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Our Love for Old Manali over Main Manali

Nestled among Deodar and pine trees, with the gushing River Beas flowing alongside, view of snow- capped peaks in front, the colorful shops along the winding lanes, the whipping coffee and baking smell from the cafes is what defines a quaint little town – Old Manali of Himachal Pradesh, India.

Our Love for Old Manali over new Manali

Old Manali – Don’t go by the prefix OLD, here. The place is not at all an old town. Indeed, we feel it is full of life and much more happening than main Manali. It is not a honeymoon destination but a Hippie Land and the abode of Backpackers. The place has a traditional Himachali fell and interestingly, this trail is also listed under the Banana Pancake Trail along with Kasol, Jaipur, Goa, Bangkok, Phuket etc.

You might be thinking we are biased towards old Manali and actually we are. The place is famous among weed and other notorious drug lovers but we have our own reasons to love it.  But before reading further, we suggest you to find a hotel in Manali, as the place is always loaded with tourist/ travelers and backpackers.

Reasons why we love Old Manali

1. Feel of fresh air, water and Spirituality

Cross the bridge over River Beas, separating Old and Main Manali, the cool breeze and spirituality of Old Manali engulfs you. The fresh air opens up your senses and the flowing River acts like a music to mind and soul. The water here is utterly pure because its coming directly from the glaciers.

Bridge connecting old manali to new manali

We feel, the place is beautiful in all seasons but its heaven in Monsoon. During Monsoons, clouds engulf you from all sides, mist settles down on your clothes and hair. Rain starts pouring in no time, leaving you completely drenched, everything gets super clean and fresh.

2. Nature Trails

There are plenty of nature trails in Old Manali and each one is unique. Start walking on any; you will be amazed by the beauty of nature. The place makes you feel completely in the lap of nature and sometime accidentally you hover to discover the hidden or secret trails.

Nature trails in old manali

This small town also serves as a base for the adventure freaks and trekkers. Multiple treks start form here ranging from easy to intermediate to long. To name, few of them are – Trek to Spiti Valley, Pin Valley, Lahaul, Chandratal, Kheerganga, Kasol etc.

3. Good Food and Cafes

The town is also a hub for cafes and delicious food. They serve cuisines from Himachali to Italian to Chinese and Israeli. The cooks of each of these cafe has honed their skills and become masters by learning from the backpackers and visitors.

Chilling at Old Manali Cafe

Till day, we have tried variety of food from different cafes and Bakers and honestly, none has disappointed us. But still the favorite from our list is German Bakers for fresh cakes, pastries, pies and coffee and Café 1947, Lazy Dog for food. And yes! the fresh Trout fish is a must try. Eat and you will be in heaven. Okay Jokes apart, after eating Trout here, we have stopped liking it anywhere else.

Some of the cafes in the town too have books and games section to make up your day.

4. Music and Parties

If you are one like us, who loves sipping drinks with beautiful views and music, then Old Manali is a place for you. The cafes play trance, Reggae, romantic songs, and some have Live Bands too. One can spend their entire day here. During our last visit, we found a cafe playing Punjabi numbers and people dancing on it. So, feel the scene is really changing here too.

music festival in old manali

Apart from the regular Music and parties, the Shiva Squad festival is held here for psychedelic music and natural scenic beauty lovers. The festival is spread over for two days and the dates for this year i.e 2018 are from 25 to 27th September. 

5. Love for colorful Handicrafts and quirky stuff

Just as you enter the town, the Boho vibes start surrounding you. The colorful lined shops and the smiling owners on the winding roads welcomes you. They sell local handicrafts, woolen stuff, funky jewelry, sling bags, dream catchers, Tibetan Prayer Flags, all types of Chillums, Punk T-shirts and other quirky stuff at quite reasonable price, which perfectly fits the needs of Backpackers.

colorful handicraft shops in old manali

There are also some dreadlock (Jata) and tattoo makers sitting outside the shops. So, get yourself done one, for some cool Hippie look.

