Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, is one of the top adventure travel destinations in India. It's ideal for spending time in the great outdoors, and many of these places to visit in Manali reflect the numerous activities that can be done in the area. Plan you trip there with this essential Manali travel guide.
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Solang Valley is located about 30 minutes from Manali and attracts travelers both in winter, for its snow, and summer for its adventure sports. From January to March, it's possible to ski and snowboard there, and a new gondola carries visitors 3,200 meters up to the runs. After the snow clears, paragliding becomes popular. However, do keep in mind that it's not well regulated and there are safety concerns (people have died in the past). Many people visit the Shiva temple above the village. If you don't want to walk up, it's possible to ride a pony.
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Rohtang Pass is a popular day trip from Manali, although heavy traffic can be an issue, making it a challenge to reach. Situated 2-3 hours drive from Manali town, it connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti valleys of Himachal Pradesh. Due to its high elevation of around 4,000 meters (13,000 feet), it's often subject to bad weather. The main attraction at Rohtang Pass is snow, particularly when it has already cleared from other places. Unfortunately, waste management is poor and facilities for visitors are lacking. The number of vehicles is also restricted and it's necessary to obtain a permit at least a day in advance (you can apply online here). Snow sport activities are offered when there's snow. Beas Kund, an igloo-shaped temple on top of Rohtang Pass, has a spring which is the origin of Beas River.
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The powerful Beas River flows rapidly through Manali. It's refreshing to simply spend some time sitting or walking near it. However, if you'd prefer to be more active, zip-lining (flying fox) across it and rafting down it are popular options. Numerous companies in the Kullu Valley offer river rafting, commonly along a 15 kilometer stretch of Grade II and III rapids from Pirdi (near Kullu town) to Jhiri. The rafting season is best from mid-April to June, and mid-September to October. Trips can easily be arranged in Manali.
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Uphill above the bustle and chaos of Manali town, you'll find the relatively peaceful village of Old Manali, with simple traditional style homes. It's a laid-back traveler center and the road is lined with guesthouses, cafes, and small shops -- ideal for chilling out and watching the world go by. Right at the top sits Manu temple, dedicated to sage Manu, who was the first man created by God according to Hindu mythology. The views are worth the steep but scenic walk to get there! Here's where to stay in Old Manali.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Stop by Dhungri forest on the way to Old Manali to visit the ancient Hadimba temple (also known as Dhungri temple). The temple, a four-tiered pagoda, was built in 1553 and has a facade of wood carvings. It's dedicated to Goddess Hadimba, the wife of Bhima from the Hindu epic The Mahabharata. Yak rides, and huge fluffy angora rabbits ready to pose for photos, are added attractions there. A fascinating three-day temple festival takes place mid-May every year. People from all over the region come to attend it.
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Manali Nature Park
Love nature? Don't miss taking a stroll through the thick cedar trees in Manali Nature Park, bordering the Beas River between Manali town and Old Manali. The towering trees provide a dense shield from the outside world, giving the park a magical, mystical feel. There's another similar park, Van Vihar Park, with the entry adjacent to Manali town.
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Another travelers' hangout with inexpensive guesthouses, Vashist is situated on the opposite side of the Beas River, about 10 minutes uphill from Manali town. If you're interested in alternative therapies such as Reiki, massage, past life regression and tarot, there's an excellent Reiki center there. It's open from April to October, and regular spiritual retreats are held. Otherwise, the main attractions are temples and hot springs.
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A picturesque and enjoyable short hike through the hills behind Vashist will take you to Jogini waterfall. The waterfall itself is not particularly impressive but a dip in its chilly water is invigorating and the surroundings are enchanting. There are a few small restaurants and guesthouses along the way.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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There's a small Tibetan colony just south of Manali town that's worth visiting for its serene and soothing Buddhist temples, and shops selling Tibetan handicrafts and carpets. One of the temples, the Himalayan Nyinmapa Gompa, is home to a huge gold statue of Lord Buddha. The temple is beautifully illuminated at night. Gelukpa Cultural Society Gompa, further along on the same lane, has an atmospheric prayer room filled with small statues. Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa was built by Tibetan refugees in 1960 and is covered in brightly colored frescoes. Inside there's a medium-sized Buddha statue. The temple also has a list of Tibetan martyrs killed during 1987-89 in the Tibetan unrest.
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Many travelers use Manali a base for trekking. If you don't want to go alone, Himalayan Trails in Old Manali offers a wide range of outdoor activities including guided treks and day hikes. Himalayan Caravan Adventure is also recommended for trekking and outdoor adventure activities including day hikes, rock climbing, and rafting. For extra adrenaline, you can also take on the Himalayas by bike! Hampta Pass is a popular five-day trek from Manali and requires reasonable fitness.