Shimla has always been the preferred choice to travel to Spiti valley for as long as I know. Majority of the people planning to complete the Spiti circuit will plan to start from Shimla and exit the valley via Manali. People who have been to Spiti will always advise others to start from their journey from Shimla. In this article, I will provide details on why you should travel to Spiti valley from Shimla and what advantages does it have over the Manali route.
Before we go any further in the article, I must comment that no matter where you start from, you must travel through both the ends in order to truly experience the Spiti circuit. Both the Shimla and Manali side are equally beautiful and have something different to offer to the traveler. Ride through the entire circuit and you would have made memories to last a lifetime.
Why you should travel to Spiti valley from Shimla
With that being said, let us take a look at some of the advantages that traveling to Spiti valley from Shimla has over Manali as starting point.
High Altitude Acclimatization:
This is one of the biggest advantages that Spiti valley from Shimla has over form Manali. The highest point of Spiti circuit is Kunzum Pass at a height of 4590 meters, while Chandratal is at 4,250 meters and Kaza at 3,800 meters.
If you travel to Spiti valley from Shimla, the ascent to this height of 4,590 meters is gradual, spread evenly over several days. As you travel to this height, your body gets ample time to adjust itself and it is highly unlikely that you will suffer from acute mountain sickness. On the other hand, if you travel from Manali, this increase is sudden and in a matter of few hours. Manali is a at a height of 2,050 meters and from there, within few hours, you are standing at a height of 4590 meters at Kunzum Pass. The altitude increases to more than double within a single day which makes you more prone to feeling symptoms of acute mountain sickness. If you are planning to spend the night at Chandratal, this sudden increase in altitude will result in a highly uncomfortable night at the lake.
Time of Travel:
This will probably come second in line to consider before you plan to embark upon the journey. Route to Spiti valley from Shimla remains open throughout the year however the road from Manali is restricted only to a few months. Kunzum Pass opens for civilian traffic sometime in late May or early June and closes sometime by late October. So if you are planning a trip to Spiti via Manali, you will have to plan your journey within this time frame. However, if you plan a trip to Spiti valley from Shimla, you can do it any month of the year. The only downside however is that in Winter, traveling from Shimla you can only reach up to Kaza and will have to take the same route back.
Spiti Valley In winters:
This ties to the point mentioned above. Spiti valley is an entirely different experience in travelled to in the months of Winter, covered under a thick sheet of snow. Even though a trip will be definitely tough one with most of the hotels and guest houses closed, water frozen in the pipes, treacherous drive on snow covered roads, it should still be on the to do list of anyone who has a thing for adventure. However a trip to Spiti in winters is not possible from Manali because both Rohtang and Kunzum Pass would remain closed. A winter trip can only be done if you start from Shimla and return via the same route.
The Hassle of Rohtang La Permits:
There is probably no other word other than “hassle” to explain it. The entire concept of permits for Rohtang La and restricting the number of vehicles travelling to the pass while may be beneficial for the environment purpose, still causes a lot of trouble for people planning to travel on this route. Click on the link below to read about the permits in details and what the restrictions are.
So travelling from Manali to Rohtang would mean that you will have to spend an entire day here obtaining the permits from DM office which opens by 10 AM. These permits too are on a first come first served basis because there is a daily quota assigned to vehicles travelling to Rohtang. This quota is further divided between Petrol and Diesel vehicles etc so if you want to travel on a particular day but the quota is all filled, then you will have no other choice but to wait for next day. This however can be avoided if you travel to Spiti valley from Shimla because there is no such restriction for vehicles coming from the other side of Rohtang towards Manali.
Getting used to driving/riding on rough patches:
Spiti is notorious for its bad roads of which, the stretch from Batal to Gramphoo is a nightmare. Up until Rampur, it is a pleasant and smooth drive but roads start to deteriorate after Rampur post which it continues to get worse. If you travel to Spiti valley from Shimla, you will get a bit of driving experience on rough patches before you finally hit the worst of all area. The road from Kaza to Manali would take some serious driving skills to ensure a safe trip. Travelling from Manali however will immediately see you struggling first through the slush at Rohtang top and then the road from Gramphoo to Kaza.
In the next article, I will provide a sample itinerary that anyone can follow for their trip to Spiti. Within the itinerary I will also explain some of the must visit places that you should cover in Spiti.
I hope this information regarding travelling to Spiti valley from Shimla 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.