Manali in District Kullu, Himachal Pradesh is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in India today. Whether you are going there alone in search of inner peace, with family for a holiday trip or a newly wed couple going there for honeymooning, Manali and its mountains will never fail to fascinate you. The mountain town has also become a paradise for trekkers and it also holds some cultural treasures that are unique to this part of the world. Accommodation in Manali is no problem as it is also known as the “town of hotels”. If you are planning a trip to this Himalayan resort in Himachal Pradesh this year or anytime in future, here is a list of the top places to visit in Manali.
Temples in Manali
Hadimba Temple, Manali
Hadimba Temple, Manali, also known as Hidimba Devi Temple, was built in 1553 by Maharaja Bahadur Singh of Kullu. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Hidimba Devi, the wife of Bheema. The wooden architecture of the shrine is quite different from most Hindu temples found in this country. On the grounds is another shrine dedicated to Hidimba Devi’s son, Ghatotkacha. The locals also call this Dungari Temple and a popular fair called “Dungri Mela” is held every year in the month of May. Surrounded by dense cedar forests and with snow-capped mountains in the background, the temple is one of the best places to visit in Manali. The distance from Mall Road Manali to Hadimba Temple is only 4 km. In my childhood I have been to Hadimba temple several times on foot from Mall Road. From Hadimba temple I would walk to Manu temple, crossing the Manalsu bridge.
Manu Temple, Old manali
Manu temple is located in Old Manali village. The temple is dedicated to Sage Manu, after whom it is named. The shrine’s pagoda-like architecture stands out against the deep valleys and mountain peaks that form a postcard-worthy backdrop. You’ll have to hike a bit passing, through old Manali village, to reach the temple, but the view from the temple of Manali town and the surrounding mountains will leave you mesmerised. It is located just 5 km from Mall Road Manali.
Vashisht Temple and Hot Water Springs
Vashisht temple is named after Sage Vashisht and is located at a distance of 15 km from Manali main town. The temple is in the middle of village Vashisht and is believed to have a history dating back more than 4000 years. Inside the shrine are wood carvings, ancient figures and paintings. Just adjacent to the temple are hot sulphur water baths, separate for males and females. A bath in the hot waters are said to have healing properties. In addition, the place also offers modern visitors a glimpse into the ancient history of Manali. Vashisht has a number of hotels, guest houses and a market for shopping souvenirs and woollen. During my younger days, I would come to Vashisht all the way from Manali town, enjoy the hot water bath, afterwards have paranthas for breakfast and spend some time here. Later, I would walk back to Manali town. I think this is now not possible due to excessive traffic in Manali.
Gauri Shankar Temple
The Gauri Shankar Temple is known for its Shikhara-style architecture and the numerous carvings on its stone walls. The temple, whose origins date back to the 12th century and is believed to be the last structure of the Gurjara Pratihara tradition, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The carvings on the walls depict a variety of deities and other sacred motifs. Surrounded by lush greenery, the Gauri Shankar Temple is one of the most important temples in Manali and is located in Naggar 22 km from Manali.
Suggested Reading : Temples in Manali
Monasteries in Manali
The Manali Gompa / Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa
The Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa, better known as Manali Gompa, with Tibetan architectural design is a popular tourist attraction in Manali. Built in the 1960s by Tibetan refugees, this monastery is located in serene surroundings which exude a calm spiritual atmosphere. The main highlights of Manali Gompa include the exquisite murals depicting important events of Buddhism in bright colors and the pagoda-style roofs. There are a number of shops on the way to this temple from where one can purchase souvenirs and Tibetan handicrafts.
Buddhist Temple Himalayan Nyingmapa
Buddhist Temple Himalayan Nyingmapa is located very near to the Mall Road, Manali. The Gadhan Thekchhokling Gompa is just a walking distance from this Himalayan Nyigmapa Gompa. This temple was built by the Indian Buddhists of the area. The soothing silence of the Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple in Manali will calm even the most tense nerves. The pagoda-style architecture and vibrant colors add a mystical aura to this Monastery. There is a giant Buddha statue inside the Monastery and one can spend some quiet moments inside of in the park adjacent to the Monastery. I have fond memories of this place as I spent my childhood in the vicinity.
