor of Manu, a sage who saved the human race and the holy Vedas from the great flood, according to legend.
Manali’s Best Kept Secret- Vashisht Village
The quaint Vashisht Village has become synonymous with Old Manali, courtesy of hot springs, global wanderers, and its relaxed atmosphere.
The Vashisht Temple, named after Rishi Vashisht, is famous for its therapeutic hot springs. The water is believed to have astounding medicinal properties. According to legends, after his children were killed by Vishwamitra, the rishi jumped into the river, determined to commit suicide. However, the water refused to let him die. Following the incident, he led a renewed life in the now sacred Village.
Jogini Falls is an incredible sight. The dripping water from the fall is truly refreshing after the long hike. It is a remarkable place to relax, and talking loudly is believed to be disrespectful to the spiritual being surrounding the holy falls.
The main streets of Vashisht are filled with charming cafes like the Rasta Café and World Peace Café. The cuisine is from all over the world, including Israel, Italy, etc. There are incredible non-vegetarian, vegetarian as well as vegan food options. The Incense Café is famous for its delicious fresh Trout, Egg Parathas, Hummus, and Israeli Shakshuka.
Hotel Manali Continental, La Vaca India Manali, Apple Cedar Cottage are some of the best options for a comfortable stay with beautiful views, terraces, and a plethora of amenities, including free WiFi.
Living up to its zen hippie image, the town offers the best of both worlds: spirituality and adventure.
As you might imagine, a peaceful and beautiful nature itself is quite therapeutic. However, if that doesn’t suffice, Manali is an excellent place for laid-back medication, yoga, reiki, and rejuvenating ayurvedic massages. The Shri Hari Yoga Ashram is famous for the various classes it offers, including yoga, as the name suggests. Acupressure, palm reading, chakra healing therapy, and color healing are common as well.
On the other side of the spectrum, Manali offers myriads of adventure activities that induce an amazing adrenaline rush. Although most activities are available all year round, it isn’t a bad idea to prioritize the activities to manage time.
If you are in Manali, as an escape from the heat during summers, you can try zorbing, paragliding, rafting, biking, and mountaineering. During the winter months, you can cozy up next to a bonfire or feed your hunger for an adventure through activities like skiing, including heli-skiing, yak-skiing, and snowboarding. Avoid Manali vista during the monsoon months as there is a high possibility of landslides.
Hiking and Trekking
Beas Kund Trek
Secluded by an igloo-like stone structure, Beas Kund is the birthplace of the River Beas and also a very famous trek. The trek starts in Solang Valley, leading up to a breathtaking view of the peaks at Beas Kund after crossing river streams and a dead glacier.
One of the most famous winter treks, the trail includes beautiful meadows. Classified as a moderately difficult trek, it’s on the eastern side of Rohtang Pass. The serene lake is gorgeous and is surrounded by snow during winter.
A crossover trek connecting the Valley of Lahul, Spiti, and Kullu, the Hampta Pass is famous for its meadows and lush greenery. Chandratal Lake, named after its crescent shape, is its most famous site.
The Great Himalayan National Park
The newest addition to India’s national parks, it is an exciting, albeit unconventional trek route. Home to 400 species of Himalayan Fauna, it is an unforgettable experience.
Old Manali’s Diverse Cuisine
Sunshine Café is every dessert lover’s dream come true. With its dreamy hot chocolate, Milky Bar parathas, and a basic, rustic ambiance. The place is also renowned for its juicy burgers.
Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted
This lovely café is popular for its impressive breakfast range and soul-soothing coffee. It may be difficult to believe that a café in Old Manali serves delicious Shakshuka, but it really does.
One of the most famous cafes, the ambiance of the place evokes the philosophy of freedom. It is heaven for lovers of Italian cuisine as the cafe serves mouth-watering Pizza, Bruschetta, and Paninis.
The Lazy Dog Café
With a refined English decor and warm lighting, this cafe has an exciting mix of Thai, Italian, and Japanese cuisine. A section of the place houses an open bar with exotic cocktails.
Some of the other lip-smacking eateries include River Valley View Café, Drifter’s Inn & Café, Johnson’s Café, Casa Bella Vista, and many more.
Plan a Trip to the “Goa of the North”
Old Manali offers a variety of accommodations. The following are some of the best places to stay:-
- Leela Huts is perfect for a big family vacation with its peaceful, spacious huts and ample garden space.
- The Culture Nation Hostel is best for the budget as well as solo travelers. The best aspects of the hostel are the delicious food and a friendly dog that tourists love!
- Apple Country Resort is a luxurious stay with a stunning view of the mountains. It offers spa facilities, and there is a hot bath in all the rooms.
If you wish to travel by air, the nearest airport is Bhuntar in Kullu. Manali is 50 km from the airport. You can travel by taxi or hop onto a bus. By rail, the closest option is Joginder Nagar, after which you will need to take a car to reach Manali.
The best way to travel to reach Manali is by road as it allows you to enjoy the scenic route. You can enjoy Manali to the fullest by walking to all the various places. The welcoming Himachali people, the stunning views, compelling trails, and delectable cuisine amplify the experience beyond imagination.