Old Manali may have the prefix “old”, but it is way more awesome as compared to the main Manali town. While latter is one of the busiest summer destinations in India, the former is a breath of fresh air. Geographically, the only thing that separates Old Manali and Manali is the Beas River but there is a complete change of scene after you cross the river.
Don’t get me wrong; Main Manali is a good destination for honeymooners or families. In fact, family travelers may not like Old Manali at all because as per them, it has too many hippies. However, if you’re a backpacker or a hippie at heart (like me), you’d definitely prefer Old Manali.
Old Manali is a part of the banana pancake trail that runs through South East Asia, and so are the nearby Kasol and Dharamkot. In fact, back in the 60s and the 70s, it was on the hippie trail too! This is why some parts of Old Manali look like they’re out of a retro movie. Perhaps it is because of the fresh air or water, but every-time I visit the Himalayas, I feel a spiritual energy around me. This is how you’ll feel too, if you ever visit and stay here for longer than just a few days.
You must have already seen pictures of Old Manali in my post about hippie villages in the Himalayas, but here are more details.
Here’s why Old Manali is Awesome –
01 | Nature Trails in and Around Old Manali
One of the most magical aspects of visiting Manali is the beauty of nature. Perhaps this is the reason why this place invokes spirituality in many of its visitors. The air always smells nice because it’s pure, the water always tastes good, because in most of the places, it comes from waterfalls that emerge out of glaciers.
Moreover, it’s a lot of fun to walk around in Old Manali to discover new viewpoints and secret trails where one can be in the lap of Mother Nature. In fact, if you love walking and can go for hours, you can also reach the nearby Vashisht or Prini villages.
02 | Old Manali has Amazing Food
No, I’m not talking about only Indian food here, but also international cuisines.
Over the years, the restaurant owners have learned international recipes because backpackers from all over the world frequently visit Old Manali. Whether you’re craving lasagna or shakshuka, you will not be disappointed when you eat in Old Manali.
During my multiple visits to Old Manali, I have never gotten bored of the food here. We even managed to find a decent cup of espresso here. I love the fresh river trout at Kathmandu café and Yak cheese sandwich at the German bakery.
03 | You Fall in Love with Old Manali’s Weather
How can I not add the most important point why people visit this place? Of course, if you’re visiting the Himalayas, the weather would be one of your main reasons for doing so. People mostly visit Old Manali (and Manali) in summers but I also enjoy visiting this area in winters.
In my opinion, its a year round destination and it looks even more beautiful in winters. In fact, my fondest memory of Manali is when I saw it during winters because of sudden snowfall. It is indeed magical when it snows in Manali.
04 | Good Base for Nearby Treks
Due to its location and ease of reaching, Old Manali is a very good base for nearby treks to Spiti Valley, Pin Valley, Lahaul Valley, etc. Not just small treks but several intermediate treks start from here. More than just treks, you can also try rafting, paragliding, zorbing, rappelling, rock climbing, etc. In fact, I love trekking and a lot of my treks started from old Manali. You can read my posts about Chandra Taal, Kheerganga, Kasol and Hampta pass for more information about these treks.
05 | Shopping in Old Manali for Handmade things is Fun
Do you like unique handmade things that can’t be found in big shopping malls? Old Manali is the place for you. As you cross the bridge that connects New Manali and Old Manali and walk uphill, you will notice many colorful roadside shops. Here you will woolen clothes, jewelry, bags, poi pairs, hula-hoops and even flag patches for backpacks.
Suggested: Best travel backpacks
This market is cheap and is geared towards the needs of backpackers. At the beginning of this shopping road, you will also find a “rasta” shop under Kathmandu café where you can get dreadlocks made. I got some of my dreadlocks made here. Wanna see?
06 | Himachali People Rock
The most important reason why Old Manali has an amazing vibe is because of its people. Himachalis by nature are very hospitable people and the locals of Old Manali are one of the nicest. Many of them go out of their way to help people. In fact, I left my phone in one of the shops last year and was delighted to see that the owner still had it when I went back after three hours to check.
07 | Parties Scene is Good in Summers
Apart from Goa, Old Manali is one of the few places in India where I have attended some really good parties. From old school psychedelic trance to reggae, Old Manali definitely has a very good party scene.
If you like dancing on Bollywood or Rap music, then these parties are definitely NOT for you and you will get bored here. I have also attended a psytrance festival here in 2016.
Please respect the locals and travel responsibly
Yes, I did say that Old Manali is an amazing place and the party culture is awesome, but please travel responsibly. Respect the locals and don’t get drunk and painfully loud.
If you’re visiting this beautiful place, please don’t mess with Mother Nature and ALWAYS remember to pick up your trash.It is very sad to see chips packets and the remains of broken beer bottles in some places around Old Manali. If you see anyone else’s trash, please don’t feel embarrassed to pick it up. Seeing you do that may inspire a few others to keep the environment clean too. 🙂
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You may also enjoy reading:
Kasol and Around
Kheerganga – on the hippie trail
Dharamkot – a hippie village
Triund – a small trek
Chandra Taal – the Moon Lake in Spiti Valley
Gallu – waterfalls and cute goats
Hampta Pass Trek
11 Hippie Destinations in the Himalayas
17 PsyTrance Festivals for 2017
A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I really loved this article. You covered all the aspects of planning a trip. A slice of heaven in the midst of some seriously spreading urbanization around the area, Manali offers that perfect mix of cultural serenity in a rapidly growing town. Usually the base for high-altitude trekking and mountaineering, Manali now offers much in the way of adventure tourism with splendid opportunities for mountain biking, paragliding, rafting and skiing in the right seasons. Drop in at Bob Dylan’s café in the heart of Manali for some lip-smacking cookies.
Even I love Old Manali. Sadly everything is shut down now. I went there and returned with a sad heart.
Really nice post! Manali is one of my favorite destination which I can visit again and again.
Manali is everyone’s favorite destination, really liked your post. good work, keep going.