Updated: Mar 4, 2022
One North Indian hill station which is known to almost everyone across India is Manali. This blog covers this station in vanilla flavor. Have a quick read and enjoy your next visit to Manali
Manali is among the most sought-after destination in North India with tourists pouring like monsoon rain throughout the year. Over the past few years, in addition to local tourism, it has become a religious stay for everyone visiting Leh/Ladakh or Spiti valley. Manali has a lot to offer from enthralling mountains and serene waterfalls to paragliding and ziplining for adventure junkies. Many off-beat destinations have popped up around the city for those trying to avoid commercial and crowded locations in Manali central. This itinerary is a blend of cherry-picked destinations covering the most popular locations in and around Manali for the summer season.
Manali never ceases to amaze, even if you visit after few months it will still have something new or something you missed the last time you were here
Ideal number of Days:
If you are specifically visiting Manali to explore its beauty and scenery, 5-6 days are good enough if traveling by road from Delhi/NCR and 4-5 days. In case if you are reaching Manali by flight Nearest airport is Bhuntar Airport in Kullu. If you are traveling by Car from Delhi NCR, we suggest you leave an evening early and cover the plains journey till Mohali / Rupnagar. And then from Mohali / Rupnagar, we suggest you leave as early as possible in the morning, like 5ish to avoid traffic jams.
Day wise itinerary: Day 1: Travel from Rupnagar / Mohali to Manali. From Rupnagar (if you are leaving from Mohali, then maybe after an hour) travel distance is around 265km and takes around 8-10 hours to reach Manali (unfortunately it was Friday and we were subsumed by traffic at all places, so for us it took 14 hours). You will find most traffic around Mandi and Kullu. As we are talking about Himachal, there will be construction/patchwork through and through. You can find a few good options for meals in Mandi, other than that most will be small-time Dhabas and Maggi outlets. Once you reach Manali, depending on the time, you can recce local area and get a feel of the place. Leverage parking areas to explore around on foot, otherwise, traffic jams are more common than street vendors in Manali
Day 2: Deepak Tal via Atal Tunnel – If you are a road trip enthusiast then this day will be a delight for you. We left at a good time in the morning towards Atal Tunnel through Leh Manali highway covering en route – Solang valley (15 min from Manali) – Atal Tunnel (40 Min from Manali) and Sissu, the first village after Manali towards Leh. As soon as you leave Atal Tunnel, the way splits in two, one towards Leh and the other towards Kaza. The landscape changes drastically as soon as you leave the Atal tunnel behind. There will be an urge to stop at every hook and turn of the road and capture every view, so be ready and keep your devices charged. The road till Deepak tal will take you through Keylong and Jispa; and is smooth as butter except for few rough patches, our hatchback sailed smoothly with little challenge. Deepak tal is a small yet pristine water body with most of the crowd left far behind. Though it is incomparable to Chandra tal (in Spiti) , the aura around is energetic and flows with positive vibes. You can also try some good monasteries around Keylong if not interested in traveling this far. You can find decent famiy restaurants in Keylong for food and snacks
Day 3: Rohtang pass – Must visit place for Manali. You can hire a cab very easily as there is a huge number of operators in Manali for the Rohtang pass. At Rohtang Pass, you will get to see and feel snow even in peak summers, most of it will be in patches, not too thick but good enough to enjoy. Keep your expectations from this snow very low as most of it will be mud stricken with activities like – Yak riding, Skiing, Tube slide, and more going in full flow. However, the view from the top is nothing but extraordinarily breathtaking. You can explore the area on foot to experience “on edge of the world” feeling. There are multiple waterfalls when you go uphill to Rohtang however if you decide to go towards Kaza from Rohtang, there are more beautiful waterfalls on the other side. Cab drivers will give you the option to return via Atal Tunnel (do choose this option) but be wary of twists and turns downhill as it may trigger motion sickness among a few.
Day 4: Local and One nearby destination (Manikaran / Kullu – Nagger Castle): On our last day in Manali we had an option to exert or spend it relaxingly so we gave Manikaran a skip and decided to go to Kullu instead. We visited Nagger castle, a small medieval castle located on a little detour from Kullu, it is easily approachable and can be found full of IT millennials/ Gen Z leveraging WFH in Covid times. Nagger castle is good but it can be skipped and not feel bad about it. Rest of the day, we spent visiting Hidimba temple (an ancient cave temple) and Local market road (MG road) for leisure and shopping. Do try 8 in 1/ 4 in 1 / 16 in 1 flavor ice cream (or as we know it – Softy) You can also opt for local places instead of Manikaran / Kullu depending on your interst and priority.
Day 5: Return to Delhi. Time has come to leave amazing sceneries behind and travel back to the regular routine. It is recommended that you leave as early as possible like 6- 6:30 in the morning to avoid all the rush. It took us 14 hours with multiple stops to return when we left by 6:30 in the morning.
Food Options: Manali has a bouquet of eateries and restaurants with live music and amazing delicacies to offer. If you go by google maps, astonishingly you will find most of them have a rating above 4. Even dhabas have an average rating of 4.2, so there is a struggle to choose which restaurant to try. If we look at Food options geographically, there are good food options located on almost every road you take around New/ OldManali . Following are our recommendations:
Corner House (MG road): Without a doubt, the best food we had in Manali. It was that one meal that was smooth on the palate, full of flavors and hitting all the right nodes from starters till Dessert. Courteous staff and on-time food delivery made us crave for more and we left with a slightly lighter pocket but full till the brim on the tummy.
