Famous for its sweeping valley views and sulphurous hot-water springs, the ever-expanding village of VASHISHT, 3km north of Manali, is an amorphous jumble of traditional timber houses and modern concrete cubes, divided by paved courtyards and narrow muddy lanes. It is the epicentre of the local budget travellers’ scene, with a good choice of guesthouses and cafés. The tranquil and traditional atmosphere is only interrupted by the occasional rave that takes place in the woods, or if the weather is poor, in one or two obliging hotels.
Until the HPTDC hot baths complex opens again, the only place for a hot soak is in the bathing pools of Vashisht’s ancient temple (free), which is far more atmospheric anyway. Divided into separate sections for men and women, they attract a decidedly mixed crowd of Hindu pilgrims, Western hippies, semi-naked sadhus and groups of local kids.