How to Reach Spiti Valley – Shimla versus Manali Route ?

traveller Akriti

“How to reach Spiti Valley” is the first question that comes to mind for most travelers planning a trip to this cold desert. This question is important since Spiti’s location is quite remote. It is indeed a far away land situated high up in the Himalayas.

Located between Tibet and India, the literal translation of Spiti is “The Middle Land.”  This part of the world will entice you with its extraordinary beauty unlike what you have ever experienced before. However, this will only be possible if you reach Spiti by choosing the optimum route. Therefore, the question of how to reach Spiti must be addressed keeping in mind the timing of your trip as well as the duration.

Reaching Spiti Valley is no easy task. Only brave and truly adventurous travelers can undertake this journey. Whatever route you choose to reach Spiti Valley, the long and rough travel experience is going to be challenging. The rugged terrain and unpredictable weather will add to the hardship. However, I can tell you that the beauty of Spiti is such that your journey will be totally worth it.

How to Reach Spiti Valley?

In order to begin your trip to Spiti Valley, the first thing you need to do is to choose your route. Now there are two routes to reach Spiti Valley. One is the route via Shimla and the other is via Manali.  The choice of your travel route is totally up to you. 

The following lines from Rudyard Kipling perfectly describe the remotely located land of Spiti –

 “At last, they entered a world within a world – a valley of leagues where the high hills were fashioned of the mere rubble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains…Surely the Gods live here…This is no place for men!”

The journey to Spiti Valley is not going to be easy but it is going to be one of the best experiences of your life. All you need to do is plan ahead and choose the path between Shimla and Manali that suits you most. 

How to reach Spiti

The route map from both the Manali side as well as Shimla side for first time travelers. You can go biking via the Manali route to reach Spiti or can go backpacking via the Shimla route. This current map has been created using Google Maps and the route layout and curation have been done by Akriti Mattu

How to Reach Spiti via the Best Route – Shimla versus Manali ?

You need to know that no matter from which part of India or the world you’re traveling, the starting points of your trip to Spiti will have to be either Shimla or Manali. Other than these two locations, there is no other place from where you can start your trip to Spiti.

In order to help you with the route that suits you best, I will be comparing both Shimla and Manali as starting points to a route that leads to Spiti. Based on all of the factors below, you can make an informed call.

Exact route

From Shimla: Shimla – Reckong Peo – Kaza

From Manali: Manali – Rohtang Pass – Kunzum Pass – Kaza

Distance covered

From Shimla: 440 Kms

From Manali: 205 Kms

Total travel time

From Shimla: 2 days and 14 hours

From Manali: 8 hours

Road condition

From Shimla: Susceptible to landslides during the rainy season

From Manali: Susceptible to traffic jams near Rohtang Pass during peak season. Susceptible to accidents during the rainy season.


From Shimla: Throughout the year except for any major weather emergencies.

From Manali: End of June to September

Availability of public transport

From Shimla: Shimla to Reckong Peo (direct bus). From Reckong Peo to Kaza (direct bus). 

From Manali: Manali to Kaza (direct bus).

Travel cost 

From Shimla: More expensive than Manali route if hiring a cab. However, HRTC buses are nominal. You might also want to stay the night at Reckong Peo which adds to the lodging cost.

From Manali: Cheaper than Shimla if taking a cab. HRTC buses are nominal.

Important places on the way

From Shimla: Kalpa, Sarahan, Sangla Valley, Tabo Monastery

From Manali: Rohtang Pass, Kunzum Pass and Chandratal Lake (you’ll have to trek here from Batal).

Chances of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

From Shimla: Gradual increase in altitude leads to low to negligible chances of AMS.

From Manali: Sudden change in altitude can cause AMS.

Nearest Airport

From Shimla: Jubberhatti, Shimla

From Manali: Bhunter, Kullu

Permits for Indians

From Shimla: None

From Manali: Vehicle Permit to cross Rohtang pass (non-Himachal vehicles)

Permits for foreigners

From Shimla: Required beyond Reckong Peo

From Manali: Vehicle Permit to cross Rohtang Pass (non-Himachal vehicles)


From either Shimla or Manali, the three modes of travel available to you will be in the form of Himachal Transport Road Corporation (HRTC) buses, cabs or bikes.

