For city people, stuffing bags in a hurry and leaving for Manali or Shimla and have that small family holiday isn’t that much of a task.
I had similar buried memories of Manali until they were brought back to life in the retreating summer of 2018.
But this time instead of being with my family, I was solo.
September it was!A fuzzy-shiny cloud of light emerged from behind the mountains as I stepped out of my Volvo whose glass windows were under dew droplets then. I was ready to see an off seasoned Manali.
Places to Visit in Manali and around Mall Road
Before leaving from Delhi, I carried a bag of my clothes and expectations of catching season`s first snowfall in Manali. To give a good raise to my prospects, I thought of starting my journey with the beautiful Solang Valley.
You want adventure in Manali? You straight head to Solang Valley.
Best known for is adventure sports activities and gorgeous winters, Solang valley is at 2560 metres above sea level and is located between Solang village and Beas kund.
The activities that you can do here are skiing, zorbing, paragliding, ATV rides, horse riding, zip lining and a lot more.
Taxi charges from Mall Road to Solang Valley – ~300 INR.
Distance from Mall road: 11 km
I got the chance to see another beautiful valley of Kullu-Manali. Read my blog post on Sethan Valley and Igloo Experience here.
Mall Road, Manali
The otherwise the busiest spot of Manali looked quite empty but beautiful in the month of November. Mall road was almost deserted yet filled with some tourists who were there with the same purpose as mine, to see Manali in an offbeat season away from the summer vacation crowd.
I made sure to have a good meal in one of my favourite restaurants on Mall road, i.e., Chopsticks. Definitely, they serve the best of the Chinese cuisine.
There are numerous shops here which sell quality woollen stuff. I bought a bag full of clothing items like woollen leg warmers, caps, gloves, Himachali caps and jackets etc from a shop named HYUND.
The shops on Mall road selling drool worthy Jalebis are a must try. The starting of the mall road also has a golgappa wala it is the best on the whole street.
So, stroll, explore, discover! There is something for everyone. Just don’t fall for the touristy prices.
Just at a walking distance from the Mall road, step into a small paradise full of deodar trees.
Expect a lot of tourists and locals here, but you can always find your calm spot.
Distance from Mall Road: 2.7 km
Himalayan Nyingmapa Gompa and Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa are the two monasteries in Manali that you must pay a visit to. Apart from catching on the monks meditating, one can also shop for various Tibetan arts and crafts on display.
A Tibetan aunty sits just at the gate of Himalayan Nyingmapa Gompa. She probably serves the best Siddus and momos in whole Manali.
Distance from Mall Road:
Timings: 7 am – 7 pm (entry to the main shrine)
Siyali Mahadev Temple
This is an immensely beautiful, richly carved in wooden, Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and set against undulating peaks of Kullu-Manali region. The temple is a fusion of chalets and Pagoda architecture. This is something unique and is found in a few Himachali temples only.
Distance from Mall Road: 2.3 km
Hadimba Devi temple
To start with your Old Manali tour, one can choose Hadimba Devi temple as the initial point. This centuries-old temple is dedicated to Devi Hadimba, wife of Pandu`s son Bhima from Mahabharata. You will find this temple sitting in between the Dhungri forest, surrounded by pine trees. The architecture is of the Pagoda style.
Distance from Mall Road: 2.6 km
Timings: 8 am – 6 pm
In the Hindu calendar month of Sravan (Jul / Aug), a local temple fair is held in the memory of Raja Bahadur Singh. It is popularly known as Bahadur Singh Re Jatar. And on 14th may another fair in honor of Hadimba Devi is also held.
Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art
The small museum is just a little walk away from the Hadimba Devi temple and houses some rare collection of religious relics, unknown objects, antique household items, instruments and scale models.
Distance from Mall Road: 2.8 km
Timings: 8 am – 8 pm
Once you exit from Van Vihar towards the side of Beas river, cross the road and go down to sit by this riverbank which is really calm and serene especially during sunset.
It is a beautiful sight to absorb Manali vibes and contemplate.
There are many places to take refuge in from the traffic jams of Manali. Manu temple offers such a serene and divine spot. It is a temple dedicated to Lord Manu.
Distance from Mall Road: 3.3 km
Timings: 5 am – 9 pm
On the 6th day of Phagun (Feb/Mar), a huge fair called Phagi dedicated to Manu Maharaj is held here.
You can also visit the Vashisht village from here which is famous for its hot water springs.
Old Manali Cafes
The charm of the mountains sits here, right exactly in the cafes of Old Manali. You will find all sorts of people in these cafes. From sunburnt trekkers to digital nomads, from locals lazing around as tourists to hippie tourist crowd; these cafes are full of life.
