Hidden in the hills 24km southwest of Mandi, the sacred lake of Rewalsar is revered by Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs. Tibetan Buddhists know it as Tso-Pema (Lotus Lake) and believe it was created when the king of Mandi tried to burn alive the revered Buddhist sage Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), to prevent his daughter Mandarava running off with the long-haired Tantric master.
About 2km north of Manali on the slopes above the Beas River, Vashisht village is a slightly quieter and more compact version of Old Manali and a popular travellers’ hang-out. Indian tourists mostly come to bathe in the hot springs and tour the temples, while foreign travellers largely come for the cheap accommodation, chilled atmosphere and charas.
East of Mandi the main Hwy 3 (formerly Hwy 21) threads a dramatic gorge along the Beas River before turning north towards Kullu at Larji. A side-road southeast here leads up the Tirthan (or Banjar) Valley into the remote, beautiful Inner Seraj region, ripe for walks in the hills and valleys and between isolated traditional villages.
Mandi To Bajaura
Hidden away in the high pastures between Mandi and Bajaura, a zig-zag 23km drive up from the back road between the two towns, is scenic Prashar Lake (2730m), home to the striking, pagoda-style Prashara Temple, built in the 14th century in honour of the sage Prashar Rishi. The lake is also home to a curious floating island, which moves around of its own accord.
From January to March, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy 1.5km of alpine-style runs here, 13km north of Manali, taking the recently installed cable car up to 3200m (the cable car operates in all seasons). Solang is also a year-round ‘beauty spot’, with paragliding, zorbing, quad bikes and a general carnival-like atmosphere in summer.
Remote Malana, high on a hillside 20km up a side valley north of Jari, is one of the strangest villages in India. Its people – descended, according to legend, from deserters from Alexander the Great's army – speak their own unique language, operate what's called the world's oldest democracy, and consider outsiders unclean.
This sloping alpine meadow is a beautiful three-to-four-hour walk up the Parvati Valley from Barsheni, which is 13km up from Manikaran. The meadow is home to delectable hot springs and a rundown collection of shack guesthouses (rooms ₹200 to ₹400) and cafe/restaurants, open from about April to October – it's a popular spot to drop out for a few days.