We all know that two routes exist to travel to Spiti Valley. The one route takes you to Kaza, Spiti from Shimla – Kinnaur side while the other route goes from Manali – Rohtang Pass to Spiti.
In the last two articles, I have talked about in details on How To Travel to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur side and then How To Travel to Spiti Valley from Manali side. Now that we know how we are going to travel to Spiti Valley, the question arises which one you should pick and why. If one has to choose among these two routes for traveling to Spiti Valley by road, then let’s looks at some advantages of traveling to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur route, popularly known as Hindustan Tibet Highway.
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Let's quickly dive into the details:
Why travel to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur route?
If you compare the road to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur Route with the road to Spiti Valley from Manali, there are certain definitive advantages as well as disadvantages of both these beautiful routes. It is a hard choice, but some of the reasons mentioned in this article will help you make the right choice based on your preferences.
In this article, I will enlist 5 main reasons to travel to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur route. And, in the next article, I will talk about the advantages of making the road trip to Spiti Valley from Manali side.
1. Acclimatization and AMS
Sometimes, people traveling or going directly to Spiti Valley or Kaza from Manali suffers from acute mountain sickness due to the sudden change of altitude. The body does not adapt that quickly to such a high altitude of Kunzum Pass or Kaza, which is about 3600 Mtrs high in altitude. Manali is much lower in altitude to provide any benefits of acclimatization.
Hence, there is a very high possibility of getting hit with AMS when traveling to Spiti from Manali side. One night’s stay is not sufficient to acclimatize to the altitude of Spiti Valley or Chandratal.
However, when you travel to Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur side, the Hindustan Tibet Road provides a gradual ascend to travelers. Thus, it helps you fight any chances of acute mountain sickness (AMS) caused due to a sudden change in high altitudes.
Hence, you enjoy the beautiful vistas en-route Spiti Valley in a relaxed and peaceful manner without any concerns of AMS in trans-Himalayas.
2. Ugly & Messy Drive of Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Batal
When you travel from to Spiti from Manali, then you have to drive through the ever messy Rohtang Pass. The widely famous huge traffic jams which in the month of May-June used to last even for days though since the ban of tourism at Rohtang Pass things have improved a lot.
Still, in peak season time, the drivers coming from another side will bully you, break the lines and block the traffic coming from another side. Sometimes even ignorant, ill-mannered people driving from plains are also responsible for this queue breaks and resulting in deadlocks for hours.
This only creates frustration and agony, plus some people suffer from ill-health too while stranded for long hours at that high altitude. As those summer and vacation months pass by, monsoons magic comes in and makes the road to Rohtang Pass, especially the Rohtang Pass, to Gramphu road on the Northern side. So, in case you are self-driving, get ready for some real fun and adventure through slush during this time.
I will admit that you may find roads with slush in the Kinnaur region as well when traveling to Spiti. However, going through the journey of Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Batal on the second day of the trip can easily be a trip crasher for certain people who expects a smooth journey across to Kaza from Manali seeing the Google maps.
3. The Drama of Manali – Rohtang Pass Permits
Of course, it is a trivial process that you need to get the Rohtang Pass permits when traveling towards Rohtang Pass from Manali side. However, sometimes, it can prove to be a frustrating affair. It can be a kind of piss-off that can force you to alter your drive plans or nights stay even. In 2018, Himachal govt launched a mobile app to get yourself the Rohtang Pass permits. You can read my article on how to get Rohtang Pass permit online or using a mobile app.
It is a very welcoming move that eases out the whole process of apply Rohtang Pass permits as it has been known to be a very nightmarish experience in the past. Still, in-season time, you might have some frustrating encounters.
Oddly, you do not need Rohtang Pass permit when you travel from Kaza or Keylong side. Hence, when you travel to Spiti Valley from the Kinnaur side, you do not need any permits for Rohtang Pass. So, one less thing to prepare or worry about on your adventure road trip to Spiti Valley.
4. Limited Season of Travel – June to September
The roads to Spiti Valley from Manali to Kaza side opens up in June along with the opening of the whole route between Gramphu (a small diversion point on Manali – Leh Highway ahead of Rohtang Pass) to Kunzum Pass to Kaza.
Gramphu to Kunzum Pass route remains buried under 20+ feet snow glaciers, which needs to be cut-through to make the passage to Spiti. Since this road from Manali to Kaza is low on priority for BRO in general, they start opening it at later stages only after making Manali – Leh Highway almost completely operational.
Kunzum Pass opens in late May or early June
Even after the opening of Manali – Leh Highway, the progress of opening of Gramphu to Kunzum Pass is not that quick. Even though authorities work from both ends, that is, from Gramphu end as well as Losar end, the sheer presence of huge glaciers makes the task at hand very difficult.
In fact, the snow clearance operation on Manali to Kaza road from Kaza side starts from March itself. First, the GREF clears the snow from Kaza to Losar and then move towards Kunzum Pass. Finally, the snow clearance operations go beyond Batal up to Chota Dhara / Chatru, which falls under other divisions.
The road up to Chota Dhara / Chatru is cleared from Gramphu side by the division of Lahaul Valley (I hope I am correct in this assumption :))
Kunzum Pass closes in October – November
By September month, Kunzum Pass and other high mountain passes of the Himalayas start receiving snowfall. Hence, it is not an ideal time to travel beyond Kunzum Pass, especially after the middle of October, because you can get stranded for some hours to days in between Grampu and Kunzum Pass. It had happened in the past and even recently in 2018 when hundreds of tourists got stuck in Spiti and Lahaul valley after sudden snowfall in September.
As October begins, the risk becomes even higher. Hence, you are limited by a small window of 4-5 months for traveling the road to Spiti Valley from Manali side.
On the other hand, if you travel Spiti Valley from Shimla – Kinnaur side, that route remains open almost all around the year including winter months in Spiti. Only when there is heavy snowfall, the route from Shimla – Kinnaur to Spiti closes down for a few days.
5. Beauty of Hindustan Tibet Highway
In the end, of course, you will miss the entire beauty and adventure of traveling or driving or riding one of the most treacherous roads in the world: Hindustan – Tibet Highway.
The experience of traveling on Hindustan – Tibet road is unmatched, and I call it a destination in itself rather than a journey. I do not deny the road beyond Rohtang Pass and towards Kunzum Pass is not that scenic, but there is a hell lot more attached to Hindustan – Tibet Highway than the road from Manali over Kunzum Pass to Spiti Valley.
Just to get an idea of sightseeing places over this amazing yet historic route to Spiti from Shimla – Kinnaur side, which shall not be missed, check my article on Hindustan Tibet Road & NH – 22 | Interesting Places
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.
Don’t have time to read the full article? Check this less than 3-minute video on DevilOnWheels YouTube Channel on these five reasons to take Shimla to Kaza route instead of Manali to Kaza. If you like my video, please do not forget to SUBSCRIBE to the YouTube channel.
I hope this article will help all of you who are in a bit of confusion among these two routes. In the next article of the series, I will also talk about some of the reasons which you shall consider to travel Spiti Valley from Manali side as well, just in case you are feeling too much-bounded :)…
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 because it will help other fellow travelers to plan their journey to Spiti Valley too.
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 OR my Instagram profile. I will be happy to reply and discuss them with you. Looking forward to your responses 🙂
If you know your friends or family are planning a trip to Spiti from Shimla side, then do share this article with them to help them make a memorable trip.