Manali Travel Blog 2023: Taste of the Spirited Peaks

Manali travel blog. Staying in Southern India, I was looking out to visit the northern peaks for quite sometime. And Manali was something of a dreamland for someone witnessing a part of the world’s highest mountain range.

The curvy roads that get slimmer as you move up to more deserted addresses. Quietness deafening (and frosty) at night but immediately lifts off when travelers from faraway places speak their warm stories before bed.

This place wasn’t my first thought considering the touristy hype. Yet for a first timer, it was quite an experience. Here’s all about my Manali travel blog.

*This post contains affiliate link(s). We only promote products we trust and use.

Manali Travel Blog: The itinerary plan

Keeping budget in mind while balancing experiences like river rafting and the drive over Rohtang Pass, we came down priorities – Manali and Bir Billings for our almost 6 days itinerary.

We gave Manali 3 days which I felt was fairly sufficient to have a touch of the place. Picking aside the big-time adventures and treks, it leaves out the real town with its Old Manali market, cheap thrift stores in Vashisht, bridges over tiny streams, and steaming Siddu.

markets of manali
  • Save
Manali budget trip: Markets of Old Manali

In the 3 days, neither did we miss on rafting in River Beas and trekking Jogini waterfalls, or spending a little more on a riverside cafe for an evening (it was expensive).

Factually speaking, we couldn’t let budget out of our sight mostly because we were visiting from Bangalore. Most visitors, who tend to be frequent, come from Chandigarh, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

“Hey, we’ve got vacation, let’s hit the road”… “where are we going?”… “How’s Manali? It’s a one-night drive anyhow”

If there’s a positive about Delhi, one can start to any northern part of India from Delhi. Visiting from the south, the budget is nothing short of a foreign trip. Flight expenses make a huge part of it. For first-timers with finite time, traveling gets expensive with sky-high touristy rates if we aren’t careful.

Manali Travel Blog: Our 3 days journey

Manali being the popular kid it is, a good move we took was prebooking our dormitory stay. I wished on trying cheaper remote hostels but we finally decided on sticking to the trusted comfort, Zostel.

Selling like hot cakes, we could only reserve one day at Zostel, Vashisht so we shifted to Zostel Old Manali for the other 2 days. Semi-sleeper buses to Manali are usually plentiful with more or less the same rate, yet we prebooked that as well.

We hadn’t planned on transport but a rough sketch was to rent out bikes. However, things turned out different. They always do, don’t they?

Flight to Delhi from Bangalore: A 6-hour delay

Manali budget trip: The trip started off perfectly – bags packed and squeezed into the taxi, dropped off right next to the trolley array. Air tickets to Delhi, check! The small hitch was when we entered the domestic departure, the 11:30 a.m. flight was cancelled. Not delayed, cancelled – due to a cyclone.

The officers at the baggage check-in couldn’t assure seats at the next flight to Delhi. One dude who later became a good pal along the trip thought out a strategy. He politely approached the head (or someone who looked it) and agreed to the next early evening (5:00 pm) flight.

premium lounge access bangalore airport
  • Save
Manali budget trip: Premium lounge at Bangalore airport

For compensation, he also requested the premium lounge access for the time period. Tagging in along, we were in for a treat for the following 5 hours. The buffet, comfortable seats, and even a mini library saved us a little on lunch.

We weren’t so worried as we had our Manali sleeper bus late at night. But inevitably, it was a rat race from the airport to the bus stop. Delhi’s heat was a cherry on top. We did somehow make it :)

Day 1: Vashisht, Jogini Falls, and Thrift Shops

Most overnight semi-sleepers from Delhi take an average of 14 hours to Manali. Taking the late night bus, we reached Manali around noon. With the local taxis hurdled as we alighted the bus, the idea of renting bikes went poof. Not to mention, the travel fatigue.

So we bargained our best with a taxi straight to our hostel in Vashisht Manali. It wasn’t a bad idea for 4 people.

We were only a group of 3 at first. But remember that smart dude with an idea at the Bangalore airport? All stars aligned and he came to Manali with us on the same bus and even had booked the same zostel booked for the evening! So he tagged along for the ride. We freshened up and went down the street for lunch.

Manali budget trip – Compared to Old Manali, Vashisht is way less touristy – something I loved about the place. The best part was the remote scenery.

Small houses on the banks of the river that flowed through the valley amidst peaks. From the Zostel, one could see the whole picture.

vashisht zostel manali
  • Save
Manali travel blog: Finally at peace from flights, buses and taxis… for 2 seconds

Added to it, the places to check out were in a walkable distance here.

Places to check out in Vashisht are:

  1. Jogini Falls
  2. Hot water spring
  3. Vashisht temple
  4. Thrift shops and cafes

Trekking Jogini Falls

Jogini Falls was nothing short of a small trek for a couple of hours. You can stay at the bottom and witness the amazing view of the cold waterfall far above in the cracks of the peak.

