Marvel at the snowed mountain peaks of the Himalayas has been on my bucket list for a long time. After we spend one week in India’s hottest province Rajasthan, it is time to explore India’s Northern Province, Himachal Pradesh. A bit stressed I sit in the most wrecked bus of all buses driving on the narrow zig-zag road from Shimla to Manali. There are no seatbelts and the window next to the seat in front of me is broken. When you think of the impossible, in India it is possible. Despite my nausea and fear to crash every time we pass an oncoming bus, I can’t get my eyes off the magnificent landscape. While I gaze through the open window I breathe in the fresh mountain air and smell the scent of pines. A stroke of mysterious fog hangs above the colorful cottages and the pine trees. When I catch my first glimpse of the white mountain peaks that appear from behind the clouds, butterflies fill my stomach.
Our first days we stay in the surrounding villages of Manali. It feels like I am on a winter sports holiday, the only difference is that I cross cows, temples, rickshaws and the always smiling colorful dressed Indian people. On my left side thousands of deodar trees stack up against the hill and on my right side I look out on a valley with small houses set amidst apple orchards. Almost every family in Manali owns an apple, plum or pear tree, if not an orchard.
Manali is split in chaotic New Manali and the backpacker town Old Manali, which is the best place to hang-out and meet fellow travelers. We cross the Beas River and walk along the main road of Old Manali filled with hippie ”goa” shops, jewelers, funky hostels, coffee places, cute restaurants and (reggae-) bars. We settle down along the river where live music is played in almost every bar. Blessed with two glasses of local plum wine we toast on new adventures to come. Welcome to Manali!
Where to stay?
Set in the middle of apple and cherry orchards is the Himalayan Resort. A castle with beautiful cottages built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style. The wondrous building is the brainchild of Nishat and his brother Bobby. They spend ten years building it on their inherited family land. The idea behind the project, Nishat told us, came from a little boys dream, ”Every boy wants to be king of their own castle on a hill”. With no help from an architect, Nishat designed the building himself with every detail inspired by his world travels. The chambers in the castle all have four-poster beds and views of the valley but the private cottages really steal the show. They are equipped with kitchen, dining and lounge area with open fireplace, large bedroom and splendid views. The English-inspired garden is filled with beech, plum and apple trees and beautiful hortensia flowers. Walking around in the garden you’ll bump into ”hidden” spots and doors that lead you to a secret shortcut to Manali town. In the middle of the garden there is a large blue tiled swimming pool, for those who are brave enough to take a dip. For a magical sunrise take the stairs to the tower from where you witness the best view Manali has on the snow peaked mountains.
Price: $$$$ | For bookings and current prices check: The Himalayan
Address: Hadimba Road, Manali, Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh 175131 India
Facilities: free Wi-Fi — swimming pool —mountain views—restaurant— TV – laundry service —fireplace — garden with fruit orchids — shower amenities —fitness center —poolside bar —library —business center —24-hour check-in —close to Old Manali
La Ri Sa Resort
Located in a peaceful area 16 km outside of Manali is boutique resort La Ri Sa. The name is inspired by the local language Lahul. ”La” signifies above, ”Ri”, the mountains and ”Sa” means the earth. Priya the lovely owner created the perfect place to relax and be one with nature. Comfortable cottages of stone and wood are set up in a spacious garden filled with apple trees and flowers. You can pick your own vegetables, beans, and herbs that grow in the organic garden for dinner. Sit back in one of the swinging chairs and let in the wintry sun and the smell of apple trees. The deluxe cozy rooms have wide windows that look out on the garden and swimming pool. The stone walls in contrast with the warmth of the walnut wooden furniture and the rustic fireplace lend a certain coziness to the room. Want to pamper yourself a little more? The luxury suites invite you to immerse yourself in the jacuzzi with your gaze towards the mountains.
Priya only works with local staff and trained them all to provide her guests with friendly and helping service.
Price: $$$ | For bookings and current prices check: La Ri Sa Resort
Address: Manali-Nagar Road, Kullu, Haripur, Himachal Pradesh 175136, India
Facilities: free Wi-Fi — swimming pool —mountain views—restaurant— TV – jacuzzi – DVD player – laundry service —fireplace — garden with fruit orchids —shower amenities—library —bike rental—bar
A little closer to the center of Manali but still away from the crowd and noise is Anantmaya. The hotel features comfortable rooms with king size bed, writing desk, chair, sofa and a private balcony with mountain views. The open spaces between the buildings are filled with lush, green gardens full of flowers where you can laze around in the sunshine or in the shade. Every morning there is a buffet at the Basil Leaf. The restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating with lovely mountain views. The staff is super friendly and helpful to suit you with all your needs!
Price: $$ | For bookings and current prices check: The Anantmaya Resort
Address: Naggar road, shuru, P.o. Prini Teh, Manali, Distt kullu,, 175131 Manāli, India
Facilities: free Wi-Fi —mountain views—restaurant— TV – DVD player – laundry service —fireplace — garden with fruit—spa—garden—shower amenities —private balcony
Where to eat?
This pretty French cottage is situated in the middle of apple orchards with a 360 view of the Himalayas. As soon as you enter the property you fall in love with the place. The bright interior with wooden furniture, vintage sofa’s and colourful lampshades combined with cool art on the walls and great music invite you to come in. But there is also a tempting large terrace set up with pick nick tables with mountain views. The menu features classic French standards mixed with Italian and Indian delicacies such as liver pate, pumpkin ravioli, and a chocolate thali dessert!
Address: Club House road, Old Manali Village, Manali, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, 175131, India
The Lazy Dog
Enjoy one of the best outdoor terraces in Old Manali with a scenic view on pine trees and mountains along the Beas River. There is an arena for live gigs in the riverside garden and in the cozy ”living room” with rocking chairs, wooden furniture, and a fireplace to keep you warm. The menu features a large variety of multi-culti food, good wines, deliciously baked cakes and cocktails. As the name suggests, Lazy Dog is one of the best hang-out places in Manali to laid back, of course, with a glass of wine or a pint of beer!
Address: Manu Temple Road, Old Manali, Manali, Himachal Pradesh 175131, India
Casa Bella Vista
A Spanish vegetarian restaurant owned by the two welcoming love birds Giri and Marta. Sit down in the beautiful garden and watch your thin crust pizza being rolled out and baked in a wood-fired oven. It’s their signature dish, but if you are more into a healthy salad, fruit shake or cheesecake it’s all on the menu!
Address: Log Huts Road, Manali, Himachal Pradesh 175131, India
What to do in Manali?
Check out 10 Must Do’s in Manali