Shimla to Manali – An Enchanting But Perilous Road Trip

Shimla Manali Road Trip

There was a chill in the air, as we checked out of our hotel in Shimla. It was the month of December and one can expect as much if not more when you are literally in “The Lap of the Himalayas” of Himachal Pradesh.
Shimla Manali Road Trip

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We were on a road trip across some of the most scenic places in the Northern part of India. We had started from Delhi and crossed Chandigarh before reaching Shimla. After a couple of days in Shimla, we were now ready for another exciting leg of our road trip – the Shimla Manali Road Trip! Our next destination is Manali.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We paused to take in the stunning view of picturesque Shimla that stretched out below us bathed in an almost ethereal glow in the morning light. Though the sun was not visible, a dash of pink like a random, broad stroke of a painter’s brush in the sky, underscored the sun’s presence.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We got into our car to begin our 265-kilometre journey – Shimla Manali Road Trip. Though the distance was not much, I estimated that it would take at least 8 hours to reach our destination including pit stops for lunch and tea. The mountainous terrain that we would be covering would be slowing us down.

I drove to the nearest service station to get a quick check-up of the car as I did not want to take any chances on the mountainous highway that we would be taking. The Shimla Manali road trip is considered to be perilous but enchanting too. An experienced mechanic checked the CEAT Tyres of the car and also the battery, belts, fluids and air conditioner.

It is always wise and prudent to take all safety precautions before and after hitting the highway and hence the check-up at the service station had now become a routine drill for us every time we hit the roads. I felt refreshed after a good night’s sleep, another important safety aspect that we ensured we followed religiously.

We had also ensured that we had all our luggage properly and securely stored in the boot of the car, ensuring no free objects were inside the car as the winding roads could turn them into hazardous projectiles. The safety kit consisting of water, warm blankets, first aid kit, flashlight and tools for changing tyres was also packed and easily accessible.

We drove away from Shimla situated at an altitude of 7,238 feet to keep our rendezvous with Manali. Manali is a beautiful valley that nestles between picturesque and snow-clad mountains and is situated at an altitude of 6,726 feet.

We were looking forward to a couple of days stay in magical Manali, but for now, we were looking forward to enjoying and relishing each moment of our Shimla Manali Road Trip as we would be passing through some of the most scenic and beautiful spots of the state of Himachal Pradesh. We wanted to savour our Shimla Manali Road Trip journey before we reached our destination.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

As we wound through serpentine roads cut into the rock faces of mountains we felt a thrill pass through our spines as we scented adventure. We passed small villages and waved at the smiling children as our minds registered and froze moments of life in these remote villages for posterity.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

A monkey struck a pose for our camera as we passed by.  About 33 kilometres from Shimla we reached a place called Shalaghat where we took a pit stop for some quick snacks and ginger flavoured tea.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

The pit stop seemed to have worked wonders on our bodies and minds as we hit the road again, we gazed in awe at the coniferous trees swaying majestically in the breeze, bathed in sunlight and a song of sheer glee escaped our lips.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We made fairly good time given the nature of the terrain that we were driving through and soon reached the midway of our journey. We were somewhere near a place called Haribag. We stopped and got out of our cars.

We had to! The sight of an emerald lake framed by the mountains was so enthralling! We pulled out of the car and took some photos and generally lived the moment, experiencing the serenity of the place. The lake we came to know later was Sundernagar lake.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We were feeling hungry again, the mountain air and the drive seemed to have done wonders for our appetite and we felt that we could eat a horse, but of course, we would not as we are vegetarians!

We ate at one of the Dhabas or roadside eateries that dot the highways of North India and serve some of the most authentic and tasty food. We ate our favourite Parathas with potato and cauliflower fillings, steaming hot and adorned with dollops of white, melting butter.

As the butter melted on the parathas forming rivulets, our stomachs cried out for more and we ate till as if there was no tomorrow. We washed down the Parathas with a large glass of Sweet Lassi, thick buttermilk with lots of cream.

