Spiti via Shimla or Manali – Which one is Better?

by Vargis.Khan

Spiti via Shimla or Manali is a common doubt among folks planning a trip to this middle land. People often tend to compare both routes in terms of scenic beauty; adventure and which side would be more fun to travel on. To be quite honest an argument in this aspect will not really hold value; because both the routes are equally beautiful and have their own benefits and disadvantages. In the end however; a trip to Spiti valley is best done in form of a circuit; which means that you should and must travel on the both the routes. Start from either Shimla or Manali and exit the valley from the other side. Both sides of the valley deserve a visit and you should see them both to truly witness the majestic beauty of Spiti.

spiti via shimla or manali

With the above being said, there are however a few factors that can be taken into consideration about the route of your journey. Read on to know what those are.

Time of Travel

This one is the biggest factor when you compare both the roads leading to Spiti. Thing is that Manali – Kaza route is open for a way shorter period than Shimla – Kaza road. While the latter remains open throughout the year; barring the occasional road blocks in winter season; the road from Manali side is accessible only between June and early October. So if you were planning a trip between January to May or October to December; you will have to go from Shimla and return the same way. There is no way that you can cover the Manali route at this time.

Also read: How to Plan a Trip to Spiti Valley – A Complete Travel Guide

Days of Travel

This too is another factor that you must consider. From Shimla side, you will take at least 2 days to reach Kaza; and even that journey too will be a bit rushed. On the other hand, traveling from Manali, you can reach Kaza in a matter of 7-8 hours. So if you had limited days in hand and wanted to make a short trip to Spiti; then Manali – Kaza route should be your preferred choice, both for reaching Spiti and return journey home. But with this, you should also take into fact that this is only possible in the months of June to September.

Chandratal

Some people want to go towards Spiti valley just to camp at Chandratal lake. Majority of these people are the ones who have already visited Spiti once before. If you have a similar plan and want to visit Chandratal lake only, then Manali to Kaza route is the one for you. If you traveled by Shimla, it would take you at least 2-3 days to get to the lake; whereas from Manali, it is a journey of only 6-7 hours.

Also read: Clothes for Spiti Valley – What to Pack?

Rohtang Permits

Traveling to Rohtang Pass off-late has become a troublesome task. Do not get me wrong, I do agree that steps were needed to be taken to preserve the Eco-system and keep the pass pollution free. But from a traveler’s point of view, this now means staying at Manali for an entire day while working to get the permits needed to cross over Rohtang Pass. This requirement however is only for vehicles traveling from Manali side. If you were coming from Spiti to Manali, there is no permit needed at all. This is a great reason to start your journey from Shimla side and exit at Manali; thus saving a day in the trip.

Acute Mountain Sickness

Picture this, one day you are in plains in the morning. By evening you reach Manali at a height of about 2,000 odd meters. The day after, you travel to Kaza at a height of about 4,000 meters. The increase in altitude here is massive and that too within a couple of days. This is bound to throw your body in shock and trigger the symptoms of acute mountain sickness. However, from Shimla, the increase in altitude is gradual and spread evenly over a few days. If you were traveling with family or your elders, then you must start the journey from Shimla side and hence, avoid them from suffering altitude sickness.

Off-Roading

Yes I know that this you will end up doing either ways because of the bad conditions of roads in Spiti valley. However, recently, a lot of people have started to travel towards Spiti with the purpose of going off the road. If your intention too is the same, then the worst patch of the road is from Manali side; the notorious Batal – Gramphoo stretch. This 60 odd kilometers long road has so many water crossings that you will not be able to keep your shoes dry if you were on a bike. It possibly is the worst road you have ever been on in your entire life. So if you want to go off-roading, then go via Manali and return the same way.

Also read: Tourist Attractions in Spiti Valley – A Complete List

Only see Spiti

Last but not the least, if you have already covered the Kinnaur Valley; have seen most of the places that way; and now want to spend more time covering Spiti valley then you should reach there via Manali. This will save you all the time you will spend on the road if coming from Shimla side; time that you can actually use to visit the remote areas within Spiti.

Spiti via Shimla or Manali – Which one is Better?

It would be hard and unfair to really call one road better than the other. It will just depend on your own preference based on the factors I mentioned above. I do hope that this information was of help. If you have any further questions; or need any further help; please feel free to ask in the comments section below; or at our Community Forum; and I will be glad to answer.

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43 comments

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[email protected] September 6, 2019 - 7:22 am

Can you pls tell me one thing? Manali se Kaza ki bus kis Date tak Available hoti j

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Vargis.Khan September 7, 2019 - 3:14 am

October 1st week tak

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arun matta August 19, 2019 - 3:15 pm

Hi Vargis bhai ur blogs are truly wonderful and so informative. Me and my friend are planning a road trip from delhi to spiti valley starting 12th sept morning and we have to be in delhi by 20th evening as my friend has an onward flight to bangalore the same day.Unfortunately he cannot extend his stay and we have a window of these 9 days only for our long awaited maiden trip to the valley.i was planning the following itinerary based on inputs from ur blog

1. delhi to narkanda
2. narkanda to Chitkul
3. Chitkul to Kalpa
4. Kalpa to Nako
5. Nako to kaza
6. Kaza to Kibber / Komik / Langza / Hikkim to Kaza
7. Kaza to Chandratal
8 Chandratal to mandi
9 .Mandi to delhi

does it seem doable? especially the chandrataal -mandi stretch. Also for last few days himachal is in the news due to incessant rains and landslides. is there a possibillity that we might get stranded especially on our return route from kaza to manali.

