Shimla Manali Highway – one of the most scenic road trips in India

A road trip on Shimla Manali highway is one of the most picturesque ones that we have taken in our life. The road distance between Shimla Manali is about 250 kms. And, the route is completely in the hills of Himalayas, so, it takes 7-8 hours to cover this distance (including stops for breakfast and lunch). However, every bit of the route is very scenic and beautiful, with the majestic mountains on one side and the lush green , deep valley at the other side of the road. But, one should start as early in the morning as possible. So that one can spend more time on the way to Manali and still reach there before dark.

 Shimla Manali highway
Shimla Manali road

 

Our Shimla Manali drive

I have been lucky enough to already been on this Shimla Manali road twice. The first time was long back with my parents. When I was a kid. But the memories are still quiet vivid. So, this time around, there was no question or confusion on how we are going to take the trip between Shimla Manali. I knew we were going to take the road trip and during the day. So that we could enjoy it thoroughly. I also planned to start early so that we could have ample time with our kid to cover the distance without any haste.

Early morning start for Shimla Manali highway

We woke up early in the morning. And, we decided to skip breakfast at our homestay in Shimla in lieu of time. However, the homestay owner knew of our plans. Thus, he had arranged for an early morning breakfast, ensuring his guests don’t leave without having food. Soon, we packed our bags, and got ready to leave.

Out of Shimla, on the highway

Since we started quiet early. Therefore, we left the town and hit the highway in no time. After traveling 78 KM you reach Beri junction, before Bilaspur. At this junction the roads from Chandigarh, Delhi and Kalka side join the Shimla Manali road. We stopped here for a while since our little one needed little rest. We parked our cars on the road side and stepped out. Fresh air and lush green mountains and valleys greeted us. We all strolled a little here and there on the road side before continuing further.

From here, after sometime, we hit Sundarnagar. There is a dam here. 25km from here comes Mandi. It all gets better at this point, ~145km from Shimla. The road starts running besides river Beas and then continues hand-in-hand with the river for the rest of the journey all the way till Manali. The torquish water and gush of the river amidst the trees and the smooth rocks on the river bed produce a scene beautiful enough to inspire any artist and excite any traveller :). It provides perfect photographic backdrop for snaps, all through the way.

Once the drive along the river bank starts, the whole route is dotted with eateries. We stopped at a local dhaba (Indian Eatery) and had hot chapatis and delicious Indian curries sitting along the bank of the river. There are not many fancy restaurants, but these small roadside dhabas are a must try for the taste of authentic North Indian food. One must stop for lunch at one of these roadside dhabas en-route to Manali.

Shimla Manali road

Kullu

Around 50km before Manali comes the town of Kullu. Here, there’s a beautiful bridge across the river which leads to the town, it looks like a painting done by the almighty himself. The highway runs on one side of the bridge, while on the other side, the beautiful small houses all along the opposite bank of the river present a scene that looks just out of the fairy tale. As the road starts approaching Kullu, one can start seeing many small hotels and camps alongside the river. These present a nice option to stay besides the river and enjoy the scenery. Many of them also arrange for river rafting, fishing and other adventure activities and sports activities. There are numerous river side hotels as well lining the bank.

From Kullu to Manali the river flows almost at the same level as the road, just besides it. On one side there are the hills and farms and on the other side the riverbed and the beautiful stream flowing till the town of Manali. Almost 10-15km before reaching Manali, the road passes through the nearby villages, with green fields on either side of the road and a few village houses popping up now and then.

 Shimla Manali road

Kullu government Emporium

This drive for us was more like a leisurely walk. We stopped at lots of places, for tea, coffee, lunch and at times simply to take a few moments and appreciate the natural beauty in front of us. In the town of Kullu there is a Goverment garment store right on the highway, which houses some fine woolen shawls, carpets, sweaters, pullovers, caps and other garments made by the locals. The ground floor has the spinning and manufacturing machines and first floor has the shop. And, it is right besides the highway. We stopped here for some nice half an hour and did pick some sovereigns and some shawls.

At snow peak retreat Manali

Finally from here, we headed straight to Manali. Once in Manali town, we asked the directions for our resort snow peack retreat and we headed staight to the resort. As we arrived at the resort, it was almost sunset time. The resort is located just near the Hidimba Temple. The final stretch of a few hundred meters to the resort were narrow and steep. However, it was all worth it because of the scene that we were greeted with as soon as we reached the resort. Just in front of the resort, the mountain peaks were covered with snow and the whole scene was quiet beautiful.

