In the last article of the series "Comprehensive Travel Guide to Spiti Valley", we talked about how to plan a journey on road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur Valley OR Hindustan – Tibet Highway. In this article, I will talk in detail about the other road to Spiti Valley which goes via Manali. The road to Spiti Valley. Like I elaborated in the last article, in order to visit this picturesque valley of the Trans – Himalayan region, either one can take a long 3 day journey over Hindustan – Tibet Highway running through Shimla – Kinnaur Valley OR they can tread along the path of Manali and then take Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass – Kaza (Spiti Valley) route in 2 days. As a practice and to enjoy the route entirely, it is always better to do the complete circuit for the first time and then keep coming back from one or the other route to explore more and more places in Spiti Valley which is quite difficult to explore in just one trip.
Unlike the long, treacherous, Hindustan – Tibet Highway, the major part of the journey to Spiti Valley via Manali is covered without any trouble up to Manali which is about 570 odd KMs from Delhi. Still, you can check, how to plan a journey to Manali in the article on its detailed travel guide: Delhi to Manali, Himachal Pradesh | Travel Guide. Now, that you know how to travel to Manali from Delhi, let’s cover in detail in this article about planning the rest of 200 odd KM journey to Spiti Valley from Manali to Kaza.
Important Links for Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Before I dive into the specific details on planning the trip on road to Spiti Valley, I will suggest you to also refer these supporting articles of this on going series “Comprehensive Travel Guide to Spiti Valley”:
Season to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley
To know what is the season that will suit you to travel on the road to Spiti Valley, check the article: Best Season to Travel on Road to Spiti Valley
Modes of Travel on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
Private Vehicles i.e. Cars and Bikes | Self Drive or Ride to Spiti Valley
Most people prefer to self drive or self ride to Spiti Valley by their own car or own bike and some also prefer to self drive or self ride to Spiti Valley by hiring a bike or car. You can take your own or rented, car or bike to Spiti Valley but one must be careful while driving or riding through slushy roads, snow and water crossing or nallas especially from Rohtang Pass to Kunzum Pass and almost upto Losar village. Also, it is always handy to learn little maintenance tasks of your vehicle prior to the start of this arduous journey to Spiti Valley from Manali.
For cars, although an SUV/MUV is good to have and a 4WD SUV will definitely help but I have seen hatchbacks (including Altos and Nano) and sedans doing good enough job on the road of Grapmhu to Kunzum Pass. If you want to try your sedan or hatch back drive to Spiti Valley then one must drive with extra care and caution and especially in Grapmhu to Kunzum Pass as it is almost like driving over the river bed.
Whenever you are in doubt, always step out of your car, walk down the path, inspect with your foot and plan the path of exit before crossing a dangerous landslide or water crossing on your vehicle. You can also park aside and see how others are crossing the risky section to plan your route of escape. In deep water crossings try to maintain the momentum without any half clutch measures and complete the entire stretch in one go only. Similarly, in slush stretches do not force the issue rather keep the smooth momentum with required speed to pass you through, without half clutch measures. Do keep an eye on the direction of the vehicle too. If you get stuck in slush then try to back and forth your vehicles to get out of the stuck position. It is always handy to ask your fellow co-travellers to get out of the car and push the vehicle from behind in case the car is struggling to pass through the slush or water crossing stretch. DO NOT forget to help other fellow travellers in need on the route.
Basic toolkit, screw driver set, small hammer, puncture repair kit, iron rod, two or three "2 ltr" empty bottles of pepsi / coke / limca etc to carry extra petrol or diesel (jerry cans will leak, cold drink bottles do not leak), funnel, towing rope, spare tube (must for bikes), elfy or fevi quick (2-3 sachets), jump start cables/wires, M-seal to prevent leakage etc. were among the few things which I carried along on my trip to Ladakh. Also, do not forget to get your vehicle (car/bike) serviced about 2-3 weeks before the start of the journey to trans Himalayas. This will ensure that you have proper time in advance to test your serviced vehicle and get fixed any hitches that may have been introduced in that service.
Hiring a Private Taxi | Taxi Number or Private Number
You can also hire a taxi from Manali or Delhi to travel on the road to Spiti Valley. It is always better to hire Xylo or Scorpio and mostly the charges ranges from 2800 to 3500 per day from Manali depending upon season of travel and your bargaining skills. Better confirm from the driver if he has done the route over Spiti Valley and when was the last time he did go on that route. Many a times, drivers from Manali are good unlike from Shimla who cover mainly lower hills but it is always better to double check before fixing a deal.
HRTC Bus Service &Shared Taxis| Economical mode of travel
You can 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 runs between Manali and Kaza every morning, as soon as road to Spiti Valley via Manali get open in the season, mostly in mid-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 250 approximately per person.
In between, you can also buy yourself a seat in a shared taxi which runs between various places within Spiti Valley. Example, you can cover Dhangkar Monastery, Pin Valley, Kibber/Ki, Hikkim/Komik etc. all in shared taxis available from Tabo OR Kaza. Even shared taxis run between Losar and Kaza too.
