What’s your idea of the perfect hill station? Snow-covered mountains, lush greenery, and a silvery river flowing through dense forests? It sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? Well, you can get all that in one place – Manali! The town and its environs have the most picturesque locations and breath-taking views, which are guaranteed to mesmerise every visitor.
A family vacation in Manali can be a fascinating experience for all kinds of travellers. This town in the beautiful state of Himachal Pradesh is a delight for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and even art aficionados. Lone travellers or couples need not feel left out; Manali has lots to offer every type of traveller. But family groups seem to have the most fun!
When you go on a family vacation, the idea is to bond with your family and spend quality time doing activities where all the members are involved. There’s no point watching videos on your mobile or reading a book in a corner; the best time is when the family can have fun as a unit. There is no harm in having some ‘me-time’ on an individual basis, but that should be only after you have spent the day with your family.
Manali offers ample things to do for family bonding and excursions together. It is a hill station right out of a magical fairy tale. Surrounded by snow-clad mountains, you will experience the heady smells of oak, fir, spruce, deodar, maple, walnut, fig, and pine trees wafting through the air. The gushing sound of the river Beas and its pristine clear water is a mesmerising sight.
Top 20 Things to do in Manali
Seek Divine Blessing at Hidimba Temple
Hot Spring Bath
Explore Pin Valley National Park
Visit Arjun Gufa
Explore Beas Kund
Experience Sunrise at Bhrigu Lake
Discover Heritage at Museums
Picnic at Van Vihar
Revisit Bollywood Locations
Trekking is one of the best ways to let off steam while enjoying the beauty of nature. Do not forget your cameras for clicking once-in-a-lifetime memories. Wear good trekking shoes and appropriate clothing to prepare for tranquillity in the lap of nature when trekking together.
Choose a route that all your family members will love. Trekking makes one feel close to nature. Do keep in mind that trekking options in Manali range from day trips to week-long hikes. In case you opt for a longer trek, you can enjoy your stay in camps and interact with the locals.
Depending on your trekking route, you can get in touch with any organiser who has experience in that region and kick-start your adventure. You may choose from the following circuits:
• Beas Kund Trek: Offers glorious views of glaciers and mountains covered with snow
• Lama Dugh Trek: For lovers of thick forests intertwined with meadows
• Vashisht Jogini Waterfall Trek: An easy 3 km trek around the river Beas and beautiful scenic locations of Manali
• Bhrigu Lake Trek: One of the most difficult ones during winters, at a height of 14,100 ft
• Deo Tibba Base Camp Trek: Not meant for the faint-hearted; this 37 km trek to the white mountains and alpine forests will make you forget city life
• Baralacha Chandratal Lake Trek: Only for experienced trekkers as it involves crossing glacial water bodies at high altitude. It starts from the source of the Chandra River and ends at the source of Bhaga River
• Friendship Peak: Provides an experience of trekking on a Himalayan peak at an altitude of 5289 m.
• Hampta Pass Trek: It offers views and experiences similar to Ladakh.
The cost would depend on the route you take and the numbers of days needed to complete the trek. If you are not looking for assisted trekking, you may choose your own path. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’.
The Manali trekking circuit attracts experienced as well as first-time trekkers. It may entice you and your family into taking up trekking as an adventure sport and return to the vast panoramic views of Manali again.
Have you ever wished to fly from one mountain to another? Do you ever dream of getting a bird’s-eye view of magnificent landscapes? Are you looking for an electrifying experience? It is time you take a leap of faith and indulge in the ecstatic pleasure of paragliding. Maybe it could turn out to be one of the most adventurous things you have ever done.
You and your family members (aged above 15) can contact a tour operator who conducts this activity and pre-book for this adventure in any of the following popular places of Manali:
• Solang Valley
• Rohtang Pass
• Bir Billing
• Marhi or Gulaba
This activity in Manali can be done solo or in tandem. The cost of paragliding depends on the package you choose. The actual cost will depend on the package you want, typically Short Flight (for 2-5 minutes and height of 100-150 m up against the slope), Medium Flight (for 3-7 minutes) and High Flight (for 20-30 minutes). The rates may range from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000. The rate may also increase with additions like opting for a cable car or gondola ride and equipment like GoPro camera for recording the flight experience. It may even vary with the season.
The tour operators will provide you with a fully-checked glider, helmet, and harness required for the paragliding activity. An English speaking pilot will also guide you. It is advisable to wear proper fitting footwear and comfortable clothing (track pants instead of jeans or skirts, etc.) Please note that the maximum weight allowed for the participant is 100 kg.
