Manali is probably the most popular hill station of India. An altitude of 2050 m, snow-clad Himalayan peaks in the background, and a restless river – Manali is a well-endowed temptress. There are hundreds of amazing things to do in Manali. Go trekking, skiing, paragliding, rafting, or simply sit and take in the icy cool air. If you wish to strike off Ladakh and Leh off your bucket list, do Manali first. Manali has been featured in numerous Hindi movies and is a fav among filmmakers wanting to recreate a Switzerland in their films. If you are at the right place at the right time, you could catch a film shoot in the snow.
1. ZORBING AND PARAGLIDING AT SOLANG VALLEY
Solang Valley is quiet and is best approached by road. The drive up to Solang is extremely picturesque. Once you are there, try out some Chinese food from the local roadside shacks, and enjoy the views. The road ahead is blocked since a tunnel to Koksar (a village ahead of Rohtag La) is now being built there.
Rolling down a hill in a huge transparent plastic ball can make anybody’s world go round. The green slopes of Solang Valley are perfect for this activity. Two people can be strapped in a single ball at the same time. And don’t worry about safety, your poor instructor will run alongside.
Paragliding in Manali is yet another activity you cannot not do. With open spaces and high altitude, the Solang valley is the perfect spot for paragliding.
2. OLD MANALI
Swaying eucalyptus, lovely roads, sweet little eateries, small kitschy market places, and cafes that serve your favourite continental food at unbelievably low prices, the serenity of Old Manali is only disturbed by twittering birds and the sound of the gushing waters of the Kullu River.
3. ROHTANG PASS
In May, Rohtang becomes a place for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. The snow-covered mountains provide the perfect opportunity to go skiing and snow scooter riding. Take your family to this wonderful place and enjoy some quality time together.
4. NAGGAR CASTLE
“Located in Naggar Town, amidst breathtaking forested hills, the Naggar Castle is a magnificent historical edifice. Made of stone and wood, this palace served as the residence of Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu. It was built in AD 1460 in an impressive amalgamation of European and Himalayan architecture. Fireplaces, fitting staircases, and magnificent stone and wood works grace the castle’s interiors. There are three small shrines within the premises, each holding immense religious importance. For art lovers, Naggar Castle has incredible art pieces on display. Worth-mentioning are the paintings of Nicholas Roerich- the famous Russian painter. As souvenirs, you can take home traditional items like wall hangings, coasters and artefacts bearing imprints of Roerich’s paintings from here.
In the year 1978, the castle was converted into a rest house, and more recently into a heritage hotel that is run by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC). The holy Beas River flows close to the castle, adding beauty and sanctity to it. No trip to Manali is actually complete if you don’t pay a visit to this attraction.”
- Opening Closing Time07:00 am – 10:00 pm. Open all days
- Photo Opp: Steeped in history, the Naggar Castle boasts of stupendous architectural features. Starting from the truly majestic façade to extraordinary artworks in the interiors, there are many amazing subjects to shoot in Naggar Castle.
- Movie Connect: The song Yeh ishq hai from the 2007 blockbuster Jab We Met, which featured Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kap0or on lead roles, has been shot here. Shreya Ghoshal bagged the National Award for the same song.
- Entrance FeeRs. 15 per Person
5. MONASTRIES IN MANALI
When in Manali, visit the Buddhist monasteries that have been set up here by the Tibetans and other followers of Buddhism. The monasteries offer tranquil surroundings and are also an excellent place to witness the Buddhist culture. Popular monasteries include the Manali Gompa, Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa and the Himalayan Nyingamapa Gompa.
6. ARJUN GUFA
Situated on the bank of the Beas River, Arjun Gufa is an interesting place to visit. Roughly 4 km away from the hill station of Manali, this beautiful natural attraction lies near Prini village. As per a popular belief, this cave is the place where Arjuna, the third eldest among the Pandava brothers, meditated for strength. Pleased by Arjuna’s devotion, Lord Indra gave him the most powerful weapon – Pashupati Astra. Tourists are required to undertake a half-day excursion through dense forests, fascinating mountains and gorgeous waterfalls to reach this site. Arjun Gufa has become a major tourist attraction in the region, owing to its splendid beauty and the legend associated with it.
- Photo Opp: During your excursion to the famous Arjun Gufa, you will pass many breathtaking natural sights that would impel you to click pictures. Therefore, charge your camera battery up to 100% before you set off for a trip to Arjun Caves.
