Winding paths framed by tall snow-capped peaks, scattered colorful villages and charming cafes with hot piping momos - the scenic Shimla to Manali highway is a road tripper's paradise.
This northern mountain route offers non-stop enchanting vistas of the Himalayan foothills, with ample pitstops to experience the local cultures along the way. Covering a distance of about 240 kms, the 5-6 hours drive is best enjoyed over 2-3 days for comprehensive exploration.
The cool breezy hill towns of Shimla and Manali serve as idyllic basecamps, surrounded by outdoor adventures, spiritual sites, colonial architecture and abundant nature. This guide takes you through the main attractions spanning this route, promising stunning landscapes, adrenaline rush inducing activities and delicious food discoveries around every turn!
Scenic beauty of Manali
Shimla and Nearby Attractions
Nestled amidst lush green hills, Shimla is the perfect starting point to kickstart your road trip adventure. Take a stroll down the bustling Mall Road, lined with restaurants, shops and historic buildings. Stop by the towering Christ Church and charming Gaiety Theatre dating back to the British Raj era.
The majestic Jakhu Temple, perched atop the highest peak in Shimla, offers panoramic views of the Shivalik ranges. Be sure to also ride the narrow-gauge Kalka-Shimla Toy Train for an unforgettable journey from Kalka to Shimla through mountain tunnels and forests.
Just outside Shimla lie stunning natural wonders like Kufri, India's popular skiing destination. Hike through Alpine meadows and forests here. Naldehra's iconic golf course surrounded by deodar trees is another must-visit. For breathtaking views, head to Chail, known for its lush expanse of greenery.
Shimla also makes for a great base to enjoy adventure activities like rafting, camping and mountain biking. Take a day trip to nearby Mashobra and enjoy picnic lunches by the river. With its old-world charm and natural splendor, Shimla is the perfect opening chapter to your road trip story.
The real beauty of Shimla
Journey from Shimla to Manal
The drive from Shimla to Manali is universally renowned for its sensational mountain vistas. Curve around roads hugged by tall pine trees, with the Beas gushing alongside in many stretches.
It's recommended to cover the distance over 2 days, stopping overnight in the village of Naggar. Here, visit the ancient Naggar Castle with its unique stone and wood architecture.
Further along, the bustling town of Kullu makes for an exciting pitstop. Try rafting in the Beas or hiking nearby places like Kasol.
The scenic hamlet of Jibhi with its waterfalls and trout fishing spots is another great place for some quietude. Stop frequently along the route to photograph the mesmerizing landscapes.
Closer to Manali, experience Manikaran Sahib's hot springs or visit Naggar's quaint Nicholas Roerich art gallery. The mountainous journey from Shimla to Manali is packed with rewarding detours.
A small park in the town of Kullu
Top Attractions in/near Manali
Manali's captivating natural beauty and vibrant culture make it a must-visit. To experience the best of this charming mountain town, there are some attractions you simply cannot miss. This section highlights the top must-visit places that will allow you to soak in Manali's allure-:
Hadimba Temple - Famed for its unique four-tiered pagoda-style architecture and dedicated to Hadimba Devi. The intricately carved walls and doorway are a must-see.
Mall Road - Lively main street lined with colorful shops, restaurants and cafes. Perfect place for shopping, people-watching and trying local cuisine.
Old Manali - Charming old village with cobbled paths across the Manalsu River. Offers great views, spiritual vibe and quaint cafes.
Solang Valley - Picturesque valley perfect for adventure activities like paragliding and zorbing in summer and skiing in winter.
Rohtang Pass - Located at an altitude of 3,978 m, it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountainscapes and glaciers. Requires a permit.
Manu Temple - Dedicated to the sage Manu, it is located in Old Manali and is an important pilgrimage site.
Nehru Kund - A natural spring named after Jawaharlal Nehru located on the way to Rohtang Pass near Manali.
Hadimba Temple, an architectural masterpiece
Where to stay and eat
With its mist-laden hillsides and old-world charm, Manali attracts travelers seeking scenic views or adrenaline-filled adventures. While the sights and activities energize your days, Manali's excellent accommodation options ensure you have the perfect place to relax and recharge at night.
From cozy guesthouses with views of the Beas River to resorts tucked away in apple orchards, Manali's hotels cater to all budgets and styles. The options range from backpacker dorms costing under ₹500/night to lavish 5-star properties exceeding ₹15,000/night during peak seasons.
For a curated list of the 10 best hotels in Manali chosen for their amenities, value and ambience, check out our previous blog post here.
The list covers options in Old Manali, Mall Road, Manali town center and outskirts - so you can conveniently choose a base to match your itinerary.
This is how Manali looks in the night
An unforgettable experience
The Shimla-Manali route promises an epic mountain adventure. Pack smart, make scenic playlists, and get ready to create magical memories. Follow this guide to the main attractions and experiences.
Let the spectacular Himalayan terrain enchant you as you road trip through some of North India’s most majestic vistas and charming towns.
You can also check out our free AI travel planning itinerary here to better organize you future trips.