Manali became popular when the violence in Kashmir got too much for most. The Indian honeymooners and the Western travellers all decamped to Manali and this small town grew very popular in a hurry. The Manali Valley is set below the stunning Rohtang Pass and is surrounded by glaciers on all sides in a long, wide valley with plenty of apple orchards. Manali itself is a noisy, stressful little town that is only any good for getting your shopping done. Then you want to grab one of the hundreds or rickshaws and head off to a nearby village.
Old Manali has been the hangout of Israeli travellers for years and most of the famous trance parties happen on this side of the valley. Old Manali has its charms though it gets dark in the afternoon and the parties aren’t what they were now that the police and local mafia all want a piece of the action.
On the other side of the valley is Vashisht, a village that has turned itself inside out with concrete construction destroying the charm of the place. Beyond the town square of bakeries, Kashmiri boutiques and restaurants it’s still charming though and has hot sulphur baths in the temple. This alone makes it a good place to stay through monsoon and winter.
Also near Vashisht is the amazing Yogini waterfall an hour’s walk up through the forest. You can walk around behind the cascades and from the other side on a sunny day you can see rainbows forming around the waterfall. Also a day and half’s walk up the mountain there’s a pilgrimage to be made to Bhrigu Lake, a spectacular yet gentle trek.
There tend to be a lot of long term travellers living in the Manali valley with houses dotted here and there across the valley. Most people here smoke but not quite as heavily as in Parvati. It’s a good place to rent a house and write a book.