7. CLUB HOUSE
Club House is an entertainment zone, built in British-style and managed by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC). It is popular for indoor as well as outdoor activities like carrom, table tennis, pool and skating. For a relaxing day, head towards this place, which is easily reachable by bus or taxi. If sports are not on your mind, you may read some classics in the library or admire the pristine river that flows along the Club House. Do not miss to enjoy a sip of tea or coffee and relish delicious snacks at the in-house restaurant.
- Opening Closing Time10:00 am – 08:00 pm. Open all days
- For Kids: Filled with many surprises, the Club House is a perfect place for kids. They can indulge in video games, river crossing sprees, go-karting and various other games available in the house.
- Entrance FeeRs. 10 for Adults
8. HADIMBA DEVI TEMPLE
“Hadimba Devi Temple, colloquially known as Dhoongri Temple, is an elegantly crafted 4-tier pagoda roofed structure, set amidst dense Deodar forests. This highly revered shrine is dedicated to Goddess Hidimba who was the wife of Bhima from the Indian epic, Mahabharata. A centre of religious, historical and archaeological interest, this temple is frequented by tourists as well as devotees from all corners of the country.
Built in AD 1533 by Raja Bahadur Singh of Kullu, the temple houses a stone idol of Goddess Hidimba that measures about 60 cm in height. The interiors of the temple are exquisitely adorned with wooden carvings that depict legendary figures and symbols. As per legends, the giantess Hidimba indulged in penitence, as a result of which she was raised to the position of Goddess Durga. The rock in which she meditated is kept intact in the temple sanctum.”
- Opening Closing Time08:00 am – 06:00 pm. Open all days
- Photo Opp
It is strongly recommended that you carry your camera when visiting the ancient Hadimba Devi Temple. Embraced by forested hills from all sides, this place offers truly amazing backdrops.
- Movie Connect
The kidnap scene from the movie Roja that starred Arvind Swamy, Madhoo and Pankaj Kapoor in lead roles has been shot here. Also shot here is the recent blockbuster Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani that featured Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. In the scene, Ranbir expresses his views on marriages.
- Entrance FeeFree
9. RAHALA FALLS
The enchanting Rahala Falls, situated at an altitude of 2501 m above the plains, attracts countless visitors every year with its breathtaking beauty. Embraced by splendid hills, lush deodar forests and lofty birch trees from all sides, this site serves as a wonderful picnic spot for locals and tourists alike. The best time to visit this gorgeous fall is from May to October when maximum water gorges down the rocks. Owing to its mesmerising beauty, this waterfall has emerged as one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Manali.
- Opening Closing TimeSunrise – Sunset. Open all days
- Photo Opp: When the backdrop is an amazing waterfall overlooked by distant snow-capped peaks, clicking pictures becomes obligatory. Carry a camera with metering mode feature that determines the correct exposure and takes clearer photos.
- Entrance FeeFree
Skiing is another thrill for adventure lovers while touring Manali, as they can indulge in some high adrenaline skiing sessions in the snow-clad mountains that surround the hill station. Want something even more thrilling? Go for heli-skiing or yak-skiing to make your experience unforgettable.
11. RIVER RAFTING
The River Beas comes across as a perfect avenue for adventurers to indulge in some exhilarating rafting action amidst grade II and III rapids. An hour-long session of river rafting is sure to satiate your adventure craving. The Beas River is perfect for adrenaline pumping water adventure activities such as canoeing, kayaking and of course, white water rafting. So take your gear along or rent it there, hop in and get ready to flex your muscles in the tumultuous waters of Beas.
One of the popular sections of Beas where rafting is done is the Manaki to Jhiri section near Bajaura in the Kullu district. The rafting season usually starts in April and ends in mid-June. Go ahead and have the time of your life amidst the waters of Beas!
12. CHANDRA TAAL
Chandra Taal, or Chandra Tal is situated in the Spiti part of the Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. The name of the lake originates from its crescent shape. It is situated at an altitude of about 4,300 metres in the Himalayas.
