“Shimla district’s highest motorable pass? Are you sure? Where is it? I’ve never heard of this name Chanshal Pass before.”
I remember fairly well how my friend responded as I told him about our plan of spending a few days together in Pabbar Valley, and visit Chanshal Pass. I was on a (nearly) 1-month solo road trip across the Shimla district, in Himachal Pradesh, the last few days of which I carefully planned with an old school friend.
I started my (solo) trip from Shimla and wandered across the Shimla district, visiting places like Chail, Mashobra, Neldehra, Cheog, Kotkhai, and a few more, before meeting my friend and concluding the trip at the highest motorable pass in Shimla district – the Chanshal Pass.
To be honest, when I left home, even I didn’t know about Chanshal. In fact, the name was only introduced to me a couple of days before I visited Chanshal. I was having dinner with my host in Kotkhai and told him how I am meeting an old friend over the next few days in Narkanda. “He has booked a bus to Shimla, from where he will catch another bus to Kotkhai, meet me here, and then we will head to Narkanda together on my motorcycle,” I told my host proudly. It was then that my host introduced Pabbar Valley and Chanshal Pass, and I couldn’t think twice. In pictures, at least – that my host showed me in his old Samsung Galaxy – looked no less magical. He told me how Chanshal Pass, despite being just as beautiful, and almost as high as the frequented Rohtang Pass (in Kullu Valley) remains one of the least visited places in Himachal Pradesh.
Chanshal Pass: A Little Introduction
At 3,700m above the sea level, Chanshal Pass is just as high as Rohtang Pass is (3,900m above sea level) and remains snow-covered most of the time of the year. It is the gateway to Dodra Kwar, that takes you to Rupin Pass, before connecting the route to Sangla Valley (home to Chitkul if you’ve heard of it) and further to Spiti Valley.
The highest pass (and in fact the highest peak of ‘Chanshal Peak’, that can be walked from Chanshal Pass) remains the highest point in Shimla district. From the top, it offers enthralling panoramic views of the valley and a fairly lesser crowd of tourist, as compared to other passes in Himachal, makes it one of the top places (at least for me) to visit in Himachal Pradesh.
The drive to Chanshal Pass is quite scenic too and a trip is highly recommended to those having a keen interest in off-roading and photographing offbeat landscapes.
Even though the town of Rohru (which is only about 50km from Chanshal Pass) is one of the major towns in Himachal, anything that’s East of Rohru remains pretty much remote.
Not a lot of people visit Chanshal, or Pabbar Valley, at large. And the ones who do are either travel junkies or off-beat enthusiasts. A trip to Chanshal Pass would mean that you will be driving on some of the narrowest and steepest roads you have ever been on, with many dirt trail patches and a lot of slush (especially during monsoon months) to make it interesting.
How To Get To Chanshal Pass
If you’re coming in a bus, just like my friend did, you can find a direct bus to Rohru (from New Delhi) that starts from New Delhi sometime in the evening and drops you in Rohru in the afternoon. From Rohru, you will have to break the journey and find transport to Chirgaon, which is another big town. From Chirgaon, get a bus to Larot.
Larot is about 15km before Chanshal Pass and has many accommodation options. Whether driving or coming in public transport, Larot remains everyone’s basecamp. Spend a night in Larot and catch a local shared taxi to Chanshal Pass and back, the next morning.
If you’re driving, however, it is possible to drive all the way to Larot in a day. Though, of course, it will be a long drive, but nonetheless doable. You will be driving on National or State Highways for most of the part of your journey and until Chirgaon. From Chirgaon to Larot (about 20km) you will find narrow and steep uphill patches.
Travel Tips For Chanshal
- Thanks to regular buses, it’s fairly easy to travel in a bus all the way to Chanshal. All you will have to deal with is changing the buses a couple of times.
- Weather in Pabbar Valley remains cold for most of the time of the year. Between December and March, there are fairly good chances to find snow across the valley.
- You can find enough guesthouses as well as a hostel in Larot that charges about 300 Rupees a bed.
- There are no ATMs in Larot. The last ATM you will find on this route will be in Chirgaon, but it’s always a good idea to get the cash out in Rohru.
Have you been to Chanshal Pass? Or someplace else in Pabbar Valley? How did you find it?
Here’s a video of my visit to Chanshal Pass: