Manali has well and truly captured Indian hearts and has turned into an adventure gateway in the last decade, owing to its proximity to Ladakh, Lahaul & Spiti. Apart from the usual touristy attractions, over the years my explorations have enabled me to experience the offbeat delights in Manali.
Here’s presenting a few relatively unknown and offbeat gems in and around arguably India’s favourite hill station, Manali.
1. Rumsu Village
Rumsu village is a tiny hamlet where time seems to have stood still. The castle at Naggar is a picturesque location for lunch with breathtaking views of the valley. Marvel at the intricate architecture of Jagatipatt temple in the same compound. Along the same track is Rumsu; a charming village with old wooden houses which still worships ‘Jamlu Devta’. Beware though, as outsiders are forbidden to touch the temple. One can see local shawls being made on the traditional handloom, khaddi. This is a highly recommend offbeat delight near Manali.
I was lucky to be here after a ride by an outsider who has made it his home. Here’s a video of a Farsi song sung by him. He is from the holy town of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan, and a very kind soul to invite me to his terrace.
Expert tip: Authentic Himachali thali at Maniram’s Dhaba at the serene Jana Waterfalls which is a short detour from Naggar.
2. Hiking from Old Manali to the pretty hamlet of Goshal
An easy trail begins near the Manu Temple in Old Manali to the enchanting village of Goshal. The path passes through apple orchards and gurgling streams as the sunlight plays hide & seek while the eyes are bedazzled with pristine views of snow clad mountains in the far distance.
Expert tip : Buy organic Rajmah (lentil beans) at local homes & try the locally made peach pickle and a Himachali speciality called ‘Lingdi’ pickle.
3. Wander away from the crowds at Solang Valley
While the adventure filled activities at Solang Valley are interesting; there is a hidden paradise in the woods known only to a few. The Anjani Mahadev Temple is just a 3 km walk and is shrouded in mystique as a natural ‘shivling’ forms in the winters. The temple also holds regular bhandara and it is truly an offbeat experience in the touristy region of Solang Valley.
Expert tip: Lose yourself in the chanting at the temple with the hermits for positive energy.
4. Mythological tales from the temples of Jagatsukh, Khakhnal, Sajla
The 1200 year old Shiva stone temple unearthed in Jagatsukh by the name of Gaurishankar Temple with intricate carvings in the Shikara style is simply magical. Khakhnal has a Kartikeya Temple in the middle of a green meadow with cute school kids vying for your attention. Save the best for the last and get regaled listening to stories from the villagers at Vishnu Temple in Sajla.
Expert tip: Buy hand woven shawls made by local village women.
5. Explore the Buddhist side of Manali
If Ladakh & Spiti seem too faraway, then fret not as you can have a look at the Buddhist way of life in Manali itself. A five minute walk from the touristy mall road will take you to the Himalayan Nyingmapa Buddhist Temple with a huge two storey statue of Sakyamuni. There’s a monastery of the Gelugpa sect nearby with a huge colourful prayer wheel and the aura of calmness is sure to take your breath away.
Expert tip: Tie prayer flags so that they can flutter where the wind is strongest, for positive karma.
6. Lose yourself in Shanag & Buruwa
Imagine horses grazing, and the sound of flowing water to enthrall you and you have the picture of the twin villages of Shanag & Buruwa. A stroll will reveal them to be traditional villages where life goes on amid pristine, picturesque surroundings. The locals might invite you for a glass of chhang (locally brewed rice beer). Enjoy!!
Expert tip : Makki ki Roti and Sarson Ka Saag is a must have at Ludhiana ki Rasoi at Bhang Village on the Manali – Leh Highway.
7. Free natural Spa in Vashisht & a hidden waterfall too! (Shhh.)
A dip in the natural hot springs of Vashisht in Manali will leave you rejuvenated. The sulphur vapours result in a guaranteed ‘happy high’ and are known to have toxin releasing properties that cure many ailments. There are separate enclosures for men & women and I recommend to leave the phone and other valuables at the hotel/homestay.
Expert tip : Come early, bring a towel & change of clothes.
Read : Offbeat Explorations in Leh
8. Savour the views from Vashisht waterfalls
While the Jogni waterfalls near Vashisht are frequently visited; Vashisht waterfalls are really offbeat and unexplored. It is bathed in tranquility on top of the village and is reached by following the path going upwards from the Rama Temple.
Expert tip : The adventurous ones can try their luck plucking apples. Beware though that the locals impose a fine if caught!!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” –Marcel Proust.
There’s so much more to Manali than the mundane that the guidebook suggests. What do you say? I await your views in the comments section.