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.
However, many of the attractions and adventures you'll find in Manali can be quite dangerous—especially if the region is experiencing severe weather such as flooding or natural disasters like landslides. To better prepare for wherever you go in the region, be sure to check weather and road conditions before you set out on your trip.
Solang Valley is located about 30 minutes from Manali and attracts travelers both in winter, for its snow, and in summer for its adventure sports.
From January to March, it's possible to ski and snowboard there, and a gondola carries visitors 1.3 kilometers up to the runs. After the snow clears, paragliding becomes popular. However, keep in mind that it's not well regulated and there are safety concerns (people have died in the past).
Additionally, many people who visit Solang Valley opt out of the adventure-seeking to experience a bit of culture by visiting the Shiva temple above the village. If you don't want to walk up to it, it's possible to ride a pony there.
Rohtang Pass is a popular day trip from Manali, although heavy traffic can be an issue that makes it a challenge to reach. Situated a two-to-three-hour 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 to visit.
Still, once you get to the Rohtang Pass, there are plenty of snowsport activities offered when there's snow on the ground. Additionally, you can stop by Beas Kund, an igloo-shaped temple on top of Rohtang Pass that has a spring which is the origin of the Beas River.
The powerful Beas River flows rapidly through Manali and provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation in its waters and along its banks. However, due to the rapid flow of the river, it can be quite dangerous even for the most experienced rafter, especially after the snow melts in the spring and the water levels rise. Tourists are advised to avoid the river from March through April as a result.
If you'd prefer to be more active while visiting the Beas River, 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.
Uphill above the bustle and chaos of Manali town, you'll find the relatively peaceful village of Old Manali, which is dotted with simple traditional-style homes.
Old Manali is a laid-back traveler center, and the road here 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.
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. Additionally, a fascinating three-day temple festival takes place here in mid-May every year, and people from all over the region come to attend it.
Manali Nature Park
If you love immersing yourself in nature, don't miss taking a stroll through the thick cedar trees in Manali Nature Park, which borders the Beas River between Manali town and Old Manali.
The towering trees of Manali Nature Park provide a dense shield from the outside world, giving the park a magical, mystical feel. There's also another similar park, Van Vihar Park, with the entry adjacent to Manali town, if you want to continue your exploration of the natural beauty of the region once you've finished hiking through Manali Nature Park.
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 throughout the regular season. Otherwise, the main attractions are temples and hot springs.
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 truly enchanting. There are a few small restaurants and guesthouses along the way, so you can stop for a meal before or after you take a dip in the refreshing waters under Jogini Waterfall.
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 to 1989 in the Tibetan unrest.
Many travelers use Manali as a base for trekking through the surrounding mountains.
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.