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Nathu La Pass

Nathu La, the Himalayan mountain pass, bridges India with China via Sikkim to Tibet Autonomous Region. Located at an altitude of 14,140 feet above sea level, it is also considered as a part of the historic Old Silk Route. Nathu La is a Tibetan phrase, which means ‘the passage that has listening ears.’ In India, it lies 54 kilometres east of Gangtok in Sikkim and 430 kilometres away from Lhasa in Tibet. Nathu La in Tibet proceeds to the Chumbi Valley and then to Yathung 30 kilometres further. On the eastern horizon lies the Chomolhari Peak in Bhutan. It is also a trading border between the two countries. Traded items are limited and include silk, clothes, and yak hair and tail. The pass was sealed in the year 1962 following the Sino-Indian War and was not reopened until July 2006. Nathu La also has ‘no man’s land’ and the Nehru Stone, which marks the visit of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India in the year 1958.

How To Reach Nathu La Pass?

The nearest bus bay is in Siliguri. The nearest railway station is New Jalpaiguri and the nearest airport is Bagdogra. You have to arrange for your travel from these points to Sikkim, in most cases to Gangtok, via car. From here, vehicles are available to reach Nathu La. The trip will demand an entire day and include other destinations like the Old Baba Mandir and Tsomgo Lake. The vehicles allowed in the area should belong to tour operators approved by the Sikkim Government.

Do You Need A Permit?

Yes. You have to arrange for an innerline permit. Nathu La is a restricted area. You can only visit it if you are a citizen of India. No foreign tourists are allowed here. The permit is issued by the Department of Sikkim Tourism, which is in Gangtok. Ask your tour operator to arrange for it. You will require a photo proof of identity and two photos of passport size. Please note that you cannot produce your PAN card a proof of identity. Permits should be applied at least a day before the visit. No permits are allowed for children under 4 years. If you want to take an infant, you have to do it at your own risk. Because the area lies on the Indo-China border, photography and videography are strictly prohibited here.

What To See And Do In Nathu La?

  • Visit the Indian War Memorial built in the memory of those Indian soldiers who laid their lives in the Sino-Indian War.
  • Visit the nearby place called Sherathang; it homes the highest altitude Internet Café in India.
  • Tour the cloud-covered Kupup, which is home to world’s second highest golf course.
  • Visit the Gnathang Monastery and the War Memorial, which was built in the memory of the British soldiers who laid their lives during the Tibet War of the 1800s.
  • Visit Thegu; the place has the highest altitude ATM in the word. The ATM is run using a special kind of fuel, which is resistant to freezing at high altitudes.

When Is The Best Time To Visit The Nathu La Pass?

During extreme winters, the passage remains blocked due to heavy snowfall. Even if you obtain a permit to visit Nathu La, you may not be able to actually visit it. Also, because of a lack of meteorological centre here, no data for rainfall and temperature is available. But, according to the locals, the temperature here in summers does not go any beyond 15°C. Early and late winters and summers (November, March, and April) are considered as the best time to visit Nathu La. And don’t forget that the pass remains open from Wednesday to Sunday only. Nathu La lies at a very high altitude, where Oxygen levels could be quite low. Adults and children might have breathing problems here. Do not attempt a visit if you know you have any such problem.

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