Museums in Manali
Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art
For those who want a glimpse of the traditions and rich local heritage of the region, a brief visit to the Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art is recommended. The museum is located on the Hadimba Toad near the temple and it exhibits, among other artefacts, a collection of masks used in festival dances, traditional clothing and musical instruments. This small but culturally rich place was established in 1998 and also houses models of ancient houses and temples. The place is only 4 km from main Manali market and can easily be reached on foot or one can even hire an auto-rickshaw for less than 100 INR.
Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery and Museum
Nicholas Roerich Art Gallery and Museum is located in Naggar, a small town 22 km from Manali. Nicholas Roerich was a Russian artist who came to the Himalayas after the 1917 revolution, where he died in 1947. He was married to Helena Roerich and had two sons with her, George and Svetoslav. The famous Indian actress Devika Rani is his daughter-in-law, married to his son Svetoslav Roerich. The art gallery was founded in 1962 by Svetoslav Roerich. The building where the gallery is located today once served as Nicholas Roerich’s residence. The Himachal Pradesh government and the Russian government have established a foundation to operate this art gallery as the Roerich Heritage Museum. Naggar is located 22 km from Manali on the highway towards Kullu on the left bank of the Beas river.
Waterfalls in Manali
Jogini Waterfalls is located a short distance from Vashisht village, and can be reached after a short hike passing through apple orchards. The trail leading to the waterfall is scenic and offers drone views of the Beas River and the snow-capped mountain peaks. Jogini waterfall can be reached from Vashisht village or without going to Vashisht. For this, one can drive towards Bhang and keep looking on the right side of the road for sign board indicating “Jogini Waterfall”. The hike from this spot is more beautiful and adventurous. I have hiked to Jogini waterfalls from this place and exited at Vashisht village.
Rahala waterfalls are located at a place which was a small town in earlier times, as it was the gateway to the Lahoul and Spiti valleys. Until the opening of the Rohtang Pass to vehicular traffic, the road led only to this place. Today the place is deserted. Rahalla waterfalls is located near this place and the place is about 30 km away from Manali. From Gulaba there is a detour, one road leads to Rohtang and the other directly to Rahalla. If I remember there is also a glacier somewhere nearby. The Rahalla waterfall is best seen during the monsoon season when the water cascades onto the rocks, spraying visitors with fresh, cold mountain water. There are many picnic areas near the falls and some beautiful hiking trails around the falls. A steep hike from Rahalla will take you to Marhi and I have done this trek both ways, once trekking from Khoksar, crossing the Rohtang Pass and getting down to Rahalla and from there to Manali all the way on foot. Unbelievable because the trek from Khoksar started at 230 pm at end of November.
Jana Falls is a beautiful natural waterfall located in a small village called Jana, which is 33 km away from Manali and Kullu. It is only 12 km from Nagar. Jana waterfall is surrounded by deodar trees, pine trees, apple orchards and spectacular snow-capped mountain peaks; this waterfall is a delightful picnic spot. The first glimpse of the waterfall is quite hidden and will surprise visitors when the water unexpectedly plunges from a group of rocks over a wooden bridge. You can also take a refreshing dip at the falls or swim in the small pool at the falls. You can hike up the hill to reach the top of the hill, where you can get a better view of the waterfall and its beautiful surroundings. The short walk up the hill is relatively easy. The waterfall can also be reached by a short drive from Naggar. After reaching the place, one has to walk for about 10-15 minutes from the nearest road point. The road to Jana waterfalls is breathtakingly beautiful.
Manalsu Waterfall | Kho Waterfall
Manalsu Waterfall, also known as Kho Waterfall, is located on the Manalsu River, to which you have to hike from Old Manali. It is a little-used trail that is not suitable for ordinary tourists, as the path to this waterfall can be treacherous. The trail follows the right bank of the Manalsu River and starts at a cafe called Lazy Dog Cafe. At first, the trail seems easy as it goes slowly, but after a while, it becomes a bit more challenging as you have to climb up the hill. However, the views along the way more than compensate for the hardships of the hike. Finally, you reach the amazing hidden Manalsu waterfall. Interestingly, if you continue hiking towards the Manalsu River, you can reach Lake Manaslu, from which this small river originates. However, this hike is somewhat demanding and takes a few days. I remember hiking to this place couple of years ago somewhere up in the mountains in a thick forest and getting lost.
