When the mountains are calling, there cannot be a better place than the picturesque Manali!
With its spell-binding landscape, fogged by-lanes lined with fruit-laden trees and fairy-tale cottages, Manali is a treat to the wanderer’s soul. Hence, it is no surprise that this quaint little hill station and its sister hill-town Kullu make for an unforgettable road trip experience, whether you are traveling solo, with family or with a group of friends. Yes, the road trip from Delhi to Manali, irrespective of the route you decide to take, has something for everyone.
My biker’s soul stirs at the very thought of undertaking this beautiful bike trail from Delhi to Manali and undoubtedly when it came to choosing the next biking trail to explore with my group of fellow bikers, Kullu-Manali was a unanimous choice, right from my bucket list of best bike trails from Delhi!
Let me share with you the ten best things that make the Kullu-Manali road trip an unforgettable experience for me and will make to your list as well if road trips are your kind of thing and even if they aren’t.
Located at an altitude of 6260 ft above sea-level, the scenic drive from Delhi to Manali is full of twists and turns, too!
A trip from Delhi to Manali by road can be a foodies’ delight. The number of roadside dhabas serving authentic and finger-licking delicacies is just the right ingredient to fuel your energies for the ride to Manali.
As you approach Kullu, the highways give way to the sinewy rocky terrain. While all the way till Kullu, all you see is a long stretch of barren mountains – their curvy trails lined by trucks, tourist buses, and lacklustre settlements, these give way to roads lined by snow-laden pine trees as you close in on Manali.
It is amazing how rapidly the landscape transforms after Kullu. At some places, all you can see is the long, sinewy stretch of snow – a real treat to the eye! The Beas river adds magic to the scene with its soft sound of water rustling over pebbles having a trance-like effect on the tired body and soul! As you approach Manali, the pines bordering the Beas get denser.
No doubt, a road trip from Delhi to Manali will leave an indelible memory with the stunning landscape that you would pass through!
Best time to visit Manali
Whether you aim to escape the blistering heat or merely enjoy a snowy winter, surprisingly no time is a bad one to visit Manali!
Let’s check out the year-round climate conditions in Manali so that you can plan a trip based on your weather preference!
December through January: If you would like to catch a glimpse of the snow-clad pristine peaks and enjoy the snowfall, no other time could be as good for a road trip than this. An ideal time to go skiing, this season is best for the adventurist in you. But, beware, road conditions could be a little tricky during this time!
March to June: Summers set in from March in Manali. If you are planning your next road trip to Kullu-Manali, with temperatures ranging 10 and 25 degree Celsius, summers are the best time to make this trip. While you may still need some warm riding gears, the weather is pleasant, and there is ample opportunity to enjoy the fair-weather sports such as paragliding, trekking, and white-water rafting. This time is also ideal for nature lovers as the valley is in full Spring bloom.
July to August: A road trip during this time could be a little tricky as this is the peak Monsoon time in Manali. With slippery roads and risks of landslides, it is best to avoid a road trip during this time, though being an off-season, it could be lighter on your pockets to plan a trip now!
September to February: Come September, and the monsoons start to withdraw, and by end-September/early October winters start setting in Manali. Temperatures may fall as low as -1 °C during this time, and it is essential that you have sufficiently warm riding gears and woollens to keep yourself warm and comfortable.
Once you have decided on when you want to go, we next need to check out the route that would suit us best for a road trip from Delhi to Manali. Here are the three most preferred scenic routes that you may explore as you travel via road from Delhi to Manali. Just pack your bags, pick your way and get going!
Route 1: Ambala-Chandigarh Route
Check out the route map here:
The first route takes you from Delhi passing through Panipat, Kurukshetra, Ambala, Chandigarh, Bilaspur, Mandi to finally Kullu and then Manali via NH44 and NH154.
This route takes around 12-13 hours, covering an approximate road distance of 560 km, with some popular layovers to make your road trip a pleasurable and memorable one.
While crossing Chandigarh, take a restful break and enjoy creativity at its best and out of waste at the Rock Gardens of Chandigarh! Follow up with a boat ride on the serene lake Sukhna. Ride up to Pinjore to enjoy a mesmerizing visit to the Jal Mahal. While in Chandigarh, a visit to Le Corbusier Centre is a must. Don’t miss out on this exquisite archive that houses photographs and materials from Le Corbusier, the French architect who designed this city!
Further up the route and out of Chandigarh, check out the beautiful and perfectly manicured Rajwadi Garden with its fountains. As you approach Bilaspur, the lush stretch of Achanakmar Wildlife Sanctuary on Pendra Road falls on the way. At the outskirts of Bilaspur, visit the monastery near the Rewalsar Lake nestled in the hills.
