Several years ago, the peaceful Himalayan hamlet of Manali in winter presented a completely different scenario. What was a quaint little village back in the day, is now bustling with cafes, hotels, and restaurants everywhere! Throngs of travelers descend all year round including hippies, backpackers, adventure sports enthusiasts and honeymooners.
Of course, the peak season for a Kullu Manali trip is from April to July, when it offers relief from the unbearable summer heat of the plains. But take a trip to Manali in the winter months, and you will see a completely different side to the Himalayan town.
Why a winter trip to Manali is a must
Low tourist season
Manali witnesses massive crowds in the aforementioned peak season. But come winter, Manali doesn’t get as many visitors, thanks to the town’s extremely cold weather. This is undoubtedly the best time for a Kullu Manali tour package from Mumbai. Especially if one is not particularly fond of huge crowds and wants to spend a quiet time.
Low hotel rates
The huge rush of tourists in the summer season makes hotel rates in Manali skyrocket, and it’s quite difficult to bargain. Manali has no dearth of foreign crowds; if you refuse to pay up there is always someone more than happy to part with their money without any kind of haggling. But in winter, rates are really low. You can bargain as much as you want to make them come down further.
Snow, lots of snow
If you are a fan of snow-covered mountains, there’s nothing quite like a winter trip to Manali. The entire town is covered with snow in the months of December and January, and provides the ideal conditions for all the fun and play in snow you could ever imagine!
Things you cannot do on a winter trip to Manali
No Rohtang Pass
The Manali-Leh Highway is famous for Rohtang La, a high altitude mountain pass. In ancient times, the pass was used by traders. But it was frequently responsible for their deaths, thanks to the harsh weather conditions. Even today, in spite of the Manali-Leh Highway, this famous tourist hotspot just 52 km from Manali cannot be accessed during winter.
Hikers and trekkers are quite common in and around Manali in summer, but the incessant snowfall in winter means several trekking routes remain off-limits. The most prominent example is the trek to Hampta Pass, known for its dramatic change of landscape from the lush green Kullu Valley to the cold mountain desert of the Spiti Valley. If trekking is high on your list of things to do in Manali, definitely give it a miss in the winter season.
Not much adventure sports
Adventure sports enthusiasts, too, give Manali a miss during winter. Two major adventure sports, paragliding and white water rafting, are incredibly popular in Manali during summer. But in winter, the Beas River waters experience freezing temperatures, definitely not ideal for white water rafters. Paragliding is also a strict no-no because of continuous snowfall and the consequent low-visibility.
Things you can and should do
If what you have read so far has depressed you, it would please you to know that not all activities are out-of-bounds in Manali in the winter months. Here are the things you can and should do during a winter trip to Manali!
Skiing at the Solang Valley
The Solang Valley is a popular tourist spot en route to the Rohtang Pass. But unlike the mountain pass, the valley remains open in winter. And its snow-covered conditions are perfect for casual snowball play or some serious skiing! Even in the summer months, the valley stays snow-laden and provides decent skiing conditions. But if skiing is what you cherish, you must experience Solang Valley in winter!
Take a dip at the Vashisht Hot Springs
The small village of Vashisht is located quite close to Manali, and is prominent for the Vashisht Temple. But what would really make your day on a cold winter afternoon is a dip in the legendary hot springs. The Vashisht hot springs are famous for their sulphur content, and are known to heal multiple medical conditions. Even if you are not stricken by any particular ailment or disease, it would still be a joy to relax and unwind for a while at the hot springs.
Eat some great food
There’s nothing quite like some great warm food to counter the chilly winter days in Manali. Thankfully, there are a lot of great cafes and restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines and top-notch food. Prominent examples are Johnson’s Café, La Plage and Lazy Dog Lounge.
While winter might not be the ideal time for a Manali trip if you want to participate in a ton of activities, it certainly makes for a great experience. You should definitely give it a shot!