A slice of heaven in the midst of some seriously spreading urbanization around the area, Manali offers that perfect mix of cultural serenity in a rapidly growing town. Once a sleepy village lying on the way to Manikaran, Kasol is now a huge destination for backpackers and travelers from around the globe. Hot springs, riverside eateries, and smoky cafes ensure that your days here in Manali and Kasol are trippy and nights stay happy.
Arrive in Manali and go for Local Sightseeing
A short drive from your hotel will take you to the ancient Hadimba Temple. This ancient wooden structure, built over a huge rock that was worshiped as a deity, is dedicated to Hadimbi Devi from the Mahabharath. Past narrow lanes of Old Manali's bazaars, you get to the small village of Vashisht with its natural hot springs. Visit the revered Manu Temple on your way here as our guide tells you more about the significance of various temples around the region. The serene little village of Vashisht is home to a few hotels with quaint terraces as well as fascinating old stone temples directly opposite each other. Enjoy a warm dip at the hot springs here before you head on to Jogini waterfalls. Sci-fi-esque scenery marks the area around Jogini waterfalls with grey rock massifs and dense green surroundings. Enjoy a picnic here by the high Jogini Falls before you head back.
Rohtang Pass Drive
Manali has been a major draw for tourists for a fairly long time now, and one of its star attractions is the drive to Rohtang pass. The ban of diesel vehicles and activities and eateries at the pass by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) did create some confusion, but clarity ensued, and this has been well received by nature lovers. We pick you up from your hotel for the 51-kilometre drive from Manali to Rohtang Pass. One of Manali's most scenic rides, the road at first runs parallel to the turquoise Beas river till you leave it behind for an uphill drive towards the pass. Forested mountain slopes and flat-topped grasslands make you want to stop at every turn to capture these frames on your camera. Distant waterfalls and a sudden wind before you make it to the top sort of wakes you up to the fact that the pass is near. A quick glance back on the loops set against the incoming mist is a mystical treat. With panoramic views of the mountains all around you, the road that leads further down disappears out of sight. At 3978 metres above msl, you feel on top of the world! Zip up those jackets as the wind here is chilly and tends to blow rather hard. After a little rambling around the top and the trails nearby, we drive you back to your hotel. You've been there, done that!
Old Manali-Mangankot Hike
An easy amble through intriguing 'Old Manali', the Mangankot hike takes around 3 hours. One of the best places to hang out later in the evening, stop for a nibble of 'yak cheese' at any of the eateries in Old Manali before you keep walking. Enjoyed by adults and children alike, walk through narrow cemented streets and bazaars on elevated platforms as you pass apple orchards beyond the town. Visit the revered Manu Temple on your way here as our guide tells you more about the significance of various temples around the region. The hike then takes you to the tranquillity of Mangankot. Superb views of Old Manali and the valley from Mangankot make it a photographer's paradise. A cold dip in the river offers the perfect finale to this fascinating hike.
Head over to Manikaran and Kasol or you may even chose a Trek to Malana and Chalal.
Whether they keep doctors away or not, apples have been the fruit of choice right from the Garden of Eden. Step into an apple orchard here in Kasol and get to know more about why the Parvati Valley has become synonymous with fascinating orchards. Spend some time with a local farmer here who will tell you more about what it takes to maintain an orchard such as the one you are visiting. From the tilling of the land, to manuring, planting and ultimately picking of these luscious apples, learn about how their livelihood is directly proportional to a good produce. If you're visiting at the right season, you just might get lucky enough to pick some apples from the orchards yourself.
Generally known for being a hippie haven, Kasol is equally renowned for the quaint villages scattered around it. Dotted with cafes and small shops, Kasol is an Israeli enclave of sorts, with some splendid falafel as well. Our local guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the beautiful Chalal close by. Leave paved tarmac behind at the market and make your way to the river across a suspended cable bridge over the gushing Parvati river. Hang on tight as the bridge sways with every step you take. A short walk along the opposite bank of the river leads you deeper into the mountains. The sound of the river drowns out the chaos of Kasol as you pass stonewalls that encircle small home gardens. The narrow trails lead you across apple-laden orchards and vegetable farms. Our local guide will introduce you to village folk here for a glimpse into their way of life. Ramble around for a bit, interacting with the villagers and playing with local children, before we descend back to your hotel.
There's more to Malana than just 'Cream'. Malana is, in fact, the world's oldest democracy that is still in existence to this day. Villagers here are governed by their own rules and all differences are settled without outside authorities. Supposedly descendants of Alexander (of 'The Great' fame), Malana residents speak a distinct dialect of 'Kanashi' that only they understand. Apparently very serious with their customs, outsiders are asked to follow specific paths, not to touch residents or their homes or even photograph sacred buildings and more. However, with fascinating scenery complete with the river flowing beside it, this secluded little village has somehow managed to preserve its biodiversity through the years.
Begin your walk at Nerang village, on the mountain opposite Malana. Climb down from the village and climb up the steps that lead to Malana. The villagers of Malana will carry on with their daily chores, collecting hay and firewood, and carting them back to their homes.
Often called 'the village of taboos', our local expert will let you in on legends of the origins of the Malana people as well as their customs and traditions.
For some reason, local mountain cuisine is invariably the finest food you will have ever eaten. While Kasol itself has a varied spread on offer in the local markets (from Israeli to even Italian), Himachali food is unique in its effect on your taste buds and sheer simplicity. Learn of the special ingredients that go into making each Himachali dish distinctive from our expert local chef who will set up his kitchen by the riverside for you to watch.
Soak in the spectacular scenery as you manage to gain a tip or two on cooking this sumptuous meal. Enjoy your picnic here by the Parvati river.
Naggar-Jana Falls Excursion
This quaint settlement in the Kullu Valley was once the royal capital of the Kullu kingdom. The charmingly crafted Naggar Palace is a prime example of Himachali architecture built with timber and stone. Our expert guide will walk you through the history of this castle and its settlement. Often used as a backdrop for Bollywood songs, this medieval castle was converted into a rest house over a century ago. A short hike though apple and peach orchards, on narrow picture-postcard pathways lined with majestic deodars, takes you to Jana Falls. The waterfalls now accommodate a large number of tourists at season time, but are worth the hike for the mouth-watering food served here at local dhabas. The spectacular backdrop of Jana Falls with splendid views of Jana village and the Beas river flowing through it make for a memorable hike with plenty of photographic opportunities.
Drop to Bhuntar and onward journey
The taxi will drop you to Bhuntar. Return to Delhi with an evening Volvo. Heavier baggage perhaps, but smokey memories of the mountains you left behind are bound to have you coming back for more.