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Rugged landscape and grassy hills, Himalayan architecture and Italian food, crowded streets and tranquil views - Manali is an amalgamation of feelings and experiences. While Manali offers the Mall Road and the fancy hotels, Old Manali gives you a hipster cafes. While the roads are jam packed with cars that don't appear to move at all, you will hear the sound of a sparkling river, accompanied by towering mountains. While your hotel will be next to countless others, the balcony in your room will have an unobstructed view of the city overshadowed by the mountains. Here's a list of the best places to visit in Manali. Also read blissful things to do in Manali.
How to Reach Manali
There are numerous ways to reach Manali. It's well-connected by air (Kangra and Bhuntar airport), and road. Reaching Manali via bus or by driving is the most popular option though.
Kanga Airport near Dharamshala has regular flights to and from Delhi. Most of the popular Indian airlines operate 1-2 flights daily. Keep in mind that flight operations can often get affected in mountainous areas due to bad weather. Dharamshala to Manali is an 8-10 hour journey which can be covered by bus or a hired taxi cab.
There are numerous buses from Delhi to Manali. The Himchal Pradesh State Government buses (HPCA) have buses that leave from Kashmiri Gate Delhi in the evening which reach Manali in the morning. The buses come in various ranges of comfort such as AC, non-AC, Volvo, regular etc.
Another extremely popular option, which is used by most people is to get your own bike or car to Manali. The drive is scenic to say the very least and there's flexibility to do things on your own schedule. Not to mention that if there's a group travelling together, travel costs are considerably cut down.
Hotels in Manali - Get a room with a view
I'm a sucker for rooms that offer views of mountains or beaches or anything remotely spectacular. If I can't sit in a balcony or at the window, sipping tea and basking in the view, my holiday is incomplete. There's a charm in waking up to see the city at a distance, belittled by the mountains. It truly makes you marvel at the splendour of mother nature and respect her even more. This hotel, where I stayed at, was located close to the Hadimba Devi temple and other Manali attractions but it's undisturbed by crowds. Of all the Manali hotels, make sure you find one with a view like this. It's a great place to sit when the Manali temperature dips. Just grab a blanket and some chai.
Best Places to Visit in Manali
While Manali is a place where there isn't much to see, you can take time out to just relax. However, if you're hell bent on sightseeing Manali and visiting all the Manali attractions, here's a list of the best places to visit in Manali:
A Manali trip is incomplete without visiting this famous pass. Rohtang Pass, at a height of 13058 ft, connects the Manali to Spiti. The climb up to the pass offers views which will leave you dumbfounded. Rugged landscapes, grassy hills, sneaky little waterfalls and snow capped mountains will accompany you throughout your journey. The picture changes every few minutes, each one more so mesmerising than the previous.
Keep in mind that a permit is required for visiting the pass. There are certain rules in place which can be viewed on the official website. The permit for visiting the pass and returning back to Manali and the permit for going beyond the pass are different. Make sure to get this permit before your visit to the pass. Do get some good sleep the previous night because you will have to leave early in the morning for Rohtang Pass. There are many vehicles lined up for the same and it can be a long and tiring journey. There are plenty of snack vendors selling hot maggi, omelette and tea so you won't have to worry about breakfast. There are portable washrooms set-up at the check-point where your permit will be checked.
While returning from Rohtang, you can visit Solang Valley for some adventure activities such as paragliding and zorbing. However, if you are tired from having woken up early, you can get back to your hotel, take some rest and visit Mall road later in the evening for some casual strolling and shopping.
Rohtang Pass has been featured in the Bollywood movies Jab We Met and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani.
Hadimba Devi Temple
Located in the heart of Manali, 2 km from the Mall Road, nestled between pine trees, the Hadimba Devi temple is an unconventionally architectured shrine dedicated to Hadimba Devi, the wife of Bhima and mother of Ghatothkach. The place is generally over-crowded but you can make a quick stop here, since it's in Manali, close to most hotels. There are some locals who offer fluffy rabbits for you to hold and take pictures with, at a minimal cost. I'm not sure how ethical their practice is or whether those bunnies are properly cared for so when you visit, make sure to ask the women to take good care of the rabbits!
The Bollywood movie Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani features the Hadimba Devi Temple.
Uphill, away from the crowded, jam packed streets of new Manali, on the outskirts, lies old Manali, 3 km from the main city. Giving off a hipster vibe with streets surrounded on both sides by souvenir shops selling hippie clothes and accessories, Old Manali is famous among backpackers, foreigners and youngsters. Backpacker hostels, Italian food and pizza joints are what attract the young crowds. More than that, it's the tranquillity of sitting in a quiet hotel, away from the city, surrounded by hills and streams that draws one to Old Manali. While this is not a Manali attraction, it's a place to go for soul searching and cool vibes. Some of the best places to visit near Old Manali are the Manu temple, Vashisht village (which has a hot spring) and Jogini falls.
Kasol is a hippie paradise located outside Manali. In fact, it's the ideal day trip from Manali. However I highly recommend that you stay here a day or two just to soak in the good vibes (*wink*) and devour the delicious Israeli food. Manikaran is another popular Manali attraction near Kasol. This place houses a Gurudwara (a place of worship for the Sikh community). There's an afternoon langar where food is prepared by the lovely community to feed anyone who visits the Gurudwara. What makes this place unique is that the food isn't cooked using any traditional method. In fact, food here is cooked using the hot water of the river flowing next to the Gurudwara. It's one of the most unique sights!
Naggar - Best Place to Visit near Manali
Naggar is located 22 km from Manali, along the Beas river is an idyllic, ancient village to relax, enjoy a steaming hot cup of tea and soak in the mountain views before entering Manali. There are buses that ply from Manali to Naggar on a regular interval. If you're driving from Dharamshala to Manali, you can easily make a pit stop at Naggar first before visiting Manali. Naggar has one main point of attraction which is the Naggar castle. The castle, made of wood and stone and displaying an impressive amalgamation of European and Himalayan architecture, functions as a hotel and an art gallery. Some of the best views of the Kullu valley are visible here. Other popular attractions are the Tripura Sundari temple and Krishna temple.
Naggar Castle has been featured in the Salman Khan starer movie, Tubelight.