3. Mountain Biking
There are other options as well to explore the stunning snow-clad mountains and thick forests of Manali that you can enjoy with your family. Mountain biking is one such thing to do in Manali. You can take a day trip from Manali to Naggar Castle, Rhala Falls, or Rhumsu Village, or explore other uncharted territories. It is very easy to hire the bikes on paying a negotiable security deposit and return the same after your excursion. The organisers also conduct tours and trips. So, you may either join them or travel around on your own. The cost to rent a bike for a day is usually Rs 500.
It is advisable to carry an extra pair of clothing and a camera to click pictures or videos of the memorable activity.
4. River Rafting
While we’re on adrenaline-pumping experiences, how can one afford to miss the famous river rafting experience? The thrill of river rafting, which you can experience with your family in Manali, will ensure that you plan a return trip soon. The Beas offers the best condition and stretches of water for river rafting. With its origin in the Rohtang Pass, the river is very stable for a stretch of approximately 20 km in around Manali, where adventure enthusiasts can enjoy different grades of rafting.
Beginners can have their first session in Grade 2 near Raison and Babeli, where the expedition is done for a river length of about 3 km. Grade 2 does have harsh waters, but only for small stretches. For experienced adventurers, Grades 3 and 4 near the Pirdi region are recommended. Here the length of the course is about 7 km. In Grade 3, you can enjoy the white foam over the waters and will encounter sudden drops. In Grade 4, the size of waves is entirely unexpected, and even rocks may be encountered during the expedition.
Though river rafting is open in Manali throughout the year except during the monsoon season, it is advisable to enjoy this adventure in June and July. You can contact any adventure operator in Bhuntar to enjoy this sport near Bajaura en route Manali or in Pirdi. The cost of river rafting is usually included with various packages including overnight stay, food, and other activities such as a bonfire. The cost of a basic rafting expedition usually ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 1000.
With the cold spell generally beginning in November-December, Manali is completely covered in thick layers of snow in winter. It also turns this hill station into an adventure zone for winter sports. Skiing is an activity that attracts lakhs of fans; it turns Manali into a hotbed of activity, especially the regions of Rohtang Pass and Solang valley or Solang Nallah. So, count on skiing as yet another adventurous thing to do in Manali.
Beginners can hire a ski instructor to learn the basics of skiing or take a short-term course. Experts can thoroughly enjoy the time to practice and compete with fellows in this white snowy paradise. It is advisable to wear comfortable clothing beneath the woollen layers, suitable footwear, sunglasses, and a waterproof jacket.
Operators provide a safe and sound environment for honing your skills. They will provide all the required equipment and teach essential techniques under the watchful eyes of certified trainers, who will start with an introduction to skiing gear, the basics of skiing (walking in skis, side steps, balancing, and most importantly, the snow plough). The cost begins from Rs 300, dependent on the course and duration. The timings are restricted from 9 am to 6 pm.
6. Sledge Riding
As the Christmas carol goes, riding in a one-horse open sleigh can be a lot of fun. Manali gives you a chance to ride in an open sledge, which comes close. Though there will be no horses or reindeer, you and your family members can step into the shoes of dear Santa Claus and enjoy yourself during snowy winters. It will be an experience of a lifetime. Sit on the wooden sledge and zip down the snow-covered mountains. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the Himalayas and the twists and turns of the trail. This activity in Manali can be enjoyed at both Solang Valley and Rohtang.
It is advisable to not compete with each other as it can lead to accidents. Be vigilant of incoming sledges and other obstacles in your path. It is a good idea to be a defensive driver rather than being aggressive in this sport. Also, first-timers must be careful of thin ice, open water, drifting snow, and obstacles protruding from beneath the snow.
The sport of zorbing secures you inside a giant transparent or white ball, which is rolled along the ground or on water – or downhill, in case of Manali. It is a fun and exciting sport to enjoy with family. While completely safe, it is not recommended for the claustrophobic. There are also weight restrictions. Zorbing is available at various locations around Manali and even in the Solang valley. The cost of one session or round in a zorb is around Rs 500. The ideal time for enjoying this activity is from January to May and October to December, since it may not be conducted in the monsoon.
The stunning snow-clad mountains of Manali offer the perfect view to calm one’s thoughts. It is an exciting experience to stay in the lap of nature and wake up to the sounds of chirping birds and breathe in the fresh air laden with smells of the forest. Imagine peeping out from your bed to witness snowfall outside your tent, or see the first rays of sun glistening on the mountains!
Wouldn’t you and your family cherish these moments for a lifetime? The numerous camping options available in Manali will quench this thirst. The different terrains and heights of camping sites ensure that this activity in Manali can be enjoyed all through the year. Camping sites offer facilities for your convenience, but it is advisable to carry ample woollens since the temperature can suddenly drop in the hills.
