With the temperature in the plains rising and the Indian summer reaching its peak, there has not been a better time than now to head for the hills. School summer holidays are already on and despite social media photos of over tourism ruining the charm of the Himalayas, Manali still beckons. Cairo is unbearably hot right now and in this North African country, there are no green mountains to escape the heat. So, I do the next best thing to catching a plane to somewhere cooler; I pore over my old travel photos (especially of cooler climes) again and again. This activity sort of calms me down and my Manali trip memories never fail to put a smile on my lips. That was a very relaxing experience; one that made an ardent fan of the old, popular Himalayan hill station.

paragliding views of offbeat manali

Beautiful bird’s eye view of Manali

I spent around two weeks there, simply unwinding and relaxing. The lush nature kept me enraptured and I enjoyed the food, the apple orchards, the mountains, and the local people. Needless to say, those two weeks were amazing for reasons above and beyond this, as you will see in the photos I am posting below. I am sure they inspire you to pack your bags and visit Manali right now. So, enjoy the pictures and if you are one of those unfortunate souls like me, who do not have any summer plans, then I hope this photo essay will take you on a relaxing armchair trip.

Try fruit picking as an offbeat Manali experience

The lush apple orchards of Manali

I stayed at a cottage outside Old Manali. It was rustic, had comfortable amenities and a lovely garden. The forest covered mountain sloped behind the backyard and a young stream gurgled across the street. Being summer, the garden was in full bloom. There were fat roses, hydrangeas, and lots of pansies. Bees were busy drawing nectar and I watched them all while relaxing on the sun lounger.

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Mountains, forests and blue skies of Manali.

Sometimes, when I needed a bit of action, I would ask my driver to slowly go around Manali. The views were captivating. Forests scented the air when traffic was not there and the dense green were pleasing to the eyes. The Beas river was everywhere I went. She gurgled past the main road, went swiftly under obscure suspension bridges and made forests thrive on both sides of the river. Often she seemed to dip into a gorge with steep cliffs plunging into it from two sides and sometimes she seemed happy to just stick to a shallow pebbly bed.

Young rivers and their pebbly beds.

Rice fields of Manali

The rice fields of Manali remain fresh on my mind. That they were fluorescent yellow in colour, thus contrasting beautifully with the surrounding nature made them get embedded in my memory. I also learned that these paddy fields did not bear our regular Basmati rice. Instead, these precious patches were the last remaining acres of the precious indigenous red rice. A rare crop of high medicinal and food value is on the verge of extinction since the farmers prefer the cash-rich commercial crops over its production. It is believed that the red rice was introduced into the valley about 250 years ago and can only be cultivated at a height of more than 5,500 feet. It is of two varieties namely Jaatu (whose seedling plants are first grown in water before they are transplanted) and Matali (whose seedlings plants are directly grown on dry land but are transplanted in water). You can still see the traditional red rice being cultivated around Marhi, Parsha, Bror, Baragran, Kais, Gazan,Karjan, Rangri and Chhaki.

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The winding roads around Manali

The shepherds and the winding roads around Manali

manali panorama

Another view of Manali

A view from across the street where my cottage stood.

The peaks and the meadows of Rohtang Pass.

Even a cloudy afternoon does not mar Manali’s charms.

A beautiful view en route to Rohtang Pass from Manali.

Add a bit of regular thrill like paragliding at Solang Valley.

Despite being very touristy, Rohtang Pass can be lovely.

The lure of mountain high and aphrodisiacs.

Horse riding in Rohtang near Manali

Manali was one of my best travel experiences yet.