For people in Delhi & Chandigarh, Himachal is a popular destination, with Delhi to Manali being the most popular routes.
I’ve taken an old Himachali house on lease & will be in Manali the entire Dec, Jan, Feb & March. If you want to stay for free or want travel tips, contact me on Instagram 😀
Every weekend, thousands of people travel to this destination. Where some do a road-trip, others travel by bus.
The first time I travelled on this route, I was in college. We hired a taxi and did a road trip. This was in 2009. Back then, the route was no less heaven. Except for between Delhi and Chandigarh, there was no trace of a highway and the thrill of driving on Delhi to Manali road was different. It was more real.
But time has changed now. Where on one side, highways have made journeys boring in the Himalayas, overtourism has deprived places of their small-town charm — making it a lost deal in every aspect.
Had you had asked me about my take on Delhi to Manali 10 years ago, I would have encouraged you. Today, my words are going to sound rather discouraging.
But before we go further and I talk more about it, let’s discuss…
Why You Should Listen To Me
My name is Dev and I am a full-time travel blogger from New Delhi. I quit my corporate career in England in 2016 & since then I have only been travelling around India and writing this blog.
In 2018, I started a business for camping in Sethan (15km from Manali bus station) and since then, I have been travelling from Delhi to Manali at least once every month.
I have, in fact, travelled so much on this route that I can count you the total potholes.
From when is the peak tourist season to what people prefer to do during their holiday in Manali, I know it all. I studied this route to use the knowledge in growing my business and let me tell you what… a Delhi to Manali holiday is a bad idea.
[Note: Owing to the impact of coronavirus on travel I’ve temporarily shut down the business. So please don’t call for a booking. I am moreover discouraging you to do this route, remember?]
Delhi to Manali
How about I give you the top 3 reasons (I have more) to not travel this way…
Construction work on Manali Highway
Currently, the Manali highway is undergoing construction work to make it a 6-lane highway.
Starting Chandigarh to all the way to Manali, you are going to see continuous road-work going on. Having said that, there is literally no Himalayan-Road charm left on this route. I will suggest you better alternatives later in the article.
The last time I travelled from Delhi to Manali, it was right before the coronavirus lockdown in March 2020. I was on a motorcycle and hated it. There was absolutely no green patch and more dust on the road than there is in New Delhi. The traffic was also very bad, with at least 2 hours of traffic jam near Aut tunnel.
Also Read: How To Plan a Trip From Manali to Atal Tunnel
Is Manali Overcrowded?
Manali has become a popular destination. According to this article on TOI, Manali got nearly 40 Lakh tourists in 2017 (consider more numbers in 2018 and 2019). Now compare this number with Himachal Pradesh’s total tourists in 2019, that according to this report was nearly 1.70 crore.
In simple words, nearly one-quarter of total tourists who visit Himachal go to Manali. Imagine that!
And this number talks only about Manali. There are more tourist places on Delhi to Manali route that contributes to more traffic on this route.
Here are two videos I have made on my Youtube channel while travelling to other famous tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh:
Alternate Destinations To Manali
Another reason to not do this route is that you can find better holiday destinations that are much closer.
Delhi to Manali is nearly 12 hours and 30 minutes drive (with no traffic).
Now, compare this route with a few other tourist places in Himachal Pradesh, that happen to be popular places to visit near Delhi…
- Delhi to Palampur: 9 hours
- Delhi to Tirthan Valley: 10 hours
- Delhi to Dharamshala: 9 hours
- Delhi to Bir: 10 hours
- Delhi to Kufri: 7 hours
- Delhi to Chanshal Pass: 12 hours
If you want, we have offbeat destinations like Naldehra, Kotkhai, Tatapani, Shoja, Jibhi and at least 50 more places. If this doesn’t suffice, I can count you 100 more from Delhi to somewhere in Uttarakhand.
I mean we travel to have a good experience, but if we are going to a place where the road is bad, traffic is mental, distance is long and Overtourism is spoiling all local experiences, then what’s the point of going there in the first place?
So yea, I discourage you to travel from Delhi to Manali.
But if you still want to travel, read this offbeat Manali road trip guide where I explored two very offbeat places near Manali.
This was me discouraging you to travel from Delhi to Manali. But you’re still going there, let me help you with some practical information.
For someone travelling from Delhi, taking a train or a flight makes no sense. Flight because there is no airport in Manali. The nearest airport is in Bhuntar, which is again 4 hours away from Manali main town.