Conclusion

Overall, it was a drive of almost 9 hours for us, but we didn’t feel a bit tired when we reached our destination, Snow Peak Retreat, Manali. When we were driving along the bank of the river, almost at the same level with the river bed, it felt so awesome, we wished the journey would never come to an end 🙂

Note: This road remains open throughout the year and serves as main connection to Manali town from different parts of India. It is not affected by the snowfall in winter.

Tips for your journey on this road

  1. Start as early from Shimla as possible so that you get a lead on the way and don’t get stuck on the mountain road post dark.
  2. You can have breakfast in your hotel or on the way.
  3. There are numerous food outlets on the way, and the roadside one have very delicious north Indian cuisines.
  4. But, carry drikning water with you in case you need it all of a sudden
  5. Wear enough woolen, the temperature will be mostly low
  6. Make space for ample breaks during the Shimla Manali journey. Since the journey is long, you will not feel tired if you take it slow and take breaks in between
  7. The route has directions at all the major turnings, so there won’t be any problem. GPS also works all through the route.
  8. If you are driving on your own, better two or three people split the driving between them as the route is long.
  9. The road is open all through the year, so you can plan the journey anytime.
  10. In extreme winter months, it snows in Manali. Do check the weather predictions to avoid getting stuck on the way near Kullu or Manali
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Shimla Manali Pin
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39 Responses

  1. Ashwin Tiwari

    Nice post! Got a good insight. Would you happen to know if the road from Kullu to Shimla is one way or two way and the general amount of traffic on this route?

    We will be traveling from Bhuntar to Mashobra and from Mashobra to Manali. I note from your article that you suggest one leaves early in the morning. However, on the onward journey to Mashobra from Bhuntar we will not be able to start our journey before 11 am and the return journey from Mashobra to Manali before 2 pm. Would be great if you could highlight any issues that you feel we might encounter with this schedule and any tips that we should keep in mind on our journey. It may be noted that we will not be driving ourselves and both sides the journey will be in a local taxi.

    • Neha

      Hi Ashwin. The distance in kilometers is not much from Shimla to Manali. And the Kullu Shima road is a 2 way road, however , kullu to Manali is narrower. Traffic is also not much on this route in border seasons. But, as it is hilly terrain with several sharp bends and turns and you won’t have the usual roadside lamps or street lights to guide you beyond dark, it will be a dangerous ride, even if a local driver is driving. That’s why it is preferable to aim to reach Manali before dark. Also, again, pertaining to the altitude and the cold and cloudy climate, it will get dark as early as 5pm in winter months and max by 6pm otherwise. So, I will still suggest, start early, or stay somewhere midway and continue your journey to Manali the next day. Have a wonderful trip!

  2. Mahesh

    Hi Neha,

    Very good blog. Keep it up!!!

    we are travelling to Shimla/Manali in Dec this year. Need to know what are the places we can visit enroute Manali from Shimla considering we leave Shimla as early as possible in the morning..

    Can we cover Naggar castle or Manikaran?
    We will be travelling back from Manali to Chandigarh after stay of 3 nights in Manali so want to cover few places enroute Manali from Shimla and few enroute Chandigarh from Manali.

    Also want to know about the river rafting. we have do it while going to Manali or enroute Chandigarh?

    Thanks in advance.

    Mahesh

    • Neha

      Thanks Mahesh. There are two routes to Manali from Shimla. One of them has Naggar Castle on the way and if you decide to take that route, you can stop there. There is a restaurant also inside the castle campus it seems. However, start really early, like by 6:00am in the morning. Also, both rafting and Naggar Castle you wont be able to cover en route to Manali as both will consume time. So, you can do Rafting on the day you return from Manali, or, while you are in Manali. The river is right there and you can go down specifically for Rafting on one of the days, that way it won’t be very hectic.

  3. Jodie

    Very good blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely
    confused .. Any ideas? Thanks a lot!post34416

    • Neha

      Hi Jodie,

      You could definitely start with a free platform and sharpen your writing skills. If you feel you are ready to get into paid platform, we have an article on how to set that up

  4. Pooja Ahuja

    Neha, could you please share details of the taxi operator from where you booked your cab during your trip. TIA!

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