With the peak winters over and spring almost setting in, it is indeed the best time to explore the mountains. Or, let’s be specific- the Himalayan Mountains. And what can be better than the quaint hill towns of Himachal to experience the alpine life? Bu If you are looking for a quick weekend getaway or a long vacation in the hills, then nothing beats the allure of Manali. But wait! Like every other traveler out there, you do not want to jump from one urban environment to another? Don’t be surprised for that is how Manali town has shaped up to be. That is why this season, it’s time to go back to Old Manali- where it all started.
But first things first. To reach Manali peacefully and comfortably, choose the right mode of travel. You can come via Delhi or Chandigarh. The roads via Chandigarh are wider and less crowded.
You can take a bus but for more a customized trip, opt for a rental. You can hire a quality taxi from Chandigarh to Manali which can navigate mountain roads.
Reasons Why Old Manali Still Allures
Call it the Goa of the north or the party paradise on the Himalayas, this quaint little Himachal hamlet has a lot tucked up its sleeves and doesn’t cease to appeal to its visitors even today.
- The old settlement of Manali, which the locals call ‘Old Manali’ sits precisely at 6726 feet from the sea level. Every other surrounding area which developed as ‘New Manali’ get warmer as the cold weather wears off, owing to over-commercialization, traffic, pollution etc.
- When it comes to accommodation, there is no dearth of fancy resorts, old-school lodges, homestays, or the typical hilly hotels spread across Manali town. But in this season and the peak months (summer to autumn), most of these places run at high prices or are overbooked. Old Manali comes as a savior here. You can easily find a cozy place without splurging too much. Also, being closer to major sightseeing places, you will end up saving on your commute too.
- The old town still holds on to its classic charm with quaint little diners, shops that have been standing tall since the hippies first discovered their haven here.
- And did we say that the best diners, cafes, and lounging dens are all huddled around the Old Manali market? While the Manali town below might have newer and cooler places, destinations like Café 1947, German Bakery, and many more. Also, if you are a wanderer on a soul searching trip or looking for abstraction, then quaint art cafés in Old Manali are where you might find your answer.
- A mystical milieu of cultures, Manali is indeed one of the most fascinating party destinations of north India. Over the years, Manali’s party scene has only doubled and tripled in size and volume. But nothing beats the quirky bars and their heady herbal aromas that bring the alleys of old town alive at night!
- Whether it is your maiden trip to this hill town or return visits, a day of shopping is always on the cards. But be ready to burn your pockets if you want to shop on the Mall Road (Manali bus stand). If not, then Old Manali is where you want to go. You will find pretty much the same inventory, probably much more and unique. For leather goods, trinkets, silver jewelry, or even getting a tattoo, the lanes of old town offer the most reasonable buy.
Vashisht – An Alternative To Manali
If Old Manali fails to charm you, then also consider the town on the other side of the Beas River.
This ancient religious settlement is smaller but much quieter than Old Manali. Although it seems like it sits right across the river, the mountain roads are tricky and take around 30-40 minutes to reach from Manali town. You should get a top-rated car on rent with a driver in Chandigarh if that is where you are setting out from.
Here’s How Vashisht Can Be The Best Alternative To Manali:
- Despite being known for ancient temples and religious sites, Vashisht attracts tourists and travelers of all kinds, making the place evolve into a multi-cultural and multicolored settlement, just like Manali.
- The highlight of Vashisht, however, are the hot springs that surround the Vashisht Temple. These natural springs are rich in glacial minerals and freshwater which are said to have high medicinal value. Tourists, pilgrims and even ailing people come to experience the magic of these hot springs and spend a few days in the lap of Himalayas.
- One of the best reasons to stay in Vashisht is its close proximity to important sightseeing places. On the south, you can enjoy the touristy trappings of Manali and on the north, about 12 Km from Vashisht, you can experience nature’s treasures at the expansive Solang Valley overlooking the Himalayas.
Both these destinations in Himachal have everything that you want to see or experience. So this season, forgo the beaten paths and places and discover other wonders of Himachal.