The majestic Kullu Valley is cradled by the Pir Panjal to the north, the Parvati Range to the east, and the Barabhangal Range to the west. This is Himachal at its most idyllic, with roaring rivers, pretty mountain villages, orchards and terraced fields, thick pine forests and snow-flecked ridges. The valley extends 80km north from the mouth of the perilously steep and narrow Larji Gorge, near Mandi, to the foot of the Rohtang Pass – gateway to Lahaul and Ladakh.
Most tourists make a beeline for Manali after a gruelling bus ride from Leh or Delhi. With its vast choice of hotels and restaurants, there is something here for everyone. Still an evergreen hippie hangout, it’s India’s number-one honeymoon spot, and is also popular with outdoors enthusiasts taking advantage of the fine trekking. Few travellers actually stay in Kullu town and the only real attraction is the annual Dussehra festival in October. Flights from Delhi to Bhuntur, just south of Kullu, offer a welcome but weather-dependent alternative to the long overnight bus journeys. To the north, Naggar’s castle, ancient temples and relaxed guesthouses make a pleasant change from the claustrophobic concrete of modern Manali, as do Manikaran’s sacred hot springs, up the spectacular Parvati Valley.