How to reach Spiti valley from Manali (via Atal tunnel)?

The road from Manali follows the Solang Valley-Atal tunnel-Gramphu-Batal-Kunzum Pass-Losar-Kaza route. The distance from Manali to Kaza is 183 km, and it takes about 6-7 hours (at one go) to reach Kaza. Manali-Kaza is a shorter route than the Shimla-Kaza route. 

Though the Atal Tunnel has hardly reduced the road distance between Manali and Spiti valley by nearly 20 km, the drive time between the two places has now been reduced by over 2 hours.

Manali town is one of the two — the second is Shimla — places to start the Spiti valley circuit tour.



Is it possible to drive to Spiti valley from Manali in winter (via Atal tunnel)?

No. Not until BRO (Border Road Organisation) punches another hole under Kunzum-La — a pass that keeps Spiti valley closed to vehicular traffic from November to May from Manali’s side.

What precautions do you need to take while driving through the Atal (Rohtang) tunnel?

If you are coming from any city located on the plains (like from Delhi/Chandigarh), do take a break in Manali — or a place located at a similar altitude.

Driving straight from a place located at 200m altitude to a place at 3000m can take a toll on your body. Moreover, the temperature difference between the two places is enormous — from temperatures above 40 degrees celsius to subzero temperatures at the north portal of the Atal tunnel (during winters).

The second thing you need to consider is the speed limit. As the Atal tunnel is built under the Seri Nallah stream. Water ingressing into the tunnel walls from Seri Nallah could cause the formation of black ice on tunnel tarmac during the winters as the tunnel will act as a venturi for icy winds blowing in through the North portal.

If you drive above the speed limits on a slippery surface, your car can easily go into a slide causing a major accident!

Manali to Chandratal lake via Atal tunnel drive

Chandratal lake from Manali is 110 km away (via Atal tunnel). You need to follow the Manali-Kaza road route till Batal. From Batal, a 15 km long unpaved road (which was widened lately) connects Batal to Chandratal.

Rain clouds hanging over Chandratal lake
Rain clouds hanging over Chandratal lake

It takes about 5 hours to reach Chandratal from Manali (by your own car or taxi). Though, the HRTC bus (the only public transport service for Chandratal) takes about 6 hours to cover the 110 long route. If you are low on budget, this bus can take you to Chandratal in just Rs 250 from Manali. The bus returns to Manali town on the same day.

Tips for driving on Manali-Spiti valley road

  • The common rule you need to follow while driving through Manali-Spiti road (also valid for driving through any Himalayan terrain) is to give way to vehicles going uphill. The only exception is when you have space and driving uphill is doable.
  • When driving on narrow roads, if possible, make a mental note of all the places that come along the way where two vehicles can pass through. If you don’t know such places, tailgate (while maintaining enough space) a local car.
  • Always keep your eyes far ahead as well and glance over the mountain road and be on the lookout for any vehicle that may be coming towards you. Tell your co-passenger also to be on the lookout.
  • Never go to such places alone if you are not familiar with the roads. A trustworthy navigator is essential. Plus, you can reverse the roles whenever one feels tired.
  • If the other vehicle stops to give you a pass, always smile, wave and say thank you. The smile you will get in return will be worth it.
  • Always take the initiative and reverse. Don’t wait for a stalemate and ego to kick in. Just put your vehicle in reverse, of course, after checking that there are no vehicles behind.
  • Learn to reverse by looking in the rearview mirrors.
  • Be extra considerate and show compassion to others. Rest, the mountains will take care of you.


6 responses to “How to reach Spiti valley from Manali (via Atal tunnel)?”

  1. I have hired a Rental bike from Manali and planning to go to Chandratal Lake via. Atal tunnel.

    Do I require any permit for that?

    1. Permit is not required for personal vehicles. Not sure about the rented bike / car though.

  2. Abhinav Dutta Avatar
    Abhinav Dutta

    Does one need an permit for a personal vehicle to drive to Chandra Taal?

    Thanks !

    1. No. Permit is not required.

  3. Mithu Bhar Avatar
    Mithu Bhar

    Can I take a taxi from Manali to Sangla through Atal Tunnel and how long does it take?

    1. Yes. You can get a taxi from Manali. The time depends of weather, road and traffic conditions.

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