The much-awaited day had finally arrived, marking the beginning of a week-long journey to Manali in August 2022. I had a brief half-day layover in Chandigarh before embarking on an overnight bus journey to Manali. With some time to spare, I decided to seize the opportunity and visit the renowned Rock Garden in Chandigarh.
Chandigarh to Manali: A Night Journey
The adventure truly commenced on the second day as I boarded a comfortable Volvo bus in Chandigarh, bound for the picturesque landscapes of Manali. The journey began with a midnight tea break, offering me a chance to stretch my legs and enjoy the cool night breeze. As the sun rose, we made several daytime stops amidst the scenic mountains, all the while witnessing the apple orchards in full harvest mode on my way to the Mandi market. By 7:45 am, I reached Manali and took a shared taxi to Old Manali, my chosen neighborhood for the trip. The area greeted me with charm and character, and I couldn’t resist stopping for a quick cup of chai before settling into the Young Monk’s Hostel. The hostel, located just 200 meters from the main road, was clean and welcoming, boasting a well-equipped kitchen and a cozy cafe. After a friendly chat with the cafe guide to get my bearings, I was ready to explore.
Day 1: Exploring Old Manali and Mall Road
In the afternoon, I set out for a leisurely walk in the Mall Road area. Instead of the typical road, I chose a 2-kilometer scenic park route through the forest, immersing myself in the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Along the way, I engaged in a delightful “chai-pe-charcha” with a local shopkeeper, gaining insights into life in Manali.
My exploration led me to an irresistible 8-flavored soft-serve ice cream cone for just 50 rupees, followed by a delicious mutton mix sausage priced at 90 rupees. As I strolled along the bustling Manali Mall Road,
I noticed the centrally located bus stand, adjacent to the convenient taxi stand.
For the next two hours, I meandered through the charming streets of Manali Mall Road, taking in the vibrant atmosphere. Eventually, I decided to make my way back to the hostel, concluding the day with a serene view of the river stream in Old Manali.
Day 2: Exploring Manali on a Royal Enfield Himalayan
The second day in Manali commenced at 6:30 am, embracing the beauty and chill of Old Manali. Eager to explore, I rented a month-old Royal Enfield Himalayan for a two-day adventure at the cost of 1750 rupees per day. Armed with my trusty ride, I began by seeking guidance from local drivers for the best routes and directions.
Crossing the bridge, I set out on the Leh Highway, ready to discover the local attractions around Manali. The morning view of Manali was nothing short of blissful. I took occasional breaks to soak in the scenic vistas and relished a hearty breakfast of aloo paratha and sabji at 8 am, becoming the cafe’s first customer.
As I continued my journey, I marveled at the improved road conditions compared to 2004. Navigating the ever-changing Himalayan terrain, I finally reached the entrance to the Atal Tunnel on the Manali side. This 9-kilometer tunnel, with a speed limit of 60 KMPH, reduced travel time to Spiti and Leh by a remarkable 4 hours.
I breezed through the tunnel in just 13 minutes, then paused briefly to admire the view from the bridge. To the right lay the route to Spiti, and to the left, the path to Leh. After a moment of reflection, I took a tea break on my return journey, making a slight detour to visit Jogini Waterfall. While approaching Jogini Waterfalls, I was pleased to find that bikes could travel 1 kilometer from the main road.
Parking my bike after a kilometer, I embarked on a rewarding 30–40-minute trek through the valley. The trail, well-maintained for most of the way, presented a few challenging sections. Finally, I reached the awe-inspiring Jogini Waterfall, an impressive 150 meters in height. Here, I savored the solitude for half an hour, embracing the natural beauty that surrounded me.
Day 3: Naggar Castle & Bijli Mahadev Temple
The day began at 7:30 am with a ride to Naggar Castle and Bijli Mahadev Temple, both tucked away in the Himalayan landscape. My trusty Royal Enfield Himalayan was my companion once again as I ventured out to explore these local attractions.
Naggar, situated 25 kilometers from Manali, greeted me with a chilly morning. Along the way, I paused for a comforting hot tea and a hearty bread omelet. With directions from friendly locals, I caught my first glimpse of Naggar Castle, a historical gem dating back to 1460.
