Old Manali – A hidden gem for backpackers

Old Manali Town

Abhi, isn’t Manali too touristy? Is it really worth visiting Manali? I have been hearing all these questions from a while. Manali has always been a go-to place for backpack travelers. Its serene and panoramic views have attracted tourists from various walks of life, but even though the highlights of Manali have been well documented in this digital age, Kullu Valley has a lot to surprise us with its hidden gem, “Old Manali”. Just a bridge away, Old Manali is a destination for the people who are searching for peace or rather a meaningful distraction from their monotonous life.

Manalsu River Old Manali

Manalsu River Old Manali

Having extremely accessible route connectivity, Old Manali is a few miles up from the Mall Road (New Manali). It is untouched by urbaneness and is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains. The locals here are simple people for whom life has all been about hard work and being close to their routes.

cloudy old manali

Manalsu River

Old Manali is a village that has a variety of thrills to offer to the young crowd. From cafes, restaurants, or colorful markets with handmade souvenirs, to its rich vegetation filled with pine trees and exotic orchards. From its live band and karaoke nights to its peaceful Kharma Valley and Manalsu river, the town is for everyone who is searching for pleasure in local stories while traveling along to create their own.

Snow covered Kharma valley old manali

Snow covered Kharma Valley

How to reach Old Manali

Chandigarh is the nearest major railway station to Old Manali which is located at a distance of around 300 kms (8-10 hours). The distance between Delhi and Old Manali is around 530 kms (12-14 hours). So, one can reach Delhi/Chandigarh via train and take a direct bus from these cities for Manali. The bus fare depends on season to season and is generally in range of INR 800 to INR 1500.

Private buses from these cities drops you at the private bus stand parking Manali. From there one can hire an Auto/Taxi to reach Old Manali which is around 3 kms. The fare for the same is around INR 200.

how to reach Old Manali from Delhi chandigarh

Getting around Old Manali

The town is quite small and can be mostly covered on foot. Also, strolling by the streets of the town is a wonderful feeling. If you are looking to explore the nearby places like Mall Road, Vashisht, Solang valley, Sissu and Atal Tunnel, you can rent a scooty/bike. The charges for the same are in range of INR 500 – INR 1500 depending on the vehicle you choose.

Streets of Old Manali

A two days itinerary on how to explore Old Manali and nearby Places

how to explore Old manali

  • Manu Temple: You can start you day by taking blessings as the Manu Temple. It’s a beautiful temple dedicated to Sage Manu. The calmness around the temple and the mesmerizing views from the veranda will leave you spellbound.

Manu Temple Old Manali

Manu Temple

  • Kharma Valley/Disco Valley: After taking blessings at the temple, you can now head to the hidden Kharma Valley or locally famous by name Disco Valley. It’s 15-20 minutes of leisurely walk from the temple. You can ask locals about Kharma to guide you to the valley. Kharma valley is located at the last point of Old Manali, after which it’s a wildlife sanctuary area.

Kharma Valley near last stop riverside cafe

The beautiful Kharma Valley Old Manali

The valley is quite secluded and peaceful. One can hear the mesmerizing sound of the beautiful Manalsu river which is quite untouched at the valley from the urbanization. You can also enjoy sitting at The Last Stop Riverside Café, the only café located in the Kharma Valley. Enjoying the breath-taking views of the Kharma Valley while having a Maggi at the Last stop Café will definitely be a moment to remember.

last stop riverside cafe Kharma valley

The Last Stop Riverside Café

  • Manali Nature Park: After spending some quality time at the Kharma Valley/Disco Valley, now you can now head to Manali Nature Park. It’s a half an hour walk from the valley. You can enter from the back gate of the park which is near to the Old Manali Bridge. Encircled by large groves of Deodar trees, the wildlife reserve is set on the bank of river Beas and is a pristine nature park. A walk of around 20 minutes will take you to the other side gate which is next to Mall Road.

Manali Nature Park

  • Vashisht Temple: You can take an Auto from the Mall Road to drop you at the Vashisht Temple. Charges would be around 150-200 INR. The town is famous for its natural hot water springs and the temples dedicated to Lord Vashisht, Lord Shiva and Lord Rama. The water from this spring is believed to have great healing powers. If you are feeling the tiredness of the journey you took from Delhi to Manali, taking a dip here can be of great help.

If you are trekking enthusiast and not too tired, you can trek all the way to Jogini waterfalls from Vashisht. It’s around an hour trek from the village.

Jogini waterfall Vashisht

Jogini Waterfalls

  • Mall Road: It will probably be evening by the time you explore the above places. Now it’s the time to head to the famous Mall Road. You can take an auto from Vashisht to drop you at Mall Road. Mall road is the heart of Manali and one of the prime attractions for tourists, especially shopaholics.

Mall Road Manali

Mall Road Manali

  • Old Manali Nightlife: After an eventful day, it’s time to relax and enjoy some live music while sipping in some wine. There are lots of café by the roadside having some music events. If you are someone who enjoys to be at peaceful place and may be stargaze, you can again head to the Kharma valley.

Old Manali at night

Day 2

  • Hidimba Temple: You can start your day by taking blessings at the Hidimba Temple which is around 20-30 minutes of walk from Old Manali.  It is an ancient cave temple dedicated to Hidimba Devi, wife of Bhima, a figure in the Indian epic  The temple is surrounded by a cedar forest called Dhungiri Van Vihar at the foot of the Himalayas.

Hidimba Temple Manali

Hidimba Temple Old Manali

  • Rohtang Pass – Sissu – Atal Tunnel – Solang Valley: After taking blessings at the temple, you can plan to visit the places around Manali. You can either hire a taxi to visit Rohtang Pass, Sissu, Atal tunnel and Solang Valley. All these places can be covered on a round trip as they fall on the same route. A taxi may charge around 2000 -4000 INR depending on the season.

Also, HRTC has recently started a bus service which charges around 600 INR per person to take you on a tour to these places. Remember, Rohtang pass is generally closed by mid- November and opens up mostly after March.

Rohtang Pass near Manali

Rohtang Pass near Manali

Best time to visit Old Manali

Best time to visit Old Manali entirely depends on what you are looking to experience. If you want to experience live snowfall, mid-December to February is a great time as chances of snowfall are quite high.

If you are looking to escape the scorching heat of the summers, April to June is a perfect time to visit. The rainy season in Manali starts from July to end of September. The views in rainy season are mesmerizing with clouds being so low and lush green mountains.

Old Manali kharma Valley in monsoon

Food options at Old Manali

There are lots of Café which you choose from. Rocky’s café located at one end  provides breath-taking views from its terrace sitting. The Last stop Riverside Café located at another end of the town provides some untouched views of the beautiful Manalsu river. I would highly recommend trying their veg Maggi. If you are looking for budget option, Hidimba Dhaba located near to Old Manali bridge is the perfect option.

Local Dish Siddu

Local Dish Siddu

Stay Options at Old Manali

There are lots of hostels in which you can choose from depending on your budget. The few I will recommend are ATS (All Terrain Stay) & Monkbase Hostel.

If you are looking for Riverside camping in Manali, you can connect with Last stop Riverside camps and cottages.

Last stop Riverside Camping in snow old Manali

Last Stop Riverside camping in Old Manali

Do follow me on Instagram as I am regularly posting travel posts and stories over there. Also, you can message me on Instagram if you want to join me on my next trip.

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