My list has to start with Café 1947 where I had the time only to taste Coffee and what amazing coffee. Highly recommended.
Drifters’ Inn & Café serves great Pizza and other cuisines as well. Their Egg benedict, waffles, and pancakes are a must try.
Other cafes to which you should give a try to are Casa Bella Vista for its Spanish and Italian cuisine, Cafe Meraki for a lip-smacking breakfast, Johnson’s Café, The Lazy Dog for food along with band performances etc.
Distance from Mall Road: 2.5 km
For females, Old Manali isn’t the safest to place to walk alone after sunset, especially in the offseason.
Hike to Jogini Waterfall
One word to exclaim for these, BREATH TAKING! A few years ago, it was Manali`s best kept secret. It is known now and often regarded as underrated.
I took an auto from mall road till the route which was the starting of the waterfall hike. A known person from Manali accompanied me till the falls since it was common for people to misinterpret the route and often lose their way.
The views kept getting better after every 20 steps or so. I was being informed about so many other treks and passes far in the mountains.
Also, spotted Jogini Mata temple on the way.
The waterfall comes cascading down from a height of 150 feet. It is super noisy but mesmerising at the same time. Its pouring beauty makes you fall in love with the rage within it.
It took us 40 minutes to reach the falls comfortably. We started at 12 pm and the respite from the heat came easy once the cold-wet breeze from the waterfall waved a welcome to us.
The speciality of Jogini falls is that you can actually stand behind this waterfall without getting drenched. Make sure to get into the cave-like setting by crossing the shallow water carefully.
Distance from Mall Road: 5 km
Jogini fall can also be reached from Vashisht village. There is an alternative route which is about a 3-hour hike.
After Jogini fall, one can also choose to visit Nehru Kund which is believed to have appeared from the sacred Bhrigu lake.
Things to do in Naggar
It is super convenient to travel beyond Manali. I hopped into a random local bus from many waiting to be filled by passengers at the Manali Mall road bus stand. And the next thing that I was doing was keeping an eye on almost every stop to find an interesting place to get down and spend my day at.
The next stop was Naggar and I could see a beautiful towering castle-like building. I had to get down.
On the left bank of river Beas, there are villages which define the phrase BEYOND BEAUTY. One such village is Naggar which is only 16 km from main Manali.
Naggar Castle, Naggar
Overlooking the Kullu valley, apple orchards, the beautiful Beas and snow-capped mountains, Nagar castle sits as one of the most brilliant creations of history and its kings.
It is an interesting combination of European and Himalayan architecture and was built by Raja Sidhi Singh in 1460 AD. When the Britishers overtook Kullu and Kangra from Sikhs in 1846, the castle was used as a royal residence and the state of the headquarter.
The castle has an interesting construction history to it. The stones that were picked up from the Beas river bank, were transported to the hilltop via a human chain.
Timings: 10 am – 5 pm
The café next to the castle was pretty amazing to chill with good food and views. I had something new this time. Sea buckthorn juice and a piece of indulgence, chocolate mud cake.
Gauri Shankar Temple, Naggar
The temple dates back to 12th century AD and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is built in the Shikhara style of architecture. The temple is just by the side of the Naggar castle.
Timings: 8 am – 7 pm
Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery and Museum, Naggar
After the 1917 revolution, a Russian artist Nicholas Roerich arrived in the Himalayas. His beautiful paintings inspired by the mountain beauty are now exhibited in this once-his-home and now a museum.
The pact between Indian and Russian government to preserve the Himalayan arts and crafts proved to be a substantial step in keeping the art forms alive till date.
Since it was off-season, it felt quite spooky to roam in someone`s old house all alone.
Uruswati Himalayan Folk Art Museum, Naggar
It is situated 100 m uphill from the Roerich art gallery. It is a tribal folk and art museum, established to study the ethos of the Himalayan region and the tribal heritage and medicines.
I wish to sit and gobble all up from their library someday.
Timings: 9 am – 5 pm (closed on Mondays)
Tripura Sundari Temple, Naggar
While coming back from Roerich art gallery, I was immediately drawn to this massive wooden temple. I got to know that this was Tripura SundarI Devi temple.
The temple is in the Pagora style with construction entirely out of deodar wood like the Hidimba Devi temple. Raja Yashodhapal got the temple constructed.
One can also visit this temple in the month of May to attend the local fair called Sharhi Jatra, held in the honor of the goddess.
A new temple that I spotted in Naggar whose construction was underway.
Villages beyond Naggar
I was honestly quite confused as to where to go. A little talk with the locals with whom I was hitch-hiking and the bus drivers, gave me a pretty good idea of where I can spend my last two days in the valley.