This castle, transformed into a heritage hotel since 1978 and run by HPTDC, exuded an old-world charm. The unique architecture, a blend of wood and stone, withstood an earthquake in 1905, while many other structures in the valley succumbed. Staying here promised an unforgettable experience for travelers. Inside the castle, I explored a small museum that preserved ancient artworks and artifacts, giving me a glimpse into the past.
My journey continued as I sought directions from the locals and made a pit stop at the modern Dagpo Shedrupling Monastery in Naggar, inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 2005. Witnessing the monks preparing for morning prayers was a captivating experience, and I spent 15 minutes in quiet contemplation in the prayer hall. The monastery boasted a sprawling complex with a monk school.
Leaving the monastery behind, I embarked on the next leg of my adventure: the Bijli Mahadev Temple. The sun was high, and the day had grown warmer compared to the crisp morning. I encountered a few challenging uphill stretches and bumpy roads before reaching the temple, located 3 kilometers away from the challenging motorable road.
Bijli Mahadev Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, boasts a 60-foot-tall staff that, according to local belief, attracts divine lightning. Hence the name, Bijli Mahadev, which translates to “Lightning Shiva.” Locals also believe that the Shiva Linga within the temple is struck by lightning every 12 years, requiring the priest to mend it with butter to restore its original form.
From the temple’s vantage point, I was treated to breathtaking views of the valley and the river. I even spotted eagles gracefully soaring near the hilltop, adding to the beauty of the surroundings. After spending an hour at the temple, I embarked on my return journey.
As I made my way back, I encountered apple merchants selling crates of apples, each crate weighing 20 kilograms, for a reasonable 850 rupees. It was harvesting season, and the bountiful orchards bore witness to the region’s agricultural abundance.
By 3 pm, I started my ride back to Manali, traversing the hills via small roads to Mall Road. Eventually, I reached my hostel, Young Monks’ Hostel, after a quick one-hour power nap, gearing up for my next adventure: a visit to Hadimba Devi Temple.
Hadimba Devi Temple, set amidst the lush cedar forest, beckoned me with its serene beauty. After parking my vehicle, I embarked on a 300-meter ascent to reach the temple. This temple, dedicated to Hidimba Devi from the mythical tales of Mahabharata, was constructed in 1553 by Maharaja Bahadur Singh.
The temple’s tranquil surroundings, nestled within a cedar forest, provided the perfect setting for a tea break. I also had the pleasure of encountering a well-groomed and majestic yak during my visit.
Next on my itinerary was the museum located near the temple, showcasing Himachal culture and folk art. As the lone visitor in the museum, I had the opportunity to admire intriguing artifacts that depicted the lifestyle of old Himachal. The museum featured old weighing scales, replicas of ancient buildings, and household items, offering a fascinating glimpse into the region’s history. Within the museum, I observed a recreation of an old Himachali kitchen. After exploring the museum, I ventured into the Dhungri forest, surrounded by towering cedar trees. Although it was almost closing time, the watchman kindly allowed me a brief 15-minute stroll within the forest, which proved to be a refreshing experience.
As evening approached, I treated myself to some delectable omelets and steaming hot momos, savoring the local flavors of Manali.
Day 4: Manu Mandir, Museum, and Hot Springs
The next morning, I set out to explore Manu Mandir, perched atop a steep hill. This temple, dedicated to Sage Manu, is a unique gem as it is the only temple in the world honoring him. As expected, the early morning hours welcomed me with solitude, allowing me to witness the typical village life of old Manali near the temple.
En route back to my accommodation, I discovered a modern garage cafe, its interior adorned with bike parts, adding a touch of uniqueness to my journey.
The day’s adventure continued with a visit to Vashist village, renowned for its hot springs. A rejuvenating dip in the hot springs for ten minutes provided a refreshing break. I also spotted the famous Vashist temple during my visit. By evening, I returned to the comfort of my hostel, Young Monks’ Hostel, to unwind and prepare for the next day’s explorations.