If you are really tight on budget, then to get some tips on how save more, please refer an article: Chandratal Lake | Cheapest Ways To Travel There
Planning Night Stay or Accommodation on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
Based on my experience, you can opt to plan a journey on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali in one of the following ways –
Three Day Journey to Spiti Valley via Manali
It is always better to traverse the road to Spiti Valley over Manali – Rohtang Pass route in 3 days, so that your body is a bit more acclimatized to the high altitude of Spiti Valley within these 3 days. Though unlike traveling on Hindustan – Tibet highway which provides gradual ascend still braking the journey at Khoksar in Lahaul or if you have more days than may for couple of days in Keylong after Manali will be a great option to take. Anyhow, the general breakup of the journey in 3 days is like below:
Day 1: Delhi – Manali or Solang Valley (better to halt at Solang as it will help in acclimatization which Manali does not do.)
Day 2: Manali or Solang Valley – Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Khoksar
Day 3: Khoksar – Gramphu – Kunzum Pass – Kaza (Spiti Valley)
This way spending a night at Khoksar will help you a lot in terms of acclimatization. If you have couple of days then go ahead and stay at Jispa for 2 days and explore around Lahaul Valley and finally on Day 4 make a dash to Spiti Valley over Kunzum Pass from Jispa itself.
Two Day Journey to Spiti Valley via Manali
This is the most generally followed by many but it increases the chances of AMS while reaching Spiti Valley. The general breakup is like below:
Day 1: Delhi – Manali or Solang Valley (better to halt at Solang as it will help in acclimatization which Manali does not do.)
Day 2: Manali or Solang Valley – Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Kunzum Pass – Kaza/Tabo (Spiti Valley)
In this case, I generally suggest that you start very early in the morning and try to reach Tabo instead of Kaza on Day 2 from Manali. Though going all the way to Tabo will mean 2 hrs more journey as compared to Kaza, being 45 odd KMs ahead. However, it will help you acclimatize better and combat AMS as it is 600 odd Mtrs lower than Kaza. Having said all that, if you take necessary precautions, Kaza is generally OK for majority of people too.
Most Common Itinerary for Spiti Valley
In case, you are interested in entire circuit including Kinnaur, Spiti & Manali and have about 10-12 days then you can also look at the link: Spiti Valley | Most Common Itinerary
Sightseeing on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
Traveling over this beautiful yet adventurous road to Spiti Valley is a sightseeing in itself. However, while traversing over it there are some fabulous places which you can visit alongside this highway to heaven. To name few,
Manali, Solang Valley (a bit off track, 16 KMs), Rohtang Pass (though I never liked it personally) and then Chandratal (a bit off track just ahead of Battal and it shall always be done while coming back from Spiti Valley). The whole route from Gramphu to Kunzum Pass to Losar to Kaza is sightseeing in itself, believe me. The treacherous it is, the more beautiful it becomes :D…
List of Accommodation or Stay Options on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
Unlike Hindustan – Tibet Highway, there isn’t much to think about accommodation while traveling to Spiti Valley via Manali. First day you end up at Manali or Solang which has wide range of hotels and next day you can either stay at Khoksar PWD Rest House or reach Kaza or Tabo which again has many accommodation options available for yourself. In between, there is a PWD Rest house at Chota Dhara and there is new PWD rest houses started in July 2013 even at Batal before you enter Spiti beyond Kunzum Pass.
You can also go ahead and vouch for these PWD Rest Houses along the entire road to Spiti Valley, which are though comfortable and economic but may not suit needs of every family. Also, you require bookings for them and sometimes in case of some VIP visit they may try to push you though not in rights. But, in general and in case you are OK with average comfort conditions, Quite Recommended!! You can refer: How to Book HP PWD Rest Houses or FRHs
Acclimatization & its importance on Road to Spiti Valley via Kinnaur
Like Manali – Leh Highway, the journey on road to Spiti Valley over Rohtang Pass and Kunzum Pass is quite treacherous especially beyond Rohtang Pass and few 15 odd KMs before the top of it. That is why going through Hindustan – Tibet Highway is always preferred for road trip to Spiti Valley as compared to than going via Manali – Kunzum Pass – Kaza route. While traveling to Spiti Valley from this route through Kinnaur Valley, one gives himself a chance to properly acclimatize to the high altitudes there by decreasing the chances of being hit by AMS. In the return leg, you can come back to Delhi via Kaza – Kunzum Pass – Manali route to complete the entire circuit. This helps you enjoy the whole or high altitude places of Spiti Valley including Chandratal Lake in a much better way as well.
Having said that if you have no option to go via Kinnaur then on a road trip to Spiti Valley via Manali, it is always good that you take little precautions to minimize the effects of high altitude sickness. Here are some tips which will help acclimatizing the body faster in first few days of the trip:
- Try to sleep at Solang Valley not Manali as Solang Valley does help in acclimatization while Manali does not do so.
