The picturesque resort of Manali is located on the banks of the Beas River in the Northern hills of Himachal Pradesh. With rugged mountains, green valleys, snow capped Himalayan peaks, apple orchards – majestic rivers and streams – this is natures wonderland – all rolled into one amazingly scenic package.
We rented a cottage (Retreat cottages) with a lovely garden and fabulous views of the snow capped Himalayas.
Old manali town is connected to New Manali only by a bridge over a river called Manalsu – this is the most fascinating part of Manali. The streets are lined with lovely cafes and eateries (serving mostly continental food) curio shops, clothes and jewelry a lot of the restaurants have artworks painted on the walls and floors and are worth a look! Foreigners, who came to Manali, fell in love with its beauty and decided to settle down here permanently and now, run most of these shops and eateries.
A picnic is a must – as there is no shortage of scenic spots in and around Manali. We spent an entire day driving and exploring the areas, and found a lovely picnic spot by a stream surrounded by apple orchards. The only sounds were the birds chirping, and the stream gushing by. It was surreal.
The Solang valley – half an hour away from Manali town, which had abundance of snow even in April and many outdoor activities like paragliding, zorbing, horse riding, etc. including skiing in the winter.
The Rohtang pass – and although the pass was closed since it was off-season – the drive up was very scenic. Apparently a lot of Bollywood films are shot in and around these areas now.
Manali has an enormous variety of eateries, including street food like chaat, dosas, Chinese, and dhabas in a very economical price range on the popular Mall road – to more quiet eateries in the by lanes of the town. My favourite was The Johnsons Café – which serves a multitude of cuisines in an open restaurant surrounded by gardens and apple trees – we spent many afternoons there and often went back just for their delicious pancakes and hot chocolate.
Their cocktails are excellent and I spent more than one afternoon in cold and sunny weather enjoying their popular Margheritas followed by delicious Tandoori trout, pancakes and hot chocolate. Yes, the cold air does make you very hungry!
Il forno was another favourite – beautiful views from a rustic log cabin and amazing pizzas there is an abundance of local trout available in Manali and it was on the menu of every restaurant we visited. Delicious and a must try!
The Famous Trout fish was available in abundance and amazingly fresh well cooked wherever we ate it.
A foreigner smoking a batch of trout – preparing for a huge influx of patrons for his Sunday brunch.
Our dinners would be at the cottage, sitting outdoors around a fire whilst the cooks in the cottage whipped up some delicious ‘Pahadi” or hill cuisine.
I found some great bargains at the shops in and around the Mall road and came back with a suitcase full of odds and ends including plenty of woolens at great bargains. (I was told they were all from across the border. China and Tibet) Got the famous Bhuttico shawl – Tibetan rugs and artifacts – curios, and many other items, all at throwaway prices. And some wonderful memories of a place that I can simply describe – as heaven on earth!
Some examples of the vibrant flora and fauna in and around Manali