A gorgeous and scenic pass in the vicinity of the Indo-Chinese border, the Nathu La Pass is like a limb of the Old Silk Road. Not a lot of things have changed and the Pass now welcomes tourists from all over, quite similarly how it once used to indulge merchants and traders. Housed along the Old Silk Route, the Pass is a link between Sikkim and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. It was made out of bounds for nearly four decades, following the event of the People’s Republic of China suppressing the Tibetan uprising back in 1959.
Nonetheless, back during the 2003 China Visit of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, talks of reopening this route begun again. The Pass, as it is today, was reopened again back in 2006 and has been serving as an official Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point ever since. It is one of the only three available trading border posts lying between India and China, and it plays an essential role in the Sino-Indian trade. It also serves as a strong diplomatic link between India and China because it cuts the distance between many important Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites. The Nathu La Pass is an escape from the drab squalor and shenanigans of the busy city life. However, before setting off on the adventure, it is advisable to read up everything that there is to know; about the lives of the people and the roads to travel. This Nathu La Pass travel guide can provide some insights into the community and the culture.
About Nathu La and the Roads that lead to Nathu La
The Nathu La Pass’ altitude is approximately 4310 m. It stands 54 km to the east of Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. A drive from Gangtok is the only way to reach the Pass. Sturdy SUVs such as Toyota Innova, Mahindra Bolero and Mahindra Scorpio are the best suited options and are available for rent (reserve) in Gangtok. One can also share a cab till Nathu La with other tourists. The road that connects Gangtok to Nathu La is steep, rocky as well as slippery.
It is kept in a pretty good condition, except in a few places where the road gets really rocky and narrow. The Nathu La Pass is restricted to Indian nationals only, with an authorized travel permit pass. The Nathu La Pass permit can be easily acquired by submitting an application to the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department. The application can be made online or through a recognised travel agency. The pass is available for a sum of INR Rs 200 and some other documents are required in order to complete the process.
Best time to visit Nathu La
You would experience a drop -25 ° C during winters. The average recorded temperature during the summer is near about a 10 ° C. June to September is deemed as the off-season due to the monsoons and the impeding threat of avalanches and landslides. The best time to visit the Pass is thus, in the summer from April to mid-June and during Autumn, or from October to November. The Nathu La Pass is open till Sunday through Wednesday. It is important to consider the best time to visit Sikkim while planning the trip.
Where to Stay
Gangtok is the only place with available accommodation near the Nathu La pass which is nearly 56km away. There is quite a range of hotels including budget stays to high end luxury resorts.
In the Vicinity
Although tourists are usually enthralled by the beauty of the Nathu La Pass, there happens to be other tourist spots that arrest the traveller. Some of them are the Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir which is a shrine constructed to commemorate the late Baba Harbhajan Singh of the Indian Army, who had died near Nathu La. The shrine is located right between Kupup Gnathang road and the trail leading to Menmecho Lake. There is a local myth that he still guards the Indo-China border.
En route to the Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir is a hill that has the words “Mera Bharat Mahan” engraved on it. The tourists often get off at this point owing to the surge of the patriotic rush in them.
The steep winding roads starting from Gangtok to Nathu La lead to a flight of stairs which ends at the fence between the Indo-China borders. This is a magnificent place because on either side of the fence lie two countries. You can enjoy a picturesque scenery here as it is a delight to the travellers.
Situated at an altitude of 12,400 ft and 38 km from Gangtok, lies the famous Tsomgo Lake. To visit the lake, one requires a special permit from Tourism and Civil Aviation Department of Sikkim. Its clear blue is actually the snow melting from the mighty mountains nearby. It the natural habitat of the exotic Brahminy ducks, the lake freezes in winters and one might just wonder “where do the ducks go in winter?”
The Mandakini Waterfalls is one of the most beautiful spots located in the Nathu La Pass tour. This scenic fall is a photographer’s delight and to better it all, the tourists are free to swim in the lake.
We are constantly running in a contraption, trying to make a living for ourselves. The polluted city air blankets us and we are accustomed to the 9 to 5 life and the lifeless people in the buses back home. Sikkim lies in the heart of Nature and is paradisiacal. The long winding roads take us to places unknown where warm smiles and children with flushed cheeks and cheeky grins greet us. One Day Trip to Nathula Pass is like an open heart locket, which when unlocked, blesses the traveller with a calm that she/he feels right in the bones. So, if you are in Sikkim, taking a one day trip to Nathu La Pass is a must and there have never been anyone who regrets taking those high, course roads because it opens to the most splendid sight ever.