Personally, traveling via public buses is the most cost-effective way to pursue a budget trip to Spiti. Also, it is the safest. 

How to Reach Spiti Valley from Major Indian Cities ?

Spiti is located so remotely that understanding the travel options are a must before planning a trip here. The four metropolitan cities of India are well connected with Himachal. So are the cities located close to them?

In order to have a better understanding of the exact route and travel modes from the four Indian metropolitan cities, feel free to visit the following –

How to reach Spiti Valley from Delhi ?

How to reach Spiti Valley from Chennai ?

How to reach Spiti Valley from Mumbai ?

How to reach Spiti Valley from Kolkata?

Modes of Travel Available for Reaching Spiti

As pointed out above, there are various modes of travel available for reaching Spiti. However, what you choose should depend on your pocket, comfort level and also health condition.

If you’re young, riding a bike isn’t much of a problem. However, if you’re old or have a heart ailment, then traveling by cab or bus will be better. 

My point is that you make an informed decision and only then proceed with the journey. Spiti isn’t an easy destination to reach. Hence, thinking clearly is important before choosing the correct mode of transport.

By Air

If you’re traveling from a distant place then flying will surely be a better option. However, there are no direct flights till Spiti. You will have to take a flight either to New Delhi or Chandigarh.

From there, depending on your route, you will have to board a flight till either Shimla airport or Bhuntur airport near Manali.

Once you arrive at these airports, you can choose to proceed ahead in either a cab or a bus. You can also choose to stay overnight at either Shimla or Manali.

By Train

If you need a comfortable journey that is also budget-friendly, travel via train. Shimla has its only railway station but Manali does not. So in case you are taking the Shimla route till Spiti, take a train till either Chandigarh or Kalka.

From Kalka, board the narrow gauge train right up to Shimla. Traveling via train will not cause you any AMS. Once you reach Shimla, take a bus to Reckong Peo and stay there overnight. Next morning i.e. on day 2 take an early morning bus till Kaza and you’ve entered Spiti.

If you want to take the Manali route, you will have to take a train till Chandigarh and from there you need to board a train till Joginder Nagar. Once you reach Joginer Nagar, take a bus or a cab to reach Manali. This entire journey can take a lot of time.

Once you reach Manali, take a bus or a cab till Kaza in Spiti.

By Bus

Both Shimla and Manali are well connected with buses. You can choose to take HRTC buses, Volvo buses or any other normal bus to reach both these places. Additionally, you can travel via buses run by Himachal Tourism as well.

Shimla and Manali have frequent bus services from major cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Ambala, Kalka and even Jaipur. If you’re traveling from a far, reach Delhi or Chandigarh and then from there board your bus up to Shimla or Manali.

Journey via bus can be tiring. So I insist you stay overnight at Shimla or Manali and then in the morning continue your journey till Kaza in Spiti.

Comfort, health condition, a season of visit and cost are the 4 deciding factors that should be considered before choosing a specific mode of travel to reach Spiti. While traveling by train is the most budget-friendly and comfortable option, it is also the most time-consuming. Traveling by flight will help you save time but prove to be hugely expensive. Traveling by bus from afar will be possible only if your home city happens to be Chandigarh or New Delhi or at least near them. Once you reach Shimla or Manali, traveling by bus is the most reasonable option. You can choose to travel by cab as well but it will cost you a large amount of money given the tough terrain.

If you’re planning a trip to Spiti, do not allow the fear of its location stop you from having one of the best memories of your life. Spiti is the kind of place that only the most determined travelers can reach.

Visiting Spiti has its own set of challenges and hardships, especially if you are a first-time traveler to the region. However, I can tell you for a fact that your journey will be totally worth it.

Happy wayfaring.


Akriti Mattu

I hail from the Himalayan town of Shimla, have roots from Kashmir and am currently settled in Bangalore. I am a free spirit in every sense of the term and hence quit a decent paying but conforming job to pursue what I love the most – being my true ‘self.’ In travel, I’ve found my selfdom, coherence and freedom.