The town of Manali, in Himachal Pradesh, is one of the top tourist destinations in Indian Himalayas. Its close proximity to New Delhi and Chandigarh is moreover continuously making it easier for the crowds to break away from the usual city-madness and experience the peaceful Himalayas. And with the upcoming 4-way highway, all the way from Chandigarh to Manali (with New Delhi to Chandigarh already having one) it is going to be easier than ever for people to reach Manali — meaning, Manali is going to get more crowded, more smokey and bustling with life in the coming years.
Recently while travelling to Manali (long story short: I visit Manali and surrounding a few dozen times a year, while staying for a few dozen weeks. I know the place better than my home New Delhi) I realised that Manali isn’t a place I would want to travel to. And it also isn’t a place I would write a Travel Guide for — Things To See And Do In Manali! Not anymore!
The idea of having a tranquil holiday experience is less like a reality in Manali now, and more like a dream. So ward off. Instead, head to these 4 peaceful towns in under 25 km from Manali.
Starting with least amazing places, this is my list of offbeat destinations near Manali, that guarantee for a peaceful holiday:
Old Manali: The old town of Manali is a hippie oasis located 2 kilometres from the Mall road or the main bus station in Manali. Compared to Manali, Old Manali offers a peaceful and a relaxing experience while offering something for everyone — from booze to yoga centers to a relaxing cafe experience. It is moreover cheaper to stay in Old Manali than in the main town — by at least half the price of what you pay for in Manali — making Old Manali an even better alternative, if the idea is to stay very close to Manali.
To get to Old Manali just take an auto-rickshaw for 50 Rupees (from either side of the Mall Road) or take a 20-minute uphill walk.
The Town Of Sethan: A popular ski-destination in winter and a campsite in summer, Sethan is, without any second thought, my personal favourite destination near Manali — particularly if the idea is of relaxing for a few days. Surrounded by mountains higher than 4,000 metres, Sethan remains an untouched Buddhist town. It is moreover an offbeat town idea for snow activities like Skiing and Snowboarding.
To get to Sethan, you will require to have your own vehicle and drive nearly 15 km south-east of Manali. Or you can take the bus from Manali (towards Kullu) and get off at the next town, called Prini. From Prini your stay plus transportation can be organised. [Read: Sethan In Himachal Pradesh]
Best way to enjoy the beauty of Sethan is by camping in Sethan at my own campsite FootlooseCamps. Check the pictures:
Solang Valley: Though Solang Valley is popular for adventure activities like paragliding, quad-biking and zip-lining, its real charm, at least in my view, is camping on your own. Located at around 14 km further north of Manali (towards Leh), Solang Valley offers easy flat spaces and a number of restaurants at your disposal. Just bring your own tent, a few night-lamps and enjoy the mountains in a bargain. To find an ideal camping space, if you’re confused, ask anyone about the zip-lining site in Solang Valley (there’s only one spot!) and you will find plenty of flat spaces around it. Right next to the ziplining, you can spot an old Shiva temple, guarded by a few feet high wall. You can also camp on the premises of Shiva temple for some assurance.
For the comfort of a hotel, I can recommend Solang Ski Resort located on the foothill of Solang Valley. You may also find many campsites on the way from Manali to Solang Valley.
Hallan Valley: At under 25 km from Manali (towards Kullu) lies one of the tiniest valleys in Himachal Pradesh called Hallan Valley. Beautifully inhabited by local Himachali with landscapes full of an unspoilt nature, Hallan Valley guarantees an undisturbed holiday. The only disappointing thing is, however, there are no full-time functioning Guest House in the entire valley, but a few homestays.
To reach there, you will need to drive or catch a bus for nearly 17km toward Kullu (from Manali) on old Kullu-Manali highway and then take the Hallan Road. [For Further Reading: Hallan Valley]
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