That are few of the reasons for our biasness towards this old Quaint town. Truly, we can never get bored of it. What do you feel now?

How to Reach Old Manali

Manali lies 537 kilometers from Delhi and can be reached by direct Volvo Bus (Redbus), Cab or by air.  The nearest airport is at Bhuntar, i.e. 50 Kilometers from Manali. From there, one can hire a cab or bus till main Manali. Further to Old Manali, one can hire a Tuk Tuk (Auto-rickshaw) or walk for about 20 minutes and cross the bridge.

Route: Delhi – Panipat – Karnal – Chandigarh – Rupnagar- Bilaspur- Mandi- Bhuntar – Manali

Best Time to visit Manali

Manali is beautiful in all seasons but we suggest exploring it during offseason. Monsoon is one such off season when hotels are quite cheap, and you have the whole place to yourself. Although be careful with the landslides.

Summers: March – June; Monsoons: July – September; Winters: November – February

In September the weather is quite pleasant with bit chilliness especially during morning and evenings.

old Manali over main manali

Important Tip

Old Manali has a hippie culture but we request you to be a responsible traveler and citizen. Don’t create nonsense and respect the locals and their culture. Don’t litter and use the installed bins.



14 thoughts on “Our Love for Old Manali over Main Manali”

  • Thanks for your views about Old Manali. I love to explore towns but I am always delighted when I find green space a short walk from the town. I like the idea of music in the cafes but would probably stay away for the Shiva Squad Festival. Love to browse the local crafts – even if we hardly ever bring home souvenirs anymore. I would hope that the monsoons are past if we travel in September!

  • I do love that picture with the mountains in the back and the colourful event. I’m guessing that is the Shiva Squad festival ? In which case it looks amazing and worth checking out. What a fascinating place is Old Manali.

  • Old Manali looks lovely. I’m not a fan of anywhere where hippies congregate as a general rule, so would probably avoid the Shiva Squad festival! But I would be keen to see the real Old Manali – chat to locals and experience the beautiful hikes. The German baker sounds like a great way to refuel after a hike!

  • Since I’ve never been to Old Manali or Main Manali, I’d have to visit both to see for myself. Though, I’m already sold on your choice for the good food and shopping. Plus, the nature trails beg to be hiked.

  • I didn’t know there is an old Manali and a main manali, probably because I never like this crowded place. I always stay here out of compulsion. Loved the post and now would like to explore it. Banana Pancake Trail is also a new word for me and I find it interesting. Thanks Suruchi for this article.

  • I have not visited either of them. But now I am influenced to like the old Manali over the newer version.
    The restaurants and cafes will be may fav haunt that is after experiencing the nature trails 🙂

  • I just had a brief stay in Old Manali by the River Beas and loved the vibe there. I wish I could have spent more time there. And after this post, I know that was a near miss. Nature trails definitely make this location on top of my list. Beautiful pictures as usual.

  • I love your first point – the water, spirituality, and fresh air! I can just close my eyes and envision it, and it brings me feelings of such peace! I love that the water comes from the glaciers! So serene!

  • This place looks like it has them all! Colours, psychedelic festivals, food from all over the world, hippie atmosphere and cafes with games?! Perfect, thanks for letting me know about that!

  • Looks like there is amazing nature trails to be enjoyed though I am not sure I want to go in the season when landslides are more likely. Good to learn about places like this to check out!

  • Manali is beautiful. I have visited there a few times but have never stayed there more than a night, It had always been a pit stop for us before a trek. Now you post makes me want visit Old Manali. Next time I am there, I will surely keep aside a day to explore Manali, especially Old Manali!

  • Sometimes the old definitely outweighs the new . You have proven this with this post and the beauty of Manali. I love the old traditions, food and nature and your comments on old Manali have shown me what a wonderful place this is to visit.

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