Some popular camping sites in Manali are listed below:
• Travelosic Forest Campsite: Located in the middle of a jungle, far away from the crowd, this place is heaven on earth. To get there, one has to trek for an hour from the village of Jagatsukh, but it’s worth the effort. It is famous among the backpacking community for its budget prices.
• Sethan: Uncharted territory in the restricted zone can provide unmatched views of the entire Kullu Valley. The camps are located away from the urban hustle and bustle and in the midst of an apple orchard.
• Riverside camping: The camps are situated on the bank of a river, and a rafting session in included. The sound of flowing water at night will lull you to sleep.
• Solang Valley: One of the most popular and recommended year-round camps with luxury and deluxe accommodations coupled with a number of adventure activities such as skiing, trekking, rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing, paragliding, ATV Ride, Zorbing, Snow Tube ride, snow scooter, bonfire, indoor and outdoor games, etc.
• Bhuntar: A less crowded camping experience when compared with Solang Valley.
• Swiss Tents at Into Wild Himalaya Camps: These special tents provide private bathrooms, in-room services, along with TV screens. Such is the unmatched luxury that cannot even be dreamed of at most other locations!
• Tirthan Jibhi Camp: Stay within the Great Himalayan National Park on the banks of River Jibhi. If you’re lucky, you might spot wild animals and wake up to their calls. After this camping activity, you and your family members will never fear the dark woods.
• Igloo Stay: Near Nagar Road, Prini, these are available only from mid-January till April. If you are there at the right time, you and your family can help make the igloos. Cast the soft snow into bricks of ice and create a place to stay! In case the igloos are already in place, you can enjoy making snowmen and snow angels with your kids. In a tropical country like India, this sort of snow activity is extraordinary.
Charges vary with each campsite and the luxury you wish to avail of. It may also depend on the season.
9. Hidimba Temple
Also known as Dhungiri Temple, this is an ancient temple in Manali dedicated to Hidimbi Devi, from the mythological epic Mahabharata. She was the wife of Bhima, the second eldest Pandava and was a mother to Ghatotkach, who was of great help to Pandavas during the war. It is believed that the goddess Hidimbi meditated in the cave here during the exile of the Pandavas.
Maharaja Bahadur Singh built the present wooden pagoda-like temple in 1553 after forest fires burned down earlier structures. Standing on a stone platform surrounded by old deodar trees, the three-tiered temple is crowned with pennants, brass bells, and a trident. Carvings of animals, plants, and folk deities adorn the temple, while hunting trophies hang over the entrance. The sanctum sanctorum consists of no images or idols, but only footprints on a stone. The deity is worshipped by the locals and the rulers alike, especially during Navaratras, the important nine days of worshipping Goddess Durga.
An annual celebration known as Dhungri festival is organised at the temple and is attended by large numbers of people of the region. During this annual feature, the chief goddesses from different villages are decorated and brought to the Hidimba temple complex. The highlights include Kullu Natti folk dance, drum sounds, and vast amounts of local enthusiasm.
10. Hot Spring Bath
Even in the snow-clad mountains, the miracle of nature can be witnessed in the form of hot springs in and around Manali, namely at Vashisht temple and Manikaran. These natural springs are said to have therapeutic properties due to the presence of sulphur deposits.
The Vashisht temple is believed to be the home of Guru Vashisht, who was the teacher of Lord Rama. You and your family can learn about our mythological past and also get a chance to bathe in the hot water springs. This is claimed to have medicinal benefits. This temple is well connected by road, with local buses plying all day. It is also a good trekking route.
The temple is open on all days throughout the year. It is open to visitors from 7 am to 9 pm. Baths are possible from 7 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 9 pm.
Another site of hot springs is Manikaran. It is situated in the Parvati valley on the banks of river Parvati. Here the water is much hotter compared to that of Vashisht temple – to the extent that the langar or prashad (food) served in the Gurudwara is cooked in the hot springs whose temperature ranges from 65°C to 80 °C.
11. Pin Valley National Park
This natural wonder of Manali extends over an area of 1,150 sq km as a buffer zone and 675 sq km as core zone and is a part of the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area. It was established in 1987. The height ranges from 3500 m to 6000 m.
Along with an astonishing range of flora and fauna (including around 400 plant species), Pin Valley National Park is home to the endangered snow leopard, red fox, marten, weasel, pika, Himalayan snow cock, chukor, golden eagle, griffon, chough, and raven.
