Delhi to Manali by Road – Perfect Road trip for a Long Weekend

What do you do when one of your best friend’s birthday falls on a weekend? Well, that’s a perfect excuse for a road trip. Me and my circle of friends have an ineffable love for the hills so we escape to the mountains every chance we get. Uttrakhand and Himachal, being two states in close proximity to Delhi make for ideal destinations for unplanned road trips. Sometimes, we just get into a car with out backpacks and basics and head off without a destination in mind.  However, a birthday around the corner calls for minimum planning – so we finally jotted down our destination and decided to drive from Delhi to Manali, which is almost 550 kilometers away.

Delhi to Manali by Road

Traveling from Delhi to Manali by road seemed like a daunting task for me. As someone who has been suffering from motion sickness since ages, road trips in the hills don’t always excite me. However, getting to spend a quality weekend with my closest friends amidst nature is simply too good to refuse. I decided to pop my favorite anti-sickness pill “Avomine” and got ready to sleep through the adventure.

Once we crossed the hustle and bustle of New Delhi, the road till Chandigarh was just wonderful – wide roads, open highways, no traffic issues; the perfect drive! Upon arriving Chandigarh very late at night (around 2-2:30 AM), we found a roadside shack for a quick bite. The highways are laden with these tiny shacks which are open 24 hours. The food was amazing and we gorged on our stuffed flat breads like we had seen food for the first time. The winding roads to Manali started just as we crossed Dera Bassi, Punjab.

The next 8 hours got us to the beautiful and scenic town called Manali. The mountains stand tall overlooking this city along with various streams flowing all around. Once we reached Manali, we decided it would be even better in the Old Town (aka Old Manali). We were absolutely right.

Old manali, india

First look at Old Manali and we were SOLD!

Old Manali has a rustic charm with very hospitable people around. The vibe of the place is quite laid back (just the way we like) equivalent to the attitude of the locals there.

moonrise over the hills in old manali

Moonrise over the hills has never been prettier – One of my favorite captures of the Moon ever!!!

Since it was a weekend and we just picked up the car without any proper plans, it was hard to find a decent hotel. I would highly recommend to check out and book hotels in Manali online beforehand – especially if you are looking at traveling on a busy weekend coupled up with a national holiday.

Cafes in Old Manali

Delightful chicken naan pocket

Delightful chicken naan pocket

The wonderful cafes that dot the sidewalk are something you don’t generally find these days. Locals still prefer talking to tourists rather than keeping themselves busy with their smart phones. A few cafes that we visited – Drifter’s café, Lazy Dog, People’s café, Olive Garden, Bees Knees cafe, Come back season cafe (Which is nestled amidst the hills en-route one of the waterfall treks) etc. were just brilliant and served food which was simply delightful.

Delicious Grilled Trout at Bees Knees cafe

Delicious Grilled Trout at Bees Knees cafe

Most of the cafes in Old manali serve amazing coffee to accompany flavorful shishas (Aka Hookah). This turned out to be one of our favorite time pass in Old Manali – living the hippie life and chilling in cafes all day.

Chilling with our flavored Shisha at the Lazy Dog

Chilling with our flavored Shisha at the Lazy Dog

Things to do in Manali

There are various activities around Manali which are ideal for people looking for adventures. Most notable ones are trekking, hiking, para-gliding, etc. Trekking to a waterfall through apple orchards is probably one of the best treks that we have ever been on.

Four legged friends you might meet while trekking in the hills of India

Four legged friends you might meet while trekking in the hills of India

Just a couple of local beers along with packed lunch was the ideal arrangement for this mesmerizing sight. Looking out into the valley while a waterfall runs down on the back is a sight that needs to be seen to believe.

valley view old manali

You can never get tired of this view

Tip – If you happen to be in the apple orchards of Himachal you can eat as many apples as you want on the spot but note that you are not allowed to carry them out of the orchards (of course you can buy them off for taking bag fulls home, like we did).

If you are not big on the prospect of a fun-filled road trip from Delhi to Manali, fret not there are many other ways to get there –

Delhi to Manali by Bus

With over 59 buses operating on this route, there is no dearth of options. Delhi to Manali by bus takes around 12.5 hours minimum and you can choose among several sitting, semi-sleeper or sleeper Volvo buses. Prices start from Rs 667 and go up depending on your comfort preferences, company brand name, air conditioning and other factors.

Delhi to Manali by Air

The nearest airport to Manali is Bhuntar which is just about 50 kms away. You can easily grab a taxi from the airport to Manali or Old Manali. From Delhi, there are 2 flights operating daily directly to Kullu airport in Manali. This option might be more expensive and taking a flight via Chandigarh should be a better option.

Delhi to Manali by Train

Since there is no direct train to Manali from Delhi, your best bet would be to either take a train upto Chandigarh and change from there or get off at Ambala and hop on a bus to Manali.

By far, the easiest and most convenient option on the Delhi to Manali route is to either get on a bus or make a fun filled road trip off it. So, have you been to Manali? How did you go and where did you depart from? I would love to hear of more ways to reach Manali from New Delhi.

5 Comments

  1. We drove from Delhi to Shimla and then Shimla to Manali a few years ago. It was a long journey, but the drive over the mountains was fantastic. We took an old truckers route and followed all of those beautifully decorated trucks all of the way. It was stunning. We got stopped a load of times in Punjab and had to pay a fine each time – that was really annoying. Did that happen to you?

    • Fines? for what? Unless you are drinking and driving or breaking traffic rules, there are absolutely no fines to be paid anywhere. I hope you weren’t taken “for a ride”. Sorry for the pun ;p

  2. Wow. This looks like the perfect adventure, Jo. Those mountains — I can’t even believe how beautiful they look! It looks like Old Manali has a lot of great food options as well. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This seems like a fun and adventurous trip! I love to make roadtrips. The views are perfect, looks like a great place to take a nice hike! I have never been to Dehli or Manali before unfortunately, but would love to visit it one time.

  4. This is so perfect. I am hoping to go to India so this was very useful. What an adventure!

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