Traveling to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh can be done in two ways. You can travel all the way to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur side, or you can take the shorter route to reach Spiti Valley from Manali side. Many people opt to do the entire circuit, that is, they will enter Spiti Valley from either Shimla or Manali and then exit from the other side. This makes a perfectly balanced Spiti road trip.
I have already shared detailed articles on how to plan a trip to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur and Spiti Valley via Manali. These two articles got into the details of step by step travel guide to reach Spiti Valley and talked about what places to visit, where to stay, details on the itinerary, where to eat or when to visit Spiti, etc.. However, I did not detail about which route should be preferred over others in case required.
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Let's quickly dive into the details:
Why travel to Spiti Valley from Manali route?
If I have to compare these two routes to Spiti with each other, then there are certain definitive advantages and disadvantages of traveling by each one of them. Although most people prefer to do the circuit only, entering from Shima – Kinnaur to Spiti and exit via Manali.
In the last article, I talked about 5 Reasons to Travel Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur Route, looking at the advantages you can get when traveling this long treacherous route to Spiti Valley. In this article, I will talk about the top five reasons to travel Spiti Valley via Manali side 🙂
1. Lesser Time to Reach Spiti Valley
When you travel to Spiti Valley from Manali side, the time taken to reach Kaza from Chandigarh or Delhi is much lesser than compared to traveling to Spiti from Kinnaur side. Distance wise the comparison is not that significant with the distance of Delhi to Kaza via Shimla – Kinnaur is 791 km while the distance of Delhi to Kaza via Manali is 772 km. So, a mere 19 km difference only.
However, when you travel to Spiti via Manali, you reach Manali in one night by overnight Volvo. Next day you can travel to Kaza from Manali in a day. Hence, within two days you will reach Spiti from Manali side. However, it takes at least two days to reach Kalpa / Sangla in general and then you travel to Tabo or Kaza on the third day. So, it takes three days to reach Spiti Valley from Kinnaur side.
This is because of the fact Delhi to Manali 570 odd km can easily be done in 12 hrs of a road trip because of better and wide roads. Next day, remaining 202 KMs can be done to reach Kaza by evening. However, as discussed in the previous article you have to brave the AMS when traveling to Kaza from Manali because the altitude difference is abrupt when we travel this route as apparent in my distance-altitude graphs below.
But, if you are short on the number of days and the road to Spiti Valley from Manali is open, then better travel to Spiti from Manali to save a day and also fatigue levels. You can always descend to Tabo from Manali to somewhat control the AMS symptoms by starting about 2 hours early from Manali.
2. Less Susceptible to Landslides
I understand that when you travel from Manali to Spiti Valley, you have to cross one of the worst roads of the world, that is from Gramphu to Kunzum Pass. The road between Gramphu and Kunzum Pass is very treacherous but an experience plus beauty in itself. Moreover, although the water crossings are more common on this route to Spiti Valley from Manali side, it is less susceptible to major landslides as compared to the roads in Kinnaur Valley
On Manali to Kaza road, the major hurdle is, in general, slush around Rohtang Pass, about 10 km on Northern side of Rohtang Pass towards Gramphu. Along with it, some nasty water crossing between Kunzum Pass and Gramphu can be a major concern as well.
If you leave early from Manali, these water crossings are manageable but in Kinnaur Valley, monsoons wreck havoc and there are many zones where constant shooting stones and landslides happen. Some of the major one being Malling Nalla ahead of Nako and some stretches between Reckong Peo to Nako.
On the other hand, this is time window when the route from Manali to Kaza is also open and hence, it can be used to reach Spiti Valley. You can enter the rain shadow region as quickly as possible, of course, by risking the rains for a couple of days up to Manali mainly. The risk is almost a day less than traveling to Spiti Valley from Kinnaur – Shimla route.
