With an average height of 2,050 metres (6726 ft) above sea level, Manali is home to all kinds of travel mindsets. Be it a family looking for a vacation, a couple looking for tranquillity, a group of friends spending a weekend or a backpacker looking for adventures. Manali is home to a lot of backpackers or the ones who are beginning their backpacking journeys. This backpacking guide for Manali will help them in learning and planning their trips.
The beauty of Manali lies in its breathtaking views, local food and hospitality, places of visit and adventures to pursue. It has also become a pitstop for the riders who come for the glory roads like the Manali-Leh Highway. Saying so, Manali used to be a blessing for backpackers. But now it is a commercialised tourist destination. If truth be told, with a massive number of tourists flooding Manali every year, it has lost some of its charm in the backpacking community. Nonetheless, backpackers still find Manali in its natural beauty with heavenly hotspots. Let this backpacking guide for Manali reveal all the answers you seek.
These locations continue to have the rustic and the local vibes that the backpacking community looks for. If you are a backpacker and are planning to visit Manali, this guide will help you. You will find all the details about hostels and homestays, bike rentals, things to do and places to visit.
This blog is the definite backpacking guide for Manali. You will find the necessary details before you plan a trip to this wonderland up in the mountains.
Your Backpacking Guide Begins Here:
Mode of Transport
You can choose to come by road or by flight. The nearest airport to Manali is Kullu Manali Airport. It is around 52 km from Manali. Majorly all backpackers prefer roads as Himachal Pradesh has mountain roads and passes offering scenic views and zero dull moments.
By road from New Delhi, it takes around 14-16 hours (530 km). The average price of a Volvo bus operator is 1000 INR. You can book them online or from any travel agency in New Delhi. Also, if you are booking from a travel agency, do ask for a bargain. You can get the bus fare down to 850-900 INR.
You can also avail of the local bus from Delhi Kashmiri Gate Bus Station. Make sure you travel overnight. Overnight journeys save a lot of time, and you get to watch the sunrise from the bus. It is spellbound and soul-enriching when travelling in the mountains.
The only disadvantage of the local bus is that it drops off at Bhuntar. You have to take another bus from Bhuntar to Manali (one hour journey).
Stay In A Budget Friendly Hostel Or Homestay
Backpackers try to save a lot on their expenses while travelling. We all know how budget-unfriendly hotels can be. Booking dormitories, hostels or homestays are the best way to avoid hefty expenses. Manali has a lot of hostels and homestays that offer cheap accommodation and also good food. Rather than staying in the market area or near Mall Road, try to look for hostels in Old Manali.
A walkable 1-2 Kms from the bus stop in Mall road, the Old Manali area has most of the distinguished hostels. You can find Zostel, Backpackers Panda, GoStops, Alt Life, Moustache, The Hosteller, SoloYolo, Rockys Guest Home, Madpackers Manali and The Culture Nation.
There are other hostels too. You can find them on Google or through Hostelworld, Agoda and Booking.com. Also you can look for homestays such as Seize The Time Homestay. There are many others to choose from as well.
The average per day cost ranges from 300 INR to 700 INR for a dorm bed. But if you are planning for a longer duration of stay, you can get more discount. Always try to bargain to the maximum.
For backpackers, the best mode of transport is to travel by local transport. It helps in saving a lot of expenses. In Manali, you can find cabs, shared cabs, auto-rickshaws, shared auto-rickshaws (sometimes), and local buses.
The HRTC local buses are the best in class to give you a bumpy, fun ride and at a low price. The drivers of these buses are well-skilled and adventurous. These buses are connected to almost all of the sightseeing and local places.
Apart from the above, the last and the most thrilling mode of transport where you have no requirement to spend a rupee is hitching. The local people are very welcoming. They right away offer you a ride to the desired destination.
Remember, only take lifts from riders and drivers with a vehicle registered under Himachal Pradesh. The reason is that they know the roads better and are skilled at driving in those mountain passes and roads. If you are looking to have personal transport for the duration of your stay, you can rent a two-wheeler or a bicycle.
You will find many bike rentals shops in Old Manali that offer somewhere between 500-1200 INR/Day for a vehicle. Enfield Point is one of the best as they provide vehicles for Leh-Ladakh road trips.
Treat The Foodie In You
Every hostel and homestay comes with their in-house cafe or kitchens, where they offer meal plans and an A La Carte menu to the guests. If the menu is not budget-friendly, you can venture out to the Old Manali market to have your hunger satisfied.
There are many local restaurants you can find in the streets of Old Manali. Hidimba hotel, Dylans Toasted and Roasted Coffee, The Lazy Dog Lounge are some of them.
You can also visit 1947 cafe, Drifters Inn & Cafe, Renaissance and Johnsons Cafe. These are located nearby. They have delicious food menus to order from.
Offbeat Places To Visit
Travellers who visit Manali go to Solang Valley, Hadimba temple, Manu temple, Jogini Waterfalls, Sethan, Nehru Kund, Bhrigu Lake, and Vashisht hot water springs.
But for backpackers, there are more places to visit. These are offbeat places that commercialised tour packages do not offer.
LamaDugh Trek, Hampta Pass Trek, Lion Rock Table, Naggar Castle, Rohtang Pass, Jagatsukh Pass, Katrain, Nicholas Roerich Art gallery and Museum, Himalayan National Park and Chandrakhani Pass are some of the offbeat places.
There are small treks to go for in Old Manali. You can also climb up the terrains in Old Manali, and you will get the rustic nature vibe. The climate and the serene views would grasp you in a spell.
Try to get lost in the wilderness of Manali. You will find many more offbeat places which have not yet been named but provide spectacular views.
Apart from the above, you can have more adventures like cycling from Old Manali to Solang Valley, riding a Royal Enfield Bullet in Atal Tunnel and paragliding in Solang Valley.
Takeaways From Backpacking Guide For Manali
Manali is a backpacking destination. It offers a lot to backpackers than to regular tourists. Backpacking in Manali is best during the off-season, from November to March. This is because the influx of tourists happens from March to November, making it almost crowded.
Old Manali is a heavenly abode for solo travellers and backpackers as you get to enjoy the real Manali vibes.
Travel by local transport. Hire a two-wheeler if busses are not functioning. It would be overall cheaper than hiring auto-rickshaws. Ask for lifts wherever you can.
If hostel food is costly you can visit the local restaurants and dhabas for cheaper and delicious food.
Try to get lost in the wilderness as it leads to more offbeat destinations in Old Manali.
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