Day 5: Ghosal Village & Nature Park
On the fifth day of my Manali trip, I set my sights on Ghosal Village and the Nature Park. My journey commenced through lush apple orchards, and though my initial plans were disrupted by a sudden rain shower, I decided to stick to the village roads instead.
Since it was the apple harvesting season, I encountered numerous apple merchants and orchards brimming with ripe fruit. As I ventured further, I spotted the Nature Park I had initially planned to explore upon my return journey.The Nature Park, known as Beas Bihal Nature Park, was undergoing renovation, with its main gates closed. However, many tourists found their way into the park through a side entrance used by workers. The park offered ample space for jogging and leisurely strolls, and I was captivated by the view of the river from within.
After enjoying a half-hour walk in the park, I opted for a rickshaw ride to a riverside dinner, concluding the day with a satisfying meal.
Day 6: Exploring the Surrounding Areas
My sixth day in Manali was reserved for wandering the nearby areas, immersing myself in the local culture and scenic beauty. As I ventured along my path, I encountered a striking red Gurkha BS6 vehicle near the Sky Garden in Manali. The region was evolving, evident from the construction of numerous new hotels.
Interestingly, a dog I had spotted while wandering earlier had now become my companion, following me closely. I attempted to identify a trail leading upwards from my OS map, and my loyal canine friend led me to what I believed was the trailhead. However, it turned out to be the path to a resort.
Undeterred, I continued my search and eventually discovered a genuine trail. The dog, once again leading the way, accompanied me to higher ground. From there, we enjoyed breathtaking views of the landscape. However, as we reached the village, the dog mysteriously disappeared.
My exploration continued as I identified a trail while navigating. To my delight, I came across a bike with TN registration owned by Bharat from Twisted Trail Adventure. The hotel’s vantage point provided a stunning view, and as it started drizzling, I engaged in a pleasant conversation with Bharat and savored some delicious tea.
In the afternoon, I relaxed at my hostel, Young Monks’ Hostel, enjoying the serenity of the surroundings. In the evening, I embarked on another walk, this time exploring the busy lanes of Manali. After an hour of strolling, I returned to Mall Road and relished the view from the top floor of a restaurant. Following a satisfying dinner, I headed back to the hostel to rest for the night.
Day 7: Nature Park, Bird Park, and Wildlife Sanctuary
The seventh day marked the final two days of my Manali adventure. In the morning, I attended to practical matters, washing some of my soiled clothes. Afterward, I embarked on another walk through the Nature Park, sipping on tea and visiting the Bird Park within the premises. Inside the Bird Park, I had the pleasure of observing exotic birds unfortunately in captivity, adding a touch of wildlife to my journey.
On my way back, I noticed intriguing scribblings left behind by fellow travelers on the cafe wall, each telling their unique story. As the day progressed, I ventured into the Manali Wildlife Sanctuary, where I encountered a beautiful river stream winding its way through the valley.
During my trek through the sanctuary, I encountered a shepherd guiding his cows. He urged the cows to move faster, but I reassured him that I was in no hurry. The trek inside the sanctuary allowed me to connect with nature and appreciate its serene beauty.
On my way back, I passed by the Old Manali bridge, which offered a glimpse of the main entry point to Manali, washed out due to the monsoon. As my time in Manali was drawing to a close, I enjoyed a parting lunch at Mall Road. Finally, I arrived at the bus station, where I boarded a bus to Delhi at 4:30 pm.
Day 8: Returning to Delhi
The following day found me in Pahar Ganj, Delhi, within the bustling Nabi Karim market area. I took a leisurely stroll, which led me to the iconic Jama Masjid. With this final cultural experience, my Manali adventure came to a close.
In retrospect, my journey was filled with memorable experiences, from the thrilling bike ride through the Himalayan terrain to the tranquil moments in temples, nature parks, and sanctuaries. As I returned to the hustle and bustle of city life, I carried with me the cherished memories of my 2-day bike expedition and exploration of Manali’s natural beauty and cultural richness.
I am Simon and this was my journal of a week long trip in Manali seeking adventure and solitude.