Rohtang Pass is located at an altitude of 4000 meters above sea level. Before the opening of the Atal Tunnel, the Rohtang Pass was the gateway to the Lahoul Valley. The pass separates the Kullu valley from the Lahoul valley. Rohtang Pass is the most visited tourist spot in the entire Manali-Kullu Valley. The pass is also a paradise for adventurous activities like mountain biking and skiing and has been featured in many Bollywood movies. I must have crossed Rohtang Pass on foot dozens of times in the past.
Hampta Pass is located at an altitude of 4,298 meters (14,100 feet) in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas. The pass is famous for the Hampta Pass Trek, which takes hikers through glaciers, fast-flowing rivers, challenging terrain, steep, rocky and vertical climbs, and far more than any ordinary hike. The Hampta Pass trek is one of the easy to moderate Himalayan treks and offers fascinating views of the Kullu Valley and the Lahaul Valley. The trek ends at Batal in the Spiti valley. Chandratal Lake is just a short distance from Batal. Havent crossed Hamta Pass but have camped at Chandertal Lake for 3 days many many years ago.
Lakes in Manali
The famous Bhrigu Lake is located at an altitude of 4,235 meters above sea level in Manali. The altitude of the lake is about the same as the Rohtang Pass and it is located east of the Rohtang Pass, just above the mountains of Vashisht village. Brighu Lake is one of the most popular trekking destinations in Manali. Some acclimatization is required when you set out on the trek, as the lake is located at an altitude of 4235 meters above sea level. When you get there, the scenery and panoramic views of the Pir Panjal Range are simply breathtaking.
Rani Sui Lake
Rani Sui Lake is located at an altitude of 4,300 meters. The lake is fed by snow melt water from the surrounding mountains, which is why the water of this lake is crystal clear. The area around the lake is surrounded by dense forests, which makes it an ideal place for bird watching or just enjoying the sun amidst the beautiful nature. Lake Rani Sui also has a cultural significance for the locals of the region. There is an interesting legend that says that Rani Sui Lake was named after a beautiful princess who was the daughter of the king of this area. The locals consider the lake a sacred place and believe that bathing in the lake can bring good luck and prosperity.
Beas Kund Lake
The Beas Kund or lake, located at an altitude of 12772 feet, is a calm and tranquil lake in the Solang Valley of Manali, Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh. The Beas Kund is located at an altitude of 3810 meters (12772 feet). The Beas River rises in this kund, protected by an igloo-like rock formation. It is also a sacred place for the Hindus along with also a popular destination for trekking.
Rivers in Manali
The Beas River is the lifeline of Manali and many villages and towns in Himachal and Punjab. It is a natural landmark flows through Manali, Kullu and up to Mandi. There are excellent views of the river from places like Vashisht, Bhang and Palchang. One interesting thing about Beas river is that it looks very enticing and inviting but one has to be extremely careful. The rocks on the banks of the river are very slippery and one slip while taking photographs and you are gone forever. There are a number of hoardings at various points warning people to be careful.
A beautiful river flows from the direction of old Manali and merges with the Beas river. Manalsu river is lined with cafes on both sides of its banks while going towards old Manali. The constant tourism and adventure sports have polluted the river. There are some camping sites on its banks.
Villages near Manali
Kothi, 14 km from Manali, is a small village near Palchan village, on the way to Rohtang Pass. Kothi is worth a visit as it is located amidst greenery and offers a perfect scenic backdrop and majestic views of the snow-capped peaks and glaciers. The village is located on the foothills of the Rohtang Pass, and the terrain is shaped by the Beas River, which flows through this part of the region. The village is also an ideal place to camp, especially if you want to explore the area on foot. Movies have also been shot at this location in the past.
This small settlement, also called Solang Nala, is a mini-valley located at an altitude of about 4,000 meters above sea level. The place located only 14 km from Manali is a paradise for adventure and sports lovers. In winter, skiing and snowmobiling are popular, while zorbing and paragliding are in summer. You can also climb a cable car and enjoy the fascinating views of the Himalayas. If you are looking for activities and sports in the snow, winter is the best time to go, while the summer months are ideal for other adventure sports.