I know this is arguable but still, personally, I will prefer going to Spiti Valley from Manali in rainy seasons as compared to Shimla side at any day if I absolutely have to travel. Otherwise, I do not travel in the mountains in monsoon season.
3. Ease of Accessibility
The route from Manali to Spiti Valley is also easily accessible using public transport when compared to the route to Spiti Valley from Shimla or Kinnaur. I do not mean that you cannot make a trip to Spiti Valley by public transport from Shimla side but what I really mean is that in comparison the connectivity is better and more accessible on Delhi to Manali to Kaza route
There are daily buses that run between Manali and Delhi. One can take an overnight bus to reach Manali from Delhi. You can also take a Volvo run by HRTC or HPTDC to Manali from Delhi and then HRTC buses ply buses on Kullu – Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass – Kaza route.
There are two HRTC buses which run between Manali and Kaza every morning, as soon as the road to Spiti Valley via Manali get open in the season, mostly in June. These buses run from Kullu to Kaza via Manali and it reaches Manali around 4.45 AM and leaves at 5.00 AM. Ticket to Kaza will cost you only about INR 300 approximately per person. Furthermore, if you want to reach Tabo, there is an HRTC bus that runs from Kaza at 2 PM to Chango which can drop you to Tabo for the night stay on Day 2. Sleeping at Tabo than Kaza helps in better acclimatization.
However, when compared, the buses are not that frequent when you enter Spiti from Kinnaur and even Reckong Peo has a daily bus from Chandigarh. Hence, from Delhi, you need to hop onto 3 buses to reach Kaza from Kinnaur side and from Chandigarh at least 2 buses.
4. Cheaper in Budget
Now, since we know that Spiti Valley is easily accessible from Manali side by public transport, using HRTC buses one can reach Kaza in cheapest means with overnight halt at just Manali. Plus it take one extra day to travel to Spiti from Shimla side as compare to traveling from Manali side to Spiti.
While coming from Shimla to Spiti Valley, you will end up paying more for transport plus you will be staying on the route for two nights which itself will increase the accommodation and food expenditure as well.
Hence, this route to Spiti Valley is cheaper as well when compared with the route from Shimla – Kinnaur side because you stay one night less, travel one night less and pay for one night less on Manali to Spiti route.
5. Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass
If you are one of those like me, who is fascinated by crossing over various high altitude passes in the Himalayas, then the preference between the route has to be the road to Spiti Valley from Manali.
On this route, you will be crossing Rohtang Pass (3980 Mtrs) first to enter Lahaul Valley from Kullu Valley and then you will cross Kunzum Pass (4551 Mtrs) to enter Spiti Valley from Lahaul Valley. Traveling over these mighty passes of Himachal is a kind of a feeling in itself!!
Hence, do not miss the opportunity of stopping at Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass to take a photograph. At Kunzum Pass, do pay respect at Kunzum Devi temple by driving around it in the circuit in the clockwise direction to pay the respect before moving into Spiti Valley.
Well, if you are still confused on which route to choose to travel to Spiti Valley, I will recommend that you wait and take some more days off to travel the full circuit of Spiti Valley, that is, starting the trip to Spiti from Shimla side and ending at Manali side.
I hope this short series of two articles on both the routes to Spiti Valley will help all of you who are in a bit of confusion choosing among these two routes i.e. Spiti Valley from Manali side v/s Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur side. Now, you can weigh the advantages of both these routes and decide which one suits you the best given the circumstances, which direction to take if interested in a complete circuit, etc.. in order to make a road trip to Spiti Valley.
Have you ever been to Spiti Valley through Hindustan Tibet Highway or via Manali? If yes, please share your viewpoints, suggestions or inputs as comments below. It will help other fellow travelers to plan their own journey to Spiti as well.
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Are you planning to go to Spiti Valley via Hindustan – Tibet Highway or Manali? If yes, please feel free to ask any questions or doubts you have regarding your plan in the comments section below. I will be happy to reply and discuss them with you. Looking forward to your responses 🙂
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