We all have some journeys that stay in our heart forever. The bus ride from Manali to Kaza was one such journey for me. When decided to travel to Spiti, we checked a lot on internet about how to reach there and decided to take the bus. Manali to Kaza is one of the toughest but the most scenic roads in the world. I knew that there is no surety about the bus service, bad weather can block the road at any time.
When I started from Chennai, I only wished was that there should not be any problem on the bus route. Reached Manali on a fine morning, the first thing to do there was to make sure our bus is running next day. The bus station is in the town itself. We got the good news from the man behind the enquiry counter and booked four tickets. That was a big relief, the only alternate option to reach Spiti was in a shared taxi for which I am not really ready.
The next morning, we reached around 3.45 AM at Manali bus station. We were informed that the bus will leave at 4 AM. There was a big crowd but we were happy as we have the reservations. I saw people waiting to have a glance of the bus so that they can run towards it, enter and find a seat before everyone.
So finally at around 4.30 AM, the bus came to the station, everyone entered. The bus had mixed crowd: some going back to their home in Kaza, few travellers, a couple of government officials and some monks. Not everyone got their seats, some are not even aware of the reservation facility. I saw some jealous eyes looking at us and our seats.
We started at 5 AM, it was a pleasant morning. The views on the way were beautiful. Everyone looking out through the windows, admiring the beauty of the world before them. By then those who standing started to make friends and began discussing when they will get a seat. The conductor was a cool person, he talked to everyone while checking the tickets, asked everyone how they are and from where they are coming. The greenery, the mountains, the waterfalls, the Beas river flowing beside us; kept the bus ride more alive. After 2 hours, the bus stopped for breakfast and then we started our ascent to Rohtang pass.
The bus ride was quite different, the driver was not in a rush at all, he stopped at few places on the way. Till Rohtang pass, it was misty and the temperature was cool. Once we took the diversion to the Kaza road, things started to change gradually. The roads became more and more unrecognisable, the mountains slowly lost its green and turned barren. Huge rock formations began to follow us all the way. And the sun was at its extreme above us.
Sometimes, the bus has to stop before streams, the driver would go and check the water and call us. He then instructs to put stones in particular areas for the bus to move. Everyone was ready to help vehicles which were struck on the road. Unlike cities, the vehicles coming from the opposite are ready to give side and wait for others to pass. In some parts, there were literally no roads, all we could see are rocks and the bus moved over them swaying.
Many rivers start their journey from these mountains. Snow melts from the glaciers, comes down as small streams which join many such to form even bigger ones, again comes down to the valley either as a waterfall or a stream to finally meet the river. These rivers grow in volume as it goes down, meets civilisation and ends their journey in the sea. We can witnesses every stage of its growth along these roads.
Huge rocky mountains accompanied us throughout the journey, it was the same scene outside for hours. Most of the passengers lost their interest in the views and looked drowsy; except one guy in front of me who was very alert and clicked pictures whenever he saw a mountain with some snow.
By the time for lunch, our bus reached Batal. There are few dhabas in Batal. Few travellers got down there to go Chandratal. The bus started its journey again, slowly climbed Kunzum pass. It is the gateway to Spiti valley. Kunzum pass top is little bit green, we can see many big glaciers from here. Among them, the Bara Shigri glacier is one of the biggest in Himachal. There is a trek from Kunzum pass top to Chandratal lake. Later on the way back from Spiti, we trekked down from there to reach Chandratal.
Once we reach the other side of Kunzum pass, Spiti river starts to flow with us. Losar was our next village, the district of Spiti and Lahaul starts here. Many milestones passed behind slowly, reminded us that our destination is nearing. Many villages began to appear, the bus which was literally quit after the lunch became alive when people from the villages began to board. They were waiting for the bus, few passengers also got down at these villages. The Spiti valley began to unfold slowly before us.
Chichong, Kiamo, Pangmo, Hull and Rangrik, these Spitian villages on the way were beautiful. Around each village, there were fields, women working in them. Few monasteries stood isolated between the villages, prayer flags waving all around them. We can see Key monastery on the opposite side of the valley at a distance. The valley was big, huge mountains guarding it on both sides. Spiti river, now big, flows down over the valley. Finally, our bus entered the town of Kaza.
Things to know before your Manali to Kaza bus ride;
- Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation runs one bus service from Kullu to Kaza every day.The bus service starts from mid-July up to October. The surety of the service depends on the road conditions and weather.
- The bus starts at 4 AM from Kullu and leaves Manali around 5 AM. Reservation facilities are available at Manali bus station. The ticket will cost you around 370 INR per person including reservation charges. It is the best option if you are travelling on a budget.
- This is a long journey and takes almost 12-13 hours to reach Kaza. We reached Kaza that day at 6.30 PM. It will definitely test your patience.
- The reservations for the return to Manali journey only starts when the bus reaches Kaza. You have to wait at the station for the bus to come. Don’t think that there won’t be much rush, getting a ticket is little difficult.
- If you coudn’t reserve bus tickets from Kaza, you can check for taxis going to Manali next day from the taxi booking office which is near to the bus station. If there are enough people to get into a cab, they will take advance from you and ask you to come next day morning for the ride.
- The return bus to Manali starts almost around 4 AM and it will reach Manali by late evening.
Also read: My 7 days Spiti valley itinerary
What to do if Manali to Kaza bus is cancelled?
As I said earlier, the surety of Manali to Kaza bus service is a bit unpredictable. If the something bad happens on the road or weather is bad, the authorities will cancel the bus service without any prior notice.
Taxis are available from Manali to reach Spiti valley if the roads are good to go. The shared taxi will cost you around 1000 INR to reach Kaza. It is pretty expensive than the bus. Share taxis will be waiting in near Manali bus station by morning itself.
If it is not possible for vehicles to go, then you need to catch a bus to Rampur from Manali. From there, you can catch bus to Kaza from Shimla. That is the alternate route to reach Spiti valley.
Manali to Chandratal bus
There are no direct bus from Manali to Chandratal. You need to get down at Batal. Batal is on the way to Kaza from Manali. The bus from Manali will reach Batal by noon. Furthur to Chandratal, either you need to hike 14 km or should get a ride. During season times, lot of people will be going to Chandratal. So getting a ride is not a big deal, all you have to do is stand in the middle of the road, stop them and ask.
If you are coming back from Chandratal and going either towards Manali or Kaza, you need to be back to Batal from Chandratal by the time the bus reach there. The bus will stop almost 30 minutes in Batal.
The bus from Kaza reaches Batal by 8 AM and that from Manali reaches by 12 PM. These are approximate timings. So before going to Chandratal, ask the people there about the exact time when buses to each side reach Batal.
If you want to stay at Batal, there are couple of options. The restaurants there also provides accomodation.
Shimla to Kaza bus
There is another route to reach Spiti valley. You can also start from Shimla to reach Kaza. Himachal state buses are available in this route also. But it will take more time compared to Manali to Kaza bus. Shimla to Kaza route is open throughout the year. There is daily bus service from Shimal which starts by 6 AM in the morning. Shimla to Kaza by bus is a two days journey which includes a night halt. If the bus from Manali to Kaza is not available, this is the next option to reach Spiti valley.
Hope you got all the information looking for. I suggest everyone to take the bus from Manali to reach Spiti valley. It definitely saves some money and time compared to that from Shimla, more than that it will be a different experience. You won’t find roads like this anywhere else.
Read about Tashigong, the highest village in Spiti valley. Do visit this remote village if you like to have a different perspective about the life in these high mountains.
Do share this post with everyone who wants to travel Spiti valley.
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