Route 2: The Banur-Palampur Route
Here’s the route map:
The Banur-Palampur Route is a 15-16 hours ride across NH44 and NH205, covering the same route as the Ambala-Chandigarh Route till Chandigarh and then taking the bypass via Banur and Palampur to merging onto the same route at Mandi and continuing to Kullu and Manali.
This route’s charm lies in Palampur. While crossing Palampur, halt at the Andretta Artists Village – a unique stopover for the pottery connoisseurs. Follow up your visit to the village with the Tashi Jong Buddhist Monastery and experience the magical calm of the place.
Route 3: The Shimla Route
Check out the Shimla Route to Manali here:
Again, this route too has common stretches with the Ambala-Chandigarh Route up till Chandigarh and then diverges onto Zirakpur instead of crossing the city of Chandigarh. From Zirakpur, the route moves onto Shimla, converging back onto the same route at Bilaspur, followed by Mandi, Kullu, and then Manali.
A 15 hours stretch via NH44 and NH5, this route passes through the Queen of Hills, Shimla, that is marked with some superb attractions that are worth a visit. While in Shimla, do take a trip to the architectural marvel – Viceregal Lodge, followed by a short trek across the Ridge (a famous hangout in Shimla). The golf course at Anna-dale is another attraction that is worth your time.
Whichever route you may decide to take, the Delhi-Manali road trip is an experience unto itself with some must-not-miss stopovers on these popular Delhi to Manali road routes.
Here is a list of all that you can cover on these routes:
• The historical mosque of Purana Quila at Panipat.
• A perfect picnic spot beside the Karnal Lake, right outside Karnal
• The exquisite mausoleum of the famous Sufi Saint, Sheikh Chilli, in Kurukshetra.
• Jyotisar, the holy place where Lord Krishna delivered the Bhagavad Geeta, in Kurukshetra.
• The engineering feat of the magnificent Bhakhra Nangal Dam (of course, with a special permit!!)
• The ancient ruins of the magnificent Kangra Fort at the outskirts of Kangra
• The 3 km long Aut Tunnel after Mandi
• Lake Parashar in the Dhauladhar ranges, just outside Mandi
• The Bijli Mahadev Temple just before you enter Kullu
While the ride from Delhi to Manali in itself offers some memorable experiences, once you reach your destination, Manali is none the less with its offers of an unforgettable experience!
With its proximity to the snowline, Manali is a haven for some hair-raising adventures. From paragliding to mountaineering, white water rafting, kayaking, skiing to trekking and the occasional hiking – it has plenty to offer for the adventure seekers on the one hand, and at the same time provides the perfect tranquillity for those seeking a restful vacation.
Blessed with captivating valleys, beautiful temples and hot geysers, Manali has many must-see attractions.
Some Fun Facts About Manali
- Manali derives its name from Manu – the famous Hindu lawgiver.
- It was previously known as Manu-Allaya or the “Abode of Manu”.
- It was discovered by European tourists and nurtured as a popular hill station.
- Manali is a collection of three adjacent hills, each with its own village and an old temple – the village of Old Manali with the Manu Temple, Vashishtha with the Vashishtha Temple, and Dhungri with the Hadimba Temple.
- The Hadimba Temple is framed by towering over 400-years-old deodars.
Here is a list of what you mustn’t miss while in the region!
Solang Valley: A ride up to the picturesque Solang Valley is a must when visiting Manali. To add to the splendour, you have some really excellent Chinese food to gorge on! Of course, the valley is also the destination for paragliding, zorbing, and trekking. So, do enjoy these as well while here.
Old Manali: The old Manali village is picturesque, with swaying pines, small gullies, and roadside markets, and of course the gurgling sounds of the Kullu river nearby marking its landscape. A shopper’s paradise, you not only get some quirky souvenirs here but also vintage cafes with delicious dishes served at reasonable prices.
Rohtang Pass: One of the most visited spots in Manali, tourists throng this place! Completely snow clad, Rohtang Pass can be visited only if you are visiting Manali between May and September. The pass is completely cordoned off during winters (from October), reopening in May, when you can see walls of ice on either side on your way through this pass! Indeed, a fantastic experience!!
Naggar Castle: Located amidst breathtakingly beautiful and densely forested hills in Naggar town, the Naggar Castle is a splendid amalgamation of the European and Himalayan architecture of historical importance as it once housed Raja Sidh Singh of Kullu.
Hidimba Temple: Locally called the Dhungiri temple, the Hidimba Devi temple is one of the most religious edifices in Manali that attracts people from across the country. This four-storeyed temple lies amidst the dense deodar forests called the Dhungiri Van Vihar and is dedicated to Goddess Hadimbi (wife of Bheem from the Mahabharata). With its exquisitely adorned mud walls and 23-feet high tower, this place is a must-visit in Manali.
Manu Temple: A spot thronged by devotees all-round the year, this temple is known to be the place where Manu is said to have saved the seven sages and the Vedas from the great flood. It is a perfect spot to drown in the tranquillity and spiritual peace of the place.
