A Roadtrip from Delhi to the Manali
Posted on May 16, 2019 by Ghoomophiro
As they say, the real joy is in the journey. That’s why I love road trips, especially around the Himalayas. So, this March, my best friend and I headed for what would be a fun-filled ride to Manali. This time of the year is perfect to hit the mountains; the temperature is perfect to enjoy the outdoors, the sun doesn’t feel harsh, and the spring bloom just makes the drive all the more scenic.
It was going to be a really long journey. The end-to-end distance from my home in Delhi to Old Manali, where we had booked a cottage, is 550 Km and takes almost an entire day. So we booked a comfortable Delhi to Manali taxi and planned to break the journey into two/three parts, stopping at important places on the way. This would keep us from getting any travel fatigue and also let us explore these in-between places, which otherwise we would never visit.
We first went to Chandigarh. Though the drive to Chandigarh is not exceptionally scenic, it was more of a strategic decision. The road from Chandigarh to Manali is faster and better (in terms of traffic and road conditions) than that from Delhi. We were lucky to have found a reliable cab service which came with an amazing chauffeur. Friendly and experienced, he was the perfect guide for the long journey ahead.
After an overnight stay in Chandigarh, we headed back on the road towards Manali. We were discussing with the driver about interesting places to stop at, when he suggested a detour to Kalka, only an hour away from the city.
It was the coziest little place tucked inside the mountains. Surrounded by endless greenery, this natural exclave seemed like the perfect break from the city of Chandigarh. The town is famous for a wildlife sanctuary that awakens after the monsoon. We went for a short drive on the misty trails around the town and stopped for our morning tea. I had visited Kalka long ago, as a child and traveled to Shimla on a toy train. That train still runs and I really wanted a ride, but time did not permit me that extra little luxury.
So, we were soon back on our highway to Manali. As we crossed the urban perimeters of Chandigarh, it felt like an entirely different world. The wide, sun-kissed roads, the clear blue sky, wide fields on either side and old Bollywood songs on the car radio, made me feel like I was in one of those music videos. In no time, we were driving through Punjab. The landscape here looked exactly as you would see in Bollywood movies- the yellow mustard fields lined with colorful brick houses, and tractors rolling along the fields. Although we were traveling along the fringes of the state, it gave us a flavor of what lied in its core. It was the most relaxing and refreshing sight I have had in a long time.
But I couldn’t be relaxed for long, as hunger pangs set it. Our dear driver was a local and a Punjabi, which made it easier to stop at the best place. We stopped at Rupnagar, at the famous Haveli Dhaba for our first food break. This vintage place had also fed some celebrities throughout its tenure. After a typical Punjabi-style brunch, we were back on the road.
Around late afternoon, we crossed Bilaspur. One of the busiest settlements in Himachal, Bilaspur is famous for two things- the historic Bhakra-Nangal Dam, and the Govt. Engineering College. We had been traveling for quite a few hours and needed a break and nothing seemed better than taking a breath of the fresh air near the river. The dam and its adjoining reservoir were 26 Km off the main highway. The Gobind Sagar Lake was a beautiful nature spot and the perfect place to unwind. The clear lake with the mountains in the background was just the trailer of what we were soon to find at our destination. I inhaled the fresh air as much as we could before we were back on the road.
In was nearly sunset, when we crossed Sundernagar. From this point onwards, I actually felt the pressure of the altitude. The roads here were not that great but thankfully we had rented a bigger car which could tread the mountain terrain. Around late evening we passed through Kullu. It was late for hill station standard and shops were closing, except for a few small street-side stores and tea vendors.
Always ensure that the Delhi to Manali taxi fare is reasonable otherwise a road trip like this can be heavy on the pockets. In a couple of hours, we reached Manali town, at our resort. We had been on the road for two days but not for once was I exhausted. That was the magic of the mountains which I look forward to experiencing all over again.