But the trek up is worth every step. The close-up of the painfully freezing water and to walk through it barefoot is something else. Most people naturally followed the others before them. It’s a sense of security I suppose.

As we walked a local lady covered in wrinkles, however, pointed at a remote route through trees where no one seemed to be going. We exchanged glances. I was in for an adventure.

Though with stops of hesitation as we found no one following behind or ahead, we made it to the same falls. And what a beauty it was! A large dog (or a wolf) tagged along and began drinking the freezing water from the large puddle of the falls.

Manali travel blog: Jogini waterfalls from a close-up

So much for a natural landscape. Walking through the same puddle to the other side of the falls with shoes in hands, we made it to the other side. Alighting, we realized that the path down was the same one everyone were trying to go up from.

We were glad on listening to the sweet local lady :)

Thrift Stores for the evening

Manali budget trip – Hot water springs and Vashisht temple made up other parts of Vashisht. Our last stop for the day was the thrift stores down the narrow alleys of the locality. Himalayan handiworks, Kashmiri coats, and woollen accessories.

After some bargaining, we couldn’t help but get ourselves a warm jacket each. As for prices, we thought it expensive until we hit Mall Road. Vashisht, compared to Old Manali and Mall road, is way cheaper and definitely worth the visit for shopping.

rohtang pass, thrift stores manali
  • Save
Manali travel blog: A coat I picked from a thrift store!

Not many people stay here thus keeping a local touch to the place. However, the local stores close in early evenings here.

Day 2: Rohtang Pass, Old Manali, and Mall Road

We’d called the same taxi dude from the previous day for Rohtang Pass, he was cute. Rohtang pass is part of the Pir Panjal range situated 51 km from Manali. Anyone driving over the pass needs to hold a permit.

Visiting in June, Rohtang was open to visitors with a moderate climate. The narrow roadways, snowcaps, and rocks slipping away makes the trip all the more exciting. A single breakdown ultimately results in a vehicle jam all the way down the foothills of the peak.

So we began around 5:30 in the morning and were quite lucky to not come across any breakdown. A large tank truck did get stuck in soft part of a road ahead but thank god it was resolved quick!

A large vehicle blocking the way means getting stuck on the road, explained the taxi driver. “Getting stuck” can mean anywhere from 4 hours or more than a day on Rohtang Pass. There’s no telling about it.

But was it worth it?

We stopped away from the crowds of skis and mountain bikes at an isolated spot. The valley before us, snow beneath our boots and sliding down the peaks as we climbed it was worth it all at 13,000 ft!

manali travel guide, rohtang pass snow
  • Save
Manali travel blog: Paradise at

Atal Tunnel and Parottas

Alighting the peak, we stopped for brunch at a series of dhabas. Without breakfast before, we hogged on the hot parottas coming to the table. For a touristy place, the prices were quite affordable like any dhaba I’ve been to. Not to mention, quite delicious too!

The white snowcap perked on the brown-green peak, cold streams running down, in the backdrop added to the brunch view.

Exploring the road as we headed down the other side of the peak, I learned that this was the start point for getting to Spiti Valley upon making it down the curves from Rohtang Pass. The opposite road led to Sissu (Sisu Manali) and Atal tunnel where we headed. Atal tunnel was next.

Atal Tunnel didn’t offer much to see – it’s a tunnel afterall. But we did pass through it, the world’s longest highway tunnel named after our former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

At one end we struggled through curvy paths and congestion up a peak. The other was a smooth 9 km back to the start point. The build structure is something to ponder over.

Old Manali

Our next stop was Zostel in Old Manali, shifting our backpacks here from Vashisht zostel. Zostel in Old Manali is more on an edge through a farmland alley.

There isn’t a road connectivity – at least not for a car. But we couldn’t care less. Entering our dorm rooms, we sank into our beds for a good hour or two.

old manali streets, manali travel blog
  • Save

For the evening, the walk to Old Manali’s markets as a long one across the Manalsu river (part of Beas later), Clubhouse road, and Manali Nature Park and then the Hadimba Devi Temple. Though the walk’s long, it’s best for the evenings.

Old Manali is where all the popular budget hostels exist. GoStops Manali, Madpackers Hostel, and all other inventive cozy names you can think of for traveler hostels lay here. It reminded a little of Arambol in Goa, a hippie culture.

For booking backpacker hostels in Manali, HostelWorld has a range of options for quite affordable rates. I’ve been using HostelWorld for sometime now and its reliable. Check out HostelWorld Manali accommodations here.

Manali Travel Blog: Mall Road

Our last stop at the end of our walk was the infamous Mall Road down from Old Manali’s accomodations. It’s best to visit this street at night for the best experience.

