Mountains, rivers, trout and toddy — Manali offers you all these and more
- Situated in a valley flanked by majestic pine-covered
mountainswith the Beas River meandering through, Manali offers truly idyllic views and a chill atmosphere to boot.
- The thrill-seekers out there also have a plethora of adventure sports activities to choose from, including paragliding, trekking and rafting.
- An excellent option for those seeking out seclusion is a day trip to Sissu village and Keylong.
AdvertisementThe scorching plains, inevitably, have people craving for an easy trip to a mountainous destination. But if you wish to be nestled amidst snow-clad peaks with a gushing river piercing through the terrain, you will need to travel farther, navigate not-so-great roads and will definitely need more time and patience. No, we are not talking about a trip as arduous as a road trip to Leh; we are talking about a much more manageable road trip to Manali and nearby places.
Situated in a valley flanked by majestic pine-covered mountains with the Beas River meandering through, Manali offers truly idyllic views and a chill atmosphere to boot. With superb panoramas of the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges from all directions, it is hard not to fall for Manali's evergreen charm. However, with a massive influx of tourists, most of whom have little regard for the environment, the city and most places around have garbage blemishing both the riverside and the mountainside. But the true magic of the place powers through and despite these eyesores, a quick pan up to see the mountains in their majestic glory compensates for the heartache the litter causes.
That said, there are plenty of brilliant treks that take you to tiny brooks amidst conifer-clad valleys in and around Manali should you wish some time away from the manic crowds. The thrill-seekers out there also have a plethora of adventure sports activities to choose from, including paragliding, trekking and rafting. But do note that these activities are weather dependent, so it's best to check in advance. In general, rafting takes place all year round excluding the monsoon periods. The months of May, June and September are supposed to be the best time for paragliding. Skiing opens in Solang Valley soon after the first snowfall in January and continues till March.
Other popular tourist spots in Manali include the Hadimba Temple dedicated to Bhima's demon wife. Sporting a multi-tiered pagoda, the temple is set amidst towering deodars, and the complex also has a shrine dedicated to their son Ghatotkacha.
Apart from a very chill atmosphere, Old Manali also hosts the age-old Manu Temple dedicated to the sage Manu who penned the Manusmriti. Oozing with character and old-world charm, Old Manali is truly a must-visit. Please note, there is nothing much to see here, but the place gives you a laid-back feeling. Walk uphill through the narrow lanes, watch the stray dogs just lay there in absolute bliss, witness the locals tending to their cows, indulge in a bit of shopping at some very kitschy shops lining both sides of the lane and then head straight to the pub to rest those tired feet.
Those with a religious inclination should also visit the Vashisht Temple and so should those who don't, mainly because this is the starting point of the hike to the spectacular Jogini Falls. The walk to the falls takes around an hour and makes for a great place to picnic while soaking in the views. (Please note: Do take all essentials like water and food with you but more importantly, take an extra bag to dump your garbage in and bring it back with you for proper disposal.)
Beyond city limits
The 3977-metre high snow-cloaked
An excellent option for those seeking out seclusion is a day trip to Sissu village and Keylong. This epic drive involves crossing the newly-constructed
You can also venture further to Udaipur (3 hours from Manali), a town on Chandrabhaga River bank in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. But remember that since this is a day trip, you should account for the time it will take to get back. Also, there are not many places to stop for grub or the toilet apart from a few loosely-termed 'hotels' splattered along the way.
Places to stay
From budget no-frills hotels to spectacular heritage properties, the town has a place for everyone. The Welcomheritage Urvashi Retreat is a fabulous option for those who want gorgeous views along with all the creature comforts. The property is secluded from the hustle and bustle and the staff is delightful and eagerly tell you about the best places to visit nearby. Should you be looking for something more affordable, you can opt to stay at Sterling Manali. The rooms have beautiful views, but the upkeep is a little lacking.
Places to eat and drink
Manali has a bunch of brilliant places to eat and drink. Serving up various cuisines, Manali also has quite a few resto-pubs with a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Travel and food writer, Pallavi Pasricha, tells us, "I always make it a point to visit Johnson's Cafe to have their legendary trout. On my last trip, I discovered two new places – Il Forno which has excellent pizzas and Rocky's Café, a 10-minute walk from the Old Manali market – both have stunning views of the mountains. Sipping a beer from there will now always be on my agenda whenever I visit Manali next."
Old Manali also has the Dylan's Toasted & Roasted Coffee House, where you can soak in the laid-back atmosphere while sipping on excellent coffee accompanied by hot-out-of-the-oven cookies. Another well-known pub in Old Manali is The Lazy Dog. The riverside outdoor seating area here is the perfect place to wind down with a glass of hot toddy and snacks. Another place to check out if you wish to chill by the river is Cafe 1947, which is a slightly pricier option, but the ambience and the food are certainly worth experiencing.
Veer off the highway
Should you wish for an even more secluded location, Shweta Andrews, who runs a Delhi-based bakery called Bakes Ahoy, recommends a tiny village called Jibhi in Himachal Pradesh. It is just a 3-hour drive from Manali. Andrews says, "This is an off-beat travel destination in its true sense. It's a place for people who are looking to detox -- digitally, physically and mentally." Andrews and friends opted for an Airbnb called Sunny Cottage Near The River, situated on a farm right by the river. "The hosts truly went out of their way to make our stay most enjoyable. Bonfires by night and picnics on the banks by day are things that one cannot enjoy in crowded or commercial holiday destinations. Plus the food was genuinely a farm-to-plate experience as well," Andrews adds. A must-visit from here is the Jalori Pass, where one can experience incredible views of the
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