Manali- The Ultimate guide!
Manali in Himachal Pradesh, is a town surrounded by snow capped mountains, which is immensely popular amongst Indian & foreign tourists for its many charms. I reached Manali around 9AM, on a bus from Delhi, after not getting much sleep, I found myself a cab ( which was quite expensive -Rs.200 (after negotiating), for about 1km ) to my hotel.
As tired as I was, I didn’t want to sleep and waste the day that I had, so I set off to explore the town.
You have to be fit to walk around Manali!
I realised quickly how I unfit I really was, since walking around Manali was quite a task, that I was not ready for. I struggled to walk up the hilly terrain, with steep inclines! Maybe on a day when I wasn’t sleep deprived I might have fared a little better, but not on that day.
Should you take a cab in Manali?
I could have taken a cab again, I did have the cabbie’s card, but I was on a tight budget, which I didn’t want to blow on taking expensive cab rides for such short distances.
Also, traffic in Manali is unbearable! To move even short distances takes so long as there is always a traffic pile-up, which is obviously a sign of over tourism. The narrow mountain roads aren’t built to accommodate traffic similar to a town in the plains.
Considering the fact that taking a cab is not going to get you very far especially if you are here during peak tourist season, AVOID taking a cab, REDUCE your carbon footprint, SAVE some money, and SAVE those who are walking from the fumes of your vehicles stuck on the road- by walking! GET some exercise!
Air quality in Manali
So it was good that I walked everywhere, but I found it extremely difficult to breathe (I was taking big big breaths, struggling to climb up the mountain slopes), as I was breathing in fumes from all the cars piled up one behind the other. I actually had to breathe in to my scarf, and even then I was struggling.
1. Go to the park/Sanctuary near Hidimba temple
But Manali is beautiful, and I did find refuge from the fumes of cars inside a park which had access from the road I was going up ( I was walking towards the Hidimba Temple). I took a long break, and just sat there, watching people walk past, and breathing in clean air amidst the towering trees. The sanctuary was quiet, with just the security guard at the entrance and a few people walking across it. It was peaceful, and beautiful, with towering trees everywhere you look. You do need to pay a small entrance fee to the security guard manning the entrance.
Shortcut to Mall Road-the scenic route
This sanctuary has its entrance near Hidimba temple, and has an exit at Mall Road- this is a shortcut to bypass all the pollution on the main road!- I highly recommend you taking this scenic route!
2. Mall Road
Mall Road like in most Indian hill stations, is the place to get everything. This is the street that is the city centre, where all the shops, restaurants, and some government offices are located. I ate at a restaurant at Mall Road and just walked about looking at the towering snow capped mountains that seemed to frame the shops in the street.
3. Hidimba temple
The home of the Forest goddess/ goddess of nature, is set amidst a lush forest. The line to enter the temple is so so long on most days, and it was the case when I visited, so I saw the temple from my spot in the queue, and left!
4. Manu Temple
Located in old manali, this is a temple honouring the sage Manu who is said to be the creator of the world, and the writer of the Manusmriti. The view from the temple is stunning, though the temple itself is architecturally nothing to write home about.
5. Go to Old Manali!
Now this is the Manali you should see, and not Mall Road. If you were wondering what the hype was about Manali after seeing Mall road, its because you were in the wrong side of town!
This is the hippie part of town that is the life of Manali according to me. It is lined with shops and restaurants as well, but they are all different from what you would see at Mall Road.
There are German Bakeries, cafes, shops selling handmade bags (knit & leather), handmade accessories and so much more, and everything looks so pretty!
This is where all the backpackers from around the world are, and the place has such a great vibe, I loved it!
6. Get a tattoo in Old Manali
When you are head over heels in love with the mountains, and want something to remember that feeling by, you can get a tattoo! Old Manali has many tattoo parlours!
How to get to Old Manali
Old Manali is across the river, so I would suggest taking an auto or cab from Mall Road.
-Take an auto and not a cab, because the road gets narrower as you go further up the road in old Manali, which is easier for an auto to go through, even though it will struggle.
-Also, take the auto all the way to the highest point in Old Manali, which is the Manu temple. -You can spend a little time here admiring the view, and then walk down exploring all the shops and restaurants. Else, you will have to climb up the steep incline to explore everything and get to the temple and view point.
7. Explore the neighbourhood
Behind all the shops and restaurants of Old Manali are the traditional style wooden houses of the locals. Most houses have a small enclosure for their animals in front of their house. You can take a walk through the dirt paths that lead away from the main road and walk through the neighbourhood.
8. Try adventure sports at Solang Valley
Paragliding, Zorbing, Parachuting, skiing and so many more activities are available to tourists here. Get a cab to Solang valley from Mall Road in Manali. It is only 14 km away, but can take you at least an hour to reach because of the traffic.
9. Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art
If you have time to kill, head to a museum to understand the history and culture of the people of Himachal.
There are many yoga studios in Manali if you want to take classes.
11. The Vashist Hot Water Springs
The hot water springs at Vashist village is said to have healing powers- but it is crowded with tourists, so I’m not sure how healing that water is going to be now. But you can give it a try and take a dip.
12. Rohtang Pass
If Rohtang Pass is open during your visit, (it is usually open from June to end of September, but bad weather may mean road closures), go on a drive to
13. Trek to Bhrigu Lake
Bhrigu lake is an Alpine lake which is a 3 day trek from Manali. The trek is suitable even for beginners, and in 3 days you will reach an altitude of 14,000ft. Along the way you will see lush green meadows, and even sight the seven sisters peaks. Bhrigu lake is said to change its colour according to the season.
14. Explore the nightlife in Old Manali
Old Manali is where the hostels and backpacking crowd are. If you stay here, it will be easier to get to the bonfire parties hosted by restaurants, or the hostels.
Do let me know of your thoughts in the comments below!