At an elevation of 2,050 meters in the River Beas Valley lies a picturesque hill station, Manali, that is brimming with nature and adventure. Its spectacular location surrounded by snow-covered mountains and dense deodar and pine forests, makes it a favourite destination with tourists, while the many outdoor activities on offer lure thrillseekers from across the world. Here’s our rundown of the best things to see and do in Manali.
Visit the ancient temples
Manali has its fair share of temples that play a significant role in the daily lives of the locals. One of the most important in the town is the Hadimba Devi Temple, which is nestled in the Dhungri forest and encircled by snow-covered hills and lush cedar trees. Dedicated to Hadimba Devi, the striking feature of the temple is its pagoda-shaped architecture, complete with intricately carved wooden doors and a 79-foot high tower above it. After being wonderstruck by its unique architecture, soak in the religious vibe that permeates the air. This temple draws in a huge amount of visitors, so visit early to beat the crowds.
Dedicated to sage Manu, the Manu Temple is another must-visit temple. It overlooks the snow-laden mountains, which makes for a perfect backdrop. Plus, it exudes historic appeal and a peaceful atmosphere that attracts throngs of visitors. You can visit this temple by car, but we suggest trekking to the temple to take in the beautiful vistas and natural beauty of the area.
Find inner peace at the Tibetan monasteries
Manali is home to some of the most impressive Buddhist monasteries that boast incredible surroundings, amazing architecture and spiritual character. The best ones include the Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa and the Himalayan Nyingmapa Gompa, complete with royal facade and adorned with Tibetan art and craft. Visitors can partake in meditation retreats and shop for Tibetan knick-knacks at these monasteries.
Indulge in outdoor activities
Hordes of adventure enthusiasts arrive every year in Manali in pursuit of adrenaline-pumping activities. From river rafting in Beas River, to paragliding, zorbing, yak riding and skiing in Solang Valley; trekking in Rohtang Pass and Beas Kund, and mountain biking, you’ll find a plethora of adventure opportunities to explore in and around this hill town.
Step back in time at Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art
This museum is dedicated to exploring the rich cultural heritage and folk art of Himachal Pradesh through a wide collection of rare and unique antiques, including wood carvings, traditional dresses, household items, musical instruments, utensils, weapons, and scale models of temples, forts and old houses. The building and surroundings are incredible, and worth a visit for their beauty alone.
Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art, Utopia Comlex, Near Hadimba Temple, Hadimba Temple Rd, Siyal, Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India, +91 01902 253 846; Monday to Sunday: 8:00am-8:00pm
Relax at Vashisht Hot Water Springs
About 1.5 miles from Manali lies Vashisht Temple that is dedicated to sage Vashisht. This temple is famed for its natural hot water spring, said to have medicinal powers. Visitors can have a rejuvenating bath in the mineral-rich water, which is perfect in the chilly weather of Manali.
Wildlife spotting at Manali Wildlife Sanctuary
The Manali Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-see for wildlife enthusiasts. The sanctuary is home to wild mountain animals along with numerous rare and indigenous birds. Snow leopard, musk deer, brown bear, Kashmir flying squirrels, kingfisher, Goral, Himalayan yellow throated martens, ibex herds, and Serows are common animals to be spotted here. The diverse wildlife is sustained by rich forests encompassing deodar, maple, horse, kail, walnut and chestnut trees. Adventure lovers can also get their fix here, as there are camping facilities and trekking routes in the sanctuary.
Meditate in Arjuna Gufa (Cave of Arjuna)
The Arjuna Gufa is located about 12 miles from Manali, and is frequently sought out by travellers from across the country to meditate. This cave holds mythological significance as it is believed that Pandava Arjuna (from the epic poem ‘Mahabharata’) meditated here to attain the powers of Pashupatiastra from Lord Shiva. It isn’t just the legends and mythological aura of the cave that draws in huge amounts of visitors, its natural beauty is also a crowd-puller. Surrounded by alpine forests and snow-covered Himalayan ranges, visitors can wander around the area, soak up the spectacular scenery, and meditate in peace and quiet.
Visit the waterfalls
Just a few miles from Manali are the two most spectacular waterfalls worth discovering – Rahala Waterfalls and Jogini Falls. A small trek amidst lush pine trees will reward you with the scenic and sacred Jogini Falls, located near the Vashisht temple. There is a small shrine below it, which is frequented by locals and tourists alike. Rahala Waterfalls is also an impressive waterfall that attracts hordes of visitors, owing to its abundant natural beauty and serenity. Situated among snow-covered mountains and dense deodar forests, the water plunges from a ridge, and is said to be the outcome of melting glaciers. Visitors can enjoy a picnic and relax in nature.
Explore the nearby villages
There are many scenic villages in and around Manali that are definitely worth a visit. Some of the prettiest ones include Kothi, situated among verdant forests and snow-laden mountains, and a real treat for those looking for active and adventure holidays. Gulaba is best for engaging in snow activities, such as skiing, tobogganing and paragliding; and if you’re looking for an unspoiled and peaceful place, Naggar village is for you. Blessed with ancient temples, abundant natural beauty and tranquil ambience, this tiny hamlet will make you feel relaxed and refreshed.