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Adventure is never far away in Manali, one of India's top destinations for thrill-seeking backpackers. Located in the staggeringly beautiful Himalayas, this mountain town makes the most of a roaring traveller trade, with quality restaurants and guided tour companies popping up all around. Whether it's magnificent views, downhill skiing or jungle treks that set your pulse racing, you'll have your pick here. Visit between March and June for the joys of summer, or October to March for the best of the snowy season.
Hostels in Manali include a house tucked within orchards, a place with a stargazing terrace, and even somewhere you can bring your pets (or meet other people's). Most Manali hostels have free Wi-Fi, or free breakfast to build up your energy for the day ahead. On top of male and female-only dorms, a backpackers' hostel in Manali often has cool extras like airy porches or private rooms with views of the mountains.
Manali town itself is a bustling hub of honeymooners, backpackers and business owners, with restaurants and cafés serving local dishes and Western fare. It's a great base for exploring the region or just relaxing with a meal at the end of the day. If you're feeling adventurous, you can hike to the nearby village of Vashisht in about five hours, and its natural hot springs and thundering waterfalls make the journey more than worthwhile. For a taste of authentic local culture, visit Old Manali, which has a more laid-back but equally charismatic vibe.
Adventure sports are among the top things to do in Manali, with excellent skiing during winter and lush green valleys to trek through in the warmer months. Rafting the Beas River is another way to get the adrenaline going. You can discover local culture with a trip to the Hadimba Devi Temple, or to the Hindu Manu Temple in Old Manali with a view of the mountains. The Museum of Himachal Culture and Folk Art, best known for its preservation of historic masks, is a great place to learn about Manali's history.
Kullu Manali Airport in Bhuntar is the closest place to fly into. A taxi will get you into town in around one and a half hours. You can also take the bus from nearby cities – book one with air con if your journey is a long one. Manali is a hilly town, which limits the public transport available once you're there. Your options are to rent a moped, call a taxi or walk, depending on your day's activities.