In the early 1990s, Kashmir was where most Indians would go during the summer months to escape the harsh heat. However, the ‘paradise on Earth’ soon turned into hell and plunged into political turmoil. Eventually, it became one of the world’s most militarized places, and tourists started to look for an alternative.
At this time, the quaint Himalayan village of Manali in Himachal Pradesh was identified as a potential alternative to Kashmir. Since then, Manali gradually evolved into a bustling tourist town, and today, it ranks among India’s most-visited hill stations.
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What’s unique about Manali?
Manali’s spectacular high-altitude Himalayan landscape is what makes it a delight for mountain lovers. Some of Manali’s highlights are lush pine forests, the Beas river raging through, and views of towering, snow-capped Himalayan peaks. However, natural beauty isn’t the only thing that Manali offers.
There are tons of activities for tourists to engage in, ancient Hindu temples to visit, and numerous hiking trails for adventure enthusiasts. The town also boasts of some incredible places to eat, and it serves as one of the gateways to the mountain desert region of Ladakh. So, there are loads of options regarding places to visit and things to do in Manali.
Destinations in Manali you must visit
A trip to Manali wouldn’t be complete if you didn’t visit the following destinations:
- Manu Temple: Located towards the top of Old Manali, the Manu temple is an architectural wonder. You can either hike to the temple or take an auto-rickshaw. The temple stays open from 6 AM – 5 PM every day.
- Hadimba Temple: Another architectural marvel, the Hadimba Temple is situated amid a forest teeming with thick cedar groves. You can visit it between 8 AM – 6 PM on all days.
- Atal Tunnel: The Atal Tunnel, located around 24 km from Manali, is a 9 km-long modern highway tunnel. It has shortened the distance between Manali and Keylong (headquarters of the Lahaul and Spiti districts).
- Rohtang Pass: Before the Atal Tunnel was inaugurated in 2020, locals and tourists had to take a significantly longer route to Keylong via the Rohtang Pass. A high-altitude Himalayan pass at an altitude of 3,978 m (13,051 ft), the Rohtang Pass marks the division between the predominantly Hindu and green Kullu Valley and the predominantly Buddhist and barren Lahaul and Spiti valleys.
- Solang Valley: The Solang Valley, 14 km from Manali, is a must-visit destination if you’re into adventure sports like paragliding, skiing, snowboarding, and zorbing. There’s a cable car ride here, perfect for taking in the Himalayan vistas.
- Jogini Waterfall: A trek to the magical Jogini Waterfall from the temple town of Vashisht near Manali is sure to rejuvenate your senses. We recommend starting your trek early so you can experience the waterfall and the ancient shrines nearby along with Vashisht.
- Great Himalayan National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Himalayan National Park is one of the best places to visit in Manali for nature and wildlife lovers. It remains open from 10 AM – 5:30 PM every day, and visitors need to cough up a minimal entry fee to get in.
Manali to Leh in Ladakh: A once-in-a-lifetime experience
In recent years, many tourists have opted to club their Manali trip with a visit to Ladakh. Located in the northernmost reaches of India, bordering China and Pakistan, Ladakh is one of the most remote regions in the world. Its high-altitude mountain desert landscape is a sight for sore eyes, and its mix of Buddhist and Islamic traditions is unique.
From Manali, both buses and taxis travel to Leh (Ladakh’s most important town) during the June – September period. You can also hire a bike from Manali if you’re adventurous and want to experience some off-roading. The 400+ km journey from Manali to Leh involves crossing four high-altitude Himalayan passes and a diverse array of landscapes – indeed, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
So, in terms of things to do in Manali, a Manali-Leh trip should be up there on your list. If you want to experience the best places to visit in Manali and nearby attractions, you should at least set a week aside for the trip.