Taking a train also makes no sense because you can only travel until Chandigarh. After Chandigarh, you will have to either take a bus or hire a taxi. This leaves us to two options: bus and self-drive.
Let’s discuss them both…
Delhi to Manali Bus
If you’re travelling by bus you will be happy to know that there are hundreds of daily buses for this route. And most of them run overnight.
Since the distance is almost 14 hours, it makes sense you catch a bus sometime between 5 pm to 9 pm so that you each early to late morning.
There are two bus boarding points: Kashmere Gate and Majnu ka Tila. Kashmere Gate is for government Himachal Roadways buses. Majnu ka tile is for private buses. I suggest you take the government HRTC bus because they have very good connectivity and they always run on time.
If you take a government bus, you are moreover dropped right on the Mall Road in Manali. The private bus stop, on the other hand, is located 2 km outside of the city. You can book a Himachal Roadway bus using this website. There are three types of Himachal Roadways buses: Ordinary, semi-luxury and Volvo. Check the website for updated prices.
Now, the reason why people sometimes still avoid Delhi to Manali HRTC bus and take a private one is that they are cheaper. An HRTC Volvo takes almost 1600 Rupees, whereas a private Volvo takes around 800 or 900 Rupees. If you are travelling with private Volvo, I suggest you check their price on PayTm bus booking portal.
Delhi To Manali Self-Drive
Another way to travel, of course, is in a self-driven car. You can also book a taxi, like an ola-outstation if you want.
Speaking of self-drive, you can Google navigate is all the way. As per Google, the route takes 12 hours when there is no traffic, but that’s highly unlikely. I have, throughout my 100+ trips, never made it in 12 hours. You are most likely to find traffic in Delhi, Chandigarh, Swarghat, Mandi, Kullu, Bhuntar.
Take NH44 between Delhi and Chandigarh. It takes about 4 hours and some 300 Rupees worth of toll taxes to Chandigarh.
After Chandigarh, there are no toll taxes but just a green tax booth where you need to pay duty for bringing your car into Himachal. There is no green tax or toll tax for motorcycles. Now, from Chandigarh, Manali is about 9 hours away. Currently, the highway work is going on so you may find rough patches at many places.
Best Time To Visit
Except for monsoon, you can do a Delhi to Manali trip any time of the year. Think of what you want to travel for.
December-February: If you want to see snow, visit between December and February. Sometimes it is hard to find snow there, but if you visit any nearby town like Sethan or Solang Valley, you can find enough snow around.
March-April & September-November: Other than snow months, March to April and September to November makes for a good time to visit if you want to do some camping in Manali or perhaps do a trek nearby. These months make for a good offbeat season too. Most people also visit this time to escape the heat in Delhi.
May-June: May and June are also good months, in terms of weather, but they are also peak-tourist month. I will never visit Manali during those months and rather go to someplace else.
July-August: The monsoon months of July and August are not advised to visit any place in Himachal Pradesh, except for Spiti Valley (read Spiti Valley Itinerary here if you’re interested). But if you are going to Spiti Valley or you are going to Ladakh, monsoon months are not bad at all as there is almost no rain in those regions. To go to both the places, you will have to come to Manali. Read in this blog: more about Manali to Leh Road if you are going that way.
Where To Stay In Manali
If you have never travelled from Delhi to Manali, let me tell you that it is one big place. In about 20 km distance, you can find at least 20 different small towns with at least 20 guesthouses (hypothetically speaking, but you get the idea).
Speaking of where to stay in Manali, however, I can suggest you three places (in under 2km distance). Please note that I have a note included the main town because it is not worth staying there. The main town is very crowded and expensive. I would never stay in the main town (near Mall Road) even if someone pays for my hotel. Anyway, speaking of three places to stay in under 2km from the centre, here are they:
This is the old town with more hostels and homestays than luxury resorts or hotels. The place established itself as a hippy backpacker destination, but with an increasing crowd, it is now entertaining guests of all kind. Old Manali is comparatively quiet and more scenic and budget-friendly.
If, however, you are looking for something more offbeat and a town perched on top of a mountain, I suggest Vashishth. Located 2 km from Mall Road, Vashishth is a small village. You can take a tuk-tuk from Mall Road to Vashishth for less than 100 Rupees.
This is another small village located around 1km from Mall Road. Alleo has a few backpacker hostels to choose from. It is a good place if you want to stay next to the old Kullu-Manali highway.
I have shared a link of offbeat places in Manali article above if you are interested to know about more places nearby.
