Manali, with its soothing backdrop of the Himalayas, offers a blend of tranquility and adventure that makes it one of northern India's most popular travel destinations. You can do as little or as much as you want there. It’s a magical place bordered by cool pine forest and the raging Beas River, which give it a special energy.
Manali Location :
Manali is 580 kilometers (193 miles) north of Delhi, at the northern end of the Kullu Valley in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
Getting to Manali:
The nearest main railway station is at Chandigarh, 320 kilometers (198 miles) away, so it’s necessary to travel quite a distance by road to reach Manali. The Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation and Himachal Tourism both operate buses from Delhi and surrounding locations. The trip from Delhi takes around 15 hours and most buses travel overnight. It’s possible to book a sleeper, so you can actually lie down and rest properly, although many people prefer the semi-sleeper reclining seats in the deluxe Volvo buses. Alternatively, there's an airport in Bhunter, around 2 hours from Manali.
When to Visit Manali:
The best time for travel to Manali is late March until October. From October onwards, the nights and mornings are cold, and it starts snowing in December. The spring (late March to late April), when nature starts coming alive again after the cold winter, is a beautiful time to visit. The crisp clean air, rows of blossoming apple orchards, and masses of butterflies are a real treat.
Manali Adventure Activities:
Anyone looking for thrilling adventure sports will love Manali. Fishing, white water rafting, paragliding, skiing, mountaineering, and hiking are all on offer in or around Manali. You’ll find many companies that organize and run adventure tours. Some reputable ones with high safety standards are Himalayan Journeys, North Face Adventure Tours, and the government operated Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports. Many people head off on a road trip to Leh from Manali. For something different, Trans Himalayan Adventures organize tailored healing holidays (including Yoga, Ayurveda, and Reiki) and monastery tours.
Manali Festivals :
The Hadimba Temple Festival, which takes place in May each year, provides an interesting glimpse of local culture. Gods and Goddesses from local villages are dressed up and carried in procession to the temple, and local artists perform traditional folk dances. There’s also a carnival for the kids. Another popular festival is Dusherra, which falls in October each year. Outdoor trance parties are held in the hills around Old Manali, mostly from May to July, but police interference has put a huge dampener on the party scene and it’s not what it used to be.
Manali Side Trips:
The small village of Vashist, only 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from Manali, has panoramic views of the valley and hot mineral springs that you can soak in. A little further out, Solang Valley shows nature at its best with snow, and trekking opportunities to temples and waterfalls. Rohtang Pass is highly recommended day trip, which you can do in a hired taxi from Manali. The scenery is incredible and features views of glaciers, deep ravines, and of course snow covered mountains. Make sure you wear warm clothes!
Manali Travel Tips:
Manali is divided into two parts -- Manali town and Old Manali. The town is best avoided unless you want to go shopping or make travel arrangements. It’s a commercial area full of honeymooning Indians and families who’ve flocked there to escape the scorching summer heat, and it distinctly lacks the charm and village atmosphere of Old Manali. Make sure you try some of the delicious local fruit wine for less than 200 rupees ($5) a bottle.
Manali has some wonderful luxury resorts with tranquil mountain settings. One of the best ones is the Manu Allava Spa Resort. Rooms at the Manu Allava Spa Resort start from around $150 for a double per night and include tea, breakfast and dinner. The peaceful surroundings, and health treatments and massages on offer, will leave you feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. Another popular Manali hotel is the Banon Resort Manali, with rooms from around $85 including breakfast. Old Manali is full of quaint and inexpensive guest houses, such as the Dragon Guest House, Veer Guest House, and Purnima Guest House.