India: Learning the Art of Slow Living in Manali

Nathan Zinara Blog NatnZin

Manali. We don’t think there’s any place that gets us in the heart like Manali. At least for now.

Not that Manali actually gets us. Or we get Manali. Y’know, we don’t pretty much do the cream and stuff. And Z had to marvel at each and everyone who spoke to her in Hindi, and later explain in English that her Hindi is poor. And say she’s Sri Lankan. Not from Kerala. But that was Manali. A tiny part of it.

Himachali Trout Manali India
We tried the famous Himachali trout in Manali for dinner one night.
NatnZin Manali Travel Guide
Beautiful views from our guesthouse balcony

Monday. A bumpy Volvo bus drops us off at Manali Bus Stand. It’s freezing and below ten celsius. Nathan quickly rushes to the counter and reserves our return bus ticket to Delhi. It highlights a whopping 3000 Indian rupees for a very uncomfortable bumpy bus ride of 13 hours. We quickly takes a tuk for seventy something rupees to Drifter’s Inn and Cafe in Old Manali. Nothing in India opens early. Manali, the beloved Himachali town follows the same rule. Except for one tiny kade. We quickly rush inside. Ten minutes later, a warm plate of two aloo parantha and pickle greet us hello, followed by possibly the best tomato cheese omelette we ever had. And a two cups of chai. Masala chai. Nothing works in India without chai. They, we, everyone breathes chai here. (Also read: Natural Mystic Sanctuary: Finding bliss in Deniyaya)

After our breakfast, we walk to our home in Manali – Orchard House: A Hidden Tribe. A gorgeous guesthouse inside the village of Old Manali. It lives up to its name, “Hidden Tribe.” We walk past tiny oldschool hamlets brimming with colour. Tiny kids who rush to morning schools and families poured with love. “I love it here,” Z whispers to Nathan.

After a quick nap, we walked down the aisle back to the main street. Settle down for a cup of chai again. As we walk past tiny cafes, Indian, Korean and continental, a cool breeze embraces us. Temperatures drop down to freezing numbers here in October. Freezing. At least for us. Anything below 15 Celsius is cold for us Sri Lankans. We stop by Spice and Ice for dinner. Twentysome minutes later, we have a plate of butter chicken and freshly baked, warm roti. If we could live in India forever, we would. And that would obviously be for food. It’s a two-men army here in Spice and Ice cafe. And they put love and their soul into what they cook. The food here is delicious. Freshly cooked. And you are always greeted with a generous portion.

And that was how we spent all our days in Manali. Waking up to freezing temperatures, lazily snuggling up in our thick warm blanket, and finally when we are up, we walk to our favourite kade while we grin at aunties, uncles and wee kids on our way. Everyone here is working hard for the winter months. In winters, everything here is closed down. The season is almost over. The shops selling hippie clothes and mandalas being slowly shut down. We walk down to our favorite kade as a herd of yaks rhythmically saunter down the road. Chai again. With tomato and masala cheese omelette. Aloo parantha with pickle? For 20 rupees? Yes, please.

Manali India NatnZin

Old Manali India NatnZin

Where Eat Manali

Hotels NatnZin Manali

Guesthouse Manali India NatnZin

(Also read: Amba Estate: The hidden gem of Ella)

We walk uphill to Manu Temple. It’s simple. It’s quiet. It’s peace. And after all, it’s gorgeous. We observe two little kids bossing around each other. Perhaps a little Zinara and a little Nathan. From Manu temple, a 2km path takes you to Goshal Village. We walk back. All the way to New Manali and Hidimba Temple, passing hippie shops, quirky TripAdvisor’s best cafes and the Beas River. Hidimba Devi Temple is a crowded place. But the walk uphill surrounded by deodar trees is surreal. We pay ten tuppes and take a walk in the park nearby. A gorgeous little place with deodar trees. In a corner of the temple, locals hurry to take photos with bunnies and yaks. Bunnies so cute and fluffy that you want to adapt them and take them back home. On our way back, we stop by for momos. A plate full of twelve chicken momos for just 50 rupees. Oh India! You are fabulous!