Popular Tourist Destinations Nearby
If on one side I discourage the idea of holidaying from Delhi to Manali, on the other side I encourage it too. And I encourage it because of all the things you can do here on holiday.
In about 20km from Mall Road, you can visit high mountain passes, do paragliding, river rafting, camping, fishing, hot air ballooning, and much more. Other than that, there are numerous small villages and lakes to explore. If you love eating, you can try one of the hundreds of cafes around. In short, there is something for everyone.
Check this Manali Travel Guide for more on what to see and do there during a holiday.
Travelling Delhi to Manali? Need personal advice? Write me a comment below and I will answer as soon as possible!
I am going to Manali in a few days, you are a great writer. But Dev I want to subscribe to your website. But I did not see any option to subscribe your website.
It looks that you are not making money from manali anymore that’s why it’s not in ur travel list now,but if you want to correct urself, go to any crowd place in Delhi n ask for manali and for sure you will get the truth n ur narrow knowledge will get enhanced.
I have invested over 50L here in Hamta Valley. Visit Curve 23 and you will find out. Again, as mentioned before, I am a journalist and it’s my duty to tell the truth. Business apni jagah, reporting apni jagah. Check out footloosecamps on Instagram and you will find out!
I think you are a disgruntled person who has been told off and hence you are trying to run down the place. People are traveling more and hence the crowds. It’s the sad in any popular hill station or tourist destination. Manali has always been a beautiful place with very hospitable people and always ready to help.
For your information, I run a hostel, a campsite here in Manali myself. I am a journalist, and we feel a little angry sometimes, yes! Thanks for your judgement!
We have trip from Delhi to Manali of 30 people plz advice me where to STAY with good amenities specially cottage or Hotel Or guest house and destination for tourist places .
Before any other place, I recommend mine. Please visit https://instagram.com/footloosecamps (located 7km from Mall Road in a very peaceful environment. The property is surrounded by nearly 150 apple trees).
Hi dev, very detailed blog. Since it’s a bit old now , can you confirm the road conditions now. I am planning for kasol by my own car from Delhi. If u can also suggest best route and approx time, nothing like it.
Planning a long stay ( 6 to 9 months) in Manali or Dehradun with my wife, can you please suggest fully furnished 2BHK house on rent at either place. (I am from Mumbai in my early 50ts )
Hello Dev, nice blog.
I had a query regarding work from Manali.
Was thinking to self drive from Pune to Manali Sept 2nd week onwards.
What would be your suggestion on the stay where I could get a decent reliable internet, in old Manali/ Vashist ?
Also will it be a good idea to drive my Seltos inside old Manali if I chose to stay there, somewhere around Zostel or may be near Hadimba temple ? Any issues with parking ?
Had also thought about Dharmashala but thought internet connectivity in and around Manali might be better.
Please lete know your thoughts.
I can recommend Zostel and Alt Life.
Other than that, please check Footloose Camps. I run this place myself, 7km from Manali Mall Road in Hamta Valley.
Pictures: instagram.com/footloosecamps (I have particularly designed this place for Digital Nomads and people relocating to mountains for work from mountains purposes. Thanks!
We are planning to self drive to Jagatsukh village near Manali. We have done multiple road travels to Leh, spiti, kaza, Palampur etc. , But nor during monsoons so far. Want to ask you two things please-
1. Is the drive safe at this time in August , I mean landslides etc
2. Is Jagatsukh a quiet and peaceful village? Free of crowd and noise?
1. cant say anything.
2. it depends where you’re staying in jagatsukh. if on the main road NAGGAR ROAD, then it’s not. it will feel like manali during the day and quiet after 9:30. if staying inside the town, 1-2km inside, then it will be quiet.
Very impressed with your detailed blogs.
I am travelling to Tirthan on 12th November’2020 by my own car (self-driven) and plan to start from Delhi at 11:00 pm (23 hrs) so that I can beat traffic and reach early.
– Is it the right time to start. BTW, I don’t have issues in driving and staying awake at night.
– Which route should I take to reach early.
– From Ambala, should I take a right turn from Zirakhpur or I go to Chandigarh and then onwards.
– Is there any bypass to Chandigarh
– Where do I stopover in the morning
– In case any of you have a detailed map, please share.
– Has anyone been to Manali in the recent past and can you tell me the road conditions.
Hope to receive a positive and detailed response from you. Your guidance will help me a great deal.
