Sep 012014

A review of Johnson Lodge in Manali, Himachal Pradesh

I am not much of a hotel reviewer even though for many years I lived out of hotels and slowly became immune to them, only caring about Wi Fi, paid or free.  But once in a while you come across a hotel that is like they say “It’s Different”

So recently I was in Manali and stayed at Johnson Lodge on Circuit House road, for two nights once while going to Spiti to get used to high altitude to avoid AMS, and next on the return trip while waiting for my bus we stayed there for a night.

The first thing that strikes you about Johnson Lodge is that it does not look like a hotel at all. Johnson Lodge can easily pass as a large bungalow, or a small castle somewhere in hills or if you are too imaginative in rural England frequented by some English Lord with his mistress on the pretext of going out for fox-hunting with the boys. Actually, the lodge was built-in early 1900 by Col. C.R. Johnson and was a family residence till 1989 when it was converted to hotel.

The lawns at Johnson Lodge are well manicured but the abundant flowers are not well-behaved, they brush you every time you pass next to them, I guess they are yet to forget their wild roots.

Pink amaryllis lily flowers

The Flowers that still act as if in wild 🙂  #cellphone click 

As I rarely click pictures of hotels I stay with the aim to write a review, it was night by the time I discovered the charms of Johnson Lodge and decided to click pictures of Johnson Lodge. During my second stay, I clicked this picture of the room just before I crashed on the bed tired from 6-hour journey from Chandratal, on  Darter Photography tour to Spiti. The picture does not do any justice to the colorful huge rooms that have some very colorful furniture and some antique curios as part of the decor.

Colorful bedroom Johnson Lodge Manali

The Colorful bedroom Johnson Lodge Manali

It is anyway not easy to click pictures of a busy hotel during the day unless it is a commissioned assignment, as there are too many people moving around. The night is perfect to click pictures of interiors especially the bar and lounge etc.

The challenge is to manage ISO and shutter speed and too many reflections in the glass around you, and since I was not carrying my tripod things were not easy, but night photography has its own charm and every once in a while I strongly suggest you try clicking after dark.  For special effects and to keep yourself awake you can sing just like I do 🙂

“” Andheri Raton main, 

      Camera leke haton main,

Ek Photographer nikalta hai,

Jise Log desi Traveler Kehte hain “”

Johnson Lodge Manali Himachal Pradesh

Johnson Lodge Manali in night

I really liked their well-stocked bar, but as I don’t drink alcohol, my interest was purely pious related to photography. In the night the corridors etc. give the impression of an underground labyrinth where some sinister plot must have unfolded as if you are in a Shakespearean play.

Corridors of Johnson Lodge in Night

Looks like a secret passage 🙂

Deer head lobby Johnson Lodge

Hmm looks like a hunting lodge of an English Lord

Johnson Lodge Bar Manali

Brightly Colored Chairs at Johnson Lodge Manali

liquor bottle in bar Johnson Lodge Manali

My interest in the bar was totally pious and related to photography

But during the day the hotel comes to its full glory with a snow-capped peak greeting you as you open your curtain in the morning as you contemplate what to have for breakfast.Don’t do the mistake of ordering Aloo Paranthas as I did, no don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with the Parathas, except for the fact they look as if they were raised on a diet of Aloo Parathas, looking at their enormous size. It took 2 of us to send the giant Aloo Parathas on their heavenly abode. Burp!

But the best food at Johnson Lodge is European, especially Italian and we tried Pasta, lasagna and ended up polishing the plate every single time. The service at the hotel is a bit slow but just enough to build your appetite while you wait for your food to arrive before you start screaming at the people who serve you. (Never a good idea or behavior)

What I did not like: For some reason the hotel plays loud music in the evenings and caters to Bhangra loving crowd, totally killing the European Castle ambiance. Well, you got to do business and in off season like August, it is the Bhangra Brigade from fertile plains of Punjab and sweltering Delhi that keeps the cash register ringing. But just to clarify the guests at Johnson Lodge were a mix of both desi looking for a family vacation as well as expats coming for their share of Incredible India.

Stay at Johnson Lodge Manali if you are looking at a slightly different kind of hotel that offers good food, tastefully done rooms and is not your typical hill station hotel but has a charm of its own inviting you to stay in the rooms or the villas in a quiet yet accessible part of Manali

For Bookings and tariffs visit their site:  Johnson Lodge . Doubles from 4000 per night during the season.

Email: [email protected]

Address: Johnson Lodge, CIRCUIT HOUSE ROAD, MANALI-175131 Distt- Kullu,

Himachal Pradesh, India

Phone: +91-1902-251523, +91-9816045123

Travelers Tip: There are 2 Johnson Lodge in Manali next to each other, this review is for the first one you see if you are coming from the city side whose website is here. The sibling property is called Jimmy Johnsons Lodge and Johnson Hotel and Café and their website is here.

Google Map:

Here are some other jara hatke type properties that desi Traveler has stayed and cared to write a review

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  6 Responses to “Johnson Lodge Manali- Hotel Review”

Comments (6)
  1. Very charming. 🙂
    The guest room does look unique in those colours.

  2. next time I visit Manali will surely check this place out

  3. Good review….very nice photography as usual.

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