One of the most mesmerizing trips that one can think about is to experience the wilderness of Himalayas. If you get an opportunity to visit Himachal Pradesh in North India, one such journey that you should experience is the Manali to Keylong ride.
Manali to Keylong
The journey begins from Manali Bus Stand and you can hop on to the HRTC buses that begin the 116 Km trail by 6 AM in the morning. The bus fare is around Rs 208/- per person with some variation. Manali to Keylong distance has reduced by substantially now as the Atal Tunnel has become operational which will take you from below the Rohtang Pass to Sissu in Lahaul Spiti.
The Exciting Route
None the less, the fun of experiencing this journey from Manali to Keylong is through the other route only. The thrill of bus ride from Rohtang to Keylong is something that is difficult to describe in words.
On a traditional route, you can heads towards Palchan and Gulaba, once you head out from Manali. In case, you wish to experience this route by yourself, a permit is available for Rohtang at Sub Divisional Magistrate office in manali. The permission to visit Keylong through Rohtang route can also be obtained from this office, since most Himachal Road transport Corporation buses now operate through the tunnel route which skips out the Rohtang Pass.
You can travel through a taxi or your personal vehicle on the Manali to Keylong route that goes through Rohtang. As you begin early, the morning rumbles of village life are evident as you cross Palchan. Villagers can be seen in their traditional attire, engrossed in their daily chores.
The lush green grassland and meadows will leave you spellbound as will the gushing waterfalls that spring out of nowhere. Once past Gulaba, the real fun begins on the Manali to Keylong route. The hairpin loops that go all the way up to Marhi, a stopover point will definitely test your driving skills. The road is smooth for most of the part but you should be prepared for certain jerks on broken patches that appear without warning.
Marhi has a few eateries and a PWD Rest House. Enjoy your morning cup of tea here and you will get amazing views of Manali which appears as a small droplet in a big bowl from this height.
As you stretch your head above, you will see Rohtang Pass engulfed in mist and fog. A few Km of drive will take you to the Rohtang Pass at 13000 feet, halfway point on your journey from Manali to Keylong. The mesmerizing view of Himalayas from this height is something that you will cherish for long.
Rohtang to Keylong
The real fun in the journey is from Rohtang to Keylong as the surrounding ambiance changes all of a sudden. The barren mountains glow in sun and transform you to a different land. The people are also different as Buddhism is practiced here. As you travel downhill, Chandrabagha river flows alongside after you cross Koksar, the entry point where police verification is done. This place also offers you a perfect opportunity to relish some freshly prepared paranthas as you get ready to explore the magical Keylong valley.
Riding further downhill, you will reach Sissu which has now become popular since the Atal Tunnel connects it to Manali and major traffic has diverted to this route. Yo should definitely try exploring this route when you head back as the Atal Tunnel which is around 9.8 Km long is an engineering marvel in itself.
At Khangsar, a few Km ahead do stop over to seek blessings from Raja Ghapen, the traditional Devta of the locals. A visit to his temple will certainly rejuvenate you.
The confluence of Chandra and Bhaga
Few Km from Khangsar, you will reach Tandi which is the confluence point of Chandra and Bhaga rivers. Relax here a while as you get your vehicle tank filled up since the only petrol station in this region lies here.
The further drive uphill to Keylong will take you around half hour and you will be at Keylong, the district headquarters. It is a small town and every person in the town seems to know other one. The locals are friendly and you will get a lot of options here for a comfortable stay.
Rest and rejuvenate a while here and get ready to explore the magical land of Lord Buddha. You are in Lahaul and Spiti now!