We drove steadily, the car was quiet now, the heavy food had obviously taken its toll and a few gentle snores could be heard. We quickly reached a place called Mandi. And here we met the river Beas.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

The river would give us company from here till our destination, Manali. It is interesting to note that the river Beas was the easternmost part that Alexander the Great reached in his conquest of the world.

It is on the banks of the river Beas, Alexander’s team mutinied and refused to follow him further in his quest for world supremacy as they had been away from their homes and families for eight long years. The ancient Greeks referred to the river Beas as Hyphasis.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

The silence in the car was replaced by ooh’s and aah’s as we drove alongside the river Beas. The river Beas meandering seductively to our right, presenting a beautiful and tranquil picture. Towards our left was the rocky walls of the mountains.

We then passed a beautiful temple known as Anokhi Mata Temple and halted briefly to offer our obeisance to the Goddess. We resumed our journey, after giving our stiff legs some exercise and restoring proper blood circulation to them. We wound our way across some really dangerous and breathtaking curves to reach a tunnel that was 2.8 kilometres long, the tunnel looked eerie in the darkness, needless to mention there were some ghost stories associated with it as well.

The tunnel led us to Aut and from there we drove steadily to Kulu. We passed apple trees that stood bare as this was not the apple season. We would have loved to see the trees laden with the red beauties. We halted at Kulu. The climate had changed as we approached the mountains, the sun was nowhere to be seen and a light mist covered the place.

We did some shopping and bought a couple of shawls and sweaters. We also went to the flowing Beas river and checked out the river rafting options available there.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We soon quickly left Kulu behind as the weather was getting a bit inclement and we wanted to get to our destination before nightfall. As we drove towards Manali, soon we were able to sight the beautiful snow-laden peaks in the distance and the car too seemed to be excited by the prospect of seeing these peaks up close, as it accelerated by its own volition, or so it seemed!

Shimla Manali Road Trip

It was Christmas night when we reached Manali, and the town was gaily decorated, we reached our hotel which was framed by snow-capped mountains and were greeted with a huge, brightly decorated Christmas Tree at the reception.

Shimla Manali Road Trip

We checked in and moved towards our rooms, physically tired but spirits on a high, intoxicated by the beauty of Shimla Manali Road Trip, one of the best road trips that we had ever done. If you love road trips then do check out Off-Roading Tips For Beginners here.

Shimla Manali road trip is enchanting. Lovely landscapes, river Beas, Sundarnagar lake, a long tunnel, snow-capped mountains entice you on this road trip. This road trip is recommended for honeymoon, couples wanting a vacation, family, youth seeking adventure and also for solo travellers.

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Shimla To Manali Road Trip

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79 thoughts on “Shimla to Manali – An Enchanting But Perilous Road Trip”

  1. What a gorgeous drive! Sounds like there is plenty to see during the 8 hours, and I think it’s so great that you emphasized the safety aspects of embarking on a long drive like this. I think there isn’t enough awareness around making sure your vehicle is safe/in good condition and that you have had enough rest before going on a road trip!

  2. Sounds like a great trip. I would love spending a few days and really exploring those towns. I would make sure I had a good driver on those roads though.

  3. That looks like a brilliant road trip. I’ve got Shimla on my list but might have to put this road trip on it too! Am I right in thinking that this is in the same direction as McLeod Ganj? If so I’ll definitely have to drive it.

  4. I have been to Shimla and Manali separately. But never traveled from Shimla to manali. The journey you described here sounds fun,adventurous and exciting. Mental note done to do it someday.

  5. I love a good road trip. I appreciate that you took the time to stop and enjoy the scenery and not just drive with destination in mind. It’s all about the journey!

  6. I’ve heard a lot about how perilous this journey can be and while I’m not great with heights, it really does seem like an intensely rewarding experience. Certainly, when you come across a sunrise like the one you showed over Shimla, it makes all that fear worthwhile. It is a very interesting place to spend Christmas, not exactly the traditional affair!

  7. That’s quite a drive for a day. Not sure if my husband and I could go that long in the car without someone on the side of the road 😉 Sounds like a beautiful trip though. I’m happy you arrived safely.