Il Forno (Near Hidimba Temple): Garden theme restaurant, with an outdoor and indoor setting, it offers some of the refreshing drinks from its garden fruits. Clay oven-based veg pizza was good but not that great. You will love the ambiance and if you have good company then an unforgettable time is confirmed. Food prices are on the upper side of the normal curve.
German Bakery (Old Manali): Riverside bakery with ample sitting space offers amazing delicacies like pies and coffee which are wholesome and amazing. You can have a full meal or dessert with coffee, depending on your choice
Manalsu Dhaba: In case you are interested in simple yet yummy food try out Manalsu Dhaba just near the old Manali bridge, there are multiple dhabas around the old Manali bridge, all having 4+ ratings, depending on the crowd and your liking choose one.
Roundez-Vous restaurant: Unfortunately, we visited this place when Manali was coming out of the second wave and almost all restaurants were struggling with staff shortage. The food here is premium on the pocket but average on taste buds. Clay Oven Pizza is not something that you will like and something which every restaurant is offering. The place has ample space and if your herd is huge in size you may try it out.
Ride Inn: Away from the Manali’s restaurant honeycomb maze, Ride-inn offers stays and a thematic restaurant which is nothing like any other. The conceptual restaurant is all about drive machines, you will find so much artistry in the ambiance that you will fall in love with the place in a glance. They take time to bring food (observed some customers leaving without food) however it is worth the wait. Full of flavors and palatable.
There were some restaurants that we badly wanted to try however we couldn’t:
Café 1947: Located on wide Leh Manali highway, we saw many reviews and videos suggesting this Café, however our hard luck, whenever we visited there was waiting for more than two hours and restaurant policy needs you to be physically there when your time comes on the waiting list. Opens around 1 PM in the noon and goes on till midnight (depending on local restrictions)
Rocky Café: One of those restaurants which we were never able to reach due to distance between our stay and restaurant location, but heard that they offer among the best pizzas in town.
Renaissance: Known for its lip smacking Pizzas, this restaurant strictly follows timings. We could not enjoy its delicacies because we got held up by traffic and reached a little late. Our advice, do not take your car/taxi in Old Manali market to avoid getting stuck in traffic on steep slope.
Some tips to have a good time in Manali:
Staying location: Manali has amazing stays all around. Our plan is to select a property that is adjacent or a little far from the heart of the city. Due to the huge inflow of personal cars and cramped roads, you will observe people struggling and tussling over parking space. If you have your own vehicle prefer to stay on Goshal Road and enter old Manali through Nehru Kund, comparatively here traffic is low and there are good options to stay. We opted for Airbnb, as at times you get good options at economical prices
If we could bucket Manali then there are three major areas: Old Manali where the hotels surround Mall Road, Old Manali bridge where most of the restaurants and hotels are, and then third will be Leh Manali highway crossing on the other side of Manalsu River. Traffic wise third area is most easily accessible and has the least traffic issues. In case you are going for a second pocket, we advise you to reach there through Nehru Kund and park near HPT Clubhouse or else you will struggle a lot to park your car and reach even by cabs.
If you are visiting Manali in the summers, Solang valley offers nothing extraordinary, you can skip it completely. In case you want to try out adventure sports, then you may visit; otherwise, it is like an open ground in between hills
For Rohtang Pass, you can take your personal car by applying for a pass through https://rohtangpermits.nic.in/, you will be among the lucky ones if you are able to complete the process and make payment as well since the website is really slow. Another option is to take a cab by reaching out to local tour operators. One piece of advice though, bargain heavily as they start with skyrocket prices giving thousands of reasons. You can do multiple activities, hire a cab around INR 4k.
Environmental advice: kindly bring back your plastic waste and do not dispose of it in Manali as hill stations do not have efficient waste management. This is for our own good and preserving precious locations.
Stay options for Manali:
Stay locations are always a personal matter. Some prefer a room in a hotel with hot meals available throughout and some believe in having a place with independence, we belong to latter category however at the end economical stay matters J Below are the options that we explored / stayed at during our trip:
Farm stay at Rupnagar : As it was one night stay we made some compromise on the comfort and decided to stay at a Farm House, though house location is little deep in the village and reaching there may be troublesome, it was a good stay ( We stayed on the top floor, and were provided with coolers). Overall, a good stay with amazing fresh fruit breakfast.
Hotel stay in Manali: Manali have truck load options in terms of hotel, however our priority was to stay a little outside the hustle bustle but yet reachable under 15 min so we decided to this location. We got a good deal on Airbnb in comparison to other booking sites. Our overall stay was good in this nice cozy hotel
We spent in total INR 37k for this trip and the breakup was as:
Stay spend: INR 15k approx for two rooms - four nights
Fuel spend: INR 5k approx for petrol car
Food : INR 6.7k approx (this is totally personal and depends on you)
Misc: INR 10k Rohtang cab visit and other expenses ( also depends on your negotiation skills)