You will have to go via zirakpur. take the right from zirakpur. You won’t end up in Chandigarh. For tirthan, don’t take the bilaspur route (as suggested by google) rather take zirakpur-solan-shimla-narkanda-tirthan. You may find some traffic in Shimla. To avoid it (and for a more picturesque route) take Solan-Chail-Koti-Kufri (this is a slower and comparatively longer route but I always save time taking this route as it saves me from the traffic in Shimla). Good luck!
How about Delhi to kullu
I agree with you! Visit Khajjiar instead.
Dear brother Dec, I’m surprised of how patient you are in writing all these things. I think this is my first blog which was very clear. I’m Pastor. Vijaya Raju from Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
I travelled Manali in Feb 2015.
Can you suggest me some other best places in Himachal Pradesh ? I want to see atleast three destinations for 5 days. Please tell me where to start and and end. From Delhi.
I’m an educationist based in Delhi & love traveling. I have travelled to a few countries & major part of our beautiful country. I’m a regular visitor to Kullu & Manali. I drive & also travel by Volvo as well as Air.
The four lane roads construction is going to finish soon now. The road from Kullu Airport to Manali is a newly built road with a toll enroute and can be reached within an hour. Just wanted to share this information with your readers.
Great blog by the way.
A lot of people i know didn’t want to travel to Manali coz of bad roads and landslides but now that the roads have become better more people want to travel. More than half the people traveling to Manali from delhi travel at night by bus, the roads have become better and faster compared to what it was, it will once the construction is over and people get to reach this beautiful destination without any hassle.
I have read your blog…during your next visit to Manali based on your availabilities let’s plan to have lunch / dinner together at our Resorts located in log hut area ” Snow Valley Resorts “. You will definitely love the place .
Thanks & Rgds,
आपका ब्लॉग देखा, वेश्विक महामारी के चलते सभी जगह लोग परेशान है किंतु आप मनाली ना आने को कह कर शायद ये चरितार्थ कर रहे है. मै उसी गाँव से हूँ जहाँ आप कैम्पिंग कर कमा रहे थे, ओर एक ट्रैव्लर भी हूँ. एक सकारात्मक लिख कर लोगों को जागरूक करते तो हमें अच्छा लगता. अपनी बेबाक़ टिप्पणी की धृष्टता हेतु क्षमा चाहूँगा !
Hello Prem ji,
Thanks for commenting on my blog.
I have written many good blogs about Sethan and Manali too:
So yea, before your comment I would have appreciated if you had read a little more on my blog.
Additionally, the article wasn’t about DONT COME TO MANALI but about DELHI TO MANALI ISN’T WORTH IT.
I write how I feel. And I think that’s the job of a writer.
Here’s an article I wrote about a place in Meghalaya with all the good things when I visited in 2016: https://footloosedev.com/nongriat-rootbridge-cultural-history/
Here’s an article I wrote about the same place (but totally negative) when I visited earlier in 2020 because I didn’t like it: https://footloosedev.com/living-root-bridge-nongriat/
Again, I write how I feel. I’m a writer. Please don’t feel personal.
I never intend to take anyone’s business.
If we won’t write what we feel is right, and people should know about it, we are doing WRONG JOURNALISM!
I don’t do wrong journalism!!
Thanks for your comment again.
Let’s have a cup of Chai together and discuss more next time I am in Manali 🙂
Ofcourse we will definitely have a cup of chai! You are very welcomed to join me at my office “Climb theHimalayas” Dhungri. We can haveba good chat on things.
Climb the Himalayas
मुझे आपकी नकारात्मक लेखन से कोई आपत्ति नहीं है, ख़ुशी तब होती यदि आप यही शब्द तब लिखते जब आपने सेथन में कैम्पिंग शुरू की थी.मैं भी विश्व भ्रमण कर चुका हूँ,किसी के प्रति यदि नकारात्मक भी लिखना हो तो सकारात्मक सोच के साथ लिखे. एक लेखक या ब्लॉग कभी नकारतमकता सृजित नहीं करता, ऐसा वोही करता है जिसे प्राथमिकता चाहिए हो बस. बन्धु, अब आप जब भी पुनः सेथन आयें, प्रवेश द्वार पर ही मेरा होटल व घर है. आपका स्वागत दिल से करेंगे किंतु साथ ही नकारात्मक लेख की आलोचना भी दिल से करेंगे.
नीलकंठ एवं ब्यक होटेल ग्रूप
And on this occasion, I want to say ‘Please Read My Sethan Blog Too’ I have clearly mentioned in the beginning that ‘Sethan is getting crowded too’. And I wrote so, back in 2018.
Just type SETHAN on Google and you will find it on top!
Anyway, nice talking 🙂