The park opens at 6 am in the morning and closes at 6 pm on all days. There are no entry charges. You and your family can enjoy quality time at this park during the safari and spotting different animals.
12. Art for Art’s Sake
Your love for art and artefacts will reach new levels when you see the different kinds of art at Naggar Castle in Manali. It is indeed an art lover’s delight. This castle in Manali has been turned into a heritage hotel and is run and maintained by HP Tourism Development Corporation. An oft-forgotten fact is that Naggar was the capital of the Kullu Rajas for about 1,400 years. This place has a history of its own and is worth a visit. It is open on all days from 7 am to 10 pm.
About 1.5 km from Naggar Castle is the prominent Nicholas Roerich Museum. It was built in memory of the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich who arrived in the Himalayas after the Russian Revolution of 1917. He lived the rest of his life here and died in 1947. He was married to Helena Roerich. The Nicholas Roerich art gallery was founded in 1962 by his son, Svetoslav Roerich, who was married to Indian actor Devika Rani. Most of the paintings depict ice-covered valleys and peaks. The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm on all days except Monday.
13. Arjun Gufa
Manali, named after the Sanatan Hindu lawgiver Manu, has many religious connections. It has links to Manu Smriti, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. In the same spirit, our next pick is a popular cave called Arjun Gufa. It is situated on the banks of River Beas near Prini village. To visit this cave, a half-day trek has to be undertaken through dense forests. You can choose to stay at Travelosic Forest Campsite and visit Arjun Gufa from there with a guide.
This place is closely linked with the epic Mahabharata. It is believed that it was in this cave that Arjuna meditated for strength as per the advice of Lord Krishna. With his dedication, he pleased Lord Indra and was granted the most potent weapon – Pashupati Astra. It is touted to be the nuke of that era.
14. Beas Kund
Have you seen how a river takes birth? Don’t miss a trek to the originating point of the holy Beas River. It is believed that the great sage Vyas – who was the author of the Mahabharata – used to take his daily bath here. The Kund is a sacred place for Hindus. The origin of Beas is protected underneath an igloo-like stone structure. It attracts lakhs of devotees every year.
The rough terrain and pure magnificence of this place have a strange charm. In addition to its religious importance and untamed beauty, this place also serves as the base point for treks such as Ladakhi, Shitidhar, Friendship, and Hanuman Tibba peaks. The Kund is open all days from 6 am to 6 pm. There is no entry fee.
15. Sunrise at Bhrigu Lake
Do you believe in the existence of God and his presence on Earth? Do you want to visit a place in Manali that is considered to be a bathing spot for Gods? Then a visit to Bhrigu Lake is a must. Named after Rishi Bhrigu, it is also known as ‘Pool of the Gods’ as many gods are claimed to have visited this lake for holy dips. This picturesque lake sits at a height of 4,240 m.
Bhrigu Lake is supplemented by a natural spring, Nehru Kund, which gets water from this lake and enhances its beauty manifold. Sunrise at Bhrigu Lake is a sight to behold. If you love photography, this place offers ample opportunities. The interplay of natural colours is both exquisite and breathtaking.
The Buddhist monasteries set up in Manali by the Tibetans and other followers of Buddhism offer a tranquil atmosphere. Even though some of them are in the middle of an urban sprawl, they provide such calm and solace that you will be overwhelmed by the serenity. These places also provide an opportunity to understand Buddhist culture. Your family will enjoy the comfort of peaceful monasteries after all the action-packed adventure sports.
Some popular monasteries in Manali are Manali Gompa, Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa, and Himalayan Nyingamapa Gompa. Gadhan Thekchoking Gompa is located near the Mall in Manali. This monastery was constructed in 1969 and is run by the local people through donations. The Tibetan handicrafts and carpets that are woven and sold in the monastery make great gifts. The monastery is built in the Tibetan style of architecture, with a prominent statue of the Buddha.
Himalayan Nyingamapa Gompa is situated near a bustling marketplace. The outside may be a beehive of activity, but the inside is very peaceful. It is a sight to see after nightfall, when it is lit up. The architecture replicates a more modern style and there’s a large gold-faced bronze statue of the Buddha.
The Tibetan market on the outskirts of these monasteries offers beautiful handicrafts and carpets. You can pick up some gifts for friends at discounted prices. The timings to visit the monasteries in Manali are 6 am to 6 pm, and there is no entry fee.
17. Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art
The best way to understand the culture of a place is to interact with the locals. The next best way is to visit the local museums. This Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art has an exclusive collection of unknown and rare antiques. You can get to know about the culture of the state along with its art and handicrafts.
The museum has exquisite models of temples, old houses, and forts. It also has a good collection of traditional dresses, utensils, musical instruments, wooden carvings, and various other such articles. The entry fee is a meagre Rs 10, but the experience is invaluable.
