Kullu, the valley’s capital since the mid-seventeenth century, became district headquarters after Independence. Despite being the region’s main market and transport hub it has been eclipsed as a tourist centre by Manali, 40km north. Kullu is noisy, polluted and worlds away from the tranquil villages that peer down from the surrounding hillsides, even though a bypass now diverts some of the traffic from the centre. Kullu makes a handy transport hub if you’re travelling onwards to the Parvati Valley, and there are several temples dotted around town, some of which provide fine valley views. In October, when the entire population of the valley comes to town to celebrate Dussehra, the city takes on a life of its own. The town is also the centre for the manufacture of the valley’s famous shawls, handwoven on looms from lamb’s wool, angora or pashmina and increasing in price accordingly.

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