Nathula Pass: Travel Guide About History, Timing, Near Places

Nathula Pass
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Nathula Pass, Sikkim is a high-altitude pass located on the old silk route at the Indo-China border. Nathu La is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sikkim and lakhs of visitors come here every year to enjoy the scenic view of the place from height. From Nathu La Pass, travelers can get a breathtaking view of the snow-covered mountains and an amazing view of the Chumbi valley of Tibet.

All about Nathu La

The word ‘Nathu’ and ‘la’ are two Tibetan terms that mean ‘Listening ears’ and ‘pass’. The pass is located at an altitude of 4302 m and is amongst the highest motorable roads worldwide. The place receives covered with thick snow for most parts of the year, especially the winter season. The tourists come to Nathu La pass during the summer season. An interesting point about this pass is that it is one of the three trading border posts between China and India, the other two are in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

History of Nathula Pass

History of Nathula Pass

Located on the Old Silk Route, Nathula Pass acts as a bridge between Sikkim and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The pass was sealed for almost four decades after the People’s Republic of China suppressed a Tibetan uprising in 1959. However, after the visit of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China in 2003, talks were held to open this strategic route. The Nathula Pass was opened again in 2006 and has, ever since, served as an official Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) point.

One of the three open trading border posts between India and China, Nathula plays an important role in the Sino-Indian trade. Through this pass, the distance between the important Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage sites also gets shortened.

Nathula Pass

Nathula Pass Entry Timings

Travelers can visit Nathula from Wednesday to Sunday between 8 AM to 6 PM. The Nathula Pass remains closed for tourists on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Entry Permits for Nathula

Since Nathula pass is a protected area, international tourists or Non-Residents Indians are not allowed here. Indian Nationals must have a valid Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit Nathula.

The tourists planning to visit Nathula Pass have to get a permit through a local tour operator authorized by Sikkim Government Tourism. And can visit the place only by a vehicle provided by such tour operators. Private taxis or self-driven vehicles are not allowed at all. The Sikkim Tourism Department in Gangtok issues the entry permit.

Tourists who want permits have to carry original photo ID proof like Passport/Voter Card/Aadhar Card and two passport-size photos. The applications for entry permits are made in the morning and the permits are mostly issued in the evening. Therefore make sure you apply for the permit at least one day before your scheduled visit.

Nathula Pass Weather

May to October is the most preferred time to visit Nathula Pass as the weather during these months varies from 10°C and 15°C. The weather conditions during the winter season are quite challenging. The place witnessed heavy snowfall and the Nathula temperature drops to -25°C.  Also, the region becomes inaccessible during the winter season due to heavy snowfall and the temperature falls to almost -25⁰ C.

Things To Do and See:

The sight of the international border between India and China is restrained by huge gates, barbed wires, and many military bunkers behind. Indian tourists can visit the Watershed War Memorial to pay homage to the soldiers who lost their lives in the war.

There is also an Army Exhibition center and canteen at this place. You can also visit one of the most beautiful Tsomgo Lakes; a glacial lake encircled by high mountain peaks and flowery meadows, located a few kilometers away from the past.  Tsomgo Lake is located at an altitude of 12,310 feet above sea level, it is high altitude glacier lake. The other name of the lake is Changu Lake, and the lake gets frozen during the winter.

Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial

Nearby places to see

  • The steep roads from Gangtok to Nathula will take you to a staircase leading to the fenced Indo-China border. You can climb the slope and stairs slowly to get a picturesque view of the place.
  • Enjoy the Yak ride, which is another popular activity among the visitors here.
  • You can also visit Menmecho Lake, Baba Mandir, which is also known as the Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple. This temple has an interesting history and legend associated with it. The locals believe that Baba Harbhajan Singh still guards the international boundary between India and China and thus is among the most popular temples in Gangtok to visit.
  • Visit Menmecho Lake which is surrounded by snow-covered mountains. To see this lake, one has to trek 4 km from Baba Mandir to reach Menmecho Lake.
  • Also visit Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary and Zuluk Wildlife Sanctuary, which are located near the lake, to see rich and rare species of flora and fauna.
  • Mandakini Waterfalls is another beautiful place on the way to the Nathula Pass. The travelers can stop here to grab some snacks and to click photographs. There is no need to trek to reach here.

Stay at Nathula Pass

Since Nathula Pass is a border post, so it is occupied by the Indian army. Therefore, there is no accommodation option for tourists at Nathula Pass.

Activities to do at Nathula

  • Climb the slope and stairs to reach the Indo-Chinese border.
  • Trek to Menmecho Lake.
  • Swim at Mandakini Waterfall or just click photographs.
  • Take the blessings at Baba Mandir and listen to the legendary stories of Baba Harbhajan Singh.
  • Visit the War Memorial to listen to the courageous stories of Indian soldiers.
  • See rare species of flora and fauna at Zuluk Wildlife Sanctuary.

How to reach Nathula Pass

Nathula Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass in Sikkim which shares the borders with China. Gangtok is the closest well-connected town which is almost 54 km away from the pass. The ways to reach Nathula Pass are written below:

By Air

The nearest airport from Gangtok is Bagdogra Airport, at 178 km. The airport is well-connected to all the major cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, etc. After reaching Gangtok, the tourists can take a cab or a shared jeep to reach Nathula Pass.

By Rail

New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, is the nearest railway station, which is situated 98 km from Gangtok. The tourists can take a private/ shared cab or board a bus to reach Gangtok and from there can take shared vehicles to reach Nathula Pass.

By Road

Nathula Pass can easily be reached from Gangtok via road.

Traveling Tips to Nathula Pass

  • Nathula Pass remains closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, for other days, the pass is open.
  • The travelers have to carry a permit to visit Nathula Pass. Protected Area Permit (PAP) is issued by Tourism and Civil Aviation at Gangtok or travelers can get the same from registered travel agencies.
  • The cost of the Nathula Pass permit is almost INR 200/- per person.
  • It is advised to carry heavy woolen clothes as the region remains cold throughout the year.
  • While trekking, take sips of water as it is important to get your body to acclimatize at such a high altitude to avoid Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS).
  • Carry important medicines for fever, vomiting, cold, etc. while visiting Nathula Pass.

So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Nathula Pass and create your traveling stories. Book your trip to Sikkim with Honeymoon Bug to feel amazed by the magnificence of Nathula Pass.

FAQs About Nathula Pass

From where can I get a pass for Nathula Pass?

Travelers can easily apply for a pass at the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department.

What is the most preferred time to visit Nathula Pass?

The most preferred time to plan a trip to Nathula Pass is during the summer months, from May to October.

Can I visit Nathula Pass on any day?

Nathula remains closed on Monday and Tuesday, so plan your visit accordingly.

What should I wear while going to Nathula Pass?

Wear woolen clothes and keep yourself properly covered due to harsh weather.

Can foreigners visit Nathula Pass?

No, foreign nationals are not permitted to visit the Nathula Pass and Gurudongmar Lake as these places are very close to international borders. However, those with required permits can visit restricted areas like Yumthang Valley, Tsomgo Lake, Zero Point, etc.

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