The preferred way of travelling from Manali to Shimla is by road. Shimla is at a distance of only 250 kilometres from Manali, which can be best covered in the comfort of your car or in a hired cab or taxi. It takes about 6 hours or a bit more than that to cover this journey. A bus, apart from being uncomfortable, also takes about 9 hours to reach Shimla, which is why cars are a more recommended way to travel. For sure, buses can be cheaper than hiring taxis. But, it is recommended that you cover this scenic road trip by car, taking breaks in between as per your convenience. You have the freedom to choose your desired route and make stopovers as and when desired. You can be assured that this fantastic road journey will be glued to your memory for a lifetime.
The Manali-Shimla highway is entirely covered by the Himalayan hills, with lush green, deep valleys on one side and snowy mountains on one side. As you leave from Manali, you can eye the picturesque snow-clad mountains and savour many spots of Himachal Pradesh on the way to Shimla. The serpentine roads, cut into the rock faces of mountains is sure to raise the adventure quotient of your trip. The small, quaint villages that pass by, with player flags swaying all the way, the smiling children waving their hands at the tourists will give you an insight into life in those remote villages. There are places on the way where you encounter mountainous animals, coniferous trees, pristine lakes and a lot of many cafes and food stops. Driving from Manali with River Beas flowing on the side is peaceful and adds to the already tranquil setting. You can also stop and go river rafting. There are some small temples that pass by, where you can stop and experience the prayer servings. Some breathtaking curves and eerie tunnels pass by, some of which are known to be haunted. As you steadily drive to Kullu, you can awe at the sight of apple trees laden with red apples and feel the sunlight and mist together. There are some shops on the roadsides, where you can shop some woollens. You must keep the camera-ready at all times because there are a lot of views which you do not want to miss capturing.
If you are choosing to take a taxi, you have multiple websites as well as local cab operators serving the route. You must look for reviews and authenticity of the cab operator before booking them, to avoid any unpleasant situation during the journey. Passionate bikers can hire bikes to ride all the way to Shimla since the distance and roads are apt for riding. This is an option solo-travellers and backpackers often choose. However, you must be a skilled driver or biker to go for this option because the roads are dangerous. It is recommended that you take a chauffeur-driven cab only.
Route 1: Manali - Kullu - Kotla - Sundar Nagar- Bilaspur- Shimla
Route 2: Manali - Kullu - Kotla - Kingal - Narkanda - Shimla
Road Condition from Manali to Shimla
The Shimla-Manali highway is in excellent condition and facilitates smooth driving. The roads remain open throughout the year and are usually not affected by winters. The road from Manali to Kullu is narrow. The traffic in Kullu Town is typically high, and to avoid this, you can take the bypass road, where the traffic is minimal. The Beri junction, after Bilaspur, marks the joining of Chandigarh, Kalka and Delhi to the Shimla Manali Road. The road is mostly two-laned but narrow and single laned at some points. You can either drive to Sundarnagar and then pick up NH21, or you can drive towards Rampur and pick up NH21 at Aut. NH21 and NH22 are broad roads, and driving is smooth there, for most parts.
It takes 6-7 hours to reach Shimla from Manali by car. The duration of the journey may increase or decrease depending on the route chosen, the traffic, weather conditions, car speed, as well as a number of stopovers and halts made.
If you are booking a cab, the fare depends on the cab operator you book the cab from. However, most of the operators charge fare based on the kilometers travelled. For a one way journey, the cost of a 4 seater hatchback or sedan can be INR 3800-3900, whereas cost for a 6 seater SUV can be INR 5600.
Eating Options on the Way
There are a myriad of dhabas, restaurants and cafés on the way from Manali to Shimla and some of those are notable and listed among the top roadside dhabas of North India. Nothing can be more soothing than watching the breathtaking snow-clad mountains or the dazzling River while having some hot tea or coffee, or munching down some delicious food. There are many good restaurants in the Aut route. All of these restaurants are highly ambient, with extensive gardens and lawns by the Riverside. You can visit them to have a moment of peace while sipping tea and having some local snacks. Before Bilaspur, you reach Haribag, which is the launch point for many dhabas, with great North Indian food, and some offering great views of the Sundernagar lake.