During my recent trip to Manali, in November, I realised the best way to plan a Manali to Atal tunnel trip is by spending a night in Lahaul Valley.
The North Portal of Atal tunnel opens in the town of Sissu, in Lahaul Valley — a completely different part of Himachal Pradesh than Manali, or Kullu Valley.
When you stay in Lahaul Valley, even if for just a night, you understand way beyond just the landscapes.
Best Itinerary For Manali To Atal Tunnel
Starting Rohtang Pass (the treacherous high-altitude pass Atal Tunnel was made for to bypass) brings you to a different range of the Himalayas — the mighty Dhauladhar. You will hear many locals sitting in Pir-Panjal pointing towards the Dhauladhar at a distance, snow-covered, “we get a good vide of THE HIMALAYAS from here”.
The Dhauladhar Range, as per Wikipedia, are distinctive in their typical dark granite rocky formations with a remarkably steep rise culminating in sharp streaks of snow and ice at the top of their crested peaks. Most of the time of the year, the Peaks of the Dhauladhar remain snow-covered.
Now imagine visiting a Chocolate Factory and not eating a Chocolate. That’s how absurd a Manali to Atal Tunnel trip, without staying for a night in Lahaul Valley sounds like.
Sissu, Lahaul Valley
As you exit the North Portal of the tunnel and enter into Lahaul Valley, the first town you come across is Sissu.
In my words, Sissu is “a quaint Buddhist town located by the side of the Chandra River, with a waterfall (Sissu Waterfall) to keep seasonal tourists entertained.”
Sissu makes for a good stopover for tourists doing Manali to Lahaul Valley via Atal Tunnel trip.
I also suggest you do an advance booking for your stay in Sissu. There are only a handful of hotels there and with increasing tourist influx since the inauguration of the tunnel, it sometimes becomes a challenge to find a place to stay in Sissu. For most tourists, visiting the tunnel remains one of the must-do things in Manali, a few of whom, decide to stay back too.
Where To Stay In Sissu
I can recommend staying at ‘FootlooseHome’ a semi-luxurious hotel with wooden flooring equipped with all modern luxuries — from a hot shower to foam mattress bedding to intercom (for room service).
FootlooseHome is located right in the centre of Sissu, meaning, from the North Portal of Atal Tunnel, it is exactly 7 km. So yea, on a 2-day/1-night trip from Manali to Atal Tunnel staying at FootlooseHome in Sissu is a good idea.
From Sissu, the next big town is Keylong, located about 30km, or a 75-minute drive away. It makes sense to drive all the way to Keylong during summer when the driving conditions are not too harsh. During winter, however, I suggest you drive up to Sissu only.
It is possible to find some slit on the way from Atal Tunnel North Portal to Sissu, forget Keylong. On a good day though, the road looks something like this…
What To See & Do In Sissu
Unlike Manali, Sissu is a place for slow travellers. Having said that, if you are someone who wants to tick off popular experiences like Paragliding, river-rafting or shopping at the mall road, then Sissu is not the place for you.
But if you are someone who enjoys slowing down while on a holiday then Sissu is the place for you.
A few things to do, however, are…
- Driving to Rohtang Top (via Khoksar Village).
- A day trip from Sissu to Keylong.
- Trekking the nearby viewpoints.
A 2-day trip would be ideal to explore a few nearby viewpoints as well as do a day trip to Rohtang Pass or Keylong.
Manali To Atal Tunnel Best Time To Visit
It depends on what you are looking for.
If you want to see snow, of course, the best time will be between December and March, with January and February being most favourable.
But as I said above, there’s a high probability of finding slit on the road as soon as you will exit the north portal of the tunnel.
The best way to enjoy a Manali to Atal tunnel trip in winter, if you’re going all the way from Manali to Sissu is on a 4*4. If you have winter tyre chains installed, even better.
Other than winter, and if you want driving conditions to be easy, between April and June (July and August are monsoon months, so not advised to visit Manali) and September and November are advised. It is possible to do Manali to Leh trip between those months (except for in November).
That’s all in this blog for Manali to Atal Tunnel to Sissu. If you’ve any questions you can write me a comment below. Or, contact me on Instagram.