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A Manali City Guide – a high-up mountain town popular with free spirits, honeymooners and adventurers

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Brimming with couples enjoying the refreshing mountain air, travellers seeking the 1970s hippy hill station vibe and outdoor enthusiasts heading to the mountain trails come sun or snow, Manali’s a top tourist destination nestled in the mountainous Kullu Valley high above sea level. Surrounded by lush green fields and orchards, frothing rivers and tall pine forests, it’s the perfect place for trekking, snow-time adventures, or just chilling out in the cooling Himalayan atmosphere.
Ancient villages

 

 

Plenty of visitors head to Old Manali – once a favoured summertime escape of the British – and the surrounding small hillside villages. As the name suggests, Old Manali is a portal to the past: traditional timber homes and huts hug the pine-forested hillsides, meandering pathways nestle between fruit trees, and cosy ex-pat cafés line the main backpacker area, tempting weary travellers with steamy vats of chai. Nearby, Vashisht is another slow-paced chill-out spot with plenty of cafes, restaurants, and guesthouses.

 

Mountain trekking

 

 

You might have seen jaw-dropping images of the Rohtang Pass on TV shows and documentaries. It's open to vehicles during the warmer months, and if you're trekking the landscape there are tour operators who'll guide you if you don’t fancy taking on the pass by yourself. Part of an ancient trade route across the Pir Panjal range, you’ll be surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks soaring above, wispy waterfalls bursting from rocks, and rivers rushing through the valleys below. If you fancy skiing, Rohtang Pass also has some popular snow sports areas.

 

Things to see and do

 

 

Thermal springs have long drawn visitors to Manali. Soothe tired legs in the natural hot sulphur waters at Vashisht Springs. There are two separate pools, one for women and one for men, as well as Turkish-style showers. If you fancy something more cultural, Manali’s ancient temples are a good place to retreat to. For pure serenity head to Hadimba Temple – a tiered 16th century pagoda-style structure, nestled below tall pine trees.

 

Travel tips

 

 

If you want to make the most of the area’s attractions, head to Manali between May and October, as many businesses in Old Manali and Vashisht shut for winter, and the landscape is easier to explore. January to March are the coldest months, though Manali’s climate is never completely settled so take extra layers for those chilly mountain nights whichever season you arrive. The monsoon hits in July and August – the 2 wettest months – so avoid these if you plan on doing lots of trekking.