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Vargis.Khan August 20, 2019 - 12:03 am

Hi Arun Bhai – Yes your itinerary is perfect. Chandratal Mandi is doable as well but it will be a very long drive. I did Chandratal to Sundernagar and reached there by 9 PM or something so you would reach Mandi probably around 10 PM. Hard to predict about weather right now, wait to see what the situations is around the time of your trip.

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Aishwary Tiwari June 7, 2019 - 3:47 pm

Hi Vargis. Very informative article. Thanks a lot for that. I am planning a trip to Spiti in 1st week of September with 8 friends. Want to do full circuit from Manali to Shmila. Is it possible to cover it in 5 days ? Can you help in planning the trip in 5 days from Manali.
Thanks in advance.

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prateek May 24, 2019 - 1:49 pm

nice blog Mr khan !!!
I have couple of questions as I will be traveling by my own car with friends !!!

1. if I need diamox tablet on the day of travel or before.
2. are the roads dangerous for narrow ?
3. Is june mid a best time to travel
4. what about mobile networks

Thanks in advance brother !!!

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Vargis.Khan May 25, 2019 - 4:29 pm

1. You don’t really need it in Spiti if going via Shimla. If Manali, take it in the morning on the day of travel.
2. Yes they are at some places but If you have decent enough driving experience, you will manage.
3. Yes it is a good time
4. BSNL works mostly followed by Airtel

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Saurabh May 15, 2019 - 9:24 pm

Hello Sir,
Really very informative article and helping me to connect my route here. However, I have a question that how we be ensure that the route to Spiti via Manali gets open on June 1st,2019, Do we have any website to check for the same information?

Also, can we go to Chandratal lake from spiti via car as there isn’t any error ur is showing in Google map between the two ?

Appreciate your response sir.

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Kashif May 14, 2019 - 6:44 pm

Hi warghis ..I would like 2 know can we go keylong via manali with tempo traveller?And what kind of permit we should need?

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Vargis.Khan May 15, 2019 - 1:08 pm

Yes you can Kashif and you would need to get a Beyond Rohtang permit.

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Vinit April 30, 2019 - 10:13 am

Hello, brilliant article and description. Can you please provide any contact who can do a complete trip from Shimla to manali via kaza.

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jaidatt October 1, 2018 - 6:50 pm

Hey the article was very informative! I’m planning to do a solo trip to Kaza and stay there a few days in November. What would the ideal way to get there be from Bombay?

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Vargis.Khan October 1, 2018 - 9:22 pm

In November you can only go from Shimla to Kaza and return the same way. Manali Kaza route will be closed

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Chintan Gotecha September 10, 2018 - 12:13 pm

Hello, do we need to do the permit formalities if we are travelling from Manali to Kaza via HRTC buses ?

Thank you Vargis for such an insightful blog !

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Vargis.Khan September 10, 2018 - 1:10 pm

Thanks Chintan. And no, you do not have to worry about the permit if you are traveling by Bus.

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siddharth sheth August 30, 2018 - 11:54 am

Dear Vargis,

we are 4 friends and want to do Spiti circuit from 8th to 14th Sept. We have flight from Chandigarh on 15th Sept. How do we plan our trip ? Is doing it from Manali & ending at Manali worth ??

thanks

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Vargis.Khan August 30, 2018 - 12:17 pm

How will you be traveling in Spiti Sidharth?

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Aditya Singh August 6, 2018 - 5:51 am

Hi Vargis,

I am travelling fro Spiti in Aug from Delhi
We are travelling via car and the trip is for 7 days.

Can you please share a route wherein permits will not be required and can be covered in 7 days

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Vargis.Khan August 6, 2018 - 3:18 pm

There is no permit needed anywhere if you go via Shimla and exit via Manali.

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Shaily June 22, 2018 - 5:31 am

Hi Vargis! I went through few of your articles! They are really resourceful and of immense help!

I am traveling to Himachal from 6-16th July. Will be in Manali on 7th.
There are two of us and without no fixed plans. We are likely to completely do a backpacking trip.

Regarding the same, we wish to visit Spiti during 8-14th July. 15th evening we have bus to Delhi from Manali.

Just past 2 weeks my friends visited Spiti. And they heard about a cloudburst on Spiti route before their arrival where their cabdriver they had booked was stranded.
Since we are coming in the heart of monsoon, and with the idea of backpacking,

Will it be safe to travel via bus from Manali-Kaza. I know the roads are pretty nonexistent but what would you advise?

Are there chances of rain on the whole route? I am a little worried about it.

Please let me know!
Thanks in prior!

