Himalayas mountains from Manali in India.

Insider insights: Manali in the Himalayas

local perspective

Located at an altitude of 2050m above the sea level, Manali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Indian Himalayan region. It is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh, just south of the infamous Jammu and Kashmir.

Nestled in the mountains, Manali is a great place to visit all year round. It has something for everyone: from adventure sports like paragliding, skiing and river rafting, to some of the most luxurious stays you can find in the world.

But, while for most people Manali is a weekend holiday destination or a fond memory, for me, it is my home sweet home!

Manali village in winter.
Manali village in winter.

Manali is quiet and cool

When we speak of India, the first thing that comes to mind are chaotic Indian streets with tuktuks and pedestrians going haywire. But not so here in Manali. Population wise, Manali - and the entire state of Himachal Pradesh for that matter - is one of Asia’s least populated areas.

Here, unlike the rest of India, the climate is fairly pleasant. In fact, the temperature in some parts of Manali can drop to as low as -20 degree Celsius in winter.

With temperatures like that, staying in an igloo in Manali is one of the most popular winter tourist attractions, along with skiing and snowboarding. Imagine skiing in India...

Apple trees in Manali, India.
Apple trees in Manali, India.

In Manali most locals own apple trees

Manali produces one of the world’s finest varieties of apples. Most locals here have an apple orchard in their backyard. If not, they usually own at least an apple tree or two.

Apples grow rather easily here because of the temperature and the fertile Beas River basin. In fact, a stroll around the town will take you through several apple orchards, and among them you might spot a tiny cottage tucked in their shade.

It has been called mini-Israel

Manali is very popular with Israeli tourists. You can even find cafes catering specifically for them, with menus in Hebrew. It’s not uncommon for people greet to each other with a Shalom instead of a Namaste, and Israeli flags can be seen around the town.

A goat in the mountains in Manali, India.
A goat in the mountains in Manali, India.

It’s a paradise for stoners

Manali is renowned for having the best hash across India because of its high oil content and intensely fragrant aroma. In fact, Manali hash (also known as Malana Cream) is the most expensive hashish on many Amsterdam menus. As a result, smoking hash in Manali is a popular tourist activity.

In India, smoking hash is illegal, yet it is so popular and widely done here that it almost feels like an open secret. You get off a bus in Manali and the first thing locals offer tourists isn’t a taxi or hotel, but hash!

Manali should be on your India itinerary

Manali is indeed one of the best places to explore in India. Just take a walk among the apple orchards along the gurgling Beas river to see why Manali is an especially rewarding destination.

And, while you’re here, don’t miss the food – Manali is home to some of the best dhabas and bakeries... a true heaven for foodies!

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Dev Joshi

Author - Dev Joshi

I'm Dev, and I've been travelling and writing stories on my travel blog, Footloose Dev, since 2016. I started my corporate career as a documentary film-maker in England, before I quit my job, moved to India and became a full-time Indian travel blogger. 25+countries. 50+ brand partnerships. And the adventure continues...

Last Updated September 4, 2021

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