Everyone heads to Manali to escape the stifling heat of the plains but to see this Himachal hill town in all its glory, there’s no better time than winter when the entire landscape is carpeted by a blanket of snow.
The drive from Kullu to Manali is extremely picturesque but with sleet on the roads you have to drive carefully. You can stop virtually anywhere along the way for a snowball fight, or even to build a snowman!
Since winter is the off season here, most local hotels offer hefty discounts. Be prepared to bargain while making your reservation. Winter or not, visitors can take a dip at the hot You can sulphur springs in Vashisth or head to Solang Valley which is ideal for novices who want to learn how to ski. Foodies have plenty of dining options at New Manali. Most restaurants offer fresh Himalayan trout, but try Johnson’s Cafe for the best fare. As you walk down the Mall Road, you can also partake of hot Gulab Jamuns from street vendors. Although small in size, they make the ideal snack for winter evenings.
With little to do in winter, most of the tourist action is centred on the Mall Road. Walk up a hill to visit the Hadimba Temple, which was built in 1553 and is dedicated to goddess Hadimba Devi.
Where to eat: Johnson’s Cafe for some awesome trout, and Chopsticks for Tibetan and Chinese food.
Travel tips Drive only if you have experience of doing so on mountain roads. Due to heavy snowfall, incoming buses often stop 15-20 kilometres short of Manali. From here, you can get cabs on hire. It’s important to wear the right kind of footwear to walk on snow. You can also purchase snow shoes from local shops in Manali for 300 rupees.