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Vargis.Khan June 22, 2018 - 3:03 pm

Hi Shaily – Unless can you actually postpone your trip until September, this is a chance you will have to take. It wasn’t reallly a cloudburst but a portion of the road somewhere collapsed due to which the road was closed for a couple of days. This happens in Spiti all the time but still the majority of the tourism happens in July and August. You are OK to go, don’t worry. This is also a part of a trip to Spiti, enjoy it.

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Subhajit Deb May 9, 2018 - 5:24 pm

I need an itinerary for around 7 days Kaza trip. and we want to spend most time in Kaza mainly because of night time photography which means we will stay awake at night and sleep in day. we also want to camp for a day at Chandratal while returning. Which route should we be taking? We want to travel by bus from shimla/manali to keep the cost down…

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Vishal May 9, 2018 - 9:36 am

Great article..very informative..i want to go in may end with my wife and 4 year old son for 4-5 days.. i wish to go through manali route and in a relaxed manner.. please suggest..also any chances of getting snow duringn this time and where.. thanks

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Vargis.Khan May 9, 2018 - 1:39 pm

Chances of finding snow by May end will be at Rohtang and Kunzum Pass only, not in the lower parts.

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Karam singh May 7, 2018 - 10:46 am

Hello sir. Grt article. We r planning for kaza..i want to know tht we want to go thr by tempo traveller. Kya ye gaadi shimla se kaza aur kaza se manali jaane k lie theek h..off roading me problm to nhi hogi

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Vargis.Khan May 7, 2018 - 4:49 pm

Nahi as long as the driver is an experienced one, aaram se ja sakte ho aap tempo traveler mein

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Karam singh May 8, 2018 - 2:14 am

Thanx sir

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Vargis.Khan May 8, 2018 - 6:12 pm

You are welcome Bhai

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Tarun April 10, 2018 - 10:25 am

Great article sir. me and my friends are planning a Spiti trip from 26th may for 6 day. Will the road from Manali to Kaza be open by that time??

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Vargis.Khan April 10, 2018 - 1:58 pm

Hi Tarun, Yes it will be

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Kashif May 14, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Hi

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Manik Mohindra April 10, 2018 - 7:05 am

Hi Vargis Bhai,

Thanks for your help last year on planning my Ladakh itinerary, i had an amazing time.
This year, i am planning of visiting Spiti valley for 10 days (June end start). Would need your help again in getting the best possible itinerary and places which should not be missed.
I am planning to start from Shimla and exit from Manali.

Please help 🙂

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Vargis.Khan April 10, 2018 - 1:56 pm

Hi Manik Bhai, Happy to help brother. How will you be traveling?

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Manik Mohindra April 12, 2018 - 4:35 am

i will take my own car.

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Vargis.Khan April 12, 2018 - 12:37 pm

So you have 10 days from Shimla to Manali? If yes, then travel like this

1. Shimla to Sarahn
2. Sarahan to Chitkul
3. Chitkul to Kalpa
4. Kalpa to Nako
5. Nako to Mud Village
6. Mud to Kaza
7. Kaza to Kibber / Komik / Langza / Hikkim to Kaza
8. Kaza to Chandratal
9. Chandratal to Manali
10. Buffer Day

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Manik Mohindra April 24, 2018 - 5:11 am

Thanks Bro ! I dont want to stay at Shimla as it is overcrowded, have prepared the below plan, request your inputs on the same:

1. Gurgaon to Narkanda/Mashobra
2. Narkanda/Mashobra to Chitkul (should i stay at Sarahan or Chitkul)
3. Chitkul to Kalpa (should i stay at kalpa or stretch towards Nako)
4. Kalpa to Nako
5. Nako to Kaza
6. Kaza (Kommik, langza, Hikkim) should i go to Losar?
7. Kaza to Chandrataal.
8. Chandrataal to Manali

I am not sure of MUD/pin vallae, is it worth a visit?

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Vargis.Khan April 24, 2018 - 7:21 pm

Your plan looks good Bhai. Narkanda to Chitkul will be a really long ride so please make sure that you start early.

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Tarun Kumar July 7, 2020 - 6:04 am

Is ertiga a good car for spiti valley?specially batal gramphoo section?

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Vargis.Khan July 8, 2020 - 2:20 pm

No it is not Tarun

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jigar April 5, 2018 - 3:10 pm

shimla se texi lena safe hai spiti valley k liye??
means shimla se aesa experienced texi driver milega ki jo spiti valley ka pura raste janta ho aur vha kahi baar jake aya ho?

kitna cost lagege 5days innova texi ke liye?

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Vargis.Khan April 5, 2018 - 3:14 pm

Haan Shimla se bhi kar sakte ho. Jo number maine diya tha uspar aap baat kar lo, vo poora details bata dega aapko

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Amit Arora April 5, 2018 - 1:06 pm

Hats off to you sir.

Your articles are highly informative and of great help

Great efforts by you

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Vargis.Khan April 5, 2018 - 1:49 pm

Thank you for your kind words Amit Bhai. I appreciate it.

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