18. Picnic at Van Vihar
A day trip to Van Vihar in Manali offers a chance to relax in the lap of nature. Lay out a mat on the soft green grass in the garden and read a book of your choice or play with your kids. It is a perfect place for unwinding and de-stressing. Van Vihar has a crystal-clear lake that provides a good boating experience. The boats available here are manually operated by oars. The charges are Rs 30 for 15 minutes. Such a place is not only great for families but also for couples who’re looking to spend some bonding time with each other and create memories they can carry back home.
19. The Bollywood Connection
Umpteen Bollywood movies have been shot in and around Manali. It is a good idea to revisit those places in real life. Since Kashmir has been off-limits to film shoots for much of the past three decades, Manali has often been passed off as Kashmir. This has caused an increase in the number of curious visitors – to such an extent that a popular bridge was renamed after a movie.
Here are some popular movies that were shot in Manali:
• Roja – Major scenes of this film which were presented as Kashmir were in reality shot in Manali. The male protagonist was kidnapped in front of the famous Hidimba Temple.
• Krish – The song Aao Sunao Pyar Ki Ek Kahani was shot amidst the picturesque mountains and the riverside scenes picturised across the River Beas in Manali.
• Jab We Met – The song Yeh Ishq Hai was shot in Naggar Castle and at white walls of Rohtang Pass.
• Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani – Some scenes were shot at Hidimba Mata Temple. The trekking depicted in the movie, involving Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and their friends, was shot at Hampta Pass.
• Fanaa – The scenes supposedly of Kashmir Valley were actually shot in Manali.
• 3 Idiots – Towards the end of the movie, when Kareena Kapoor was removed from her wedding by the two friends Madhavan and Sharman Joshi to join their quest to meet Aamir Khan, they were shown as driving from Manali to Ladakh.
• Bang Bang – Manali Bridge has now been renamed as ‘Bang Bang Bridge’ after this Hrithik Roshan movie became popular.
Who doesn’t want to go to a place that has been acknowledged by Bollywood, right?
No vacation is complete without shopping for some items, such as local handicrafts. These are a reminder of the local culture and the memories that you will carry from Manali. The most popular shopping places are Old Manali Market, Himachal Emporium, Tibetan Market, Manu Market, The Mall Road and Bhuttico (a women’s cooperative). Most of these local handicrafts are intricately designed and showcase the creativity of the people of Manali which make them great takeaways.
Things to Keep in Mind While Planning a Family Vacation in Manali
The weather will play an essential role in your family vacation and help you in deciding your itinerary. Always keep in mind that the mountains can be unpredictable when it comes to weather. A sunny day can suddenly turn dark in seconds. Summer and winter are both best time to visit Manali with family. However, the adventure sports one can enjoy differ from season to season.
Other important events to watch out for while visiting Manali are Dussehra and the Hidimba Devi Festival, both of which are celebrated with unequivocal passion. The city gets a new life and is filled with colour at these times. The Hidimba Devi fair is held in May, whereas Dussehra usually in the month of October or November.
So that concludes the list things to do in Manali with your family. With such gamut of activities, this hill station is undoubtedly a popular travel destination. There is no shortage of hotels and resorts in and around Manali. But if you would like to enjoy a memorable stay, look no further than Club Mahindra Manali resort in Himachal Pradesh.
A Club Mahindra resort invariably offers comfortable and spacious rooms with all modern amenities. The Manali resort has an in-house restaurant where one can relish the local cuisine of Himachal Pradesh with family. Pamper yourself at the Svaastha Spa, master your gaming skills with your family at the activity centre, keep your fitness levels high with a workout session at the gym, and unwind in the evening at the well-stocked bar.
Club Mahindra has various properties not just across India but other countries too. Their spacious rooms and delightful cuisines add the to auro of the already brilliantly created resorts. They cater to all kinds of needs and travellers who look for adventure as well as luxury during their stay. They’ll make you feel right at home while providing all kinds of authentic and modern facilities that anyone could ask for. And the best part is that not only can you book your entire stay with Club Mahindra but also your whole tour exactly according to the itinerary you want. While families can book packages which cater to elders and children, solo travellers can book those adventure tours and couples on a honeymoon can book romantic leisure activities that can help bond better.
Every room of the Club Mahindra resort offers grand vistas of mesmerising mountains and lush greenery. Read through these Club Mahindra reviews to get a sneak peek of what members have to say about their stay at Manali resort in Himachal Pradesh.
So what are you waiting for? Plan your memorable family vacation at Manali resort today!