  8. This sounds THE perfect road for a road trip! An fine example of overland travel being all about the journey rather than the destination. Very sensible checking your vehicle is in good condition, before you set off too. We’ll get to India one day on our overland expedition. I’ve added the route to our bucket list 🙂

  9. Shimla to Manali is one of the most adventurous route in India and we could see it in your pictures. We were unaware of the history behind the river Beas and Alexander the Great it’s really very interesting to know about it.

  10. Though Shimla and Manali have gradually come to be so cliched but this road trip is definitely a must-do. I have read many experiences from bloggers and each one has explored it differently, that’s the beauty of these road trips and travels.

  11. That looks like one scenic roadtrip, indeed! That lake is gorgeous! You should have swam in, too! So did it really take 8 hrs or was it less/more including all the stops you took?

  12. That monkey, I would’ve been so excited to see one! This looks like a one of a kind road trip, definitely one I’ll be adding to my bucket list. The photos are beautiful, I can see it would be a great trip for sight seeing.

  13. Thanks for sharing. This looks like an excellent road trip. I would also like to explore this space. I have india on my list but only the south. I may now head North!

  14. The road definitely looks scary! But seeing the photos you captured, it might be worth the risky drive – they’re gorgeous!!

    Abigail of

  15. Enchanting road trip. Most of my road trips were through plains except may be that through Ooty and Kodaikanal. Love the trip even more because of the road side joints dishing out delicious stuffs. 🙂

  16. The scenery looks absolutely stunning, and that sunset…wow, a great capture there. Definitely looks like a great trip, and it confirms my suspicions that India has an abundance of natural beauty 🙂

  17. Wow, this is a side of India I have never seen before! It reminds me of a Canadian countryside!
    Absolutely breath taking! Sounds like there was alot to take it and enjoy!

  18. Views look breathtaking from your pictures! Reminds me of a trek I had been in Thailand and its funny how countries so far apart can look so similar. Will definitely go for this when in need of some peace and nature.

  19. Shimla looks so picturesque! I love how you managed to capture the pink sky! And I love how the monkey at your stop in Shalaghat striked a pose for you! Usually when I’ve tried to take photos of monkeys, they are just trying to steal my camera!!! Truly, the nature on your journey here looks beautiful and really worthwhile visiting.

  20. All these from Shimla Manali? I am not familiar with the name and even the place itself but everything looks awesome and unwinding! I am sure that your road trip was filled with fun. Indeed, it is something worth to remember. I love your shots here! You surely have showcases the beauty of the place!

  21. First of all, the writing is exquisite! Fascinating and incredible, intelligent prose..I was thrilled to find myself reading you blog! Second, this is not how I have ever imagined India ever in my life. We always love to seek more rural travel destinations and now I can safely add India to our bucket list! Thank you so much for sharing a unique perspective.

  22. The scenery looks amazing and it would be uplifting to travel around a place that isn’t packed with tourists. What are the roads like? I’m guessing they would be a bit bumpy as well as winding.

  23. Your photos are absolutely stunning! That sunset is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen! Sounds like you had a really incredible trip!

  24. What an incredible road trip that indulged the senses! The River Bea is spectacular, the photo reminds me of the terrain around Jasper here in Canada. It sounds like a Christmas to remember forever!

  25. Road trips in the laps of Himalayas are amazing. Though we have done a couple of trips in Uttarakhand, never tried the roads of Himachal. Thanks for sharing a detailed account of the journey. This one is high on our list now.

  26. The views look amazing! I love that this trip can be enjoyed by just about anyone. Are there opportunities to do a lot of hikes along the road trip too, for those who enjoy hiking? Do you have any safety tips for those wanting to do hikes?

    1. There are a lot of options to do day treks in and around Manali. Also there are quite a few companies that organize these hikes in the Himalayan region. We will soon be writing a post on that. Do stay tuned.