Being a tourist hotspot, the street is crowded every single night with tourists flocking in for shopping, dining, or simply taking a stroll. There are all sorts of stores here ranging from local handicraft stores, clothing, to electronics.

While the street looked lively and reminded me of Bangalore’s nightlife, it was purely touristy and nothing authentic of the place. Everything was expensive. Even the overpriced momo stalls tasted different than the local ones around Manali – all tuned to the tastes of tourists.

Neither are stall owners friendly here – I guess overtourism had its take on behaviour. A stroll through Mall Road is sweet for a change, watching people and kids with ice creams.

When staying in Old Manali, it’s best to walk here in the evening. Neither cars, nor bikes have enough spaces for parking which got frustrating for us the following day.

mall road, mall road blog
  • Save
Manali budget trip: Siddu at Mall road :)

Day 3: River Rafting and Maggi

Manali budget trip. Final day was for river rafting. More than rafting in Kullu itself, we spent more time getting there and waiting. I had high hopes for rafting but was disappointed when we weren’t allowed to paddle.

All raft boats here were equipped with large paddles for the main paddler at the back while we only held tight in the front. Rafting in Dandeli months earlier with full control in our hands, this wasn’t all fun.

But touching water as we furthered, I realized how painful a fall could be – it was freezing. Every splash spew cold water piercing our skin while the boat slipped through rocks and gushes.

Under the sun yet shivering was one thing. Later the person at the back let us jump into the waters. I glanced at the others for one second, the next I plunged in. Boy, was it cold!

The raft lasted 30 minutes and we waited a while at the end point along shallow waters and small pebbles, talking with our paddler and a photographer who insisted on taking pictures.

Riding back, we were quite hungry while being hesitant with the budget for Manali trip. We’d spent a great deal rafting and even more on the GoPro pictures on the paddler’s head (they’re always unreasonably overpriced).

river beas rafting, kullu manali
  • Save
Manali travel blog: Moments before we plunged in!

So we stopped at the closest Maggi road stall we found for ‘lunch’. With a few stalls close by – we got pani puri, momos, and Siddu as well. The steaming siddus here again tasted very different from Mall road – and 3 times cheaper!

From Kullu, we thought of visiting the Kullu Naggar castle but I regret we decided not to at the end, it would have been amazing. The other thing to do in Kullu was paragliding, but we had Bir for it anyhow.

Manali travel Blog: Places we missed on

Manali travel blog. Like Kullu Naggar Castle, there were some other places I regret missing on. Museum of Himchal Culture and Folk art, numerous monasteries like the Himalayan Nyinmapa Buddhist monastery. I wish we’d time for Manali local sightseeing away from streets tailormade for tourists.

However, our trip to Manali was satisfactory. Manali changes through the year. Trip to Manali in April gets very different from Manali in December. For example, Solang Valley is ideal to visit in winter (December to February) for skiing.

Nevertheless, I didn’t regret not visiting Solang Valley as no skiing was available in June. Nor was snow in sight here when we passed by after Atal tunnel. For the next visit, considering a nearby village like Sethan, Sissu, or Jibhi rather than Manali is worth looking forward to.

manali travel blog
  • Save
Manali travel blog: Pictures at Mall road realizing we couldn’t afford shit.

Manali Budget Trip: Overall expense

Including our flight tickets and bus to Manali and Bir Billings was 30k. But to consider only Manali, we could’ve spent lesser on our stay. For safety’s sake, it was however worth the first time.

The semi-sleeper bus from Delhi was a flat Rs. 1400 per seat. With the classy riverside restaurants for dinner, a lot on cab, bike rental and additional expenses on snacks – it wasn’t superbudget friendly.

Including the accommodation (Rs. 800/night approx.), we each spent around Rs. 2500 per day on an average. Note that Rohtang Pass and rafting were expensive trips. For Rohtang Pass, enquire about the jacket rentals before booking because that’s where we got scammed by our driver (the nice guy).

We paid almost Rs. 700 per head at a stall he affiliated for the full-body jacket rental. Most sites I checked later on mention Rs. 250 per set. In overall, be aware of expenses in attraction spots beforehand – they’ll cost a big chunk.

That sums up my Manali travel blog. Hope you have a safe trip :)

ooty trip itinerary
  • Save
Manas Patil

Hi there! I'm a 22-year-old dude all the way from India, I love traveling and building itineraries! Sign up and get your FREE COPY of my travel checklist to get the best of your next vacation!

Get my FREE Travel Checklist Here!

I believe checklists help get the best out of any itinerary.

Sign up and get my FREE TRAVEL CHECKLIST straight to your inbox!

It's worth it, I promise :)

1 thought on “Manali Travel Blog 2023: Taste of the Spirited Peaks”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Copy link