Rohtang Pass at an altitude of 3979 metres is an extremely scenic location in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas. It is located 51 kilometres from Manali and it takes about an hour and a half to reach there. It is snow covered throughout the year and connects the Kullu-Manali valley with Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. The Pass is usually opened to traffic from June to November. During the winter months, due to heavy snowfall in this region, the Pass is closed.
The Drive up there: Rohtang Pass is a popular destination with tourists and tends to get extremely crowded during the summer months. You can book a cab through your hotel or hire one directly from the taxi-stand at the Manali market. A trip to Rohtang and back costs between 1500-2500 Rupees depending on the type of vehicle hired ranging from hatchbacks to SUVs.
Traffic is regulated and vehicles are allowed to pass each way in batches. Hence if you are visiting Rohtang during this time, it is advisable to start early in the morning around 5am, to reach faster, avoid the traffic jam, and be able to go right up to the Pass. Most vehicles are parked in an assigned parking area at the Pass. Tourist crowds are heavy in this area. During June-July you can find snow right on the roadsides. But later in the year, one has to walk up the steep slope to get to the snow.
I advise driving up a little further, about a kilometre ahead and park your vehicle on the roadsides here. It is less crowded and snow areas are more accessible.
For the adventure oriented, Snow scooters are available from the road to take you to the higher slopes. These all terrain bikes go over rocks, snow and almost anything. The ride is extremely thrilling and to be experienced. One ATB can seat upto 3 adults and costs between 1200-1800/- (based on your negotiation skills) for a round trip. Do negotiate and get the best rates.
Clothing: Wear heavy woollens to stay protected from the cold and winds. Remember you are going to the snow region!
Snow costumes, boots and skiing equipment can be rented from the scores of shops setup all along the way till Kothi. Rent for a set of snow wear with boots is around Rs. 300 for adults and Rs. 200 for kids. One can negotiate and get the good rates if in a group.
Activities: Rohtang Pass offers the most jaw dropping views of the Himalayas. One can spend 2-3 hours at the slopes – enjoying the snow, taking in the breathtaking beauty of the snow ranges all around, clicking pictures. Snow scooters, Skiing, Tobogganing and Tube rides down the slope are great fun things to do.
The young as expected have a whale of a time in the snow here but I have often witnessed the not so young or physically fit get energized as well and go climbing up the snow covered slopes.
Food: Makeshift tea stalls offer maggi, eggs to order, chickpea salad, bhel, chips, biscuits, tea, coffee etc. If you need something more filling, small restaurants are located in the Gulaba area, 5 kms before Rohtang. Please note that bathroom facilities are not available in Rohtang but basic ones are available at Gulaba.
Do not Litter: Of late garbage strewn around the pristine slopes of Rohtang has become extremely concerning. Tourists are requested not to litter but carry their waste back and dispose it in the right manner. Every visitor to the Himalayas has a social responsibility towards conserving our environment and the beautiful Himalayas for other travellers and future generations.
Rohtang Pass is a gateway to heaven that one must not miss experiencing. For most, their visit to Rohtang Pass remains the most memorable highlight of their trip to Manali.