I arrived in Manali on a fairly cold March morning. Almost shivering, I quickly found a tuk-tuk ride till my destination. There’s a bridge that separates New Manali and Old Manali into two different, very unique worlds. It was my second stint with Zostel after Varanasi as a volunteer and my ticket to a life in the mountains.
Old Manali looked straight out of a snuggly dream to me, may be with a bit of hurly-burly here and there. However, “Manali is overrated” is what almost everyone told me.
I agree NOT. And I am here to I’ll tell you why, one by one.
A WALK IN THE WOODS : There is a forest trail that connects the new and old parts of the city, called “The Nature Park”. If I recall my fondest memories from Manali, this one would be special in that category because my day started with a walk in the lovely woods.
SHOP THE PRETTY: The tiny streets had the prettiest shops selling all things dreamy, hippie and “cute”. Also, the best place to grab your winter clothes at amazing rates.
BINGE ON THE BEST: Also, lots of cafes and bakeries, almost all with great views, good music, fancy food and killer vibes.
But if you ask me, I’d gladly present the award for the “Cafe with the best view” to Rocky’s cafe. That’s where I found my recluse after a long day at work. Some chai and thukpa and I am good to go.
TREK IT: The self proclaimed lame trekker in me always said a “YES” to the unbelievably stunning trails in and around Manali. Well, a part of my job had me leading groups to few such treks. Jogini Falls is the short and sweet pick if you’re travelling to Manali for a short weekend trip. Bhrigu lake, Beas Kund, Lama Dugh, Hampta pass and many others are in the list for a longer, more adventurous treks around Manali.
THE SECRET HIDEOUT: Who doesn’t love some precious sole, laid back time? I loved spending most of my evenings in my secret little hideout shown in the below pictures. This place has no name. But a few poles along the way have “Disco valley” painted on them. Hence, the name. A 15 minutes walk from Manu Temple into the village will get you to Disco Valley. It’s away from the hustle and all you hear is the sound of the gushing river. Best book reading spot ever? I think so!
WALK INTO THAT VILLAGE: I had developed quite an addiction of walking into the villages and forgetting my way back to the hostel. I met the finest people, made friends with tiny apple-cheeked munchkins, had chai with the kindest of folks and made memories like I always wanted to during the whole routine.
Again, if you are looking for “Top 10 things to do in Manali”, you might not entirely find your answers here. But the experiences I cared to pen down are the only memories that make me want to book that one-way ticket to Manali and never return.
The next time anyone laments about how crowded, overrated and mainstream Manali has become, you show them this. Let them know how gorgeous Manali is. Tell them to be responsible while travelling to such sensitive areas instead of grumbling upon it’s on-going issues.
Because, no matter what, it will still be one of the most scenic valleys you’d ever see.
For that, open your eyes a bit. And your heart, a bit more.
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