PLACES TO EAT
Casa Bella Vista Overview
Amidst the lush panoramas of Manali is a cosy café named Casa Bella Vista that serves lip-smacking Spanish and Italian dishes. Gorge on their freshly baked, hand tossed thin-crust wood oven pizza with a pint of chilled beer or your favourite mocktail. With warm wooden interiors, dining in Casa Bella Vista is a delight. With a small boutique for shopaholics and a huge library for avid readers, Casa Bella has more to offer than just delicious food!
In for some delicious food and great live music? Head to Café 1947. This vintage and traditional Italian café hails to be the first music café in Manali and is located on the banks of the River Manalsu. Relish your meal, read a book, play your favourite tunes or even start up an impromptu gig, Café 1947 will surely be a part of some of your best moments in Manali.
- Burger of Bodom
- Dimebag (the burgers)
- Slayer (the pizzas)
- Metallica (the pasta)
Dylan’s Toasted & Roasted
Wonder what’s special about this café? Originally known as Double Vision, the café had a wall dedicated to Bob Dylan’s portrait. Bob Dylan’s fans and music lovers loved it so much that they coined a new name for the café and hence it was called the Dylan’s Toasted and Roasted. A great place to unwind, read and enjoy good food, Dylan’s is one of the most popular cafes in Manali.
Perched on a hillside near Hadimba Temple, Il Forno is an authentic Italian restaurant in cosy stone and timber structure. Relish the wood-fired pizzas, calzone, lasagne and pasta dishes, which are prepared by a Veronese chef and enjoy an espresso or a pint of chilled beer with wonderful valley views from the garden terrace.
Johnson’s Bar & Restaurant
Johnson’s Bar & Restaurant is a charming Italian joint in Manali. The restaurant boasts of a talented Italian chef, good food and a well-stocked bar that serves a good selection of wines, liquors, exotic cocktails and shooters.
- Lamb and mint gravy
- Smoked chicken
- Fig and apple crumble
The Mall Road is the throbbing nerve street of Manali, and is lined with plenty of hotels, eateries and shopping opportunities. That explains the top three things you can do around here – sleep, eat and shop. Buzzing with activity throughout the day, especially during the peak summer season, this is the perfect place to begin exploring Manali, as your hotel is most likely to be around the corner.
Ranging from trinkets like key chains and keepsakes to the extortionately priced pashmina shawls, the Mall Road in Manali is the answer to all your shopping needs.
Don’t Forget to Buy
Manu Market is a quaint marketplace, located next to the Main Street in New Manali. It is an Indian-style market with narrow lanes lined with shops, a good number of restaurants serving delectable cuisine and few economy lodging options. From clothes to footwear, food, electrical appliances, cooking utensils, Tibetan jewellery and all sorts of knick-knacks, there are seemingly endless items on sale in this market.
- Photo Opp: Surrounded with beautiful forest-covered hills, Manu Market exudes an unmatched energy and vibrancy. The exquisite artefacts on display in the shops, and local people in their traditional attires incite every visitor to click pictures. So, make sure you carry your camera when you visit Manu Market.
Don’t Forget to Buy
“Garments Footwear Utensils Tibetan jewellery “
BEST TIME TO VISIT
September to February: The monsoons draw to an end in September and winter starts setting in from October. The temperature in winter months can go down to -1 °C, so make sure you carry enough woolens to keep yourself warm, especially for the chilly nights.
December end to January: Time when you can enjoy snowfall and the spectacular scenic white views of the surrounding mountains, making it a favourite with the honeymooners. This is the ideal time for adventure enthusiasts who want to go skiing.
March to June: Summer steps in from March but the weather is still pleasant. The temperatures during these summer months usually vary between 10°C to 25°C, so you might still need light woolens during the night. This is also the time when the region’s flora is in full bloom lending it the most pristine natural beauty.
July-August: Monsoons in Manali can be tricky as the region experiences heavy rainfall, which can also sometimes lead to landslides. But considering a lot of tourists don’t prefer to travel during this time, the prices of hotels tend to drop.
How to reach
By air: The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, located approximately 50 kilometres away from Manali. Domestic flights connect Bhuntar with Delhi and Chandigarh.
By road: Roads connect Manali to diffrent places including Delhi (540km), Chandigarh (305km), Dehradun (227km) and Ambala (370km). There are several private buses as well that connect the hill station with different part of the state.
By rail: Jogindernagar railway station is the nearest railhead to Manali that connects the hill station with several important cities of the country. Chandigarh and Ambala are other options to reach Manali by train.
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