As we walk down, Nathan spots a sign, says, “Village Srilanka.” Excited to find out this new bugger who turned an entire tiny but diverse island into a village, we walk along the Beas River. It gets colder and colder as we walk uphill and walk through Himachali hamlets. “This is enough for us,” Nathan spots a tiny wooden house by the river. He’s excited. He’s happy. And happy, hyper N is the best N. (Also read: Traveling on the train from Colombo to Ella: A photo story)

NatnZin Manali Guide
Village Srilanka???

“Village Srilanka” apparently was a cottage-type-hotel. After a one kilometer walk uphill, we walk back to other side of Beas River. Sit down for a slice of Black Forest Cake by the river. It’s warm. Creamy. Softer than any cake we ever had. And effin’ delicious. The German bakery was a gem we found.

Back in our trusted Spice and Ice, we order a plate of Himachali Trout. It takes good forty something minutes to arrive. Here’s the thing. The rule here is to wait longer for good food. The longer the wait, the more it tastes better. Food here is prepared with love. During our time in Manali, we visit Spice and Ice three times. Even the Maggi here in mountains taste better. Always. Everything. Better.

Mountains Manali NatnZin

Old Manali NatnZin

Village NatnZin Manali

Guide Manali Travel

Yak Manali NatnZin

Manali has everything in her. Are you adventurous? Trek. Trek. Trek. Trek. Even if you are not and into culture, visit all the temples and architectural wonders. We did a mixture of all. And spent our times lazily wandering around tiny paths and discovering teeny cafes, makeshift stalls to shop cheaper and finally actually buying two mandalas with Ganesh and a God Nathan never can name. His mom is so appalled. Hush

And this, boy, is the Manali we loved. Will we go back? In a heartbeat ❤

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We are Nathan and Zinara, documenting our experiences and stories for a lifestyle full of love and adventure. Currently based in Sri Lanka.

38 thoughts on “India: Learning the Art of Slow Living in Manali

    1. Awwww! Thanks so much, Tanya girllll! You should totally go there. You’d love it. It’s s chilled out! And the next time we are in India, we’d come to Bangalore 😀

      Zin xx


    1. You should definitely check it out but during the off season like we did. Otherwise, we’ve heard it gets really overcrowded. Thank you so much for the comment. What are the other hill stations you’ve been to in India? Leh-Ladakh?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Several times to Darjeeling, Nainital, McCleod Ganj, and Leh (and around). I do like visiting off season, for example I went up to Ladakh very early and saw no other tourists in the two weeks I was there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We went to Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj and Dharamkot areas, too. Will be writing about that soon. Exactly. When we visited, it wasn’t crowded at all. During which period of the year did you visit Leh and Ladakh?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. manali is a very beautiful place with awsm scenic beauty but now a days its become overcrowded and commercial as compared to other hill stations.your write is excellent and all pics are perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. We think we are lucky we visited in early October and it wasn’t crowded at all. We could observe the slow life in Old Manali and it was such a beautiful experience.


  2. Woow such amazing pictures, i like the art in the wall its pretty amazing, i wish i can visit this and also try the food because it looks amazing as well, you are so lucky.


  3. What beautiful pictures and you have captured the true spirit and vibe of being in India and Manali through your post and shots. I have been to Manali few times and it is one of my favorite places, The Rohtang pass which is around 40KM from Manali is another great place. Chai is indeed a must when you are in India. I am glad you had an amazing time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Manali is one of the most awesome places to visit. Lots of sights and beautiful scenery to be found here. I would like to come back here again with my children.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We stayed in Manali in May and as much as I like old Manali, because it’s basically Goa in the mountains, I think it has been destroyed with mass tourism. New Manali is hell in may/June. At some point you take 4 hours just to get from vashisht to old Manali because the traffic jam is so bad.
    I will definitely visit Manali again but not during may or june. After all, all our friends are there during the rains. 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so sad to hear, Helene. I think we were lucky with the timing of our trip. Dussehra was just over and everything seemed peaceful out there. There weren’t many tourists in Old Manali and we had a beautiful time there. Slow life and so serene. Haha, you should aim for off-season 😀


    2. I felt very similarly, Helene, when I visited Manali in 2014. I recommend visiting Tirthan and Barot, two other places in Himachal Pradesh that have managed to stay off the radar of most tourists. And if you love the hills, do come to North Sikkim…it’s magnificent!

      Liked by 1 person

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