Quirky Ways to Experience India’s Most-Wanted Hill Station Manali

Any day, I’d rather take a trail that leads to a remote place than a well-known trek. If a city is overcrowded, I will leave it at the bus stop. I feel like a ninja when I am alone in a tent amongst a hundred empty ones. I avoid the best restaurants in a city and instead go to the back streets looking for local delights.

My home is on the road less traveled.

If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have travelled alone through South America for nine long months while Europe waited. I would also not have chosen to follow wild orangutans around Kinabatangan in Borneo. I could easily walk a mile in the Spiti deserted alone and still receive software engineering job offers by TimesJobs.

My surprising love affair with Manali Tour Package (India’s summer queen), began when I visited Manali for a day to fly to Spiti. Although the counter at the HRTC bus stand and many agents in Manali said that the road to Spiti was not yet open, I shuffled among the various tour agencies that dotted Old Manali’s rickety streets until I found one that understood that I would not take no for an answer.

However, on the one day I was in Manali, I wandered through the vibrant old market. I was enticed to buy small coffee and sweets at the corner of a tiny street. The green hills surrounding Manali called me to take a walk. I enjoyed the delicious local food that Manali restaurants were serving, and watched the Beas and Manaslu rivers flow in their glory.

I decided to return to Manali from Spiti, ignore the top places near Manali list and spend a few more days exploring the dream destination of many Indians. I wanted to avoid crowds and find the hidden gems.

After spending a week in Spiti, I returned to Manali and stayed in a basic hotel in Old Manali. The snow-capped Himalayas around Manali were visible from my balcony. But that was it. I chose a hotel over a homestay because it was more convenient for me. This is something that is very unusual for me.

That is one secret I already shared with you about Manali package: if you are a fan of solitude, you can stay in an empty guesthouse.

Manali and I will share the details of what happened over the next few days. However, I’d be willing to share some secrets with you in this Manali guide. In fact, I’ll tell you the top things to see in Manali.

Let’s go! Let’s have some fun in the green lanes during the Manali trip.

This is why Manali was created.

Stay in Old Manali instead of New Manali — Manali travel will change completely if this is done.

Although New Manali and Old Manali appear to be separated by the Manaslu River that runs through Manali to split it into two parts. However, both places seem to have changed over time.

New Manali, Manali’s main market and town, is more popular with Indian tourists and families. It also has a lot more people due to the many restaurants and frequent bazaar. Old Manali is a relaxed area where tourists and locals can live together in mud houses that house travelers, Himachal families and cows. Although Old Manali has become quite crowded over the years, there is always a quiet trail or a hidden homestay at its end.

It is difficult to comprehend that Old Manali and Manali are so distinct. You can reach Old Manali by crossing the Manaslu River bridge. The atmosphere suddenly changes.

Old Manali is a hippie spot. There are bars, handicraft shops and grilled trout on plates. You can also find small coffee counters along the streets. Budget homestays have hammocks in their gardens. I think you get the point.

Some may say that New Manali is only for hippies and smokers. But I spent six days there and didn’t smoke one day. However, I still preferred Old Manali over new Manali. Why? Old Manali was quieter. You couldn’t find the Indian bazaar rush in Old Manali. Old Manali tourists were slow and stayed longer. They didn’t rush to get to their destination.

All the shops, cafes, and restaurants are located along Old Manali’s main Manu temple road. To reach the wooden guesthouses, with large pear and apple orchards, and cowsheds, you can take any of the small trails that branch off this main road.

All of this being said, I avoid guesthouses that are crowded with backpackers because they can get too loud.

Old Manali guesthouses are cheaper than New Manali at any given time.

You can walk from Old Manali up to New Manali by the Nature Park of Manali — Jungle on the road any day.

Although you would need to pay 20 rupees for entry to this dense coniferous forest of pine and deodar trees, you won’t have the burden of ignoring every motorcycle that passes Old Manali to New Manali. If you are on the main road and an ambitious car attempts to squeeze in beside you, a bull and the rest, you will thank me for my advice.

Those 20 rupees would be so worth it. The Manali natural park is quite old. To get in, you will need to go through the park gate on your left as you walk towards New Manali. When you are done, stop by the Himalayan bookstore. They have great books about Himalayan birds and trekking in the Himalayas.

Stop haggling with shopkeepers in Manali, and instead go to Naggar. No matter how many days it takes, Naggar should be included on your Manali itinerary.

Naggar is a village located near Manali. This small town, which stands at 1800m above sea level, was once Kullu’s capital. Although Naggar is only 20km from Manali it took the HRTC bus about an hour and half to get there. It stopped at several small villages along the way. The bus was doing an excellent job of maneuvering through Himachal traffic and the crazy Himalayan roads.

To reach the Gauri Shankar Temple, I climbed up a hill from Naggar. It was a stone structure that stood tall between an empty paved courtyard. Although no one knows the origin of the Shiva temple, it is believed to have been built in the 12th century. This temple shows finely carved stones placed over each other in an unstable manner, reaching up to an open shrine. The temple’s open-air courtyard would bring back memories of childhood at your grandmothers house in a village. Sorry, if village life is something you’ve never experienced. Perhaps this is your chance.

This is the empty courtyard scene set against the backdrop of an old beautiful temple. It was repeated many times in the temples of Naggar I visited. Even a non-temple lover like me couldn’t resist the beauty of Naggar’s temples. Naggar castle was another pleasant surprise, though I preferred the vegetarian cutlets to the stunning view of the Beas.

This small, mysterious Kullu town allows you to walk through the forest to reach the Krishna temple. You can also chill under the apple and pear trees to find food.

Naggar was the turning point in time, and I felt like I belonged to an era of royalty when temple courtyards were the new cafe coffee day.


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