The question of whether to journey to Spiti valley from Manali or Shimla is probably one of the most common ones that people wonder about while planning their trip. Both of these choices have their own pros and cons and in most of the cases, it is usually Shimla that comes out as preferred choice but make no mistake, even travelling to Spiti valley from Manali is no less fun. Even this route has its own advantages which I will detail in this article but before we go any further into this discussion, I must admit that none of these routes is lesser than the other in any way. The advantages or disadvantages of one route over another will differ on your own personal preferences but no matter where you are starting from, you must cover both sides of the journey to truly experience the “Spiti Circuit”.
Why you should travel to Spiti valley from Manali
So why and when should Manali be your preferred choice of a journey to Spiti valley? It will mostly depend on the following factors,
Second trip to Spiti:
This will probably be on top of the list. For most people, their first trip to Spiti stars from Shimla and ends at Manali. If you too have been to Spiti once before from Shimla, then for your second trip, you must journey to Spiti valley from Manali. Places will be the same, vistas will be the same, journey will be the same but trust me, it will be an entirely different experience doing it the other way around. Practically everything feels different and it would feel like you are visiting a new place altogether.
Agreed, that for a comfortable trip you should start from Shimla letting your body get used to high altitude at a gradual pace.
But if it is instant adventure and thrill you seek, then Manali to Spiti is the route for you. Right from Manali, you start on your ascent towards Rohtang, riding through the slushy roads and water streams. As you descend Rohtang, your encounter the nightmarish Gramphoo to Batal stretch, enough to make anyone’s heart pounding.
A lot will depend on your itinerary as well. If it is only Spiti on your mind and you do not care about the Kinnaur valley, then you should travel to Spiti valley from Manali. Starting from Shimla, you will have to travel across the entire Kinnaur valley before you finally reach Spiti, however if you start from Manali, it will put you in Spiti valley right on day 2. For your return journey, you can chose to return via Manali itself or if you have time, take the Shimla route while coming back home.
Time of Travel:
This is another important factor but kind of related to the one I mentioned above. If it is a quick trip to Spiti that you are planning, then your only option is to travel from Manali and return via the same route. For example if you are starting from Delhi, on Day 1 you can do Delhi to Manali, on Day 2 Manali to Kaza. Return again to Manali and you can do a Spiti ride within four days of time. If however you start from Shimla, it becomes a week long trip at minimum.
Ladakh & Chandratal:
Manali Leh highway is always the preferred choice to reach Leh and a lot of people wonder if they can somehow add Chandratal to their itinerary without extending total days of travel or adding one day at most. This can be done if you are willing to do a bit of long journey for 3 days while on your way to Leh. On Day 1, reach Chandratal from Manali and stay there for the night at any of the camps. On Day 2, start early from Chandratal and make it to Jispa. On Day 3, once again start as early as you can from Jispa and reach Leh by late evening. So If you are also planning to travel to Ladakh and would like to throw in a light flavor of Spiti as well, Manali is the closest place you can do it from.
The entire Spiti valley is notorious for the terrible roads it presents to its travelers and surprisingly this is also a reason why a lot of people travel here for. If you just bought that new shiny 4×4 and cannot wait to experience the thrill of off-roading in it, then you must start from Manali. The Shimla route will see you traveling through some very good roads, average roads, broken but flat roads but nothing that can be termed as off-roading. Take the Manali route and drive through the Batal stretch, then to Chandratal and the road will remain non-existent.
Chandratal is becoming quite a popular place and several people travel here for the purpose of camping. It is not really Spiti valley that they seek but just spending a couple of night in a camp at Chandratal. The closest place for this purpose too is Manali where you can easily drive to Chandratal from in a day. Shimla however is at least 3 days of journey away from Chandratal
Budget trip to Spiti by public transport:
If you are planning a budget trip to Spiti and intend on traveling by a Bus, then you should do it from Manali. There is a regular daily bus service from Manali to Kaza, In fact there are two HRTS buses from Manali every day. The bus from Shimla takes two days to reach Kaza with a night halt at Reckong Peo which will mean that you will spend more on travel charges. Traveling from Manali will reduce your travel cost and will also avoid the money you will spend for night stay at Peo.
In the next part of this article, I will provide a sample Spiti from Manali travel itinerary that you can follow; covering all the major tourist attractions while ensuring that you do not travel too much or too less on any given day.
I hope this information regarding traveling to Spiti valley 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.