Nathula

Why To Go

Coming up from Tsomgo Lake, the road to Nathu La can have blinding snow on both sides and, in some months, there’s such thick fog that headlights are needed to make way through the phantasmagoria. Located in the Himalayan Mountain range, Nathu La pass was formerly used to connect the state of Sikkim with Tibet.

The mountain pass is known for its beauty and picturesque terrain. Cradled in the lofty Himalayan Range, Nathu La used to belong to the famed Silk Route of ancient period. It also falls on the way of both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims and is thus an important corridor. The region also has the distinction of having the world’s highest placed ATM machine. Nathu La falls in the state of Sikkim, and is within a short distance of Gangtok. The grand and spectacular peak of Chomolhari in Bhutan can be viewed clearly on a sunny day if you look at the eastern horizon.

Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas in East Sikkim district. Because of the steep elevation increase around the pass the vegetation graduates from sub-tropical forest at its base to a temperate region, to a wet and dry climate. It connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The pass, at 4,310 m elevation, forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road. Nathu means “listening ears” and La means “pass” in Tibetan language.

For major part of the year, the temperature remains quite low and as such the place is flocked by tourists all round the summer season.

Travel Tips

The best time to visit the place is during the summers i.e. from May to October. During winter the conditions are extreme. Nathula pass is at its best in the winter but with proper garments. Carry a light baggage while you go out and remember to pack in plenty of warm clothes. Being a protected place, Indians require permits to visit this area. Note that Nathula is open only from Wednesday to Sunday of the week and the rest of the days is closed for visitors.

Things To Do

If you are making a trip to Nathu La, one of the best things to do is just out somewhere on the mountain and then watch the colours change all around you throughout the day. As the sun changes its position, the snow decked mountain dons a variety of colours and presents an exquisite view. However, it is not only the vista that attracts tourists from all around the country to Nathu La. The place is also home to a variety of animals. Many of the animals that are found here have been declared endangered. In your trip to the region, some of the animals that you might catch a glimpse of are Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan wolf, lammergeier, Tibetan snowcock, snow leopard, golden eagle, raven, and ruddy shelduck. The mountain forest of the region is also rich in avian life form and you can expect to come across quite a few varieties of birds. Some of the birds that can be seen here are tit-babblers, redstarts, rose finches, forktails, treecreepers, white-eyes, black eagle, wrens,Blue Whistling-thrush, warblers, black-winged kite, kestrels, monals and blood pheasant. Various types of laughing thrushes are also found in the region. The vegetation around the place also shows diversity, as it changes from sub-tropical, to temperate, to tundra.

Getting Around

While visiting the Nathula pass, there are only a handful of ways in which you can travel. You have the option of either walking or you can hire a taxi or rent a car for the sightseeing.

How To Reach

FLIGHT

If you prefer to travel by plane, the nearest airport is at Bagdogra in Siliguri. From there, you can either take a taxi or a bus to cover the remaining portion of the journey. Cars for hire are easily available just outside the airport.

TRAIN

The nearest important railway station is at New Jalpaiguri. The rail station at New Jalpaiguri is connected to the stations in Delhi and Kolkata, and via them to the other stations across the country.

ROAD

There are direct car routes between Gangtok and Nathu La. You can get up on a taxi or a jeep from any of the nearby important towns which will take you directly to the hill station here. Cars are the only mode of vehicles that can take you all the way to Nathu La. Alternatively, you can take a bus from New Jalpaiguri to Gangtok, and from Gangtok take a car to get to Nathu La. Its approximately a 3 hours journey from New Jalpaiguri.

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Surrounding Attractions

The Tsomgo Lake is a pristine, high altitude lake located near Gangtok. During the winter season the lake freezes over and the surrounding mountains are covered with snow, providing an excellent view. It is on the way to the Nathula Pass. The Rumtek Monastery is the famous monastery that is a day’s journey including return, from Gangtok. It is famous as the centre of the controversy between two sects of Tibetan priests. The Ranka Monastery is a relatively new monastery and is about 26 kilometres from Gangtok and offers a beautiful scenic route and a tranquil atmosphere. Gangtok itself is one of the most popular surrounding destinations with a number of places to visit like Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir (Temple), etc.
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