Vashist Hot Water Springs: Also known as the Vashisth Baths, these hot springs situated in the hamlet-town of Kullu are known for their sulphur content that has great healing powers. Touted as Sage Vashist’s place of meditation, the spring was brought to life by Lakshman who shot an arrow in the ground right at this spot.
Manikaran: Popularly known as Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara, this sacred spot is perched on the right bank of the Parvati River and is a famous pilgrimage for the Sikhs and Hindus alike. Also known as Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurudwara, this place has hot springs that are said to have medicinal properties. Do take a dip at the separate hot springs for bathing.
Beas Kund: The Beas Kund Trek near Manali offers an incredible short trek that starts from the Solang Valley and ends at the source of River Beas – the Beas Kund, which is a glacial lake located at an altitude of 3810 meters above sea level. This 16 km trek that takes about three days is a great one if you are on the lookout for an easy trek!
Things to Do in Manali
Trekking: Manali is a great base camp for treks offering one of the best high-altitude trekking and rock-climbing opportunities. From the exhilarating Beas Kund trek to the unique Yoga trekking – Manali is just the place you need to be in for a delightful trekking experience.
Paragliding: The Solang Valley is a hub for paragliding activities. One of the most exciting sports in recent times, if one is to enjoy a paragliding trip, no other place substitutes Manali in India. The surreal backdrop of the scintillating valley, as you glide in the air, is not something you would want to miss out!
Skiing: The snow clad slopes of Manali offer one of the best skiing experiences. Indulge in adrenaline-surging skiing adventures ranging from beginner’s skiing lessons to heli-skiing and yak-skiing, while in Manali.
River-Rafting: The rapids of the Beas provide a perfect avenue for adventurers to pamper themselves with some exciting rafting action. From canoeing and kayaking to the more advanced white-water rafting activities, you find them all right here!
Zorbing: Another one-of-its-kind sporting activity at Manali that one must surely try is Zorbing that involves you to slide into a huge transparent plastic ‘Zorb’ ball which is let rolling down a slope. Exhilarating, uh?!
Catching up on some food – Best Places to Eat in Manali!
Manali is known for its European cafes. Discovered by European tourists who later married locals and settled here, this place has multitudes of these cafes lining its streets. While here do try out these fantastic cafes serving some of the most exquisite European dishes.
Khyber: As the name says it all, this multi-cuisine restaurant serves delectable Continental, Indian, Chinese and Mughlai cuisines.
Casa Bella Vista: Situated among the lush landscapes of Manali, this cozy cafe serves some sumptuous Spanish and Italian dishes. Don’t forget to try their finely baked, hand-tossed wood-oven pizza while here!
Dylan’s Toasted Roaster: Originally named Double Vision, this café is a tribute to Bob Dylan. A music lover’s paradise, this place is flocked by Bob Dylan fans and serves one of the best foods in the area.
Cafe 1947: This old Italian cafe, located on the banks of the River Manalsu, is among the first music cafes in Manali.
Johnson’s Bar and Restaurant: Another fabulous Italian joint in Manali, this restaurant boasts of authentic Italian cuisine courtesy a very talented Italian chef. It also houses an excellent selection of some of the best wines and liquors.
Tips for your ride
Whether it is your first biking trip, or you are a pro at it, remember that safety comes first.
While the overall road conditions are good for all the three routes, the stretch after Bilaspur can be a little arduous with narrow, hairpin turns and massive onslaught of traffic, especially trucks! So, it is best that you do not speed on the expressway and are careful at intersections and bends.
Follow road rules and be equipped with the right protective biking gears. A helmet is a must!!
A good GPS can be handy but checking the route with locals from time to time could be helpful as well.
Try not to ride continuously and take good breaks. The layovers can be a restful respite from a stressful ride. Plan overnight halt at Ambala, Chandigarh or Shimla.
There is no shortage of good food – from McDonald’s and CCDs to the local dhabas serving parathas, you get it all along the way. So, refuel yourself just as you would your bike 😊
Some Captured Moments from our Delhi-Manali Road Trip!
Our Delhi-Manali road trip was as memorable as it could be! After a delightful time in Manali, we headed back to Delhi. Before embarking on our return trip, it was time to get our bikes checked and refueled.
Once the brake linings were changed and we were ready with an adequate supply of snacks and water in our backpacks, it was time to be back on the road home!
We decided an overnight halt at Chandigarh to avoid exhaustion from the arduous ride and were well on our way back home in the morning!
The ride up and down the mountain stretches to and from Manali was humbling for even an avid rider like me. An excellent trip and one that I highly recommend. The joy of the road trip from Delhi to Manali and back is one of the most remarkable ones.
Who needs a flight! Give me a road trip any day!
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