Manali is always bustling with activities and things to do. I have been to this beautiful Himachali town many times and my favourite trip continues to be the one in which I had no plans and relaxed every day. Since it is one of the most sought-after destinations in India, it may seem tough not doing anything. But for those frequent travellers to Manali, may be next time doing nothing will only add to its charm.

Listen to the river

River Manalsu from Old Manali Bridge.
River Manalsu from Old Manali Bridge.

River Manalsu hems Old Manali on one side. In its origin, this river is quite aggressive, though it tames down by the time it reaches the Old Manali Bridge. The water is clear, magnificent and accessible for travellers. However, sitting by the river is not recommended.

Lazy Dog and Cafe 1947 offer spectacular prospects of the river. The former is where the river is at its full flow, loud and wild. It turns mature and comparatively quiet by the time it reaches Cafe 1947. I got myself a table outside, asked for a beer and sat for hours at Lazy Dog. The only thing I recall from those hours is the peace that the sound of the water brought to me.

Tip: The sit-out tables in Cafe 1947 are shaded with trees. It is an ideal location to read a book while sipping some chai, as evening sets in.

Read: Volunteering with Ecosphere, Spiti

Meet the tall deodars

The deodar forest.
The deodar forest.

Any quintessential photograph of Manali has the gorgeous grove of deodar in it. The Nature Park situated near the Old Manali Bridge provides an exceptional experience of walking through the deodar forest. I was mesmerized by its beauty!

In my course of walking through this stunning forest, I saw some moss on my pathway, other varieties of trees and the River Beas. The Park seems intimidating initially, though later it is only quiet and therapeutic. Having absorbed sufficient amount of nature, I left the Park feeling fresh and happy.

Tip: Carry a pair of binoculars and head to the Park early in the morning. Some small birds and reptiles can be spotted here. Also, the angular sun rays through the trees are surreal.

Unwind with strangers

Get lost or find a friend?
Get lost or find a friend?

The best conversations are effortless, humorous and unforgettable. Even though Manali is a great place to meet fellow travellers, most of them tend to drift towards Drifters’ Inn and Cafe in Old Manali.

The cafe here is cosy and very welcoming. It brings in a major percentage of travellers passing through Old Manali. Having met some very interesting people here, I am convinced that there is something about the ambience, lights, books and music that encourages interaction amongst its guests. Rayo, who works at the Inn, helped me break the ice by initiating a conversation with me. After that, I found myself talking with a group of foreign travellers and laughing aloud with them.

Tip: The cafe has a good collection of music, which provides perfect solace while penning down some thoughts in a notebook.

Read: That Mountain of Badrinath and Mana Village, Uttarakhand

Have you immersed yourself in the vibe of Old Manali?

I have written this post for Travelyaari and it originally appeared here

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Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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8 thoughts on “A Summer Slowdown in Old Manali”

  1. Loved this post!
    We were in Manali this summer (our first trip there). And we spent several wonderful days in Old Manali. It is such a different world, away from the bustle of the main town. Our itinerary included lots of walks (at least a couple of them through the Nature Park that you mention) and of course, some time at the cafes :). We enjoyed the food at Cafe 1947. Bonus: we happened to be around for a local village festival! Ah, so many beautiful memories :).

    1. Oh lovely! Old Manali is a special place. When in Himachal, walk! :P Which festival was this?

  2. Its a new face of Manali which you have put forward. Do you think an additon of a small video of the river flowing and its sound would have been like a cherry topping for this lovely blog? Let me know

    1. I definitely think so, but I don’t shoot videos unless it is a performance. I’m sure it’ll appeal to the senses.

    1. As much as black & white keeps distraction away, I suppose it steals the charms of Manali too? :P Let me do a coloured photo story on Himachal soon then!

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