  27. This looks like a fantastic road trip. You captured some amazing images. The windy roads and altitude would make me sick so I would need to take meds.I like the tips of the emergency kit. Always a wise idea to get the car checked before travelling.

  28. This is the unusual road trip that is very rare to read. I like this kind of escapade that I haven’t experienced yet. The river, the emerald lake and the whole journey that you have experienced is truly awesome. I would love to experience this one soon. Thank you so much for sharing about this one.


  29. How thrilling is this adventure! Hard to keep your eyes on the road with all the beautiful scenery to look at. Looks like there are areas where us hikers could get a few hikes in for sure. Your pictures definitely captured the beauty of this road trip!

  30. Shimla to Manali VH foad is one of the best and most memorable trip we went on. Amazing sceneries, gorgeous mountains, beautiful villages and incredible people all the way. Thanks for sharing and bringing our memories alive again.

  31. Must have been a gorgeous drive with a lot of great sights. I will be traveling to India in the middle of November – lets see if we manage to add this to our route. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Driving through the mountains and seeing these beautiful landscapes must have been an amazing experience! Would love to check out this area some day 🙂

  33. What a great a adventure to share with friends. You’ve captured the beauty of nature wonderfully. Road trips really are the best kind of holiday. No time restrictions throughout the day and you can stop at beautiful lakes as you did.

  34. Sounds like you had a really cool road trip. Maybe I should do some road trips, this sounds like something i’d enjoy. Love how that monkey struck a pose for you haha

  35. Looks like a stunning road trip in such beautiful landscapes. The views of the mountains and the lakes are breathtaking. Thank you for sharing your story and photos.

  36. Great road trip, Vijay! I’m yet to visit Shimla. Manali was lovely on my last trip. Your posts brings back a few memories of my trip from Kullu to Manali. I love the mountains especially the Himalayas and anything around that is bound to be enthralling!

  37. Your trip had just about everything you would want. From mountains to rivers, monkeys to Christmas trees, good food to my fave… shopping! It was fun reading about this special road trip!

  38. Love the photos, they really speak for themselves. I’ve not been to India yet, but this region certainly looks like something I’d like to visit. Thank you for sharing your experience, very interesting!

  39. I love road trips & this one looks incredible! There’s nothing like a bit of adventure to spice up your life, with gorgeous scenery to go along with it.

  40. Shimla and Manali are easily two of my most favorite road trip destinations to take from Delhi. You have nicely illustrated your experience and it actually got me pondering about those picturesque valleys and gorgeous sunsets..

  41. It seems like a wonderful road trip, you captured so many beautiful sceneries along the way. And I could definitely understand why you had to stop to see the Sundernagar lake. I mean who could resist such a beauty? I would stop to take some photos too, it looks really lovely.

  42. This is an exciting adventure. I can feel your heart beat while passing the serpentine roads. Wow thats crazy! Good thing you are safe! Love all your articles about India. Your giving me a different perspectivr about your country 🙂

  43. Notwithstanding the peril, I’d love to go on this trip. It sounds adventurous and fun, with the chance to take some beautiful shots like yours!

  44. How could you be tired of 8 hours roadtrip to Shimla Manali. The view is stunning! – picturesque hillstation situated along the banks of the river beas and close to the snows of Himalayas. The scenery at Manali is picture perfect.

  45. The trips sounds like one should definitely take. Road trips are always amazing and the view from the photos you shared in breathtaking. So adventurous and exciting.

  46. I am definitely going to push the road trip to Hampi aside and head for this beautifully described Shimla Manali road trip. My spine tingled with thrill with every line I read. Mentioning the safety check also was sensible as well as kind for the people who look forward to their first road trip. Can’t wait to head straight to the snow capped peaks!

  47. This post brought in a lot of nostalgia. We did this road trip in October 2015. Indeed it is one of the best road trips that we have done in India. It is simply so scenic that the route itself becomes the destination

  48. I can see every inch of the road here with even the smallest of detail not being missed out. It is always the rule: the more dangerous is the most beautiful. A road trip can never go out of fashion. Just making anyone look forward to a Shimla – Manali trip.

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