Nathu la is a high altitude pass situated on the old silk route at the Indo-China border, and is the favourite hotspot for the tourists in Sikkim. Several visitors come here every year to enjoy the scenic trek to the valley while listening to the lyrical waterfalls astriding the road from Gangtok to Nathu la. It also offers the breathtaking view of the snow covered mountains under the light blue sky and the long winding roads. Nathu la offers the mesmerizing view of Chumbi valley of Tibet, guarded by mountains.
‘Nathu’ and ‘la’ are two Tibetan terms which means ‘Listening ears’ and ‘pass’. It is situated at an altitude 4302 m, and is one of the highest motorable roads in the world, blessed with picturesque beauty and fresh mountain breeze. The place mainly receives cold weather for most of the parts of the year and gets flocked with visitors during summers. One another fascinating fact about this mountainous 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.
The sight of the international border of India and China, restrained by huge gates, barbed wires and military bunkers behind them. The Indian tourists can visit the Watershed War Memorial to salute the soldiers effort in the achievement of war. There is also an Army Exhibition centre and canteen near to it. And around 16 km long winding road from Nathula Pass leads to the beautiful Tsomgo Lake; a glacial lake encircled with high mountain peaks and flowery meadows. One can not afford to miss the Yak ride, which is the popular attraction for the visitors here. Along with this place, cherish the combine visit to Menmecho Lake enjoying the 4 km idyllic trek from Baba Mandir; popularly known as the Baba Harbhajan Singh Memorial Temple, which is very close to Tsomgo Lake. The Menmecho Lake is fed by the snow covered mountains surrounding the Jelep La pass. Near to this lake is Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary and Zuluk Wildlife Sanctuary, well-stocked with rich and rare species of flora and fauna. A visit to Nathu la is bestowed with several other visits to the beautiful attractions around it, that truly makes it worthful.
Gangtok-Nathula pass is a charming ride full of adventure with deceptive roads and high altitude winds. One can opt for shared jeeps and other reserved vehicles available in Gangtok, from the tour operators approved by Sikkim government.
But before starting your journey to Nathula , one (only Indian) has to obtain the Protected Area Permit (PAP) issued by Tourism and Civil Aviation at Gangtok, or through registered travel agency and few hotels. The cost for Nathula Pass Permit is Rs. 200/- and children below 4 yrs do not require the permit.
Summer, between the months of May to October is the appropriate season to visit here. The weather is pleasing and offers the clear view of the Tsomgo Lake and the daring mountains. Nathula Pass is open only for Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. It remains fully covered under snow during winters and the temperature drops down to -25 º Celsius. If you have doting for snow, you are advisable to bear heavy woolen clothes to cope up with such cold weather. Otherwise, this is not the season considered as best time to visit Nathula Pass, because of the snow-blocked roads and extremely cold temperature. Though the amazing view of snow-showered mountains and frozen lakes can blow your mind with its beauty and charm. The same is the case during rains more or less.