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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- You can have breakfast in your hotel or on the way.
- There are numerous food outlets on the way, and the roadside one have very delicious north Indian cuisines.
- But, carry drikning water with you in case you need it all of a sudden
- Wear enough woolen, the temperature will be mostly low
- 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
- The route has directions at all the major turnings, so there won’t be any problem. GPS also works all through the route.
- If you are driving on your own, better two or three people split the driving between them as the route is long.
- The road is open all through the year, so you can plan the journey anytime.
- In extreme winter months, it snows in Manali. Do check the weather predictions to avoid getting stuck on the way near Kullu or Manali