Gulaba and Kothi are located very close to each other. Gulaba is a popular place to stay for winter travelers who crave snowy landscapes. This place offers some of the most fascinating trekking routes in Himachal Pradesh. The famous trek to Brighu Lake starts from Gulaba. Due to less pollution and high altitude, many consider this place a good place for camping and stargazing. Gulaba is 20 km from Manali.
The village of Old Manali refers to the older part of the city. The bridge over the Manaslu River separates Manali from Old Manali. Today the village is full of cafes, restaurants, inns, pastry shops, bakeries and shopping of all kinds. The Manu Rishi temple is located here. The distance from the Mall Road to Old Manali is only 7 km
Sethan village, Hamta
Sethan is a small village located about 13 km from Manali. The inhabitants of Sethan are mostly immigrants from the various parts of present day Himachal, who were essentially shepherds. This small Buddhist village consists of about 20 houses and offers spectacular views. From Sethan, one can see the majestic Dhauldhar Mountains and the Beas River, which flows along the bottom and separates the Dhauldhar and Pir Panjal Mountains. When one thinks of skiing in India, the first name that comes to mind is Auli with its perfect slopes. What Sethan has to offer in this regard are the perfect snow covered slopes without crowds. Here you can learn skiing and snowboarding at your own pace. Sethan also offers comfortable igloo stays, which may not be very comfortable, but an experience not to be missed.
Jagatsukh, located 12 km from Manali is a charming settlement nestled in the mountains, famous for its temples. The backdrop of shimmering snow peaks and deep green forests makes visiting this place a visual delight. Jagatsuch is the starting point for the Deo Tibba Trek. The Devi Sharbali temple located here is one of the many interesting tourist spots in the Manali region.
Naggar is famous for Naggar Castle and Roerich Art Gallery. Set amidst picturesque surroundings, Naggar Castle is a 15th-century historical building in the Kullu region. It was built in the 15th century in the Kullu region. Built by Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu, the castle is now a hotel operated by Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation. The wooden structure of the castle is an architectural marvel and reflects the style typical of the region, with some European elements added over the years. The castle offers a fantastic view of the city and the adjacent mountain forests.
Katrain is a small town located 25 km from Manali, halfway between Manali and Kullu. It is called a fisherman’s paradise as there are trout farms here. There is also fishing in the Beas River, which flows through Katrain. The town of Katrain is located in an open wide valley, which is a bit different from other excursions in Manali. Here you can try some of the local delicacies filled with rustic, wholesome flavor, especially trout.
Less visited places in Manali
Nehru Kund is a natural spring on the Manali – Rohtang Pass Highway and a good place to visit in summer. The spring was so named because Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, visited it during his stay in Manali and drank water from this natural spring. The clear water and serene Himalayan scenery make this place a good stopover on the way to Rohtang Pass. It goes without saying that Nehru Kund is an ideal destination for photographers and nature lovers. One can also cross the bridge at Nehru Kund and get to the other side of the river. I have hiked few times starting from from Manalsu Nalah, passing behind Club House and through Ghoshal and Buruwa villages, finally exiting at Nehru Kund. Once I even hiked upto Solang Valley as there was no motorable road on that side of the Beas river.
Arjun Gufa (Arjun Cave)
Arjun Cave is located 21 km from Manali andis associated with a legendary story from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. According to legend, Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers, meditated there. Arjun Gufa is a nice place near Manali ideal for a picnic spot and enjoyng some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Van Vihar, Manali
There are two things that have kept the beauty of Manali intact, one is the Beas river, which when in full glory during the rainy season is a sight to behold. Another thing is the reserve evergreen forest of Manali. A big salute goes to the forest department of Himachal Pradesh, which has tried to keep Manali as green as possible. Amidst this reserve forest is a picnic spot called Van Vihar. There are swings. for children, wal ways as well as a small artificial pond for boating. The place is ideal for bird watchers who can try to spot some native species in the park. Beas river is also accessible from this Park but one has to be extremely cautious while near the river. Photography on the slippery rocks should be avoided.
The above is the list of some of the top places to visit in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. There are some other places which might be interest to the tourists. These are Kalath for hot sulphur water springs, Patlikuhl, Mall Road Manali which is free of vehicular traffic (taxi stand to Ram Bagh). Other places which are a bit far but many tourists still go are Sissu in Lahoul, Manikaran, Kasol and Bijli Mahadeve temple and off course Kullu, the district headquarter.