Summary : The small, unspoilt village of Vashisht is famous for its natural mineral springs, and especially for its hot sulphur baths.
The small, unspoilt village of Vashisht is famous for its natural mineral springs, and especially for its hot sulphur baths. If coming in from Pathankot (a long, sticky bus: ride) or returning from a trek, this should be your first port of call.
Vashisht is a very scenic half-hour walk from Manali town. Start out first thing in the morning, taking the road leading down the hill, from just above the tourist office. The road runs parallel to a rushing river, with Old Manali Mountain rearing up to the left. If you make it to the top of this 923 m peak (a stiff 3-hour climb), the reward is a 360° panoramic view of the whole valley. Further along the road, you’ll pass some rustic old Manali houses, with intricate carvings on pillars, doors and balconies. Be careful when taking photos.
The custom with these simple, easy-going farming folk is to introduce yourself first. About 3 km (2 miles) out of town, a series of steps runs up right of the path, to the Vashisht Baths. These are actually Turkish bath-houses, with bathroom-tiled cubicles for single people and for families. They are exceedingly copular with Indian honeymooning couples, who don’t generally get a lot of privacy elsewhere. Westerners enjoy them because they’re often the first bath they’ve had in the country—a chance to lie back and let the bubbling sulphur waters soak away all the grime, dust and tension. You get about 20 minutes in the bath-house, which is quite long enough for beginners: vertigo is a common after-effect. Charges are very reasonable for single bathrooms and for the deluxe family bathroom. They’re open 7 am-1 pm, 2-4 pm, 6-10 pm, and it’s best to arrive early when there are no queues n andeverything is clean.
Toe recover afterwards, enjoy a hot pot of tea at the friendly Hira Lal tea shop, just up he steps left of the baths. From here, it’s a 15-minute walk (left) up to the village of ashisht itself. On the way, you’ll pass the highest mountain dairy in India, then several more of the charming old slate-roofed Manali houses. In the village, visit the quaint little Vashisht Temple. Ascending the slope behind this (be careful, it’s a cut public toilet) gives you fine views over the vilage and its beautiful valey backdrop. Below the temple, at the springs, local women can be seen deftly folding, kneading and pressing clothes clean using just their feet.
Walking back into town, you’ll see the Tibetan Refugee Camp. It’s a small, poor community with rough huts made from planking and old ghee or kerosene can , a few supplies shops (often with sleeves of wool drying over the entrances), lots of fluttering Buddhist prayer-flags, and flocks of mynah birds diving through the voodsmoke in search of refuse. Through avenues of tall willow trees, you’ll return to new Manali. Finish off at the bottom of the Mall, at the Tibetan Monastery. This is a modern, colourful Buddhist gompa, site of a famous carpetweaving industry—one of the better places in town to buy Tibetan carpets and handicrafts.