Most of the people, including myself, while travelling to Spiti would prefer to start from Shimla and end their journey at Manali. Taking this route definitely has several advantages as discussed in a previous article however do not be mistaken; travelling to Spiti from Manali is no lesser fun. The biggest advantage in reaching Spiti via Manali is of time. The distance from Delhi to Kaza via Shimla is a total of approximately 790 kms and it will take you a minimum of three days if you really rushed through the journey, driving long hours without taking any detours. If you really want to enjoy the journey, then it will take you five days to reach Kaza from Delhi. Surprisingly, the distance between Delhi to Kaza via Manali is also almost the same, approximately 770 kms. It will still be long driving hours but taking the Manali route, you can make it to Kaza within two days. Even the driving hours will be comparatively less each day. How? That is because the initial 570 kms from Delhi to Manali can easily be covered in a day, thanks to mostly good and wide roads. The remaining 200 kms from Manali to Kaza can be covered on the second day by starting early from Manali and reaching Kaza late in the evening.
The second reason why you would want to travel to Spiti from Manali is of convenience. You can take an overnight bus from Delhi to Manali and then catch another bus from Manali to Kaza via Rohtang and Kunzum Pass. There are two daily buses that run between Manali and Kaza as long the passes remain open. The bus starts from Kullu early in the morning, reaches Manali and then departs for Kaza at 5 AM. Ticket to Kaza will cost you around Rs 250 per person. On the other hand, if you take the Shimla route, you will first have to board a bus for Chandigarh from Delhi, then another bus for Reckong Peo from Chandigarh and then finally a third bus from Reckong to Kaza.
Final conclusion is that if you are really short on time and on a limited budget, you are better off travelling to Spiti from Manali and return via the same route. However if time and money is of no concern and you intend to complete the entire circle, that is start from Manali and end at Shimla or vice versa, then it doesn’t really matter where you start from. You will be travelling on the same road, will get to see the same vistas and will not miss anything.