People often wonder the way they should travel to Spiti from, if they should prepare their Spiti valley itinerary from Manali or Shimla. In my opinion, If you are planning to visit Spiti, it is always better to plan the journey from Shimla and exit at Manali after completing the circuit. It is so primarily because of two reasons.
The first and the foremost is that if you are coming from Shimla, you get to avoid the entire hassle of obtaining permits to visit or cross Rohtang Pass. Getting these permits can sometimes mean a pain and waste of entire day in Manali which is best avoided. If you are going towards Spiti valley from Manali, you will have to spend some time or even a day in Manali arranging permits to get to the other side of Rohtang Pass. This rule however only applies if you are travelling from Manali towards Rohtang top however no such restriction is in place for traffic coming from the other side of Rohtang towards Manali. So if you were coming from Shimla and exiting at Manali, there is no need to obtain any permits at all.
Second reason is of acute mountain sickness. Going to Spiti valley from Manali means that one day you are in plains, second day you are in Manali at a height of 2,050 meters above sea level, and the next day you are either at Chandratal at a height of 4,250 meters or at Kaza at an elevation of 3,800 meters. Each day there is a 2,000 meters gain in altitude with very little time for your body to adjust. However, if you travel from Shimla towards Spiti, the gain in altitude is gradual and gives your body ample time to acclimatize.
With that being said, a lot of people still prefer to complete the circuit starting from Manali. Even I have done the same but only because I had already travelled from Shimla side and wanted to try something different during my second visit to Spiti. I have also known people who included Spiti with their Ladakh trip and on their way back, rather than coming from Keylong to Manali, they continued straight towards Spiti valley. Whatever the reason maybe, if you too are planning a trip to Spiti valley from Manali, below is a sample Spiti valley itinerary from Manali that you can follow. Your final travel plan will of course depend on how many days you have in hand, how you are traveling and if there are any budget restrictions but in this itinerary, I tried to include all places that are worth visiting in Spiti valley while limiting every travel to not more than 8-10 hours. Depending on your plan, you can add remove places from the list.
A Sample Spiti Valley Itinerary from Manali
For the sake of this article, I would assume that you are starting your journey from Delhi. The itinerary can be as below.
Day 1. Delhi to Manali – 540 kms, 12 to 14 hours
Day 2. Manali to Chandratal, 145 kms, 8 to 10 hrs
Day 3. Chandratal to Kaza, 90 kms, 6 hours
Day 4. Kaza to Kibber, Kaumik, Tashigang, to Kaza
Day 5. Kaza to Tabo / Nako – 140 kms, 6-8 hours
Day 6. Tabo / Nako to Kalpa, 120 kms, 6-8 hours
Day 7. Kalpa to Chitkul, 80 kms, 4-6 hours
Day 8. Chitkul to Sarahan, 110 kms, 6-7 hours
Day 9 . Sarahan to Narkanda / Shimla, 170 kms, 8 hours
Day 10. Narkanda / Shimla to Delhi,
The most important thing that you need to keep in mind while travelling to Spiti valley is that it is not the distance that you should be worrying about but condition of the roads. Even small distances here can you take forever to cross, thanks to the terrible state that Spiti roads are always in. So it is better to start early in the day so that you have sufficient time to reach your destination before dark.
Day 1 – Delhi to Manali: Nothing more than a long monotonous drive. Start early from Delhi as this drive can take anywhere between 12-15 hours depending on your mode of travel, speed and breaks you take. Road conditions are excellent until Kiratpur Sahib; post which it will be a mix of good and bad all the way to Manali.
Day 2 – Manali – Rohtang Pass – Gramphoo – Batal – Chandratal: As I mentioned above, you need to obtain permits in order to cross Rohtang Pass. If you have time and plan to stay in Manali, then you can spend this day arranging the permits or else, a better way would be that you contact a hotel in Manali and ask them to arrange your permits in advance. If they agree then book a room with them. This way, you will have the permits ready and waiting for you when you reach the hotel at Manali on Day 1. It is important because I would strongly advise against starting late from Manali. Journey from Manali to Chandratal can easily take upto 8-10 hours. Stretch from Gramphoo to Batal is a nightmare with multiple water crossing and non-existent roads. Experience the mighty Rohtang Pass on the way, the natural beauty of the region, the adventurous feeling of driving on challenging roads and stay overnight at Chandratal at any of the multiple camp sites available.
Day 3 – Chandratal – Kunzum Pass – Losar – Kaza: This is a relaxed drive of 5-6 hours at max. Take a morning walk around Chandratal and be on your way to Kaza. Enjoy the beauty of beautiful Kunzum Pass on the way. Kaza has multiple hotels so finding one will not be a big challenge.
Day 4 – Kaza – Kibber – Tashigong – Langza – Koumik – Kaza: You will spend this day in Kaza, travelling the places around. Visit the famous Ki monastery and take a drive to the nearby villages of Kibber, Tashigong, Langza, Kaumik and return to Kaza by evening. This area is famous for some very old fossils that were found here. Tanggyud monastery in Koumik is worth a visit. Langza offers a great view of Chau Chau Kang Nelda peak. There is also a large Buddha statue here which is quite magnificent. Please do note that if you are short on time, you can skip this day.
Day 5 – Kaza – Dhankhar – Dhankhar Lake – Tabo – Giu – Sumdo – Chango – Nako: Start early from Kaza. Visit Dhankhar monasteries and Dhankhar Lake in the small town of Dhankhar. Take a small diversion just before Sumdo and see the 500 year old Mummy there. Just before Nako is the much dreaded and famous Malling Nallah. Nako has a few hotels where you can check in. Enjoy a stroll around the Nako Lake in the evening.
Day 6 – Nako – Kalpa: See the confluence of Spiti and Satluj rivers at Khab. The bridge at Khab also offers a great view of Leo Purygal Peak. Drive straight to Kalpa from here and stay there for the night. Experience the majestic view of Kinner Kailash peaks from Kalpa.
Day 7 – Kalpa to Chitkul: Drive till Karchham and take the diversion from there towards Sangla. See the famous Kamru fort at Sangla and continue further for another 25-30 odd kilometers to reach the end of the road at the village of Chitkul. Enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of this village and stay for the night.
Day 8 – Chitkul to Sarahan: Drive back from Chitkul to Karchham and from there continue towards Jeori. From Jeori, leave the highway and turn on the 16 kms long stretch towards Sarahan. This small town is famous for Bhimkali temple and a bird sanctuary, both of which are worth a visit. Please note that if you are short on time, you can skip this day and continue driving straight towards Shimla.
Day 9 – Sarahan to Narkanda / Shimla: From Sarahan, drive down again to Jeori and from there continue on the highway towards Shimla. Depending on your preference, you can chose to stay at either Shimla or Narkanda. Personally I would prefer a stay at Narkanda any day over Shimla.
Day 10 – Narkanda / Shimla to Delhi: Drive back home. An easy 8-10 hours’ drive on mostly good roads.
This is just a rough layout on how you can complete this journey. Depending on your plan, you can add or remove days from here. If you have more time in hand, you can chose to either spend a day more at Kaza, or stay at Mud village and enjoy the beauty of PIN valley, or stay at Mane village and trek to beautiful Sopona Lake.
I hope this information regarding a spiti valley itinerary from Manali was helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I would be glad to answer.