- Try to reach Kaza with at least 3 night stays, if you have time.
- But, if reaching on second night then better try to reach Tabo to stay over the second night as Tabo is much lower in altitude than Kaza
- Keep your body properly hydrated.
- Avoid sleeping at high altitudes earlier in the trip.
- Avoid over exertion.
- Avoid tobacco and smoking and alcohol and other depressant drugs.
- Keep your body warm and eat lots of carbohydrates.
- Avoid sleep during the day.
- Sleep in upright position, if possible.
- Carry preventive medicines for AMS.
- Immediately descend towards Tabo, if symptoms increase.
For more information on Acute Mountain Sickness and all above acclimatization tips, please refer the following link at least once: Acute Mountain Sickness and Importance of Acclimatization
Fuel or Petrol Pumps on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
You will be able to find fuel pumps only at: Manali and Kaza. It is very important not to miss to refuel at Kaza.
ATMs on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
As per my knowledge there are ATMs available only at Manali and at some places en-route. There is no ATM at Kaza as well AFAIK, so no ATM in Spiti Valley. Hence, it is advised that you carry cash from Manali. I guess you should carry enough cash with you on trans Himalayan trip because ATMs at these limited places can run out of money or become un-operational at any day or time.
Places on Road to Spiti Valley via Manali
The places that falls on this route along with approximate distances between them goes like Manali – Marhi – Rohtang Pass – Gramphu – Chattru – Chota Dhara – Batal – Kunzum Pass – Losar – Kaza…
The approximate distances along with altitude of these places is shown in the chart below. This will help you judge over acclimatization schedule too.
Road to Spiti Valley via Manali Altitude & Distance Graph
Permits for Manali – Rohtang Pass Road
Since 2010, all non-HP vehicles going to Rohtang Pass needs permits which can be obtained free of cost by showing vehicle’s RC and DL copy.
Timings for the SDM Office, Manali are 10.00 AM to 5.00 PM and SDM Office Manali will be closed on National / Local Holidays, Sundays, Second Saturdays. So get in touch with some agent to get in advance if you are landing there on these days.
Bikes were exempted from the permits because in last 2 years none of the readers who are bikers on the blog reported any issue. But, bikers also need permits as per the latest updates in 2013
Now, since July there are different updates on how to get these permits. Some people have got the permits from Green Tax barrier at Manali entrance where they just note down the details of your license and vehicle RC and hand over the permit to you. In an other variations, now Rs 100 is charged as a congestion fees from the vehicle going beyond Rohtang Pass and permit is issued from local tourism office in Manali town, where forms are also available. Which one is exactly rue between these two, is yet unknown and as soon as I travel, I will get the updates again OR if you have the updated info, feel free to shoot a comment below, will be really grateful to you.
If you are coming from Keylong side or Kaza side, then you do not need any permit to ply on Manali – Rohtang Pass road even if you have a non-HP registered vehicle. Permit is required only if you are going from Manali side towards Rohtang Pass.
You can read detailed article at: Non – HP Vehicles Need Permit on Manali – Rohtang Pass Road
Timings of Manali – Rohtang Pass Road
Starting this year, 2013, traffic on Manali – Rohtang Pass Road has been regulated with timings and traffic will be allowed only one way in those timings. Following is the summary of the regulations:
Vehicles going to Rohtang Pass will only be allowed to go from Manali to Rohtang Pass from 6 AM to 11 AM.
After 11 AM, tourists or any taxis or vehicle will not be allowed to go to Rohtang Pass, this is like vehicles will not be allowed to cross barrier at Marhi after 11 AM
Only exceptions are emergency vehicles and HRTC buses and vehicles coming from Lahaul or Spiti Valley which should be certified by Khoksar Check post.
Vehicles will only be allowed to come back from Rohtang Pass to Manali after 1 PM to 6 PM only where 11 AM to 1 PM is the maintenance timings when there will not be any movement of vehicles.
Vehicles going beyond Rohtang Pass i.e. to Leh – Ladakh or Lahaul + Spiti Valley WILL be allowed from 5 PM to 6 AM too.
NO restrictions are present for Ambulances or vehicles in emergency.
Any violations to these rules may lead to seizure of the vehicles too.
You can read detailed article at: Manali – Rohtang Pass Road | Timings and One Way Traffic Regulations
Have you ever been to Spiti Valley through Hindustan – Tibet Highway or via Manali? If yes, please share your view points, suggestions or inputs as comments below, it will help other fellow travellers to plan their own journey too.
Are you planning to go to Spiti Valley via Hindustan – Tibet Highway or Manali? If yes, please feel free to ask any queries or doubts you have regarding the your plan either in comments section OR in the DoW – Himalayan Travel Community & Forums. I will be happy to reply and discuss them with you. Looking forward to your responses 🙂