After such a rough ride through Sarahan and back across to Kullu (for no reason) we were happy to have a nice nights sleep in Kullu and jump back on the road on a local bus up to Manali- the “Goa” for hippies of the north of India.
I have explained before about the hippie trail, which lead Europeans to India and eventually landed them in Goa. Manali was on that trail and ever since has been a home to the open-minded, longhaired, drum circle lovin’ people of the world. It might have had something to do with the world famous elusive and guarded Malana cream “black gold”, from the next town over, which is the reason I ended up an extra in an Indian music video…
Packed full of pine trees and surrounded by the Himalayas, throw in the Beas river that surges through full of trout- and you have the perfect place for a chilled out vacation. Oh, and you can ride a yak or ride your bike up the famous Rohtang pass to Leh, the valley of the gods.
In fact, you can keep going further north to Jammu and Kashmir but it does take a lot of planning. For some parts you’ll even need a permit, but Kashmir is known for obviously scarves and also Dal Lake where people stay on houseboats.
I’ve mentioned before that India quite seasonal. When monsoon hits and Ben and I stay in Goa, most rational people pack up and head to Manali to evade the rain. Manali turns into a nice little party scene and people meet up with friends from the south. For such a populated country, it’s incredible how much of a “small world” it is in India.
Chloe and I went at off-season (November) and more than half the shops were shut down. I can’t wait to go back during this monsoon and see what it’s like when the tourists are there. The best time to go is Spring and Summer (March through September). May and June will be packed, so best to avoid these months.
There is Manali and Old Manali. It’s much cooler to stay in Old Manali and just a rickshaw ride away from where your bus will take you. Old Manali is more chilled out and has all the things us tourists come for while still giving you the quaint village feel. Manali Town is just like any other “city” and won’t give you that feel of nature that you’re probably seeking. It’s about 600 km North of Delhi and most likely you’ll stop in Kullu on your way up by bus, or Chandigarh if you start by train.
What to Do in Manali.
Surrounded by mountains, forests, and a river it isn’t hard to find something to do every day in Manali. Known for outdoor activity, The spirituality of India is visible in Manali with classes to learn and to be able to teach your own classes back home! I decided to make a whole post about all the adventure in Manali.
Just a few km away is another small village that has the famous hot mineral springs. We paid 100 rs to get there. FYI they charge less going down because it’s so steep the guy didn’t even start the engine! It was more money to go back up. It is walkable if you really want to. To be honest I was a little let down by them (unless of course I ended up in the wrong place). It was separated male and female and the female one was hidden down this hole or sorts right near the entrance. Although natural water coming in, it was built into a brick square of a tub. Men always get the best deal in India. From here you can find groups to do more hiking.
people did their laundry at the hot springs
took an individual photo with almost every one of these kids per their request, not because I’m a weirdo
You’ll want to make sure you see Hadimba Devi Temple while you go down to the main town. At the time we visited, Old Manali and Vashist were almost closed. There were a few shops open which meant we got killer deals on gems and shawls. On that note…
Shop. Manali has Great Souvenirs!
Popular items include local honey, wine, and tea. Locals make hand-woven shawls and you can get your dad a kullu cap, mine loved his! I got some Tibetan handicrafts, a couple pashminas and larger shawls in between town and old Manali at Fashion Weave Nepal. They were a really nice couple, gave awesome deals, and I can’t wait to go back this year. Contact them at 977 984 180 3389 or visit the Manali or Nepal shop in Kathmandu.
Nepalese shops are everywhere selling yak wool blankets and ponchos, cute hats and gloves, and adorable coin purses. You can get all your warm stuff here if you want. You’ll see fake North Face backpacks and hiking boots. Keep in mind they aren’t worth what the guys say they are worth.
loved seeing this on Drifters’ Cafe menu
I also bought a rabbit fur and sheep skin hat that IS SO SOFT! You can see it in the top photo of the yak. I loved it and wore it all the time during the following month of travels.
For jewelry, I went to a shop in Vashist. I wish I could remember the name for you guys, and will check next time I’m back. If it helps it was on the left…? As I said, no one was in town so I got nearly wholesale rates on some jewels. Turquoise and rose quartz necklaces and rings set in huge chunks of silver, moonstones rings and studs, a killer ruby ring, loads of gifts for friends, and tons of crystals! I spent more in this guys’ store than all my other gifts combined. I will soon be providing a list of decent prices for items in Indian markets, although I think Indian salespeople might hunt me down and kill me for doing so. It is best to invest in a gem book if you are serious about buying and be able to tell the difference between real and fake silver.
PS if you need an ATM, there wasn’t one working, it is ok to use a “money man”. I know it sounds sketchy, but my boyfriend and I use them all the time in India and it’s truly no big deal. They just scan your card and give you the cash. Think of it like Western Union, except with a random Indian man on the street.
view from my guesthouse
Where did I stay?
I stayed at Mountain Dew Guesthouse. Cool little place. The town was a ghost town so the price we got (300 rs per night) is not practical for season time. The owner wasn’t ever around but gave us loads of extra blankets since we were his only guests. Perk of this guesthouse is the views of the mountains from the windows.
For booking contact 01902 253 242 or e-mail at email@example.com. Alternatively, click here for rates and availability. I wouldn’t mind staying here again, but might look into staying directly on the Beas River next time. It’d be nice to get a fishing license (100 rs per day) and fish from a cottage. That sounds so good right now- a hammock, some tea, a good book, and fishing, ahh. If you’re looking for a homestay in Manali, check out that review.
Eating in Manali.
Toward the end of season the apples are at their best and apples juices and pies are to die for, especially at Drifters’ Café where we spent most of our time. The pan fried trout is scrumptious and is best chased down with the fruit wine made in the Himalayas! We ate this at Johnson’s bar by a nice hot fire. Sadly popular Café 1947 The Lazy Dog, Chopsticks, and Casa Bella Vista were closed but are places I want to try next time.
Manali was also my first taste of real Tibetan food. I can live on momos forever. It’s all I need. And Thukpa.
When people ask me what’s the tourist trail in India and I include the mountains, Manali is always the number one “don’t miss” on the list. You should go, and everyone else will too, because it’s freaking gorgeous and over 6,000 feet up in the Himalayas.
When it comes to taking trips from Manali, your options are just limitless. As for us, we headed to McLeod Ganj next, but of course that meant we had to go back down to Kullu and west from there; it ended up being the bus ride from hell. Remember to check my local bus tips,
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