Set in shades of the Himalayas, in the revered Kullu Valley, Manali continues to be in the checklist of millions of backpackers in India. Its romantic scenery has filled the hearts of filmmakers and honeymooners alike. Manali is located about 270 km away from Shimla, and about 544 km from New Delhi, making it a perfect haven for all kinds of travelers to experience the beauty of Himachal Pradesh and the Himalayas. Manali is more popular as a summer destination during the months of March to June when thousands arrive to beat the summer heat of the plains, enjoy the thriving summer bloom, and to engage in activities like river rafting, zip lining and paragliding. But more recently, Manali has seen more crowds during the winter months from December to February, and rightfully so. The winter months are the perfect time to explore the sparkling white side of India, yet not as spine-chilling as the Upper Himalayas.
Why Travel to Manali during winter
If you’re still not sure whether visiting Manali during winter is a good idea, here are a few reasons to convince you:
The snow : Manali gets moderate to heavy snowfall on most winters making the winter months the ideal time to watch and play in snow.
Winter-Sports : Just like in summer, Adventure sports such as snow trekking, skiing, snow scooters, and zorbing are also popular during winters in Manali.
Less Crowded : Being a popular vacation spot, Manali can get really crowded during peak season in summer which goes against the peaceful ambience but winters are far less crowded.
Cheaper prices : Owing to the lesser traffic, most shops, hotels and transportation facilities are much cheaper than during summer, when it can get unreasonably expensive to experience the place.
Winters in Manali - Special Attractions
1. Solang Valley
Also known as “Snow Valley”, this beautiful valley is located between Solang village and Beas Kund, about 13 km from Manali town. Solang Valley is a popular attraction in Manali throughout the year. During winters, the snow covered landscape is a mesmerizing sight, in addition to offering the perfect venue for adventure sports like snowmobiling, skiing, and snowboarding. The Solang Ropeway is a cabin ride with a breathtaking aerial view of the valley.
2. Old Manali
This laid-back town is popular among backpackers for its bohemian style cafes, hotels, and shops, with winding wooded mountain trails, a beautiful view of the Manaslu River, and the long stretches of apple orchards. Hadimba Temple - an ancient cave shrine among cedar trees is also worth the visit during winter
3. Dechen Choekhor Mahavihara Monastery
The vibrant colors and the distinct Indo-Tibetan Architecture of this 16th Century monastery stands apart even more in the white snowy background. The peaceful aura of the monastery overlooking the Beas Valley is an experience you will never forget.
4. Vasisht Kund
Vashisht Kund, named after the Hindu Saint Vashisht, is a scenic village with the view of the Beas River. The historic wooden Temple of Vashisht is also not to be missed. The main attraction is the fuming hot water spring which is more pronounced against the backdrop of the snow covered terrain. The famous Jogini Falls is also a small hike from Vashisht village.
Naggar is a village in Kullu district and was earlier the capital of Kullu Kingdom. It is popular among adventurers and explorers during winter for its snow covered trekking routes. The 15th Century Naggar Palace built in Western Himalayan architecture is now a hotel and has a gallery housing the paintings of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich.
Gulaba village is an off-beat location on the snow covered route from Manali to Rohtang Pass. The village is known for its snowy landscape and the snow point during winters, and also for various adventure sports like snow scooters, hiking, and trekking. Visit to Gulaba requires an online permit, which is to be submitted at the Checkpoint.
6. Beas Kund
Beas Kund trek takes you to the source of the majestic Beas River. The trekking path covered in snow, and the frozen lake at the end are popular among explorers worth the effort, though it could be difficult for an average traveler.
Winter Weather in Manali
Unlike the pleasant summertime temperature which ranges from 22 - 30 Degrees Celsius, Winters in Manali could fall way below the comfortable levels, especially for travelers not accustomed to cold winters. The average temperature varies from about 5 degrees celsius in the morning to below -7 degrees celsius at night with moderate to heavy snowfall and cold winds from the mountains.
Closed Roads and Attractions
Most of the roads in Kullu and the various National Highways connecting to major cities like Delhi and Chandigarh are open throughout the year, even during peak winters. The road from Manali to Spiti Valley and the Atal Tunnel and the road to Rohtang pass, beyond Gulaba are closed during heavy snowfall from November to May. Hampta pass - a popular trekking destination is also closed during winter months from November to February.
Things to Remember and Challenges while Travelling to Manali During Winters
Not for everyone - Even though Manali is captivatingly beautiful during winters, the trip is not for everyone. While the weather in summer months are calm and pleasant, the winters can be extremely cold and uncomfortable for infants or the elderly.
Health conditions - Consult your doctor before traveling to Manali during winter season if you are suffering from any health conditions like asthma, allergies or heart diseases. Traveling during fever or flu is also not advisable. The freezing cold weather could also cause frostbite or hypothermia, especially while trekking.
Adventure sports - Always follow the instructions of safety officers, and the Government while engaging in any adventurous activities.
Passes and Permits- Many places around Manali require passes for people and vehicles. Ensure that you have updated passes before traveling.
Know the way and weather - Winter weather in and around Manali could fluctuate a lot. Check the weather before the trip and also during visits to nearby attractions or trekking. While trekking to remote areas, carry a route map or GPS, as heavy snow could cover the paths.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Manali this winter season!