History, mythology, religion, spirituality, romance, culture, and adventure—Manali is one place that packs it all and some more! Situated 2050 metres above sea level in the lap of Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges of the majestic Himalayas, Manali is often referred to as the adventure capital of India and is also a honeymooners’ paradise. Treating travellers with spectacular sights of scenic snow-clad peaks and luscious pinewood forests, this town is one of the most popular hill destinations in the country and is a magnet for both, domestic and international tourists.
We are sure we’ve build up an appetite in you to re-visit or rush to (if you’ve never been here before) this Himalayan abode as soon as possible. Let’s now tackle where should you stay, shall we? Forget hotels, Manali cottages are the way to stay! If the hustle and bustle of a buzzing market pumps you up and you prefer staying in the midst of shops and restaurants, consider booking a cottage (if you are in a group) or a room in a cottage (if it’s just your immediate family) in The Mall, the heart of the town. Go for a lavish chalet-style cottage to get a Swiss feel and spend your evenings savouring a cup of hot chocolate by a crackling fire in a personal stone fireplace. Or pick one that offers views of Rohtang and Hampta Passes from the balcony!
Should you happen to be on a backpacking trip with your buddies, cottages in Old Manali are the place for you. Old Manali is separated from Manali by the River Manalsu and situated a mere two-kilometre away from The Mall, a bridge takes you to this completely different world from what you witness in the main town. Set amidst sprawling apple and pear orchards, Old Manali justifies its name, for it retains that old-world charm thanks to its rustic wood and stone houses and cottages. It’s a laidback village where natives still pet cows and welcome you warmly. A hit amongst the hippie crowd that flocks to Manali, the village has a Bohemian feel to it. You can choose from a cottage located right in the middle of an orchard, if it’s a romantic sojourn or stay in basic Old Manali cottages, should you be on a budget trip. While the days in this relaxed village are pretty chilled-out, the evenings are an altogether different story! Packed with upbeat cafes that serve cuisines from around the world, Old Manali is all about live music, karaoke, and a gala time come twilight.
Also situated at a distance of two kilometres from Manali, Vashisht is another locality you can consider making your temporary neighbourhood. Perched on a slope overlooking the River Beas, this small Manali village has a quiet personality and cottage options to suit your preference. Imagine living in a Manali-style cottage surrounded by rich apple trees, with the soulful melody of gushing water providing an uninterrupted melody—ah, wonderful! There’s also a trek that you can do here, through pretty trails hidden under giant conifers, that leads you to the foot of a tall waterfall.
Solang valley is the place for all you solitude seekers and adventure enthusiasts! Blessed with luxuriant greenery and pristine lakes amidst snowy peaks, Solang sits 14-kilometre northwest of Manali, away from the buzz, and is a hub for adventure sports. From skiing (in the season, of course) to parachuting, paragliding, zorbing and admiring the vistas via a ropeway ride, you can do it all here; so why not stay here, never mind a little away from Manali, in a cosy cottage? Visualise a cottage with a lush lawn lined with pretty flowering shrubs in the midst of a brilliant green cover of dense trees and forested hills, a gurgling stream nearby, and a garden cabana waiting for you to get comfy and savour a steaming cup of coffee! Just add your beloved and the picture becomes perfect!
We have so far introduced you to the temples and the monasteries in the hill station, the town’s adventurous side, and cottages in Manali in some of the best localities. But Manali does not end here! Explore The Mall and shop for some seriously warm woollens, apple and lingad (a type of wild asparagus) pickles, and collect Tibetan handicrafts as souvenirs from Old Manali. If you are here with kids, you have to plan a family picnic in Van Vihar, a municipal garden flaunting a small lake and towering deodars—try paddle boating and enjoy long strolls as your kids sway in swings and play outdoors, a much-needed break for them from PlayStations!
Admire the picturesque landscape as you drive up to Rohtang Pass at a height of 3978 metres in the eastern Pir Pamjal Range. The pass serves as a link between Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti valleys and has River Beas on its south and River Chenab on its north. Covered in a thick white blanket, Rohtang makes for a great zone for amateur skiing, yak rides, and some unforgettable play time in the snow!
Seek more adventure? Try mountaineering and go for white water rafting on Beas. Trekking options abound in Manali—pick from easy to downright difficult and get going! Want to challenge yourself further? Rent a bike and hit the road to Leh—your grit and courage will be rewarded with postcard-perfect scenery and a sense of achievement from having conquered some of the highest motorable roads in the country! Yes, Manali is a base camp for such roadtrips; they don’t call it the adventure capital for no reason!
And how can a trip be complete without relishing local delicacies? Like every destination, Manali too has a fair share of food items and yes, alcohol, that you must get your hands on! Chai is an all-pervasive drink in North India and Manali is no exception—start your days with a hot cup of masala chai or savour it when you desire, time can never bound tea, right? Feast on dham, an elaborate affair consisting of rice, curry, curd, sweetened rice that is characteristic of local weddings and can be ordered at one of the many restaurants that dot the town. Or if you can manage to taste it at the home of a local, nothing better than that! Then there is kadhi chawal, a number of different preparations of river trout, and red rice that is served with kidney beans and saag—umm, feel hungry already! And finally alcohol—chakti and lugri (remember Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani?) are the two local varieties for you to try and get your party spirit high!
So, how much of Manali have you experienced? Missed on some things? Well, what are you waiting for then? Give yourself a break, pack up, pick a Manali cottage, and lose yourself in the stunning vistas of the Himalayan hills!