The bus ride took me to the route of Hallan village. I got down at Sarsai and took a personal taxi till Hallan village from here.
(Mall road – Sarsai= 30 INR)
Bus timings from Sarsai for Hallan: 8 am/9 pm, 3pm
Taxi driver contact details: 9817997168
Taxi charges from Sarsai – Hallan village – Naggar = 800 INR
Hallan Village (Hallan-1)
Hallan-1 comprises of 5 to 6 villages. I got down at Village Baltha and made my way towards upper villages on foot. Also, Hallan-1 falls on the left bank of the Beas river. Tourists generally go to Hallan-2 which is on the right bank of Beas river. It has a snow point for tourists.
As soon as I reached the temple area, I got to know about a local school festival that was happening on the same day.
The little girls were all dressed up to welcome chief guests and perform as well.
After a doing a little wandering around the place and walking to the upper side, I saw all the local activities happening.
The villagers were preparing for the upcoming harsh winters and snowfall. The local ladies were collecting sheep fur to prepare woollen clothes.
The wood stock was being prepared by each household. Also saw fresh corns being dried up on the terraces to be later sold in the market.
Uncle saw me passing by his home a few times and asked me for a cup of tea a little later. He had weak hearing sense but our mutual liking to relax looking at the mountains bonded us.
I took my taxi back to Naggar (don’t know why). Then I hurriedly decided to visit Jana the same day. Then I caught the bus for 20 INR from Naggar bus stop to Jana.
As soon as I reached the Jana waterfall, I saw what I least expected. The waterfall seemed like a picnic spot and a well-known tourist spot. The damage was done. The waterfall had little charm left in front of all the clutter. Maintenance was the problem.
The food though managed to set my mood right. Maniram Dhaba, the famous dhaba by the side of the waterfall served a delicious thali with the healthy red rice which is a popular crop from the valley.
Thali price: 150 INR
Thank god that I decided to walk a little further. I found this little but much serene waterfall.
The evening skies were here to bid me goodbye yet again.
On my ride back to mall road, I was shown another important local temple by my fellow passenger who gave a lift and also accompanied me to Jogini falls later.
Personally, every time I visit Manali, I like to slip into my old school mode which Old Manali quite successfully gives me. Dotted with vintage to modern cafes, full of hippie vibes and a lot quieter than main Manali, there are options from dirt cheap stays to quint and expensive resorts.
Solang Valley Resort, Solang Valley
It is definitely one of the best options to stay in Solang. It sits on the luxurious side and thus is perfect for family holidays.
It literally was a winter wonderland in the month of November.
We were spoiled by luxurious table spreads three times a day.
Vatika Hostel, Old Manali
Vatika hostel is a hidden hippie paradise somewhere in the middle of the old Manali road. It’s a little offbeat property located by the banks of Manaslu river. I had a great time here because the kind of crowd you find here will always be the peace lover types.
Backpacker Panda, Old Manali
It is another hostel located at the end of Old Manali. It is the most secluded I can say. Try this only if you can walk down daily for 30 minutes till Mall road. Backpacker Panda also has a really cool but cosy common room which instantly became my favourite place to read and chill.
Mountain Train, Manali
This hotel is the perfect balance of little luxury, great budget, awesome views and amazing food. I loved my balcony days here. Some of the best views of Manali can be seen from this hotel which is also accessible by personal vehicle.
Other options of hostels in Old Manali are Zostel, The Hosteller which are equally known amongst the backpacker crowd.
How to Reach?
· By air: Nearest airport is in Bhuntar, which is 48km from Manali. Take a bus from the bus stand which is 11km away from the airport.
· By train: Jogindernagar railway station (162km from Manali) | Chandigarh railway station (350km from Manali) | Ambala railway station (360km from Manali)
· By road: There are various govt. and private buses (both normal and Volvo) that operate between Manali and main cities such as Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Kalka and Dharamshala. From 750 INR to 1600 INr]R, all kind of buses are available.
Things to Remember
It’s a humble request to avoid going to Manali in the months of May, June and July. You don’t want to be stuck for hours in long traffic jams.
Done take your personal four-wheelers to an already crowded city. All sorts of buses from 500 INR to 2000 INR are available on booking platforms. Trust me, it is a more sustainable form of travel.
Even during the off-season, adopt sustainable measure to travel.
Make sure you are utilising the dustbins installed around the city. Treat the place as you would treat your own home. Do not litter.
Waste management system in mountainous cities isn’t as well planned as it is in the plane cities. Avoid the usage of plastic polyethene.