Welcome to Nathu La, a high altitude pass situated on the old silk route at the Indo-China border. This place is a tourist hotspot in Sikkim and a favourite of many visitors every year. The scenic trek to the valley while listening to the lyrical waterfalls astriding the road from Gangtok to Nathu La is a must-do experience.
One of the highest motorable roads in the world, Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayan peaks that co-joins Sikkim and China. But that’s not all, Nathu La is also one of the three open trading border posts between India and China. That means you can do some shopping while enjoying the mesmerizing view of the Chumbi valley of Tibet, guarded by mountains.
Did you know that Nathu means ‘listening ears’, and La means ‘pass’? It’s no wonder that you can hear the mountains whispering their secrets to you as you explore this beautiful place.
There’s so much to do and see here, from visiting the international border of India and China, restrained by huge gates, barbed wires and military bunkers behind them, to taking a Yak ride, which is the popular attraction for visitors here. Don’t miss the beautiful Tsomgo Lake, a glacial lake encircled with high mountain peaks and flowery meadows. And while you’re there, you can also visit the Menmecho Lake, enjoy the 4 km idyllic trek from Baba Mandir, and explore the Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary and Zuluk Wildlife Sanctuary.
But before starting your journey to Nathu La, you need to obtain the Protected Area Permit (PAP) issued by Tourism and Civil Aviation at Gangtok, or through a registered travel agency and few hotels. The cost for the Nathula Pass Permit is Rs. 200/-, and children below 4 years do not require the permit.
The best time to visit Nathu La is between the months of May to October when the weather is pleasing, and you can see the clear view of the Tsomgo Lake and the daring mountains. The temperature here remains low for most parts of the year, and it becomes a hotspot for tourists during summer. If you’re visiting in winter, make sure to bear heavy woolen clothes to cope up with such cold weather, as the temperature drops down to -25 º Celsius.
The area around Nathu La Pass in the Tibetan region has little or no vegetation besides scattered shrubs. However, there are some plants that are grown in the other region. The major species of plants found in this region include Dwarf Rhododendrons and Junipers. Nathu La Pass is also home to various animals and birds, including Pashmina-type goats, Tibetan herd Yak and Sheep, endangered species like Tibetan Gazelle, Snow Leopard, Tibetan Wolf, Tibetan Snowcock, Golden Eagle, and Raven. Pheasants such as Monals and Blood Pheasants are also found.
So pack your bags, and get ready for an adventure full of scenic views, cultural experiences, and tons of fun. Nathu La is waiting for you!